Shrafanator, I'm not denying that the mind is "based in" the brain and that if you do something to the brain you affect the mind. The question I had was not whether a series of electrical impusles cause thoughts to occur (I agree they do), but whether or not we can equate a cause (electrical impulse) to the product (a thought). A cause is not the same thing as what it causes. The question is whether a thought is non-physical. If it's non-physical then it's hard to see how something physical can create something non-physical, just as it's hard to see how something non-physical (say, a God) can create something physical. If that happens it's a "miracle" in traditional terms, and so the opposite would be too.
the conditions you have listed are either variations on the 3 possibilities--really the same thing--or speculations about states for which there is no evidence whatsoever. Such as your #6. You can "suppose" all you want of course, but I was talking about rational ideas for which there is reasonable evidence.
It occurs to me now that I have been using the word "thought" vaguely.
How about this:
There is the Thought Itself--this is an electrical impulse of some sort,and therefore physical.
There is also What The Thought Is About--this is not an electrical impulse, being purely imaginary and so non-physical.
For example, I am imagining a beautiful woman. This woman does not exist in the physical world. She is purely imaginary, but that does not mean she is nothing. She is real in a mental sense--I am actually imagining her.
What this means is that a physical object--the electrial impulse--has produced a mental object--the imaginary woman.
Therefore, we have matter producing something mental, which is the puzzle I started to begin with. If it were the other way around, and the mental was producing the physical, that would be a "miracle." i.e., I imagine a rose and a physical rose appears. If the mental cannot produce the physical, how can the physical produce the mental?
Technocore, you make a good point about which came first, the language or the thought. I don't have the answer to that. My point is that you have to have some kind of medium to think in--and language is that medium.
We could visualize something without language. This visualizing would certainly be mental activity.
But the linguists say that humans come equipped with language knowledge. We already know about nouns and verbs. We even know about tense. A little kid will say "I fighted." He never heard that expression, but he already knows about past tense.
A note on argument: I really don't think, that in response to a point, that someone should say, well, you obviously haven't read this person or that person. If you know what this person or that person has said, just say it in brief, and stop this name-dropping.
John, I'm not advocating any particular metaphysical belief. I was asking questions about them. Of course, I had to assume a dualistic stance when talking about the brain/mind problem. I was trying to figure out how something physical can produce something mental. If one is a materialist, such as Quetzal, then the question is answered as far as evolution is concerned. There is no mystery because there is really no such thing as mentality. Everything is physical.
I still have some questions about whether materialism is probable, which I will address below.
As regards idealism and physics, I do think there are some interesting questions, but it doesn't have anything to do with evolution so perhaps the topic is not appropriate.
Great post, Quetzal. I also had a look at that first article you mention, and I think I grasp your idea. Let me summarize it to see if I do. Your point is that when we imagine an object or when we actually see an object, we are using the same brain-parts either way. Imagining is very like seeing, as far as the brain goes.
However, imagining is not like seeing for the eyes. The eyes are not used; however, the brain-parts that normally control vision are used.
And so you conclude that both seeing and imagining are physical events.
But have you forgotten my beautiful imaginary woman? What happened to her? Are you suggesting that image which I visualize is physical? If it were physical that image would be present in the brain. Couldn't we search the brain high and low and never find that image?
Let's use the following analogy. The brain is a tv set. I am watching a live football game. The figures I see on my screen are copies of the reality, the game being played live 100 miles away. The tv set football players are only copies of reality. Nonetheless they are physical copies. If I wanted to I could measure them physically, measure how tall they were, for example (of course they keep changing in size, depending on whether we have close-up shots or not, like the flickering imagination). So both the live game and the copy are physical. It strikes me that this is your description of the brain. Somewhere down in the brain is a physical image of my imaginary beautiful woman. It's not a mental image--it's a physical image. If I had a super brainscope I could measure how tall the image is, like I can measure the football players on the tv set.
Technocore, a lot of what you say I don't dispute. I wasn't thinking in terms of low-level langauge because I assume that is unconscious. Language, as I define it, is the ability to create sentences. If you are able to take verbs and nouns and recombine them in ways you have not heard before, you have language. A dog's bark is not language, by this definition. It's an expression of emotion.
But this is what I think (at the moment!). Full consciousness and language are dependent on each other. You can't have one without the other. By full consciousness, I mean human-like consciousness. No doubt there is another kind of consciousness in animals, but I think it's different, and I do so because they have no language. I don't think animals are self-aware. I don't think they have a concept of "me."
A dog whimpering serves the same purpose as a baby crying. It calls attention to itself, to be helped. This is very useful from an evolutionary standpoint. The baby doesn't have to know what's bothering it, only that it is bothered.
A note on Creationists: I've been "arguing" with a few creationists lately out of curiosity to see what they thought, and I think I learned something. I think I realize now how their minds work (if they have minds and if they work). Dumb me, I thought it was about religion, but come to find out they think evolution is a left-wing political conspiracy, and that it is responsible for increasing crime, drug use, high divorce rates, and other societal ills. I had no idea.
[This message has been edited by robinrohan, 11-20-2002]
[This message has been edited by robinrohan, 11-20-2002]
Very informative posts from both Obsidian and Quetzel.
Let me see if I got it:
When we see or when we imagine something, there is no actual duplica of that in the brain. A bunch of different signals are sent to the back of the brain and then sorted into classified groups. So the analogy would be more like digitizing a photo, except that there is no monitor to reproduce the picture. When we will ourselves to remember or imagine an image, then these different parts of the image are picked out of various files and brought together. But they are not really brought together. It just seems to us when we remember something or imagine something that they are. It seems like we are looking at a unified image, but that's an illusion. For one thing, we are not physically "looking." But even if we were physically looking, the situation would be the same. What appears to be a unified image is really separated into different compartments in the form of electical signals. quote from Obsidian: "The signals are sent via the optic nerve and other pathways until it hits the occipital lobe . . . . Here the information is divided up even farther."
However, I have this passage from Quetzal: "What you are 'seeing in your mind's eye' as it were is an image presented to your visual cortex." That sounds like there really is a unified image after all.
Is the visual cortex the monitor? This is where all the digitized parts of the image come together physically--whether we are seeing or imagining? That cannot be because there is no actual duplica in the brain of the image. What's in the visual cortex is still a bunch of electrical signals but "unified" in an electrical sense, not in a pictorial sense--but nonetheless physical.
But this illusion of the pictorial representation (whether looking or imagining)--what is this? It's not like a computer monitor--there's no illusion there--there really is a pictorial image produced; even though it is produced by digitized signals, it's still a physical image that can be measured as to height, etc.
So if I understand you correctly, I would suggest that it is this illusion of a pictorial image that is "mental"--not physical.
[This message has been edited by robinrohan, 11-21-2002]
You say I'm not defending my position. Well, here's a defense of one "alternative" you offer: Kant's 'phenomena.' You present that as an alternative, but 'phenomena' is another word for 'mental objects'. You haven't offered any different condition of reality. Why? Because there's none that are conceivable--unless you want to play the 'spirit' card. Your alternatives are just different names for the same thing.