Mind is not Reduceable to Brain Function (3of 3)

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Some empirical data supports claim:


There are, however, empirical data that imply that brain is not necessary to mind. One such datum is the humble amoeba. They swim, they find food they learn, they multiply, all without brains or brain cell connections.[26] Various theories are proposed but none really answer the issue. Stuart Mameroff (anesthetist from University of Arizona) and Roger Penrose, Mathematician form Cambridge, raise the theory that small protein structures called microtubules found in cells throughout the body. The problem is they don’t cause any problem with consciousness when damaged.[27] Nevertheless, the amoeba is a mystery in terms of how it works with no brain cells. That leads to the recognition of a larger issue the irreducealbity raises the question of consciousness as a basic property of nature. Like electromagnetism, there was a time when scientists tried to explain that in terms of other known phenomena, when they could not do so they concluded that it was a basic property and opened up a branch of science and the electromagnetic spectrum.[28] David Chalmers and others have suggested the same solution for consciousness.

The late Sir John Eccles, a neuroscientist who won the Nobel Prize for medicine in 1963 for his work on brain cell connections (synapses) and was considered by many to be one of the greatest neuroscientists of the twentieth century, was perhaps the most distinguished scientist who argued in favor of such a separation between mind, consciousness and the brain. He argued that the unity of conscious experience was provided by the mind and not by the machinery of the brain. His view was that the mind itself played an active role in selecting and integrating brain cell activity and molded it into a unified whole. He considered it a mistake to think that the brain did everything and that conscious experiences were simply a reflection of brain activities, which he described as a common philosophical view:

'If that were so, our conscious selves would be no more than passive spectators of the performances carried out by the neuronal machinery of the brain. Our beliefs that we can really make decisions and that we have some control over our actions would be nothing but illusions.[29]

Top Down Causation

confirming irreducibility

Top down causation: there are different kinds but in general its when a cause is coming down from a higher system to one upon which it is not dependent, but the system receiving the causal effect is dependent upon the higher system.Top down causation would argue against reduction because you can't reduce it to the lower system. Problem of binding is an example becuase binding of all different aspects of consciousness and brain function in one package, the self awareness and integrity of the individual rather than a schizoid consciousness, is dependent upon things outside the system that produces the consciousness effects.

*problem of binding

There is a problem with understanding what it is that binds together the unity of a conscious experience. We have many different kinds of conscious faculty at work in the process of being conscious, symbolic thinking, literal thinking, sense of temporal, sense of reality, and physical perceptions. Somehow it all gets brought together into one coherent sense of perceptions. How are the individual aspects, such as color, form, the temporal, and united into a coherent whole experience? Unification of experience is not achieved anatomically. There is “no privileged places of structures in the brain where everything comes together…either for the visual system by itself or for sensory system as a whole ” [30] McDougall took it as something that physicalilsm can’t explain.[31] Dennett and Kinsbourne recognize the phenomena marking top down causation and acknowledge it, they spin it as undermining unity.[32] The old approach was to assume there must be an anatomical center for binding. Without finding one the assumption was that it couldn’t be explained. Modern explanations of unity are based upon a functional approach.

The essential concept common to all of them is that oscillatory electrical activity in widely distributed neural populations can be rapidly and reversibly synchronized in the gamma band of frequencies (roughly 30-70 Hz) thereby providing a possible mechanism for binding.” (von der Malsburg 1995). A great deal of sophisticated experimental and theoretical work over the past 20 years demonstrates that mechanisms do exist in the nervous system and they work in relation to the normal perceptual synthesis. Indeed Searl’s doctrine of biological naturalism has now crystallized neurophysiologically in the form of a family of global workspace theories, all of which make the central claim that conscious experience occurs specifically and only with large scale patters of gamma band oscillatory activity linking widely separated areas of the brain. [33]

In other words if consciousness was reducible to brain chemistry there should be an anatomical center in the brain that works to produce the binding effect. Yet the evidence indicates that binding mechanisms must be understood as functions of various areas outside either the brain (nervous system) or in different parts of the brain which means it can’t be reduced to just a physical apparatus but is systemic and that is indicative of top down causation.

* Projective activity in perceptual process

Our brains act as a sort of “word generating virtual reality system.”[34] That is the brain is constantly projecting and updating a model of the perceptual environment and our relation to it. Top down cross modal sensory interactions have been recognized as the rule rather than the exception, in perceptions, as several studies indicate (A.K. Engle et al, 2001; Shimojo and Shams 2001). [35] Evidence indicates that the ultimate source of projective activity may originate outside the brain. A great deal of knowledge is put into action for use in understanding language and in writing. Some researchers have advanced the view that the fundamental form of projective activity is dreaming.[36]

*Semantic or intentional content; word meaning and other form of representation.

This has been dealt with traditionally through reductionism. Representations were said to work by resembling things they represent. This was disproved by Goodman and Heil (1981). [37] In cognitive psychology there is a rule of thumb that meanings are not to be conceived as intrinsic to words, they are defined by the functional role they play in a sentence. The major approach to the problem used now is connectionism, from dynamic systems theory. The meaning of a given response such as settling of a network into one of its attracters or firing of a volley of spikes by a neuron in the visual cortex is identified with the aspect in the environment that produces the response. This account can’t deal with abstract things or non existent things. There’s nothing in the environment to trigger it. Responses do not qualify as representations nor signs as symbols. “That something,” as Searl so effectively argued (in 1992) “is precisely what matters.”[38]

*problem of Intentionality

Intentionality is the ability of representational forms to be about things, to reflect meaning and to be about events and states of affairs in the world. [39] The problem of intentionality has plagued both psychologists and philosophers. Intentionality is inherently three ways, involving the user, symbols, and things symbolized. Searl tells us that intentionality of langue is secondary and derives from the intrinsic intentionality of the mind. “Intentionality can’t be obtained from any kind of physical system including brains.”[40]

*The Humunculus Problem

The Homunculus was a medieval concept about human reproduction. The male was said to have in him little men just like him with all the basic stuff that makes him work that’s how new men get born. In this topic it’s the idea that we need in the mind another mind or brain like structure to make the mind work. The problem is it keeps requiring ever more little structures to make each one before it work; in endless regression of systems. Kelly and Kelly et al site Dennett’s attempt to solve the homunculus problem in the form of less and less smart homunculi until the bottom level corresponding to heard ware level end the recursion so it’s not infinite. (Dennett 1978)[41] Searl (1992) responds that there has to be something outside the bottom level that knows what lower level compositions mean. Cognitive models can’t function without a homunculus because they lack minds, as Kelly tells us.[42]

No homunculus problem, however, is posed by the structure of our conscious experience itself. The efforts of Dennett and others to claim that there is such a problem, and to use that to ridicule any residue of dualism, rely upon the deeply flawed metaphor of the Cartesian theater a place where mental contents get displayed and I pop in separately to view them. Descartes himself, James, Searl and others all have this right: conscious experience comes to us whole and undivided, with the qualitative feels, phenomenological content, unity, and subjective point of view all built in, intrinsic features. I and my experience cannot be separated in this way. [43]

[27] ibid

[28] ibid

[29] ibid

[30] Edward F. Kelley and Emily Williams Kelley, et al, Irreducible Mind: Toward a Psychology for the 21st Century. Boulder, New York, Toronto: Rowman and Littlefield Publishing Inc, 2007/2010, 37.

[31] Ibid. 38, referring to W.McDougall, Proceedings of scientific physical research 25, 11-29. (1911/1961)..

[32] ibid. 38 refers to Dennette and kinsbourne in Consciousness Explained. (op cit) 183-247

[33] ibid, sites C.Von der Malsburg, “Binding In Models of Perception and Brain Function.” Current Opinion in Neurobiology, 5, 520-526. also sited Crick 94; Dehaene and Naccache, 2001; Edelmon and Tononi, 2000; Engle, Fries and Singer 2001; W.J. Freeman 2000, and others.

[34] ibid

[35] ibid, 40, he sites A.K. Engle et al, 2001; Shimojo and Shams 2001;

[36] ibid, 41-42 sites Rodolfo Llina’s and Pare’ 1996 Llina’s and Ribary, 1994.

[37] Ibid, 42 see Heil 1981

[38] ibid, 43 see Searl 1992

[39] ibid [40] ibid, see also studies, puccetti 1989; Dupuy 2000 discussion of issue form opposing points of view).

[41] Ibid see Dennett 1978 and Searl 1992)

[42] ibid

[43 ibid, 44

Posted by Joe Hinman at 3:58 AM


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