Proof Of Dualism?

I’ve been thinking about AI for the past few days, and I find the following questions interesting:

1) If Ian Pearson is correct and we are able to download human consciousness onto machines by 2050, wouldn’t this effectively prove that consciousness can exist outside a human brain, e.g., that some type of mind-body dualism is correct?

2) This is more of a technical question, but, what, exactly, would we be downloading? The original, so to speak? A replica? A set of algorithms that recreates the original?

3) Could we falsify the claim that any given machine is conscious?

4) Wouldn’t claims of conscious machines have to be assumed, in the same way we assume the existence of other minds?

87 Comments

  1. Matt says:

    I’ve been thinking about that too. If the brain is you and the brain is dead you are gone even if there’s a digital replica of you. Unless, of course, some kind of dualism is true…

    Singularitans are dualists whether they want to be or not.

  2. toryninja says:

    Those are some very good questions.

    Ironically, the more science progresses the more believable things like the resurrection and virgin births are. Heck, if we can do it why not think God can do it? How can God hear a gazillion prayers a second? Probably the same way Google can handle a gazillion requests per second. And on and on it goes.

    Just like the early scientists, doing science is a means to find out how God does the things he does. That’s why believing in God is most assuredly not a science stopper!

    I read an interesting SciFi book about transferring consciousness by the Canadian author Robert Sawyer (without a doubt one of the best SciFI writers alive today). It’s called Mindscan. It deals with the issues of making multiple copies of ones self. For example, the terror of being in your own body but then seeing a machine also have your consciousness, and realizing that you get to live forever but that YOU do not get to live forever. Just because we can copy our consciousness’ to a hard drive doesn’t mean YOU get transferred, especially if all we really are is a brain. Robert Sawyer really draws out this assumption that most people think when they hear we can be immortal by transferring our consciousness and live forever. Yes, we might be able to do that, but it’s not going to be as good as you think.

    Anyway, I don’t want to give the book away, but it is a fascinating read and deals with lots of the issues when it comes to conscious transferability.

  3. cl says:

    Matt,

    Singularitans are dualists whether they want to be or not.

    I’m not so sure what I think yet. For me, it would depend on the nature of that which is being downloaded. I could see an example where the thoughts produced by a materialistic brain simply driven by matter could be made into a program that might run on some other machine. The electricity of one’s brain would write the program, so to speak. At first glance, it would seem that we wouldn’t be dealing with “some other non-material substance” as much as the output of the single substance that exists. Though, like I said, this is my “at first glance” response. As with most things, I am most certainly still thinking this through. I want to be especially careful of leaping to conclusions simply because they seem to affirm my pre-existing views. Lord knows the error therein.

    toryninja,

    Comment of the day, yours was. At least, so far. It’s only noon here ;)

    Ironically, the more science progresses the more believable things like the resurrection and virgin births are. Heck, if we can do it why not think God can do it? How can God hear a gazillion prayers a second? Probably the same way Google can handle a gazillion requests per second. And on and on it goes.

    Just like the early scientists, doing science is a means to find out how God does the things he does. That’s why believing in God is most assuredly not a science stopper!

    I literally let out a hearty, “YES” when I read that. No offense to atheists and skeptics, but as theirs is a position of denial, the only thing they have is doubt and incredulity: “How could God have done this? How could God have done that? We all know dead people don’t come back to life.” Etc. Yeah, well… these people can get in line behind those who used science to say we’d never invent airplanes and telephones.

  4. dguller says:

    cl:

    >> 1) If Ian Pearson is correct and we are able to download human consciousness onto machines by 2050, wouldn’t this effectively prove that consciousness can exist outside a human brain, e.g., that some type of mind-body dualism is correct?

    Personally, I doubt that this is possible.

    Remember that the brain is an incredibly complex biological entity, and that a cascade of neural pathways can be activated on the basis of micro-changes in chemicals within and around neurons. Neurons are not just like electric circuits that can reliably turn on and off like a switchboard circuit, but rather operate on probabilistic and stochastic processes to activate a neural signal. There has to be sufficient neurotransmitters to activate a neuron to overwhelm the inhibitory neurotransmitters, and it is not a foregone conclusion whether that will occur, but depends on infinitesimal factors that likely cannot be identically modeled in a computer simulation.

    In fact, the brain is now conceived to be more in line with a non-linear dynamic system in which micro-changes in one part of the brain can have massive changes downstream, and so in order for someone’s consciousness to be downloaded into a machine, then there would have to be a one-to-one correspondence at the molecular level, which may not be possible on the basis of Heisenberg’s uncertainty principle. I mean, if we cannot predict the weather due to its non-linear dynamic nature, beyond a few days, then what is the likelihood of downloading a human mind, which is many orders of magnitude more complex than weather patterns.

    >> 2) This is more of a technical question, but, what, exactly, would we be downloading? The original, so to speak? A replica? A set of algorithms that recreates the original?

    Good question. I have no idea.

    >> 3) Could we falsify the claim that any given machine is conscious?

    I’m sure that by that point in AI development, our meaning of “conscious” will have to change. Remember, in Turing’s time, the very idea of a computer being conscious was incoherent and laughably absurd, and over the next few decades, it is now a serious area of study. Concepts change as the cultural environment changes. I’m sure “consciousness” will be one of them.

    >> 4) Wouldn’t claims of conscious machines have to be assumed, in the same way we assume the existence of other minds?

    Yup. I think you are right. That’s the whole idea of Dennett’s intentional stance.

  5. dguller says:

    Toryninja:

    >> Ironically, the more science progresses the more believable things like the resurrection and virgin births are. Heck, if we can do it why not think God can do it? How can God hear a gazillion prayers a second? Probably the same way Google can handle a gazillion requests per second. And on and on it goes.

    Except that does not work for God who is allegedly metaphysically simple and without component parts. Google works on the basis of a computational algorithm operating in a physical system that consists of subcomponents. God is supposed to be nothing like that. In other words, just because human beings are now capable of doing remarkable things with our technology does not imply that that is how God does things.

    Furthermore, science has not progressed far enough for virgin births and resurrection to be considered believable. They are still unbelievable. Sure, it might be the case that they become technologically possible, but that does nothing to show that it was possible in a historical period where that technology and knowledge was just not available, and does not show that that is how God actually did it.

    >> Just like the early scientists, doing science is a means to find out how God does the things he does. That’s why believing in God is most assuredly not a science stopper!

    Again, careful with the anthropomorphism.

  6. dguller says:

    Cl:

    And here is another reason why this would likely be impossible.

    Before one would be able to transfer a human consciousness from a brain into a computer, one would have to first be able to track all the atomic and molecular components of the brain in real time. Now, remember that this could only be done by computational modeling, which is essentially mathematical. However, the mathematical numbers involved will stop beyond a certain decimal. In other words, if molecule X is in position [1.5, 2.7, 3.5] – or whatever – then that number is missing important information. What if X is REALLY in position [1.56, 2.75, 3.59]? Those extra digits could radically change our ability to predict where that molecule will go next, because of the non-linear dynamic nature of the brain. And no matter how many extra digits you add, you will always be leaving out important information, unless you go on to infinity, in which case NO computer can ever contain that much information, because it would have to be infinitely large and complex.

    So, given the fact that no computer can model ALL the information in the brain’s activity, it follows that no computer can transfer one consciousness into a computer at all.

    Any thoughts?

  7. cl says:

    dguller,

    Personally, I doubt that this is possible.

    That’s okay. People doubted airplanes and telephones, too, and they also used “the current state of scientific knowledge” to sustain their doubt.

    Remember, in Turing’s time, the very idea of a computer being conscious was incoherent and laughably absurd, and over the next few decades, it is now a serious area of study.

    That’s exactly why “I doubt X” doesn’t do much for me. Personally, I like to think more along the lines of, “what would be necessary to bring about X, and do we have anything like that currently under the microscope?”

    …science has not progressed far enough for virgin births and resurrection to be considered believable. They are still unbelievable.

    Of course, you really mean, they are still unbelievable to you and others like you. Remember though, not all of us are like you.

    …no matter how many extra digits you add, you will always be leaving out important information, unless you go on to infinity, in which case NO computer can ever contain that much information, because it would have to be infinitely large and complex.

    So, given the fact that no computer can model ALL the information in the brain’s activity, it follows that no computer can transfer one consciousness into a computer at all.

    Any thoughts?

    I’m certainly not an expert in AI, but my thoughts are that this objection seems ten times more grounded than the whole “I find X unbelievable” style of objections you’ve been leaving in the consciousness discussion. Here, at least you’ve proffered an actual reason why this might not be possible, and I must admit, it’s interesting. I’d love to hear an expert in the field respond to it.

  8. dguller says:

    Cl:

    >> That’s okay. People doubted airplanes and telephones, too, and they also used “the current state of scientific knowledge” to sustain their doubt.

    Non sequiter. Just because science was wrong in the past does not imply that it is always wrong.

    >> That’s exactly why “I doubt X” doesn’t do much for me. Personally, I like to think more along the lines of, “what would be necessary to bring about X, and do we have anything like that currently under the microscope?”

    Fortunately I actually followed my doubts with the REASONS for my doubts. You act as if I just said that I doubted it, took my ball, and went home. I actually provided two paragraphs to explain why I doubted it, which you did not comment on.

    >> Of course, you really mean, they are still unbelievable to you and others like you. Remember though, not all of us are like you.

    He was speaking about what science makes believable. According to science, they are unbelievable. According to religion, they are. The context of the discussion was how science can make something that was unbelievable believable. In that context, resurrection and virgin birth is unbelievable, because it would violate current scientific understanding of sexual reproduction and biology.

  9. jayman777 says:

    cl:

    (1) Assuming at least some animals are conscious, we already know that consciousness can exist outside of the human brain. I think most materialists would not have a problem with a mind that is not a brain as long as that mind is entirely confined to a physical object. The term dualism should probably be reserved for those who believe in an immaterial mind.

    (2) I’m not sure what it would mean for my consciousness to be downloaded to a computer. I can understand what it would mean for my beliefs to be downloaded to a computer but consciousness is another matter. The article you linked to implies that the computer would have to be built to experience consciousness which suggests the computer could be conscious before ever downloading my consciousness. Thus it is not evident what, exactly, would be downloaded from me to the computer.

    (3) I can’t think of a way off the top of my head.

    (4) In the case of human brains we can assume they are conscious, in part, because we are conscious. I know first-hand that I am conscious and that you are very, very similar to me. A machine brain is much more different from us and therefore I don’t think we could ever be as certain that a machine is conscious.

  10. jayman777 says:

    dguller:

    I’m sure that by that point in AI development, our meaning of “conscious” will have to change. Remember, in Turing’s time, the very idea of a computer being conscious was incoherent and laughably absurd, and over the next few decades, it is now a serious area of study. Concepts change as the cultural environment changes. I’m sure “consciousness” will be one of them.

    If you (not you, dguller, personally) have to change the definition of “conscious” in order to claim that your computer is conscious then I think you’ve failed at creating a conscious computer. What we’re interested in is whether a machine can be conscious in the same sense that we are.

    Except that does not work for God who is allegedly metaphysically simple and without component parts.

    I don’t think Toryninja was claiming that God’s mind works exactly like Google’s servers. He was pointing out that what was once thought by some to be impossible now appears possible.

    Again, careful with the anthropomorphism

    He may be making a distinction between primary and secondary causes. For example, the Bible notes that a strong wind accompanied the crossing of the Red Sea. In this case, God would be the primary cause and the wind would be the secondary cause.

  11. jayman777 says:

    cl:

    That’s okay. People doubted airplanes and telephones, too, and they also used “the current state of scientific knowledge” to sustain their doubt.

    There appear to be two reasons to doubt that consciousness can be transferred from a human to a computer. The first reason is practical and the second reason is theoretical (for lack of better terms). The first reason is that it seems doubtful that we will have both the knowledge of the brain and the technological tools to model the brain. The second reason is the belief that the human mind is not solely physical and therefore cannot be modeled on a solely physical medium like a computer.

    I’d love to hear an expert in the field respond to it.

    I’m certainly not an AI expert but I have a Computer Science degree and can at least say that dguller is correct in the sense that we cannot perfectly model the world around us. However, if the mind is simply the brain, we may be able to model the brain accurately enough to simulate it. In other words, knowing that X is at [1.5, 2.7, 3.5] may be good enough.

  12. cl says:

    dguller,

    Non sequiter. Just because science was wrong in the past does not imply that it is always wrong.

    Did I say, “since science has been wrong in the past it is always wrong?” If yes, where? If no, who really left the non-sequitur?

  13. dguller says:

    cl:

    >> Did I say, “since science has been wrong in the past it is always wrong?” If yes, where? If no, who really left the non-sequitur?

    Then what is the relevance of that fact that sometimes what people thought was impossible based upon current science turned out to be wrong? I thought you were implying that current doubts about virgin birth and resurrection are unfounded, because the science will be shown to be wrong. Otherwise, what is the point? That the science COULD be wrong? Of course it could, but does that mean that we should reject it? I mean, if you have a scientific consensus about X, and you also have a religious belief about X, but the former contradicts the latter, then where would you put your money?

    Anyway, this is a minor point, and I will happily concede that I likely misunderstood you.

  14. dguller says:

    Jayman:

    >> If you (not you, dguller, personally) have to change the definition of “conscious” in order to claim that your computer is conscious then I think you’ve failed at creating a conscious computer. What we’re interested in is whether a machine can be conscious in the same sense that we are.

    I think that sometimes our assumptions about what must be the case for a phenomenon to exist can change. For example, it was once believed that an atom was a solid substance that physically bounced off other atoms to generate macroscopic phenomena, but this had to change once more information was acquired about how atoms really work, and now they are not conceived of as solid substances at all, but rather mostly empty space. The underlying phenomenon remained the same, but our understanding of it had to be revised.

    That is what I was referring to about consciousness. Perhaps our understanding of consciousness is based upon defective assumptions that will have to be revised as our scientific understanding of it improves, including whether it is present in computers and robots, for example. That will not change consciousness, but only our improved understanding of it.

  15. cl says:

    dguller,

    I thought you were implying that current doubts about virgin birth and resurrection are unfounded, because the science will be shown to be wrong.

    I am implying that many, many things once thought laughably impossible are taken for granted as facts of today. Therefore, to say some variant of, “X doesn’t seem possible to me” can’t sustain a case against X.

    Oh, by the way: if I had said what you actually attributed to me–which I did not–it would have been an instance of the genetic fallacy, not a non-sequitur.

  16. dguller says:

    cl:

    >> I am implying that many, many things once thought laughably impossible are taken for granted as facts of today. Therefore, to say some variant of, “X doesn’t seem possible to me” can’t sustain a case against X.

    So, then we cannot say that anything is impossible? After all, maybe at some point in the future, it will be shown to be possible. So, if a DNA test shows that someone is guilty of murder, then they should be set free, because maybe at some point in the future, DNA may be found to be an unreliable guide to whether an individual was present at the scene of a crime. And maybe we should stop giving people antibiotics for pneumonia, because maybe one day antibiotics will be found to actually help the xenotodes, which are the real causes of illness. I mean, come on.

    As little impressed as you are by my disbelief in the possibility of something being radically contradicted by current science, I am even less impressed by your claim that maybe, one day, some time, things will turn out otherwise, and so we cannot make any conclusions today. We have to make decisions based on the information that we have today, and not on some hypothetical future state of knowledge that may or may not happen.

    >> Oh, by the way: if I had said what you actually attributed to me–which I did not–it would have been an instance of the genetic fallacy, not a non-sequitur.

    No, if your claim was that because science was wrong in the past, then must be wrong in the present, then this IS a non-sequitur, which just means that the conclusion does not follow the premises. But you are right that you would have also committed the genetic fallacy, too. Fortunately, none of this matters, because you did not write what I thought, and I happily admit my error.

  17. cl says:

    So, then we cannot say that anything is impossible?

    I didn’t say that. I’m saying that I can’t accept you saying X seems impossible as a conclusive reason to believe that X isn’t possible.

    …if a DNA test shows that someone is guilty of murder, then they should be set free, because maybe at some point in the future, DNA may be found to be an unreliable guide to whether an individual was present at the scene of a crime.

    No.

    And maybe we should stop giving people antibiotics for pneumonia, because maybe one day antibiotics will be found to actually help the xenotodes, which are the real causes of illness. I mean, come on.

    Come on is right. You’re just being uncharitable, again.

    As little impressed as you are by my disbelief in the possibility of something being radically contradicted by current science, I am even less impressed by your claim that maybe, one day, some time, things will turn out otherwise, and so we cannot make any conclusions today.

    Of course, I didn’t actually say that, and this would be at least the second time you’ve misrepresented something I’ve said. I told you before: use copy and paste. Stop paraphrasing me uncharitably to make my position look absurd.

    Fortunately, none of this matters, because you did not write what I thought, and I happily admit my error.

    Fair enough. Hopefully you can admit that you just did this a few more times. If not, I give up until next week.

  18. dguller says:

    cl:

    >> I didn’t say that. I’m saying that I can’t accept you saying X seems impossible as a conclusive reason to believe that X isn’t possible.

    Fine. Fortunately, I also provide reasons for why I think that some things are impossible.

    >> Of course, I didn’t actually say that, and this would be at least the second time you’ve misrepresented something I’ve said. I told you before: use copy and paste. Stop paraphrasing me uncharitably to make my position look absurd.

    Fine.

    >> Fair enough. Hopefully you can admit that you just did this a few more times. If not, I give up until next week.

    Fine.

  19. cl says:

    dguller,

    Fortunately, I also provide reasons for why I think that some things are impossible.

    You have, but, those reasons are unacceptable, and DON’T just retort back that “I don’t like them.” Of course, it’s true that I don’t like them. It’s NOT true that I don’t accept them because I don’t like them. I don’t accept them because I can’t: not one of the reasons you offer are incompatible with dualism. That brain damage can alter mental function is also a prediction of dualism. That our mind seems embodied during normal waking hours is also a prediction of dualism. That there are neural correlates to consciousness is also a prediction of dualism. That there is a relationship between brain, body, and the internal/external environment is also a prediction of dualism.

    So, if you wish to argue the superiority of materialism, you have to offer some evidence that falsifies one or more predictions of dualism. Likewise, if I wish to argue the superiority of dualism, I need to offer some evidence that falsifies one or more claims of materialism.

    Thus far, you have not provided even one piece of evidence that would A) falsify one or more predictions of dualism, or B) justify your claim that disembodied minds don’t exist. Thus far, I’ve provided evidence that seems to directly falsify one or more claims of materialism. Sure, some of them are anecdotes. That’s the breaks. However, you said–and I agree–that anecdotes are an acceptable start to scientific inquiry. I’ve provided the link to one published paper, and there are others like it. I’m just getting started, throwing out some of the weaker stuff first to see how you’ll react. I’ve got about ten more papers in the queue. Unfortunately I don’t have the time to devote my every waking hour to convincing skeptics. Point blank: have I provided enough evidence that you ought to abandon your beliefs? I don’t think so. However, I most certainly have provided enough evidence that you should retract your claims that “disembodied minds don’t exist,” and that, “To speak of a mind without a brain is just science fiction and fantasy.” You don’t know that disembodied minds don’t exist, just like I don’t know that they do. We have a growing array of anecdotal and scientific data that suggests disembodied minds can exist. We have a growing number of respectable scientists who find strong reason to believe that something like dualism is more likely to be true. In fact, if you won’t retract those claims, I see little reason to continue in my attempts to persuade you. It would entail a massive amount of cognitive dissonance for a person as intelligent as yourself to accept a claim they denigrated as “science fiction and fantasy,” and personally, I don’t want to work against that sort of bias. It’s not like I’m trying to win Randi’s prize here.

    Do you retract those claims?

    If yes, let’s continue: what evidence do you have for materialism that isn’t also evidence for dualism? That’s the key question here. Thus far, you haven’t provided any, so, thus far, I assign your claim that “disembodied minds don’t exist” a very low possibility of being true–because that’s the standard you told me I should abide by a few weeks ago.

    If no, we’re at another impasse, although I will most certainly be responding to your DNA analogy in full.

    Your call.

  20. cl says:

    Another reason you should retract those claims: if, as I have shown, every piece of evidence you’ve offered happens to also fulfill the predictions of dualism, then, so far, dualism has all the evidence of your theory, PLUS the additional evidence I’ve supplied, which–if genuine–directly challenges your theory.

  21. Matt says:

    CL
    “I am most certainly still thinking this through.”

    I am too. I think the main question for me is why is it better to think of the program as an extension of your life and not a different thing that thinks like you do and has your memories. I suppose any completely materialist understanding of identity is going to have problems similar to this. Why is the “you” that exists 7 years from now the same thing as the “you” that exists now?

  22. cl says:

    Matt,

    I think the main question for me is why is it better to think of the program as an extension of your life and not a different thing that thinks like you do and has your memories.

    All I meant by my remark is that I can conceive of a state affairs by which consciousness could be downloaded to a computer, and materialism could be true. If we say that there is no soul or anything “non-physical,” okay, fine… then, perhaps a series of algorithms and/or electrical impulses could be transferred from one’s brain to a computer. As Jayman points out, we could certainly debate whether that computer would “really” be you. I’m just trying to conceive of possible states of affairs that would challenge my initial position, that successfully downloaded consciousness is only compatible with dualism. I’m not sure that’s true, which is why I asked the question.

    I suppose any completely materialist understanding of identity is going to have problems similar to this. Why is the “you” that exists 7 years from now the same thing as the “you” that exists now?

    Actually, we *literally* are not the same people we were 7 years ago. Materialists claim that we are nothing but matter, yet, this “matter” that we supposedly are, regenerates many times over the course of our life. So, where is the information that keeps us consistent? It really gets downright perplexing when you think about it.

  23. dguller says:

    cl:

    >> Thus far, you have not provided even one piece of evidence that would A) falsify one or more predictions of dualism,

    Just as you have not provided me with any bit of evidence for why invisible, microscopic leprechauns pushing atoms around within neurons are responsible for consciousness. Again, logical possibility is just not very impressive, I think.

    >> or B) justify your claim that disembodied minds don’t exist.

    Sure, I have. You agree that under normal circumstances, our minds are embodied. Where we disagree is whether under abnormal circumstances, a mind can become disembodied. The abnormal circumstances in question are a variety of paranormal experiences, such as NDE and OBE, and I have provided reasons why these experiences are not sufficiently abnormal to justify the rejection of our mutually agreed upon default position of an embodied mind.

    Mostly I have provided evidence that it is possible to account for those experiences as dysfunctional activity of brain states to generate an abnormal experience, but since appearance is not always reality, it follows that it is possible (and I would say, likely) that one is still embodied in reality even while experiencing disembodiment. After all, hallucinatory drugs can result in disembodied experiences, but no-one believes that one’s mind has actually become disembodied. It is a hallucination!

    And since there is so much evidence for the essentially embodied nature of our minds, the evidence that shows a disembodied mind must be particularly compelling. I have given my reasons why your uncontrolled case reports and single prospective study are not compelling.

    >> Thus far, I’ve provided evidence that seems to directly falsify one or more claims of materialism. Sure, some of them are anecdotes. That’s the breaks. However, you said–and I agree–that anecdotes are an acceptable start to scientific inquiry. I’ve provided the link to one published paper, and there are others like it. I’m just getting started, throwing out some of the weaker stuff first to see how you’ll react. I’ve got about ten more papers in the queue. Unfortunately I don’t have the time to devote my every waking hour to convincing skeptics.

    First, why would you start a debate by using your weakest evidence?

    Second, I am patient, and will wait for you to have the time to describe the other ten studies. I really am interested.

    Third, I am fully aware that I am not your priority. You have your life, after all.

    >> Point blank: have I provided enough evidence that you ought to abandon your beliefs? I don’t think so. However, I most certainly have provided enough evidence that you should retract your claims that “disembodied minds don’t exist,” and that, “To speak of a mind without a brain is just science fiction and fantasy.” You don’t know that disembodied minds don’t exist, just like I don’t know that they do.

    I know enough about embodied minds to know that the evidence for disembodied minds must be compelling. Your evidence is just not enough, which you admit, because you do not know whether disembodied minds do, in fact, exist. Furthermore, the fact that there are other possible explanations of your evidence to keep them in line with dysfunctional embodied minds puts things back into my camp. And remember, I never said that disembodied minds are logically impossible, because they are logically possible, but they are not empirically possible, because they would violate everything we know about how the mind works, and the mind appears to be absolutely dependent upon the brain-body-world interaction. So, I can feel confident saying that, at this time, disembodied minds do not exist, just as you can feel confident saying that microscopic invisible leprechauns do not exist, despite their logical possibility.

    >> We have a growing array of anecdotal and scientific data that suggests disembodied minds can exist.

    Sure, and there is a growing array of conspiracy theories out there, too. It does not follow that they are true. I mean, you ask someone if Barack Obama was born in Hawaii, and they will cite an abundance of evidence to support it, without mentioning that most of it is fundamentally weak. Hell, there are whole books written on the subject, but you would not take them seriously, because you know that the quality of the evidence is better on the side that states that Obama was born in the United States, even if there are some minor anomalies.

    So, once your “growing array” reaches the point of replicated high quality studies that indicate a robust phenomenon, then many essential principles of science will have to be revised, and Nobel Prizes will be won. And it won’t be the first or the last time that this has or will happen, either.

    >> We have a growing number of respectable scientists who find strong reason to believe that something like dualism is more likely to be true.

    I suppose it would depend upon what you mean by “dualism”. If you mean that the mind will never be fully reduced to the brain, either on principle or in practice, then that would make many people “dualists”, but not in the sense of believing in a disembodied mind. That is what we are debating. Not dualism, per se, but whether disembodied minds exist. And even so, I can provide a list of scientists who lean the other way.

    >> In fact, if you won’t retract those claims, I see little reason to continue in my attempts to persuade you. It would entail a massive amount of cognitive dissonance for a person as intelligent as yourself to accept a claim they denigrated as “science fiction and fantasy,” and personally, I don’t want to work against that sort of bias. It’s not like I’m trying to win Randi’s prize here.

    That is certainly your choice. I think that I have made my points, and your readers can weigh in if they feel that I am just being stubbornly blind to my own cognitive biases, or whether I have made valid points that you have failed to address.

    >> If yes, let’s continue: what evidence do you have for materialism that isn’t also evidence for dualism? That’s the key question here. Thus far, you haven’t provided any, so, thus far, I assign your claim that “disembodied minds don’t exist” a very low possibility of being true–because that’s the standard you told me I should abide by a few weeks ago.

    Look. My position can be easily stated as follows.

    There is an abundance of evidence justifying embodied cognition, which you accept under normal circumstances. I would say that this is the default state. If the paranormal experiences that you have cited did not exist, then you would likely accept the default state, I think, because there would be no reason not to other than logical possibility, which is just not good enough.

    The question is whether the experience of disembodiment during some abnormal situations means that one’s mind has actually become disembodied in reality. My reasons for rejecting that true disembodiment have occurred are (1) there is an abundance of evidence that disembodied experiences, such as hallucinations, can be caused by brain changes, and thus are fundamentally dependent upon a malfunctioning brain to exist, which means that they cannot be truly disembodied at all, and (2) that OBE and NDE can be understood along the lines of dysfunctional brain states, as per the work of Olaf Blanke, for example, and that would mean that they are likely still embodied in reality, but only appear to be disembodied in their subjective experience.

    I mean, if you think that none of this constitutes “evidence” for my position, then what do you mean by “evidence”? Furthermore, the evidence that refutes my position would have to be pretty compelling, and you have admitted that yours falls short of that. You cannot then blame me for not accepting it as the definitive and final word on the matter.

    I think it might be helpful to have other readers here comment on our discussion. It might help us break our impasse, because I really feel like we are just talking past one another. All I can say is that it is telling that you agree both that embodied cognition is the norm, and that you do not know if disembodied cognition happens. I agree with the former. And regarding the latter, I say that the evidence just isn’t good enough, and is better accounted for by dysfunctional embodied cognition, which is consistent with the abundance of evidence justifying the norm.

  24. cl says:

    dguller,

    …you have not provided me with any bit of evidence for why invisible, microscopic leprechauns pushing atoms around within neurons are responsible for consciousness.

    Get real. This is the comment after which where I pretty much drop out of this conversation. Anyone who says crap like that doesn’t deserve to be taken seriously. So, since we’re clearly not taking each other seriously anymore, why not have some fun…

    The abnormal circumstances in question are a variety of paranormal experiences, such as NDE and OBE, and I have provided reasons why these experiences are not sufficiently abnormal to justify the rejection of our mutually agreed upon default position of an embodied mind.

    Well then, case closed! My bad. Veridical and sound cognitive experiences during states *normally* classified as “persistent vegetative” or “brain dead” are not sufficiently abnormal, because, you know… the brain works even without blood in it! I swear!

    …since appearance is not always reality, it follows that it is possible (and I would say, likely) that one is still embodied in reality even while experiencing disembodiment.

    Right! And even floating down the hall of the hospital to recognize one’s relatives… oh yeah, nevermind… probably just a false memory. My bad, I didn’t mean to be so, you know… gullible.

    After all, hallucinatory drugs can result in disembodied experiences, but no-one believes that one’s mind has actually become disembodied. It is a hallucination!

    Yeah, DUH… why didn’t I think of that! But of course; all these experiences, every single one of them, are hallucinations! Who cares about the veridical aspects of these experiences… we can just write those off as, oh, I don’t know… the person saw all these things prior to going under the knife or passing out or whatever else happened… duh! Silly me! I’m so gullible! I apologize. Must be too much Cris Angel or something… I’ll try to come back down to Earth here shortly.

    I have given my reasons why your uncontrolled case reports and single prospective study are not compelling.

    Yet, I’ve provided more evidence, quantitatively, than you have for your position. Again, my bad… I will seriously consider materialism as valid. I’m sorry, claims with less evidence should be deemed more likely to be true than claims with less evidence. Arghh… I gotta get this right!

    First, why would you start a debate by using your weakest evidence?

    For me, the question is, why present any at all? You’ve already gone on record saying my position is “science fiction and fantasy.” What self-respecting person is going to go, “Wow, you’re actually right… I really ought to seriously entertain the notion of that which I denigrated as science fiction and fantasy,” let alone on the internet where there’s quite literally zero accountability? Again… DUH! What the heck am I thinking? I totally apologize for wasting your time.

    I really am interested.

    Well, I hope you can understand why I’m skeptical, I mean, given the whole “what cl and accredited scientists believe is science fiction and fantasy” approach you’ve been taking thus far.

    Your evidence is just not enough, which you admit, because you do not know whether disembodied minds do, in fact, exist.

    Right, but you know they don’t, no evidence required, and, like I said, I’ve provided more evidence, quantitatively, than you have for your position. Seems odd, but… why not?

    And remember, I never said that disembodied minds are logically impossible…

    Yeah, I know: you said they DON’T EXIST. Get it straight! This is a strong truth claim about the real world, and you haven’t offered jack to support it.

    And even so, I can provide a list of scientists who lean the other way.

    So what? The fact that many don’t “lean that way” doesn’t mean you get to denigrate what they believe as science fiction and fantasy. That’s a bunch of intellectually chauvinist nonsense.

    …your readers can weigh in if they feel that I am just being stubbornly blind to my own cognitive biases, or whether I have made valid points that you have failed to address.

    What point haven’t I addressed? Brain damage can alter mental function? Addressed that. There’s a blind spot in our vision? Addressed that. There’s a connection between mind, brain, and body? Addressed that. Consciousness has neural correlates? Addressed that. Need I go on?

    If the paranormal experiences that you have cited did not exist, then you would likely accept the default state, I think, because there would be no reason not to other than logical possibility, which is just not good enough.

    Yeah, DUH… of course that’s what I would conclude if the experiences I’ve alluded to DIDN’T exist. The problem is, they DO exist. Oh wait! That’s in my mind only. Sorry.

    …there is an abundance of evidence that disembodied experiences, such as hallucinations, can be caused by brain changes, and thus are fundamentally dependent upon a malfunctioning brain to exist…

    Oh get real. Bring me some documented cases of veridical hallucinations, and then I *might* take that seriously.

    I mean, if you think that none of this constitutes “evidence” for my position, then what do you mean by “evidence”?

    I consider as “evidence” most of the same things you’re considering as “evidence.” The fact that OBE-like experiences can be induced is a prediction of dualism, at least, the dualism I find possible. The brain is an interface, something like a web browser. Pages can be served, but client-side capabilities also exist. Ah, nevermind… I’m just getting all “science fiction and fantasy” when what I really need is a good dose of some Dawkins and Dennett. Again, my bad.

    Furthermore, the evidence that refutes my position would have to be pretty compelling, and you have admitted that yours falls short of that.

    What about the evidence that would refute my position? You’ve provided none, I’ve provided what should at least be called a good start. It’s as if you can’t even see this. Oh yeah, nevermind… I believe in fantasy. DUH! I keep forgetting that. Case closed: cl, fantasy; dguller, rational.

    You cannot then blame me for not accepting it as the definitive and final word on the matter.

    Uh, I’m not asking you to take my word as definitive and final. I’m asking you to retract your claim that what I’m more prone towards believing is “science fiction and fantasy,” especially when you haven’t offered a shred of evidence that demonstrates or even suggests the superiority of your position over mine, and I’ve offered a “good start’s” worth of evidence that all you’ve done is cast doubt on.

    And regarding the latter, I say that the evidence just isn’t good enough, and is better accounted for by dysfunctional embodied cognition…

    Right, because dysfunctional embodied cognition can totally produce veridical experiences. I’m sorry for being so silly! You know, it’s the whole “I’m a stupid Christian” thing. The Bible is true because it says so! I swear! I know I voted for GW Bush but come on can you cut me some slack here?

  25. cl says:

    Damn. Sorry for the long comment. You tend to talk a lot, and I was only responding.

  26. dguller says:

    Cl:

    >> Get real. This is the comment after which where I pretty much drop out of this conversation. Anyone who says crap like that doesn’t deserve to be taken seriously. So, since we’re clearly not taking each other seriously anymore, why not have some fun…

    My point is that just because X is consistent with our empirical evidence is not sufficient to believe X is true.

    >> Well then, case closed! My bad. Veridical and sound cognitive experiences during states *normally* classified as “persistent vegetative” or “brain dead” are not sufficiently abnormal, because, you know… the brain works even without blood in it! I swear!

    First, PVS is not brain dead.

    Second, none of the studies that you showed demonstrated brain death.

    Third, there was no evidence that the brain had no blood in it. I mean, even when it dies, there is still blood in it.

    >> Right! And even floating down the hall of the hospital to recognize one’s relatives… oh yeah, nevermind… probably just a false memory. My bad, I didn’t mean to be so, you know… gullible.

    First, I do not know about this particular example. It hasn’t come up yet.

    Second, there are other confounding factors that would have to be addressed. And none of them are brain-in-a-vat metaphysical possibilities, but real, empirical possibilities that any genuine scientist would try to control for.

    >> Yeah, DUH… why didn’t I think of that! But of course; all these experiences, every single one of them, are hallucinations! Who cares about the veridical aspects of these experiences… we can just write those off as, oh, I don’t know… the person saw all these things prior to going under the knife or passing out or whatever else happened… duh! Silly me! I’m so gullible! I apologize. Must be too much Cris Angel or something… I’ll try to come back down to Earth here shortly.

    As I said, the veridical aspect could be explained by chance, unconsciously overhearing information, consciously hearing information, but then forgetting that they heard it, and then generating a false memory, and so on. All of these are empirically demonstrable phenomena that would have to be controlled for before you can overturn all of neuroscience.

    >> Yet, I’ve provided more evidence, quantitatively, than you have for your position. Again, my bad… I will seriously consider materialism as valid. I’m sorry, claims with less evidence should be deemed more likely to be true than claims with less evidence. Arghh… I gotta get this right!

    Really? If you want me to cite studies that show that brain trauma, infection, and psychotropic drugs can cause hallucinations of disembodied states in someone who continues to be embodied, then I can do so, but it is unnecessary, because none of this is controversial. Read any psychology or psychiatry textbook.

    >> For me, the question is, why present any at all? You’ve already gone on record saying my position is “science fiction and fantasy.” What self-respecting person is going to go, “Wow, you’re actually right… I really ought to seriously entertain the notion of that which I denigrated as science fiction and fantasy,” let alone on the internet where there’s quite literally zero accountability? Again… DUH! What the heck am I thinking? I totally apologize for wasting your time.

    Yes, why would anyone try to justify their beliefs with their best evidence? That makes no sense at all.

    >> Well, I hope you can understand why I’m skeptical, I mean, given the whole “what cl and accredited scientists believe is science fiction and fantasy” approach you’ve been taking thus far.

    What I meant by science fiction and fantasy was the tendency for some philosophers for example to cite certain thought experiments and derive metaphysical conclusions from them. For example, the brain-in-a-vat thought experiment of Hilary Putnam is just science fiction and fantasy, but it serves as an intuition pump (as Dennett calls them) to test out our underlying assumptions. However, it is hard to know what to conclude from them, because these thought experiments are utterly divorced from reality and we cannot test to see whose conclusions are correct. Without empirical evidence, all we have is logical possibility, which (as you saw with my leprechaun example) can lead to ridiculous conclusions based in fantasy. That is also why I appreciate your attempt to provide empirical verification of your claims about disembodied consciousness. I just did not find them sufficiently persuasive, which you agree is a reasonable conclusion since you do not yourself know if disembodied consciousness occurs.

    >> Right, but you know they don’t, no evidence required, and, like I said, I’ve provided more evidence, quantitatively, than you have for your position. Seems odd, but… why not?

    Quality is more important than quantity. A single large well-controlled randomized controlled trial can refute hundreds of smaller, poorly controlled trials. That is also why the fact that a belief has persisted for thousands of years can be overturned by a single experiment, despite the fact that more people believed it in history.

    >> Yeah, I know: you said they DON’T EXIST. Get it straight! This is a strong truth claim about the real world, and you haven’t offered jack to support it.

    Right, because there is no good evidence to support their existence. The default state, which you appear to endorse, is embodied cognition, and there is an abundance of evidence for this. To believe in disembodied cognition would be to overturn this body of evidence, and thus would have to be compelling. You admit that your evidence falls short of this standard.

    >> Yeah, DUH… of course that’s what I would conclude if the experiences I’ve alluded to DIDN’T exist. The problem is, they DO exist. Oh wait! That’s in my mind only. Sorry.

    But you yourself admit that the evidence for those experiences being genuinely disembodied is inconclusive. So, why put so much weight on them and defend them so passionately?

    >> Oh get real. Bring me some documented cases of veridical hallucinations, and then I *might* take that seriously.

    In my practice, I met a woman with a delusional disorder who believed that European mobsters were stalking her on chat groups, because she was rude to another chat group member. She knew nothing about European mobsters using the Internet to stalk women, because I asked her many times why she believed it, and she could not tell me, except that she felt it had to be true. It turned out during her hospitalization that she read a newspaper article that showed that European mobster were, in fact, using the Internet to stalk women!

    I can cite many other such examples, and it makes sense that they would happen, because of the millions of people right now who are hallucinating something, some of them will hallucinate something that happens to be true, just as of the billions of people dreaming right now, some of them will dream things that turn out to be true, and not because they have any special power, but just due to the rule of large numbers and chance.

    >> I consider as “evidence” most of the same things you’re considering as “evidence.” The fact that OBE-like experiences can be induced is a prediction of dualism, at least, the dualism I find possible. The brain is an interface, something like a web browser. Pages can be served, but client-side capabilities also exist. Ah, nevermind… I’m just getting all “science fiction and fantasy” when what I really need is a good dose of some Dawkins and Dennett. Again, my bad.

    Yes, but the fact that OBE-like experiences can be induced is also consistent with MY theory. My theory also has the abundance of neuroscientific data that shows that cognition is fundamentally embodied. Again, this is not about dualism per se, but disembodied cognition.

    >> What about the evidence that would refute my position? You’ve provided none, I’ve provided what should at least be called a good start. It’s as if you can’t even see this. Oh yeah, nevermind… I believe in fantasy. DUH! I keep forgetting that. Case closed: cl, fantasy; dguller, rational.

    I have provided lots of evidence against disembodied cognition. I provided enough that you even admitted that embodied cognition is the norm. Furthermore, you admitted that you have no idea whether disembodied cognition occurs. So, what are we arguing about?

    >> Uh, I’m not asking you to take my word as definitive and final. I’m asking you to retract your claim that what I’m more prone towards believing is “science fiction and fantasy,” especially when you haven’t offered a shred of evidence that demonstrates or even suggests the superiority of your position over mine, and I’ve offered a “good start’s” worth of evidence that all you’ve done is cast doubt on.

    I have provided lots of evidence. My position is not only consistent with neuroscience, but it can also explain some subjective experiences that would make no sense on your account. For example, if vision is possible without a brain or body, then why is it that when I move my eyes, then my visual perspective changes. How can I see anything without my brain-body? And if it appears that I do, then isn’t it more likely that I am hallucinating something rather than my mind leaving my body?

    >> Right, because dysfunctional embodied cognition can totally produce veridical experiences. I’m sorry for being so silly! You know, it’s the whole “I’m a stupid Christian” thing. The Bible is true because it says so! I swear! I know I voted for GW Bush but come on can you cut me some slack here?

    Confounding factors must be addressed. I have provided many of them, and you have not addressed any of them other than to denigrate the whole idea of having to control for alternative empirical possibilities before a definitive conclusion can be had. You know, like scientists are supposed to do.

  27. dguller says:

    cl:

    Here is how I see where our discussion currently is.

    We both agree that under normal circumstances our mind is embodied, which I take to mean that it essentially occurs in the context of a body in order to function. That is why my conscious experience of visual perception is from the perspective of where visual input enters my eyes, and why when I move my eyes, my visual perspective shifts, for example.

    Where we disagree is whether it is possible for consciousness to occur in a disembodied state.

    My position is that this is not possible, because all of the massive heaps of neuroscientific evidence indicates that mental function is inextricably bound to a brain interacting with a body interacting with an environment. It also shows that our cognitive function can best be understood within this bodily context, and would be hard to explain without it. That is the default state, and is akin to believing that the sun will rise tomorrow. It is something that is as certain as we can possibly know anything in the world.

    Your position is that there are paranormal phenomena that indicate that disembodiment can, in fact, occur. You have provided some empirical evidence for this claim. I have offered my criticisms of this evidence, and you yourself agree that it is not compelling. That means that all you have left is that disembodiment is logically possible, which is just not a sufficient basis to hang your beliefs upon, because it can lead to ridiculous conclusions. Furthermore, since it is you who is bringing an affirmative claim – disembodied cognition can exist – then the onus is upon you to demonstrate it, which you clearly have not done.

    So, we agree that embodiment is the default under normal circumstances. To deviate from this agreed-upon proposition would require compelling evidence, which the burden of proof lays squarely upon you. If you cannot show that disembodiment occurs, and I believe that you have not, then we are back to the default agreed-upon state of embodiment, are we not?

    Take the sun rising tomorrow as an analogous case. We both agree that the sun has always risen in the past since the earth began to exist, and that it is a fair assumption that it will likely rise again tomorrow. That is the default state. If you were to say that tomorrow the sun would NOT rise, then it would be fair for me to ask you for evidence. Perhaps you have evidence that the sun will explode tomorrow? Perhaps you have evidence that the forces of gravity will cease to exist, and the earth will spiral away from the sun? If you cannot provide sufficient evidence to justify your deviation from the default position, then I think it is fair for me to reject your position and happily return to the default position.

    And it is just not good enough for you to say, “Well, my belief that the sun will not rise tomorrow is consistent with the fact that the sun has risen every day in the past since the earth began to exist!” That is necessary, but not sufficient to establish its truth. You need additional evidence, which was not provided, and thus your position can be rejected for the time being.

    That is how I see our discussion. Perhaps you see if differently.

  28. woodchuck64 says:

    If Ian Pearson is correct and we are able to download human consciousness onto machines by 2050…

    The concept of downloading consciousness is way too fuzzy to me to make any meaningful predictions.

    But what I might predict by 2050 would be brain-computer interfaces that would shed light on whether consciousness can exist in artificial circuits: imagine if the corpus callosum, connecting left/right brain hemispheres, could be safely and efficiently spliced to an external hardware connection. What would it be like to experience input or output directly from a computer? Would it be like adding a new sensory perception? Would adding sophistication to the external computer algorithm lead to extending our consciousness experience in some way? How about shared consciousness — connecting two or more persons together or through the computer?

    dguller, I understand you’re a medical professional, do you think safe and efficient brain-computer interfaces could conceivably be 40 years away or less?

  29. dguller says:

    Woodchuck:

    >> dguller, I understand you’re a medical professional, do you think safe and efficient brain-computer interfaces could conceivably be 40 years away or less?

    Honestly, I have no idea.

    I think that it is conceivable – at some point – to interface a brain with a computer as an adjunctive appendage that the brain can use as an external tool. It would be like a prosthetic limb, but attached to the brain to extend its capacities. In all likelihood, the brain would then incorporate the computer into its sense of self, much as the brain incorporates a car that we are driving into a part of our extra-corporeal self (which is why we duck in a car when driving into an underground parking and we perceive the ceiling to almost hit the roof of the car!).

    Whether this will be possible in 40 years or less, I have no idea. It depends upon how much neuroscientific, technological and computational knowledge we will acquire over time. However, in theory, I think that this is conceivable to happen.

  30. cl says:

    woodchuck64,

    Good questions. I don’t have any answers at the moment.

  31. cl says:

    dguller,

    I’ve read your comments, and I’m not going to spend much time responding except to point out a few key things:

    First, PVS is not brain dead.

    Did I say it was? No. This is another example of you not sticking to what I say, for whatever reason. Might this well-noted tendency be part of the reason you think we’re talking past each other? I suspect so.

    My position is that this is not possible, because all of the massive heaps of neuroscientific evidence indicates that mental function is inextricably bound to a brain interacting with a body interacting with an environment. It also shows that our cognitive function can best be understood within this bodily context, and would be hard to explain without it.

    You’re contradicting yourself and arguing from incredulity again. The brain/body/environment connection does not falsify dualism, and that X seems “hard to explain” for you is no valid argument against X.

    I have offered my criticisms of this evidence, and you yourself agree that it is not compelling. That means that all you have left is that disembodiment is logically possible, which is just not a sufficient basis to hang your beliefs upon, because it can lead to ridiculous conclusions.

    False. You have no idea what I have left, so quit using a partial picture to imply that my beliefs aren’t justified. It’s arrogant.

    Furthermore, since it is you who is bringing an affirmative claim – disembodied cognition can exist – then the onus is upon you to demonstrate it, which you clearly have not done.

    I’m not afraid of the burden, and I’m steadily working towards it. On the other hand, you also brought an affirmative claim–disembodied minds don’t exist–and you haven’t offered a single shred of evidence for that claim. You say you “have provided lots of evidence.” You haven’t provided ANY evidence to justify “disembodied minds don’t exist,” and All the evidence you’ve given thus far is also compatible with dualism.

    That is how I see our discussion. Perhaps you see if differently.

    You bet I do, but really, I woke up this morning with a new approach: when somebody who admits to being at a “1-2” on the “1-10” scale of the pertinent literature goes ahead and denounces the central thesis of said literature as “science fiction and fantasy,” that’s putting the cart before the horse, and I suspect I’m dealing with bias too strong to overcome via arguments in blog posts.

    I’ve got a post scheduled for Monday that you might be interested in.

  32. dguller says:

    cl:

    >> You’re contradicting yourself and arguing from incredulity again. The brain/body/environment connection does not falsify dualism, and that X seems “hard to explain” for you is no valid argument against X.

    We are NOT talking about dualism. We are talking about disembodied minds, which is only one type of dualism. If neuroscience consistently shows that minds are embodied, then this can be taken as evidence against disembodied minds. By analogy, if the sun always rises in the east, then this can be taken as evidence against the sun not rising in the east tomorrow. You cannot say that since the sun not rising in the east tomorrow is consistent with its always previously rising in the east, then the two claims are on an equivalent footing. They are not, because one has the backing of billions of years of support, and the other is an empirical possibility that would require independent verification to be warranted.

    I mean, either the mind is dependent upon the brain or it is not. If studies show that the mind is dependent upon the brain to function, then it follows that this is evidence against the claim that the mind is independent of the brain to function. In addition, if you claim that the mind is independent of the brain, then why does evidence that its functions depend upon the brain support the mind’s independence? And if you are not claiming that the mind is independent of the brain, then how can it be disembodied at all?

    >> False. You have no idea what I have left, so quit using a partial picture to imply that my beliefs aren’t justified. It’s arrogant.

    Fine. All I can go on is what you have currently presented. If your initial case was weak, but you have stronger evidence coming up, then I’ll consider it.

    >> I’m not afraid of the burden, and I’m steadily working towards it. On the other hand, you also brought an affirmative claim–disembodied minds don’t exist–and you haven’t offered a single shred of evidence for that claim. You say you “have provided lots of evidence.” You haven’t provided ANY evidence to justify “disembodied minds don’t exist,” and All the evidence you’ve given thus far is also compatible with dualism.

    I have provided lots of evidence. Whenever I cite evidence of a mental capacity being caused by the brain, this is evidence for embodied cognition, which is also evidence against disembodied cognition. I mean, if I consistently show that all material entities are composed of atoms, then do I also thereby show that material entities are composed of non-atoms, too? How does that work?

    >> You bet I do, but really, I woke up this morning with a new approach: when somebody who admits to being at a “1-2″ on the “1-10″ scale of the pertinent literature goes ahead and denounces the central thesis of said literature as “science fiction and fantasy,” that’s putting the cart before the horse, and I suspect I’m dealing with bias too strong to overcome via arguments in blog posts.

    That’s your choice, of course. I assumed that the evidence that you put forth to justify your thesis that disembodied cognition was possible was the strongest you had. I am glad to hear that you only stuck to your weakest evidence, and I look forward to your stronger case to be made.

  33. dguller says:

    cl:

    >> Did I say it was? No. This is another example of you not sticking to what I say, for whatever reason. Might this well-noted tendency be part of the reason you think we’re talking past each other? I suspect so.

    Oops. You are right. I thought that you were mixing the two together, but I see that that was an uncharitable interpretation. Sorry.

    However, I do notice that you failed to address the other two points that I made in that comment about how none of the studies that you cited showed brain death, and that brain death does not imply a bloodless brain.

    Any comments?

  34. dguller says:

    cl:

    One last thing.

    Remember what you wrote above:

    “Point blank: have I provided enough evidence that you ought to abandon your beliefs? I don’t think so. However, I most certainly have provided enough evidence that you should retract your claims that “disembodied minds don’t exist,” and that, “To speak of a mind without a brain is just science fiction and fantasy.” You don’t know that disembodied minds don’t exist, just like I don’t know that they do.”

    You admitted that you have not provided enough evidence for me to abandon my belief in embodied cognition, and you admitted that you do not even know if disembodied minds do, in fact, exist! You then accuse me of “using a partial picture to imply that my beliefs aren’t justified. It’s arrogant.” You yourself admitted that your beliefs are not justified – “I don’t know that they do” – and then call me “arrogant” for agreeing with you? That’s pretty unfair.

  35. cl says:

    dguller,

    We are NOT talking about dualism. We are talking about disembodied minds, which is only one type of dualism.

    IOW, we are talking about dualism, and this is just semantics. Nonetheless, let me rephrase: The brain/body/environment connection does not falsify the concept of disembodied minds, and that disembodied minds seems “hard to explain” for you is no valid argument against disembodied minds. That better?

    I have provided lots of evidence. Whenever I cite evidence of a mental capacity being caused by the brain, this is evidence for embodied cognition,

    Again, italicized and bolded in the hopes it will finally sink in: neural correlates to consciousness are expected on dualism. So, you haven’t provided ANY evidence that directly challenges dualism or disembodied minds. You can assert that you have until you’re blue in the face, but, it’s simply not true.

    …I do notice that you failed to address the other two points that I made in that comment about how none of the studies that you cited showed brain death, and that brain death does not imply a bloodless brain.

    It’s not that I “failed to address” them, it’s that I fail to see the usefulness of continuing our discussion when you’re already went on record saying I believe in “science fiction and fantasy.” You’re obviously working with strong bias, whereas I’m coming at this like, “I don’t know, but I think the totality of available evidence supports this.” Like I said, I’ve got a post scheduled for Monday that you might find interesting, or, at least more difficult to explain away.

    You yourself admitted that your beliefs are not justified – “I don’t know that they do” – and then call me “arrogant” for agreeing with you? That’s pretty unfair.

    False. Me stating that I haven’t provided enough evidence to CONVINCE YOU is not the same as me admitting that MY beliefs aren’t justified. However, you are correct that I find it arrogant to imply my beliefs aren’t justified just because YOU don’t think I’ve done my epistemic homework, especially given the fact that I’ve got you licked when it comes to TOTALITY of evidence, which you yourself say we need to take into consideration.

  36. dguller says:

    cl:

    >> IOW, we are talking about dualism, and this is just semantics. Nonetheless, let me rephrase: The brain/body/environment connection does not falsify the concept of disembodied minds, and that disembodied minds seems “hard to explain” for you is no valid argument against disembodied minds. That better?

    First, you have not offered any explanation of how a disembodied mind is possible yourself. Care to? Or will you just continue to demand that I prove that it is impossible? Why not accept the burden of proof and explain how a mind can exist independent from the brain-body-world interaction?

    Second, if every instance of a cognitive state occurs in conjunction with an underlying brain state, then how does this not offer evidence against a disembodied mind, which would have to occur NOT in conjunction with an underlying brain state? I really am failing to see the logic here, unless it is relying upon sheer logical possibility, which we both agree is unhelpful here. Seriously, can you walk me through the logic of your inference here?

    >> Again, italicized and bolded in the hopes it will finally sink in: neural correlates to consciousness are expected on dualism. So, you haven’t provided ANY evidence that directly challenges dualism or disembodied minds. You can assert that you have until you’re blue in the face, but, it’s simply not true.

    First, see above.

    Second, why would neural correlates to consciousness be expected of dualism? If the mind can exist independently of the brain, then why would it be correlated to the brain at all? I mean, I can exist independently of Pluto. Does it follow that I would be correlated to Pluto? And how does a disembodied mind know which body to connect to? And how does it connect to a body at all? And how does it maintain a visual perspective without eyes? And how does it maintain proprioceptive and interoceptive bodily felt senses without a body to feel?

    >> It’s not that I “failed to address” them, it’s that I fail to see the usefulness of continuing our discussion when you’re already went on record saying I believe in “science fiction and fantasy.” You’re obviously working with strong bias, whereas I’m coming at this like, “I don’t know, but I think the totality of available evidence supports this.” Like I said, I’ve got a post scheduled for Monday that you might find interesting, or, at least more difficult to explain away.

    I have explained what I meant by that above at March 30, 2011 at 3:40 AM. I was specifically referring to those who rely upon sheer possibility to justify their positions independent of empirical evidence. Typically, this involves the use of thought experiments that are supposed to demonstrate certain conclusions, but they are notoriously unreliable, because they lack any clear empirical data to decide one way or the other. Obviously, your efforts to offer reasoned claims that are buttressed by empirical data is not “science fiction and fantasy”.

    And I’m looking forward to your post, but I’ll be on holidays starting Saturday, so you’ll have to wait about a week afterwards for my response.

    >> False. Me stating that I haven’t provided enough evidence to CONVINCE YOU is not the same as me admitting that MY beliefs aren’t justified. However, you are correct that I find it arrogant to imply my beliefs aren’t justified just because YOU don’t think I’ve done my epistemic homework, especially given the fact that I’ve got you licked when it comes to TOTALITY of evidence, which you yourself say we need to take into consideration.

    First, you said: “You don’t know that disembodied minds don’t exist, just like I don’t know that they do”. You yourself stated that you “don’t know” that disembodied minds exist. So, stop pretending that you did not admit that your beliefs are not justified. If they were justified, then you would know. If you are ignorant, then you lack justification. It’s as simple as that. If you misstated yourself, then that’s fine, but there is no need to pretend that I have misinterpreted your statement. It was quite clear.

    Second, you do not have me licked. You are like someone who approaches the totality of evidence for material substances being composed of atoms, and claims that they heard from a guy on the street that material substances are not just composed of atoms, but also of shmatoms, too! So, you have the totality of evidence for material substances being composed of atoms, and in addition, have brought a report from a guy on the street that is consistent with that evidence.

    Sure, your theory has more evidence in the sense that you have the totality of evidence for material substances being composed of atoms PLUS a claim from a guy on the street. However, would you really expect physicists to revise their theory of atomic materiality, because you have an additional report? You wouldn’t, I hope, because this verbal report is just too loaded with bias to trust without additional verification. Again, it is not just about the quantity, but also the quality of the evidence.

  37. cl says:

    Why not accept the burden of proof and explain how a mind can exist independent from the brain-body-world interaction?

    I’ve accepted the burden of proof. I’m building my case.

    Or will you just continue to demand that I prove that it is impossible?

    It’s one thing to take a NULL position, it’s another to make a truth-claim in either direction. I demand that you support your truth-claims in the same way I support mine. This leaves you two options that I’m willing to accept:

    1) Meet the burden of proof for your claim that disembodied minds don’t exist;

    2) Retract your claim.

    Personally, I think you should go for 2. Believe me, I’m not trying to flip the burden onto you. Rather, I’m saying that if you wish to make a strong truth-claim as you have, then, the burden ALSO applies to you.

    …if every instance of a cognitive state occurs in conjunction with an underlying brain state, then how does this not offer evidence against a disembodied mind,

    There are instances of consciousness occurring without underlying brain states. You don’t accept them because it’s “logically possible” that the data may be flawed. That’s why this is really a moot conversation. No matter what I give you, you can always draw a line in the sand and say, “Oh, well that’s not good enough, it’s possible that mitigating factors A-Z could account for the data.” So, why even continue? Somebody like yourself won’t be convinced until the “scientific consensus” gives you permission. I can’t do that, and you’re strongly resisting me at every turn while indicating bias the whole way, so…?

    …why would neural correlates to consciousness be expected of dualism?

    Because the dualism I suspect is true posits that immaterial consciousness works in conjunction with the brain during normal waking states.

    I was specifically referring to those who rely upon sheer possibility to justify their positions independent of empirical evidence.

    That’s you! You’re relying on the “logical possibility” that mitigating factors A-Z could account for the data. You’re not even responding to perceived flaws in specific cases, you’re just pulling the doubt card. Further, though it doesn’t persuade you, you DO admit that I’ve provided some empirical evidence. So if I’ve offered some empirical evidence, who in the world are you talking about?

    Typically, this involves the use of thought experiments that are supposed to demonstrate certain conclusions, but they are notoriously unreliable, because they lack any clear empirical data to decide one way or the other.

    I haven’t gone that route. I haven’t offered you “brain in a vat” thought experiments. So, what does this have to do with me?

    You yourself stated that you “don’t know” that disembodied minds exist. So, stop pretending that you did not admit that your beliefs are not justified. If they were justified, then you would know.

    Yeah, I did state that I don’t know: it’s called humility. It’s called honesty. However, that I don’t know something doesn’t mean that I’m not justified in believing it more likely to be true than a competing theory. To tell me otherwise–especially when you don’t know all that I know and admit that your exposure to the pertinent literature is minimal is–like I said, arrogant.

    Second, you do not have me licked.

    Deny it if you want. It’s true. So far, all the evidence you’ve offered also happens to be evidence for the dualism I argue. Yet, I’ve offered evidence above and beyond that. It’s simple math: you’ve offered X, I’ve offered X + Y.

    You are like someone who approaches the totality of evidence for material substances being composed of atoms, and claims that they heard from a guy on the street that material substances are not just composed of atoms, but also of shmatoms, too!

    Oh, the irony: in fact, atoms DO reduce further. Material substances are NOT just composed of atoms. They’re composed of an array of smaller particles that appear to pop of out absolutely nothing.

    So, you have the totality of evidence for material substances being composed of atoms, and in addition, have brought a report from a guy on the street that is consistent with that evidence.

    There you go again, misrepresenting what I say to make it look silly. Do you have ANY IDEA how annoying and rude that is? I haven’t once alluded to any “guy on the street.” Rather, I’ve alluded to doctors, highly accredited scientists, and some of the people who report these phenomenon. Charity. USE IT.

    Sure, your theory has more evidence in the sense that you have the totality of evidence for material substances being composed of atoms PLUS a claim from a guy on the street.

    Alright, forget it… I’m bowing out. The minute one talks about leprechauns and crap like “guys on the street” is the minute they’ve indicated to me that they do not deserve to be taken seriously, since they are clearly not taking their interlocutor seriously.

    Best of cheer and good will towards you dguller. Maybe something productive can come out of this another time. I welcome your continued contributions here, and don’t mistake my frustration for ill will.

  38. dguller says:

    cl:

    >> 1) Meet the burden of proof for your claim that disembodied minds don’t exist;

    I have. The vast majority of evidence points to an embodied mind. The minority of evidence that points to a disembodied mind can be explained as abnormal functioning of an embodied mind misperceiving itself as disembodied. It does not meet the burden of proof that shows that the BEST explanation is a disembodied mind. Sure, a disembodied mind is a possible explanation, but it is not the best explanation.

    Why? Because the subjective experience of a disembodied mind can be generated by physical changes in the brain, which indicates that the experience is illusory. How do you explain this fact? Your explanation would require that when someone takes a hallucinogenic drug, for example, that results in a disembodied experience, then the mind has actually been ejected from the body by the drug’s effect on the brain. This requires some idea of a mechanism to explain it, which you have not provided.

    >> Personally, I think you should go for 2. Believe me, I’m not trying to flip the burden onto you. Rather, I’m saying that if you wish to make a strong truth-claim as you have, then, the burden ALSO applies to you.

    Untrue. We agree that in normal cases, the mind is fundamentally embodied. That is the null, or default position. You are the one deviating from our agreed-upon foundation, and thus the burden of proof is upon you to demonstrate that the mind can be disembodied. Furthermore, you are making the positive claim that a disembodied mind can exist, while I am making the negative claim. Certainly, I can provide my reasons, but the burden of proof is upon you.

    >> There are instances of consciousness occurring without underlying brain states. You don’t accept them because it’s “logically possible” that the data may be flawed. That’s why this is really a moot conversation. No matter what I give you, you can always draw a line in the sand and say, “Oh, well that’s not good enough, it’s possible that mitigating factors A-Z could account for the data.” So, why even continue? Somebody like yourself won’t be convinced until the “scientific consensus” gives you permission. I can’t do that, and you’re strongly resisting me at every turn while indicating bias the whole way, so…?

    I specifically addressed this issue on numerous occasions, and most recently on March 30 at 3:40 AM. I specifically said that my objections were NOT – NOT, NOT – due to logical possibility, but EMPIRICAL POSSIBILITY. EMPIRICAL POSSIBILITY. In other words, there are well-known EMPIRICAL – not LOGICAL – phenomena that may be distorting the results of your cited studies, and thus they must be ruled out.

    What are some of these EMPIRICAL phenomena? That the pattern-identifying ability of human beings often results in a false positive and confuses a pure chance event with a causal pattern, which is why one must rule out chance. That even though someone is unconscious, their brain continues to receive sensory information, which may affect their understanding of what occurred while unconscious. That people can have false memories that are distorted by present information that is subsequently forgotten to have occurred. None of these is a logical possibility alone, but an EMPIRICAL possibility that could be affecting your data. Instead of whining about my intransigence, why not read a scientific paper and see how they explicitly try to control for, and rule out, such confounding factors in their studies.

    >> I haven’t gone that route. I haven’t offered you “brain in a vat” thought experiments. So, what does this have to do with me?

    Hopefully, nothing.

    >> Yeah, I did state that I don’t know: it’s called humility. It’s called honesty. However, that I don’t know something doesn’t mean that I’m not justified in believing it more likely to be true than a competing theory. To tell me otherwise–especially when you don’t know all that I know and admit that your exposure to the pertinent literature is minimal is–like I said, arrogant.

    Sorry, you don’t get to make this move. You have no idea whether following good evidence and justification is a reliable guide to the truth, remember? Therefore, you have nothing with which to figure out what is true or false, and thus cannot know anything at all, by your standards. That’s fine that you are humble in your self-inflicted ignorance, but you do not get to start talking about the justification of your beliefs on the basis of evidence that makes it more true, because you stepped out of this game altogether.

    >> Deny it if you want. It’s true. So far, all the evidence you’ve offered also happens to be evidence for the dualism I argue. Yet, I’ve offered evidence above and beyond that. It’s simple math: you’ve offered X, I’ve offered X + Y.

    Except that Y is useless in this matter, because it is inconclusive. Again, quality matters. So, all we are left with is X, and X is a huge body of knowledge that confirms that the mind is embodied.

    >> Oh, the irony: in fact, atoms DO reduce further. Material substances are NOT just composed of atoms. They’re composed of an array of smaller particles that appear to pop of out absolutely nothing.

    That is not what I said. Don’t you READ correctly? I did not EXPLICITLY say that atoms were MADE of shmatoms, but that matter was made of BOTH atoms and shmatoms. I can’t BELIEVE that you misread me! How COULD you try to INFER something from what I wrote? (Annoying, isn’t it?)

    >> There you go again, misrepresenting what I say to make it look silly. Do you have ANY IDEA how annoying and rude that is? I haven’t once alluded to any “guy on the street.” Rather, I’ve alluded to doctors, highly accredited scientists, and some of the people who report these phenomenon. Charity. USE IT.

    First, have you ever heard of exposing the fault in a line of reasoning by using the same structure of an argument with different premises in order to OBVIOUSLY show the fallacious nature of the argument? The conclusion HAS to be ridiculous in order to conclusively show that the form of the argument is fallacious.

    Second, it does not matter WHO you refer to. All that matters is the quality of the studies that you cite, and they are of low quality. It does not matter if the authors were all Nobel Prize winners. The study stands and falls on its methodology, statistical analysis and results. And your uncontrolled case reports are equivalent to some guy on the street. After all, all they do is DESCRIBE what someone saw happen, and without any safeguards to minimize bias and distortion, they are just unreliable at face value, and certainly do not meet the necessary quality to overturn the majority of neuroscience.

    >> Alright, forget it… I’m bowing out. The minute one talks about leprechauns and crap like “guys on the street” is the minute they’ve indicated to me that they do not deserve to be taken seriously, since they are clearly not taking their interlocutor seriously.

    I am taking your seriously. And if I point out the fallacious nature of your reasoning by using absurd examples, then that is often done in philosophy. You cannot cry foul when I try to show that your line of reasoning leads to conclusions that you yourself would reject. I cannot just restate your arguments, but have to modify them to expose the underlying fallacy. Read any book on fallacies, and that is what they do. They take an argument that looks good, and then change the premises to demonstrate that the form of the argument fails to sustain truth from premises to conclusion. That is all I have tried to do.

    >> Best of cheer and good will towards you dguller. Maybe something productive can come out of this another time. I welcome your continued contributions here, and don’t mistake my frustration for ill will.

    Thanks, and take care. It’s been fun.

  39. jayman777 says:

    dguller:

    If the paranormal experiences that you have cited did not exist, then you would likely accept the default state, I think, because there would be no reason not to other than logical possibility, which is just not good enough.

    Speaking only for myself, there are still philosophy of mind issues that would make me accept dualism even if there was no paranormal phenomena.

    that OBE and NDE can be understood along the lines of dysfunctional brain states

    Is there any type of NDE that would convince you that the person was not in an embodied state? Earlier you suggested that even veridical NDE accounts could be explained by materialists, but are there some types of veridical accounts that you think could not be explained?

    Furthermore, the evidence that refutes my position would have to be pretty compelling

    Why does it have to be pretty compelling? It’s not like you have to ignore the examples you’ve provided if you became a dualist. You would simply add some other beliefs to your current set of beliefs. I’m not sure why there is an either/or tone in your posts. We wouldn’t have to “overturn neuroscience.”

    For example, if vision is possible without a brain or body, then why is it that when I move my eyes, then my visual perspective changes.

    Because when your mind is embodied it receives sight from the eyes through the brain.

    How can I see anything without my brain-body?

    First, the materialist cannot tell me how I can see with my brain-body so he is in the same boat. Second, even if the dualist cannot explain how a disembodied mind can see he may have evidence that a disembodied mind can see.

    And if it appears that I do, then isn’t it more likely that I am hallucinating something rather than my mind leaving my body?

    What is “more likely” is hard to determine in the abstract. There are certainly scenarios where dualism would seem more likely to me. For example, if I have an NDE and can accurately view things that my eyes could not view then it is more likely that my mind really left my body.

    Second, why would neural correlates to consciousness be expected of dualism? If the mind can exist independently of the brain, then why would it be correlated to the brain at all?

    Because, in our earthly state, the mind interacts with the body and, for whatever reason, it appears that it does so through the brain (although I’ve heard strange paranormal accounts where a mind seems to inhabit other body parts). If there is mind/brain interaction it seems to me there would have to be some form of correlation between the mind and body (I would not go so far as to say all actions in the mind have a correlate in the brain).

    In other words, there are well-known EMPIRICAL – not LOGICAL – phenomena that may be distorting the results of your cited studies, and thus they must be ruled out.

    How do you propose ruling out this other phenomena in an NDE case?

    That people can have false memories that are distorted by present information that is subsequently forgotten to have occurred.

    This seems like a get-out-of-jail-free card for the materialist. When do you rule out this possibility? It could be invoked to explain away anything.

  40. cl says:

    Ah, why not:

    I have.

    No you haven’t. Watch:

    The vast majority of evidence points to an embodied mind. The minority of evidence that points to a disembodied mind can be explained as abnormal functioning of an embodied mind misperceiving itself as disembodied.

    No, this “vast majority” ALSO SUPPORTS DUALISM, and the “minority” SPECIFICALLY supports dualism over materialism.

    How do you explain this fact?

    I already gave a perfunctory explanation: in any two-way interface, you can change the performance of the whole by changing either side.

    This requires some idea of a mechanism to explain it, which you have not provided.

    Do I need to prove every step of how Joe committed a murder in order to acquit Bill? Of course not. I do not have to convict Joe in order to falsify the claim that Bill committed a murder. I know you know this.

    We agree that in normal cases, the mind is fundamentally embodied. That is the null, or default position.

    That’s not what I mean. By “NULL position,” I mean a position of agnosticism regarding any given claim. The way I see it, the person who says, “God does not exist” assumes just as much of a burden as the person who says, “God exists.” If you hadn’t come out and made the strong claim that disembodied minds don’t exist, we wouldn’t be having this discussion. I’m perfectly aware of the fact that the positive claimant retains the burden of proof. However, in this case, you are also a positive claimant: you are claiming the mind is always embodied. That is a positive claim, whether you phrase it negatively or not.

    You are the one deviating from our agreed-upon foundation,

    False. Requiring you to play by the same rules does not mean I’ve deviated from our foundation.

    In other words, there are well-known EMPIRICAL – not LOGICAL – phenomena that may be distorting the results of your cited studies, and thus they must be ruled out.

    Your suggestions that these empirical possibilities may be able to account for the data is where you’re reverting to mere “logical possibility.” Sure, it’s logically possible that every single account of NDE and OBE are bogus, and that every single study is flawed, but you don’t get to just say “hey that might be the case” and call it a day. You haven’t given one reason why I should believe those mere possibilities should trump a straight-forward interpretation of the data. What did you say to me the other day? Remember? That science sometime gets it wrong doesn’t mean any particular case is wrong? Okay, well… that studies are sometimes contaminated by false positives doesn’t mean that these particular ones were.

    Instead of whining about my intransigence,

    I’m not whining about your intransigence. I’m saying that you haven’t given any reason besides “mere possibility” that these “EMPIRICAL phenomena” are a more likely explanation for each specific case. That it might be possible just isn’t a good enough reason.

    And if I point out the fallacious nature of your reasoning by using absurd examples, then that is often done in philosophy.

    You haven’t pointed out any fallacious reasoning, AT ALL. Rather, you’ve constructed uncharitable analogies intended as rhetorical devices, and these analogies do not properly reflect my position. For example:

    You cannot cry foul when I try to show that your line of reasoning leads to conclusions that you yourself would reject.

    That’s not what you’ve done. You’ve made comments like, “your theory has more evidence in the sense that you have the totality of evidence for material substances being composed of atoms PLUS a claim from a guy on the street.”

    Really? So the Lancet study, the anecdotes I’ve given, and the reasoned conclusions of accredited scientists all deserve the same merit as a claim from a guy on the street? Is that what you really believe? No dishonest answers, please. We’ve seen that you’ll answer dishonestly to avoid an unwelcome conclusion before.

  41. cl says:

    Jayman777,

    Second, even if the dualist cannot explain how a disembodied mind can see he may have evidence that a disembodied mind can see.

    Exactly. We don’t need to convict Joe in order to acquit Bill.

    What is “more likely” is hard to determine in the abstract.

    It is my experience that atheists and skeptics often use “more likely” as a handy euphemism for “I prefer.”

    This seems like a get-out-of-jail-free card for the materialist. When do you rule out this possibility? It could be invoked to explain away anything.

    Yes, exactly. That’s exactly the point I’ve been trying to hammer home. At his convenience, dguller and other skeptics can simply draw a line in the sand and say, “I think false memories are more likely.”

    So, what’s the point if the materialist won’t commit to a falsifiable claim?

  42. dguller says:

    Jayman:

    >> Speaking only for myself, there are still philosophy of mind issues that would make me accept dualism even if there was no paranormal phenomena.

    Fair enough, but you would have to specify what you mean by “dualism”. There are a number of different types out there, and Cartesian dualism is just the most famous. I think that the most compelling arguments that I’ve come across to justify the immateriality of the mind is its ability to process abstract universals and mathematics, which are fundamentally different from material entities. In addition, the fact that the mind is fundamentally intentional is a fact that is difficult to account for on the basis of materialism. Other than that, not much there, and there are still plenty of problems with dualism, such as the interaction problem, for example.

    >> Is there any type of NDE that would convince you that the person was not in an embodied state? Earlier you suggested that even veridical NDE accounts could be explained by materialists, but are there some types of veridical accounts that you think could not be explained?

    Absolutely. If one could demonstrate that veridical NDE accounts about X were accurate over and above chance, and that there was little chance that the subjects received information about X, whether consciously or unconsciously, then that would be compelling to me.

    One way to do this would be to recruit a hospital, and place a sequence of random numbers and letters in each room where critically ill patients may be placed. The numbers should be blinded in the sense that those who put the numbers and letters in the rooms do not know what they are. Furthermore, the numbers and letters should be placed somewhere that no-one else in the room would be able to see, but someone disembodied floating above their body would be able to see it.

    Those who have NDE’s are then asked what the numbers and letters are, and so are those who are present in the room who did not have NDE’s (to serve as controls). One then would statistically analyze the veridical and non-veridical responses of the NDE’s and non-NDE’s, and see if the NDE’s did better than the non-NDE’s, and did better than chance.

    That would be one way to do it.

    >> Why does it have to be pretty compelling? It’s not like you have to ignore the examples you’ve provided if you became a dualist. You would simply add some other beliefs to your current set of beliefs. I’m not sure why there is an either/or tone in your posts. We wouldn’t have to “overturn neuroscience.”

    Well, neuroscience is predicated upon the idea that our conscious states are due to underlying neurobiological processes. Dualism seems to contradict this assumption. I mean, it seems to me that all neuroscientific evidence is of embodied cognition, which I find to be compelling evidence that our consciousness is, in fact, embodied. I may be wrong, but I do see it as an either-or situation. Either the mind is embodied or it is disembodied. It cannot be both, right?

    >> First, the materialist cannot tell me how I can see with my brain-body so he is in the same boat.

    The materialist can describe the neurobiological pathways of vision in the brain from the retina to the optic nerves to the occipital lobe to the temporal and parietal lobes, and so on. The materialist cannot describe the part of the pathway where “vision” happens, though. However, that assumes that there has to be a single point where vision occurs, which makes the mistake that Dennett identifies as the Cartesian Theater. There is no single place in the brain where consciousness happens, because consciousness is likely a distributed set of parallel processes over time, and thus cannot be pinpointed in that way. So, if that is what you are asking for, then no-one can provide it.

    >> Second, even if the dualist cannot explain how a disembodied mind can see he may have evidence that a disembodied mind can see.

    First, a dualist needs to have evidence of a disembodied mind rather than an embodied mind that thinks it is disembodied.

    Second, this is just me, but if someone claims to be able to see without any way of explaining how they can possibly see, then I would take their claims with a great deal of skepticism.

    >> What is “more likely” is hard to determine in the abstract. There are certainly scenarios where dualism would seem more likely to me. For example, if I have an NDE and can accurately view things that my eyes could not view then it is more likely that my mind really left my body.

    That would assume that there was no other way that you could have acquired that information. In addition, it is possible that you were right due to chance.

    >> Because, in our earthly state, the mind interacts with the body and, for whatever reason, it appears that it does so through the brain (although I’ve heard strange paranormal accounts where a mind seems to inhabit other body parts). If there is mind/brain interaction it seems to me there would have to be some form of correlation between the mind and body (I would not go so far as to say all actions in the mind have a correlate in the brain).

    Fair enough. That makes sense, but it does not explain why one would expect a disembodied mind to be embodied at all. The issue was how one can start with a disembodied mind, and then infer that it must be embodied under normal circumstances. Sure, that is something that we can experience, but I was asking about inferences, not direct experiences.

    >> How do you propose ruling out this other phenomena in an NDE case?

    I mentioned a protocol above that would be compelling if performed, and especially if replicated by a different set of investigators. Several Nobel Prizes would likely follow such a demonstration, and they would be well-deserved.

    >> This seems like a get-out-of-jail-free card for the materialist. When do you rule out this possibility? It could be invoked to explain away anything.

    No, it is standard procedure in scientific investigation. That is one reason why randomized controlled trials are ideally double blinded so that the investigators cannot subconsciously manipulate their observations and data, and then forget that they did it.

  43. dguller says:

    Cl:

    >> I already gave a perfunctory explanation: in any two-way interface, you can change the performance of the whole by changing either side.

    That is not the issue. The issue is whether one side of the interface is ontologically independent of the rest of the apparatus. Even your example of the light emitted from a bulb shows that the light depends upon the physical bulb to exist at all. All the neuroscientific evidence points to the fact that the mind is fundamentally embodied. There is no reason, given that evidence, to postulate a disembodied mind at all. It is only when one brings certain philosophical arguments and paranormal phenomena into the equation that the idea of a disembodied mind makes any sense.

    >> Do I need to prove every step of how Joe committed a murder in order to acquit Bill? Of course not. I do not have to convict Joe in order to falsify the claim that Bill committed a murder. I know you know this.

    I am not asking for you to prove every step. Just provide SOME mechanism to explain how one can have a visual perspective without eyes, because it appears that to have a visual perspective at all requires eyes and the downstream neurobiological pathways to be intact. I am not going to be a jerk about this issue, and nag you to every single detail. That would be unfair. I would just like a general outline of a plausible mechanism without every single step demonstrated.

    >> If you hadn’t come out and made the strong claim that disembodied minds don’t exist, we wouldn’t be having this discussion. I’m perfectly aware of the fact that the positive claimant retains the burden of proof. However, in this case, you are also a positive claimant: you are claiming the mind is always embodied. That is a positive claim, whether you phrase it negatively or not.

    That is right, and my evidence is that every experience of cognition is correlated with an activated brain state. And the evidence for disembodied cognition is inconclusive, and thus cannot be used to refute the default position of embodied cognition. That’s my positive case.

    >> Your suggestions that these empirical possibilities may be able to account for the data is where you’re reverting to mere “logical possibility.” Sure, it’s logically possible that every single account of NDE and OBE are bogus, and that every single study is flawed, but you don’t get to just say “hey that might be the case” and call it a day. You haven’t given one reason why I should believe those mere possibilities should trump a straight-forward interpretation of the data. What did you say to me the other day? Remember? That science sometime gets it wrong doesn’t mean any particular case is wrong? Okay, well… that studies are sometimes contaminated by false positives doesn’t mean that these particular ones were.

    Okay. You just don’t understand science. That’s fine. I thought you would get it, but you just don’t. No worries.

    This is how science works. If there are possible confounding factors, then the results of a study must be held to be inconclusive until a future study can control for them. That is why RCT’s are the gold standard. They have the least confounding factors when done right, and thus they trump the results of a case-control study or cohort study or a case report. Certainly, there are some studies where one cannot control for every factor, which is why randomization ideally is used between groups, but as long as one is aware of the possible confounding factors that may be distorting the results, then one can be careful about using them. Putting one’s fingers in one’s ears and pretending that they do not exist is just unscientific.

    I really don’t know what else to say, which is a shame, because if you are going to cite scientific articles and studies, then it would help if you had a clue about how they worked so that you can be cognizant about which ones are of high quality and which ones are of low quality.

    >> I’m not whining about your intransigence. I’m saying that you haven’t given any reason besides “mere possibility” that these “EMPIRICAL phenomena” are a more likely explanation for each specific case. That it might be possible just isn’t a good enough reason.

    Sigh. Read a book about the methodology of scientific studies some time. Then you’ll understand.

    >> Really? So the Lancet study, the anecdotes I’ve given, and the reasoned conclusions of accredited scientists all deserve the same merit as a claim from a guy on the street? Is that what you really believe? No dishonest answers, please. We’ve seen that you’ll answer dishonestly to avoid an unwelcome conclusion before.

    First, the Lancet study did not demonstrate that the subjects were brain dead. It is hard to demonstrate a disembodied conscious state if the brain is still functioning, right?

    Second, the anecdotes are absolutely equivalent to the guy on the street. That is why they are at the bottom of the evidence-based medicine pyramid.

    Third, tell me HOW the accredited scientists arrived at their reasoned conclusions rather than name-dropping. Like I said, Linus Pauling won the Nobel Prize, but he was totally wrong about his vitamin C research. His prestige was irrelevant to the truth of the healing properties of vitamin C. All that mattered was the scientific studies.

  44. cl says:

    dguller,

    I went ahead and dug the aforementioned post out of the queue and published it, here

  45. cl says:

    The issue is whether one side of the interface is ontologically independent of the rest of the apparatus.

    You asked how I explain the fact that the subjective experience of a disembodied mind can be generated by physical changes in the brain. During normal waking state, both sides are intact. Neither is ontologically independent from the other. Input can flow from the material world through the brain to the immaterial mind, and input can flow from the immaterial world through the immaterial mind to the material brain. Whichever way this transaction happens, we would expect a corresponding consciousness experience. Therefore, one can change the experience of consciousness by changing either side, in the same way you can move the arms of a hand puppet by either sticking your hand inside the puppet, or pulling the arms from outside.

    I am not going to be a jerk about this issue, and nag you to every single detail.

    Quite frankly, you’ve already been a jerk about it, what with all the “science fiction and fantasy and leprechauns and guy on the street and fingers in ears and cl doesn’t understand science” remarks. I mean, people have told me I can be pretty abrasive. I know “jerky behavior” when I see it. Your arrogance is really coming through. At any rate, my point was this: I don’t need to prove dualism in order to falsify materialism. Though related, those are two separate issues. My first and foremost concern is to falsify materialism. Once I’ve convinced people that materialism cannot account for the totality of evidence, THEN we can talk about mechanisms.

    …my evidence is that every experience of cognition is correlated with an activated brain state.

    Are you using “cognition” and “consciousness” synonymously there? So far, all the evidence you’ve offered is not YOUR evidence, it’s OUR evidence, because remember, my theory also predicts neural correlates to consciousness. So, again: do you have any evidence for materialism THAT IS NOT also consistent with dualism?

    Okay. You just don’t understand science.

    Is this what you resort to whenever you can’t get your way? Is there really any question as to whether this is “jerky behavior?” Are you really going to descend to this level? Maybe you think because you’re in the medical profession that you have the right to mouth off to me like this, but… I disagree. Two people have now suggested that you’re using the “mere possibility” of confounding factors as a get-out-of-jail free card, but if you want to insult me, go ahead and play the New Atheist card. Watch my interest continue to plummet. Now, you’ve lent towards feelings of ill will, whereas before there were none, even though I was frustrated.

    Putting one’s fingers in one’s ears and pretending that they do not exist is just unscientific.

    Did I pretend that confounding factors don’t exist? No. This is just you being an arrogant and insulting person again. Contrary, I conceded that they exist, and I further concede that even with RCT they are difficult to eliminate. You and I both know that RCT’s are not immune to false positives and other errors. My point is that you don’t get to simply assume that such factors have poisoned the evidence whenever it’s convenient for you. Now, if you’d like to focus on SPECIFIC details of SPECIFIC case to argue why said case should not be trusted, then, be my guest. I’m not beyond convincing, but you have to do more than just go, “Oh well confounders exist, therefore I think it’s more likely that confounders account for the data here.” Instead of digging into your keyboard to come up with some more insults, try to think about that and see if there’s not a grain of truth in there. If nothing else, humor me. You catch more flies with honey than vinegar, right?

    I really don’t know what else to say, which is a shame, because if you are going to cite scientific articles and studies, then it would help if you had a clue about how they worked so that you can be cognizant about which ones are of high quality and which ones are of low quality.

    More arrogance and more insult does not a cogent point make. Talk about a shame.

    First, the Lancet study did not demonstrate that the subjects were brain dead. It is hard to demonstrate a disembodied conscious state if the brain is still functioning, right?

    Yeah, I figured you’d avoid the question, just like you did with the question of Phil’s tone. Again: is the Lancet study equivalent to a claim from a random guy on the street, or not? If not, as I suspect, then your analogy fails. If yes, then it’s really YOU who doesn’t know as much about science as you think. So, please, give an HONEST answer.

  46. jayman777 says:

    dguller:

    Fair enough, but you would have to specify what you mean by “dualism”.

    I’ll provide a sketch of my beliefs about the mind. In our normal day-to-day earthly lives I believe that there are “signals” (for lack of a better term) that travel from the body to the brain to the immaterial mind. I also believe there are signals that travel from the immaterial mind to the brain to the body. I believe that in our normal earthly lives our brain-body restricts the capabilities of the mind. However, sometimes people may be able to access parts of the mind that most people can’t/don’t access and this is what results in paranormal phenomena. I believe that at physical death the mind is detached from the earthly body and is no longer restricted by the brain-body. In this circumstance it can do things like “see” without eyes.

    Other than that, not much there

    What about qualia?

    and there are still plenty of problems with dualism, such as the interaction problem, for example.

    I’m not sure how that is a problem as opposed to an unanswered question. It is not as if you can say that, in principle, the immaterial cannot interact with the material (not to mention the problem of clearly defining what matter is).

    If one could demonstrate that veridical NDE accounts about X were accurate over and above chance, and that there was little chance that the subjects received information about X, whether consciously or unconsciously, then that would be compelling to me.

    I have a couple of examples in mind. Do they fit this criteria? The first is someone who knows about an unusual event that occurred during their NDE but that they were not told about until after coming forward with their NDE. The second is if those who have experienced an NDE are more knowledgeable about the medical procedure performed on them than a control group. I believe the example you provided is being done but is still in progress.

    Well, neuroscience is predicated upon the idea that our conscious states are due to underlying neurobiological processes.

    It looks like you’re saying that the prevailing theory among neuroscientists would have to be overturned and I am saying that the data collected by neuroscientists would not be overturned. Is that correct? If this is correct, I don’t think the move from your position to my position would be that jarring (of course, I don’t have to make that move).

    Dualism seems to contradict this assumption.

    I suppose it does, but I’ll take the empirical evidence over the baseless assumption. Merely giving up an assumption, again, does not seem that jarring.

    I mean, it seems to me that all neuroscientific evidence is of embodied cognition, which I find to be compelling evidence that our consciousness is, in fact, embodied.

    I don’t find that a compelling case for concluding that the mind is the brain. According to you, most neuroscientists start with the assumption that our conscious states are caused only by nuerobiological processes. These scientists spend all of their time studying only the brain. They then reach a conclusion that was pre-determined by an assumption and by the evidence they restricted themselves to. A more open-minded approach would ditch the assumption entirely and study both the brain and para-pyschological studies. A true theory of mind should be able to encapsulate both the neurobiological processes and the paranormal phenomena.

    I may be wrong, but I do see it as an either-or situation. Either the mind is embodied or it is disembodied. It cannot be both, right?

    From my perspective, there can be a body, a brain, and an immaterial mind.

    The materialist can describe the neurobiological pathways of vision in the brain from the retina to the optic nerves to the occipital lobe to the temporal and parietal lobes, and so on.

    The dualist can get just as far. But let’s not lose sight of my main point: the mere fact that we don’t know how something happens does not mean that we don’t know that it does happen. Our disagreement is ultimately over the does part of the equation so there is no point in you asking how questions.

    Fair enough. That makes sense, but it does not explain why one would expect a disembodied mind to be embodied at all.

    I thought cl was starting from the obvious fact that our minds (whatever they are) are attached to our bodies currently and that, given this connection, you would expect to see some correlations.

  47. dguller says:

    Cl:

    >> You asked how I explain the fact that the subjective experience of a disembodied mind can be generated by physical changes in the brain. During normal waking state, both sides are intact. Neither is ontologically independent from the other. Input can flow from the material world through the brain to the immaterial mind, and input can flow from the immaterial world through the immaterial mind to the material brain. Whichever way this transaction happens, we would expect a corresponding consciousness experience. Therefore, one can change the experience of consciousness by changing either side, in the same way you can move the arms of a hand puppet by either sticking your hand inside the puppet, or pulling the arms from outside.

    If the subjective experience is not ontologically independent of the physical changes in the brain, then how can it become genuinely disembodied? Wouldn’t that require the mind to be ontologically independent of the brain?

    >> Quite frankly, you’ve already been a jerk about it, what with all the “science fiction and fantasy and leprechauns and guy on the street and fingers in ears and cl doesn’t understand science” remarks. I mean, people have told me I can be pretty abrasive. I know “jerky behavior” when I see it. Your arrogance is really coming through.

    Testy, testy. So you can be abrasive, but I am a jerk and arrogant. Nice.

    >> At any rate, my point was this: I don’t need to prove dualism in order to falsify materialism. Though related, those are two separate issues. My first and foremost concern is to falsify materialism. Once I’ve convinced people that materialism cannot account for the totality of evidence, THEN we can talk about mechanisms.

    Okay. So, you lack a plausible mechanism to explain the subjective components of a disembodied conscious state.

    >> Are you using “cognition” and “consciousness” synonymously there? So far, all the evidence you’ve offered is not YOUR evidence, it’s OUR evidence, because remember, my theory also predicts neural correlates to consciousness. So, again: do you have any evidence for materialism THAT IS NOT also consistent with dualism?

    Your theory predicts neural correlates to consciousness by postulating that consciousness and neural correlates are not ontologically independent. Unfortunately, that is what they would have to be if disembodied cognition is possible. I mean, if they are ontologically dependent, then you cannot have the one without the other, right? If you are saying that they are ontologically dependent, then we are on the same page, but the downside for you is that disembodied cognition becomes impossible. Otherwise, it would be like saying that one can have a table independent of the atoms that compose it. After all, a table is ontologically dependent upon the atoms that compose it.

    >> Is this what you resort to whenever you can’t get your way? Is there really any question as to whether this is “jerky behavior?” Are you really going to descend to this level? Maybe you think because you’re in the medical profession that you have the right to mouth off to me like this, but… I disagree. Two people have now suggested that you’re using the “mere possibility” of confounding factors as a get-out-of-jail free card, but if you want to insult me, go ahead and play the New Atheist card. Watch my interest continue to plummet. Now, you’ve lent towards feelings of ill will, whereas before there were none, even though I was frustrated.

    None of what you said falsifies my claim that you fundamentally do not understand how scientific research is conducted. I’m sorry, but it’s just the truth, given what you have said. To blithely dismiss concerns over possible confounding factors potentially distorting the results of a study as “mere possibility” betrays a deep misunderstanding of science. Seriously, just read up on the matter, get up to speed, and then you’ll be in a better position to critically appraise research literature.

    There’s no need to get offended. There are lots of things that I do not know. I was discussing Aristotelian and Thomistic metaphysics on Feser’s site in the comments section, and I quickly learned that I did not know what I was talking about. So, I bought three of Feser’s books and got up to speed. There is no shame in admitting that you do not know much about a subject.

    >> My point is that you don’t get to simply assume that such factors have poisoned the evidence whenever it’s convenient for you. Now, if you’d like to focus on SPECIFIC details of SPECIFIC case to argue why said case should not be trusted, then, be my guest. I’m not beyond convincing, but you have to do more than just go, “Oh well confounders exist, therefore I think it’s more likely that confounders account for the data here.”

    I never said that the possible confounders that I mentioned DID affect the results of your case reports. I just said that they COULD affect the results, and that since we do not know one way or the other, the studies are inconclusive at this time. I never said that they were false. Just inconclusive, which means that neither of us can use them in support of our positions.

    >> Yeah, I figured you’d avoid the question, just like you did with the question of Phil’s tone. Again: is the Lancet study equivalent to a claim from a random guy on the street, or not? If not, as I suspect, then your analogy fails. If yes, then it’s really YOU who doesn’t know as much about science as you think. So, please, give an HONEST answer.

    No, it is not equivalent to a case report. After all, it was a prospective study. However, the fact that it did not demonstrate brain death means that it is IRRELEVANT to your claim that NDE’s are evidence of disembodied consciousness. The brains of those subjects could have been still functional, and thus the presence of conscious awareness could have been a manifestation of dysfunctional embodied cognition. So, again, an inconclusive study. That’s why I said above that we agree upon X, and you have presented Y, but Y is inconclusive.

  48. dguller says:

    Jayman:

    >> I’ll provide a sketch of my beliefs about the mind. In our normal day-to-day earthly lives I believe that there are “signals” (for lack of a better term) that travel from the body to the brain to the immaterial mind. I also believe there are signals that travel from the immaterial mind to the brain to the body. I believe that in our normal earthly lives our brain-body restricts the capabilities of the mind. However, sometimes people may be able to access parts of the mind that most people can’t/don’t access and this is what results in paranormal phenomena. I believe that at physical death the mind is detached from the earthly body and is no longer restricted by the brain-body. In this circumstance it can do things like “see” without eyes.

    Why can the mind see without a body at physical death, but go blind when the occipital lobe is damaged? I mean, brain death is more severe than occipital lobe damage, and yet the former preserves full conscious awareness, but the latter is fundamentally impaired.

    >> What about qualia?

    What about them?

    >> I’m not sure how that is a problem as opposed to an unanswered question. It is not as if you can say that, in principle, the immaterial cannot interact with the material (not to mention the problem of clearly defining what matter is).

    Well, if the physical universe operates according to conservation of energy, then something immaterial, and thus not physical, would have to introduce energy into the physical world in order to affect it. That would violate a fundamental law of physics, which would seem to make an immaterial mind interacting with the physical world impossible, in principle.

    >> I have a couple of examples in mind. Do they fit this criteria? The first is someone who knows about an unusual event that occurred during their NDE but that they were not told about until after coming forward with their NDE.

    If chance was ruled out, then that would fit, assuming that they could not have known about the unusual event other than from those who later told them about it.

    >> The second is if those who have experienced an NDE are more knowledgeable about the medical procedure performed on them than a control group. I believe the example you provided is being done but is still in progress.

    Assuming other factors are controlled for, then yes, that would be important evidence.

    >> It looks like you’re saying that the prevailing theory among neuroscientists would have to be overturned and I am saying that the data collected by neuroscientists would not be overturned. Is that correct? If this is correct, I don’t think the move from your position to my position would be that jarring (of course, I don’t have to make that move).

    I’ll have to think about it further, but what you say seems right to me.

    >> I don’t find that a compelling case for concluding that the mind is the brain.

    I do not believe that the mind is the brain. I believe that the mind is an emergent property of the brain.

    >> According to you, most neuroscientists start with the assumption that our conscious states are caused only by nuerobiological processes. These scientists spend all of their time studying only the brain. They then reach a conclusion that was pre-determined by an assumption and by the evidence they restricted themselves to. A more open-minded approach would ditch the assumption entirely and study both the brain and para-pyschological studies. A true theory of mind should be able to encapsulate both the neurobiological processes and the paranormal phenomena.

    True. I would just say that the paranormal studies should be of high quality. In the past, as far as I know, they have mainly consisted of compelling and salient case reports, which are fundamentally inconclusive.

    >> The dualist can get just as far. But let’s not lose sight of my main point: the mere fact that we don’t know how something happens does not mean that we don’t know that it does happen. Our disagreement is ultimately over the does part of the equation so there is no point in you asking how questions.

    True, but I was curious about whether there was any plausible mechanism. I can’t think of any, but that doesn’t mean anything. A plausible mechanism would be helpful to buttress the dualist’s case.

    >> I thought cl was starting from the obvious fact that our minds (whatever they are) are attached to our bodies currently and that, given this connection, you would expect to see some correlations.

    If that is the case, then the default position is embodied consciousness, not disembodied consciousness. It would take additional evidence and reasons to justify rejecting the default position.

  49. jayman777 says:

    dguller:

    Why can the mind see without a body at physical death, but go blind when the occipital lobe is damaged?

    As I said, the brain-body restricts the mind’s capabilities.

    Well, if the physical universe operates according to conservation of energy, then something immaterial, and thus not physical, would have to introduce energy into the physical world in order to affect it.

    First, even if all physical-to-physical causation involves the transfer of energy it does not mean that mental-to-physical causation must do the same. Second, it is quite possible that there are forms of energy that we don’t understand fully yet (e.g., dark energy). Third, physicist Henry Stapp states that your objection is based on classical physics and that dualism is compatible with our current understanding of quantum mechanics.

    If chance was ruled out, then that would fit, assuming that they could not have known about the unusual event other than from those who later told them about it. . . .

    Assuming other factors are controlled for, then yes, that would be important evidence.

    I’ll leave it up to you to determine whether other factors could explain the cases, but such cases already exist.

    If that is the case, then the default position is embodied consciousness, not disembodied consciousness. It would take additional evidence and reasons to justify rejecting the default position.

    I’m not sure what the default position has to do with whether the dualist expects there to be a correlation between the mind and brain. As long as you understand why I expect there to be some correlation and that that correlation does not falsify my position I won’t bother with what should be the default position.

  50. cl says:

    dguller,

    I don’t have much to add because Jayman has pretty much echoed everything I’ve said to you, but:

    None of what you said falsifies my claim that you fundamentally do not understand how scientific research is conducted. I’m sorry, but it’s just the truth, given what you have said. … There is no shame in admitting that you do not know much about a subject.

    No, it’s not the truth. This is another one of those assumptions you’ve leaped to. Allow me to demonstrate:

    To blithely dismiss concerns over possible confounding factors potentially distorting the results of a study as “mere possibility” betrays a deep misunderstanding of science.

    I did not “blithely dismiss” concerns over possible confounders. Again: I acknowledged them, then challenged you to point to SPECIFIC COUNFOUNDERS in the Lancet study. I am well within reason to do so. Saying, “Hey dguller what, specifically, do you think compromised the methodology of the Lancet study?” is not the same thing as saying, “Ah, confounders, conschmounders,” if you get my drift. Your insults are unwarranted, but at the same time I’m not offended because the discussion was a little heated at that point.

    No, it is not equivalent to a case report.

    This concession verifies what I said about you drawing analogies that misrepresent my position. Such is disingenuous.

    However, the fact that it did not demonstrate brain death means that it is IRRELEVANT to your claim that NDE’s are evidence of disembodied consciousness.

    False. Brain death is not a necessary criterion for disembodied consciousness. This is a very amateur mistake that shows a deep misunderstanding of basic philosophy of mind. Read up on the matter, get up to speed, maybe around 3-5 as opposed to 1-2, and then you’ll be in a better position to critically appraise dualist hypotheses. ;)

  51. dguller says:

    cl:

    >> I did not “blithely dismiss” concerns over possible confounders. Again: I acknowledged them, then challenged you to point to SPECIFIC COUNFOUNDERS in the Lancet study. I am well within reason to do so. Saying, “Hey dguller what, specifically, do you think compromised the methodology of the Lancet study?” is not the same thing as saying, “Ah, confounders, conschmounders,” if you get my drift. Your insults are unwarranted, but at the same time I’m not offended because the discussion was a little heated at that point.

    First, I have already provided specific objections to your studies on other threads, and have described the possible confounders therein. It is disingenuous of YOU to pretend as if I haven’t. Even on this thread, on March 30, 2011 at 4:39 PM, I described some specific possible confounding factors that could affect your case reports of veridical NDE’s: the possibility that the veridicality was due to chance, that the people had false memories, that they possibly received environmental information while unconscious. So, there is no need to pretend as if I am not justifying my concerns about your studies.

    Second, the Lancet study did not demonstrate that the subjects were brain dead. That is what is necessary to conclusively demonstrate that consciousness can exist apart from a brain. Otherwise, if the brain is still functional, then the NDE could be caused by an abnormal brain state, and thus be fundamentally embodied after all, despite subjective appearances. An analogy would be if someone disproved the Copernican theory by saying that the sun appears to move, and the earth to remain still. Yes, that is true from their perspective, but that is not the truth of what is really happening.

    Third, if you acknowledge the confounding factors that are present in your studies, then you must know that they are inconclusive for your purposes. Do you accept this?

    >> False. Brain death is not a necessary criterion for disembodied consciousness. This is a very amateur mistake that shows a deep misunderstanding of basic philosophy of mind. Read up on the matter, get up to speed, maybe around 3-5 as opposed to 1-2, and then you’ll be in a better position to critically appraise dualist hypotheses. ;)

    Again, this betrays your lack of understanding of confounding factors. A confounding factor is anything present in the study that COULD serve as an alternative explanation for an observed effect. If the observed effect is an NDE, and your explanation is that the mind has detached from the brain and now exists in a state that is independent of the body, then the fact that the subjects could have still had their brains functioning means that it is POSSIBLE that they were not truly disembodied at all. Therefore, you cannot draw your conclusions, and the study is inconclusive. It is like having an argument with dubious premises. The conclusion just does not necessarily follow. It is not sufficient to reply that this is all just sheer possibility, and therefore does not affect your conclusions. It injects doubts that the studies themselves cannot answer. Only other studies can by directly addressing these doubts. That is how science works.

    We are not talking “philosophy of mind”, but scientific evidence. One must be careful about what conclusions are drawn from scientific studies, and that is why every paper includes in the discussion section a description of the various limitations of the study, such as possible confounding factors that were not controlled for, that must be taken into consideration before accepting the results. Furthermore, one must be careful only to infer what has actually been shown in a study, and not what one wants to have been shown.

    Do you understand that the studies that you have cited thus far are inconclusive due to the presence of possible confounding factors? If you do, then we are done with this, and you cannot use them to justify disembodied cognition, because they are just unreliable to demonstrate the truth of it. If you do not, then I’m afraid you just do not understand scientific research, and I would strongly recommend that you read up on research methodology. There are several good books out there, and I would be happy to recommend some.

  52. dguller says:

    Jayman:

    >> As I said, the brain-body restricts the mind’s capabilities.

    First, if a physical substance can restrict the non-physical mind, then would it also be restricted by other physical objects around it?

    Second, how can a physical substance affect a non-physical substance at all, and especially in a reliably predictable way?

    Third, if the mind fundamentally exists independently of the brain, then where does the mind come from in the first place?

    >> First, even if all physical-to-physical causation involves the transfer of energy it does not mean that mental-to-physical causation must do the same.

    Yes, but for something physical to move at all requires a transfer of energy. Otherwise, physical entities would be moving spontaneously, and that is just not something that we observe in the world. In addition, if your principle is valid, then that would wreak havoc upon any form of scientific inquiry, because it would make it impossible to figure out any laws of nature. This is because someone can explain away any observation by saying that an immaterial force did it. It would make it impossible to discover a signal through the surrounding noise of data.

    Imagine what this would mean to our criminal justice system, for example. Say someone has been found by virtue of forensic evidence to have committed a murder. If your principle holds that things can happen in the physical world via the influence of non-physical entities, then he could just say that he did not do any of it, but that a non-physical force manipulated material entities to make it look like he did it. This would actually be plausible on your account.

    >> Second, it is quite possible that there are forms of energy that we don’t understand fully yet (e.g., dark energy).

    That is true. It is possible, but without any solid evidence of their existence, then this is just a logical possibility, and thus is unreliable as a guide to the truth of the matter. In addition, that energy would STILL have to affect the physical world, which would make it physical itself. And this would violate the conservation of energy principle, because additional energy is entering the system somehow. If you reject this principle, then much of physics becomes false. I think that is a high price to pay for a philosophical theory of mind.

    >> Third, physicist Henry Stapp states that your objection is based on classical physics and that dualism is compatible with our current understanding of quantum mechanics.

    As far as I know, quantum mechanics does not violate the conservation of energy principle. Dualism of your sort would violate the principle, I think.

    >> I’m not sure what the default position has to do with whether the dualist expects there to be a correlation between the mind and brain. As long as you understand why I expect there to be some correlation and that that correlation does not falsify my position I won’t bother with what should be the default position.

    First, it matters, I think, because it depends on where we begin our inquiry. Do we start with disembodied minds and with embodied minds? I think that we clearly start with the latter, and both you and cl agree that under normal circumstances, our minds are essentially embodied entities. That is what I mean by this being the default state. Now, the question is how we go from our everyday experience of embodied cognition to the conclusion of disembodied cognition? The point is that this is a conclusion, and not a starting point, just like solipsism is a conclusion, and not the starting point.

    Second, I do not understand why you EXPECT, in the sense of being able to PREDICT, that given a disembodied consciousness that there should be an embodiment aspect of it under normal circumstances. What is it about disembodied consciousness, considered in itself, that implies embodiment? That is my question. Certainly, you experience embodied consciousness all the time, but we are not talking about experiences, but about predictions based upon experience. If all we experience is embodied cognition, then how can one go from there to disembodied cognition as the true state of affairs?

  53. dguller says:

    Jayman:

    >> As I said, the brain-body restricts the mind’s capabilities.

    And another thing about this point.

    Remember that you are claiming that whether one has a living body or not, a conscious mind can fully perceive its external environment. It would appear from these facts that the body is irrelevant, and does NOT restrict the mind’s capabilities at all. Otherwise, the fact that the brain is dead would be the biggest obstacle to sight of all, because the physical mechanisms that the mind uses to see at all are now non-functional. It would be like trying to drive without a car. So, if conscious perception is utterly independent of a physical vehicle, then there is no reason why brain damage would disrupt vision at all. Brain damage affecting vision makes sense on a physicalist interpretation of the mind as a byproduct of the brain, but it does not appear to make much sense on a dualist account.

    I mean, you cannot say that, on the one hand, vision requires a functional occipital lobe, and, on the other hand, that vision can persist independent of a functional occipital lobe (or any lobe, for that matter). There appears to be a contradiction here.

    Any thoughts?

  54. jayman777 says:

    dguller:

    First, if a physical substance can restrict the non-physical mind, then would it also be restricted by other physical objects around it?

    Possibly.

    Second, how can a physical substance affect a non-physical substance at all, and especially in a reliably predictable way?

    Third, if the mind fundamentally exists independently of the brain, then where does the mind come from in the first place?

    I don’t know.

    This is because someone can explain away any observation by saying that an immaterial force did it.

    Can’t I explain away any observation by saying that a presently-unknown material force did it? It seems that parsimony can shave away immaterial forces just as easily as it can shave away material forces.

    This would actually be plausible on your account.

    I would say its possible but not necessarily plausible. Materialists (not necessarily you) have their own problems. I don’t have free will so you can’t hold me responsible for my crimes. I should be released from prison because the person who committed murder no longer exists for I am now composed of entirely different matter.

    That is true. It is possible, but without any solid evidence of their existence, then this is just a logical possibility, and thus is unreliable as a guide to the truth of the matter.

    If (a) the mind is immaterial and (b) the mind must produce energy to effect the physical world then a new form of energy seems a fair hypothesis.

    In addition, that energy would STILL have to affect the physical world, which would make it physical itself.

    I hinted above that I can’t clearly demarcate the physical/material from the non-physical/immaterial. If the mind turns out to be physical (whatever that means) but of a different kind of substance than we are used to (whatever that means) I will consider myself to have been on the right track.

    As far as I know, quantum mechanics does not violate the conservation of energy principle. Dualism of your sort would violate the principle, I think.

    I’ll trust that Stapp is more knowledgeable on the subject than you or I.

    Do we start with disembodied minds and with embodied minds?

    I would start with neither the assumption that the mind is material or with the assumption that the mind is immaterial. Merely collect data and come up with the most parsimonious theory you can.

    Now, the question is how we go from our everyday experience of embodied cognition to the conclusion of disembodied cognition?

    I think the root of our disagreement is over parapsychological data. From my perspective, materialism cannot explain all the data while from your perspective it can. Neither of us has to start with a default state concerning whether the mind is material or immaterial.

    Second, I do not understand why you EXPECT, in the sense of being able to PREDICT, that given a disembodied consciousness that there should be an embodiment aspect of it under normal circumstances.

    I don’t think that (and I don’t think cl thinks that). I believe that if the mind interacts with the brain then there will be correlations between the mind and brain.

    If all we experience is embodied cognition, then how can one go from there to disembodied cognition as the true state of affairs?

    Based on parapsychological data and philosophy of mind issues. If you found either of those avenues compelling you’d probably end up in a position like ours.

    Remember that you are claiming that whether one has a living body or not, a conscious mind can fully perceive its external environment.

    No, I am claiming that (a) when a mind is attached to a body its perceptions are restricted by the body (at least normally) and (b) when a mind is not attached to a body its perceptions come by some other route.

    Otherwise, the fact that the brain is dead would be the biggest obstacle to sight of all, because the physical mechanisms that the mind uses to see at all are now non-functional.

    If the mind is detached from the brain at physical death then it “sees” by means other than the eyes.

  55. dguller says:

    Jayman:

    >> Can’t I explain away any observation by saying that a presently-unknown material force did it? It seems that parsimony can shave away immaterial forces just as easily as it can shave away material forces.

    No, you cannot. Like I said, if postulating hidden forces that we have no evidence of is a legitimate move, then our knowledge would break down entirely. You are saying that there is a non-physical entity that is capable of intervening in the physical world in a way that appears to violate the conservation of energy, but really does not, and if that move is allowed, then why can’t someone use your principle in the ways that I mentioned? I am not postulating hidden material forces, and so your criticism just does not affect me.

    >> I would say its possible but not necessarily plausible. Materialists (not necessarily you) have their own problems. I don’t have free will so you can’t hold me responsible for my crimes. I should be released from prison because the person who committed murder no longer exists for I am now composed of entirely different matter.

    First, if it is possible, then doesn’t that make you think twice about your position?

    Second, you do have free will, especially one worth wanting. It might not be what you want it to be, but it is real nonetheless. The ancient Greeks thought that love was caused by Cupid’s arrows. Denying that Cupid exists had no impact on the reality of love. Similarly, denying that free will must be an immaterial entity that generates choices de novo independent of any prior causes or reasons does not affect the reality of free will.

    >> If (a) the mind is immaterial and (b) the mind must produce energy to effect the physical world then a new form of energy seems a fair hypothesis.

    Fair enough. Energy should be measurable. How do you measure this new form of energy, or even confirm its existence? I mean, if your theory implies the existence of X, but X is nowhere to be found, then your theory should be falsified on that account, no?

    >> I hinted above that I can’t clearly demarcate the physical/material from the non-physical/immaterial. If the mind turns out to be physical (whatever that means) but of a different kind of substance than we are used to (whatever that means) I will consider myself to have been on the right track.

    Fair enough. I would say that the mind is a different kind of physical entity than a chair or a table. It is more like a process that is generated by neuronal activity, just as the Invisible Hand of the Market is generated by the behavior of selfish individuals in the context of a free market. In other words, it is an emergent property.

    >> I’ll trust that Stapp is more knowledgeable on the subject than you or I.

    What is the consensus of quantum physicists on this score? I looked it up on Wikipedia – I know, I know – and it stated that quantum mechanics does not violate the conservation of energy. But honestly, I do not know the answer to this question.

    >> I would start with neither the assumption that the mind is material or with the assumption that the mind is immaterial. Merely collect data and come up with the most parsimonious theory you can.

    We start with our experience of an embodied mind. What that means is that the experiences that I have with my mind are fundamentally related to my body, especially through the external and internal senses, our emotions, and our sense of self as located in the space where my body is. Then you have a brain that is correlated to mental activity, and when it is damaged, the mental activity changes. The most parsimonious theory does not appear to be a disembodied mind, which came out of who knows where, hanging around this body for no particular reason and also happens to be restricted and limited by this body, and which will detach from it and float around. The most parsimonious theory is that the mind is generated by the brain-body-world interaction, and is inherently embodied, embedded and extended, as the current lingo goes.

    >> I think the root of our disagreement is over parapsychological data. From my perspective, materialism cannot explain all the data while from your perspective it can. Neither of us has to start with a default state concerning whether the mind is material or immaterial.

    But from the standpoint of phenomenology, you cannot help but experience your mind as embodied. You do not experience it under normal circumstances as anything other than something intrinsically related to your body. That is the default state prior to theorizing.

    >> Based on parapsychological data and philosophy of mind issues. If you found either of those avenues compelling you’d probably end up in a position like ours.

    That is true.

    >> No, I am claiming that (a) when a mind is attached to a body its perceptions are restricted by the body (at least normally) and (b) when a mind is not attached to a body its perceptions come by some other route.

    Visual perception is visual perception. Either visual perception is the same in the embodied state as the disembodied state, or there is no sense in “seeing” anything in the disembodied state. None of us knows what this “seeing” could be, and so it is senseless. You might as well as me what it is like to be a bat. As little sense as I can make of that, if disembodied visual perception is fundamentally different from embodied visual perception, then it is equally senseless.

    And you cannot just introduce new categories as ad hoc modifications to save your theory. New energy that is different from any energy we know, and now a new form of visual perception that is different from any kind of visual perception we know. Whatever the problems that a physicalist account of the mind has, it seems to pale in comparison to the bizarre conclusions that are derived from the dualist account.

    >> If the mind is detached from the brain at physical death then it “sees” by means other than the eyes.

    And once a car loses its engine and wheels, it still “drives”, but by another means. What does “driving” even mean in this context? Similarly, what does “seeing” even mean in this context?

  56. jayman777 says:

    dguller:

    First, if it is possible, then doesn’t that make you think twice about your position?

    No, because I can’t change my mind merely because of the possibility you brought up. Emotionally, I may not like the fact that one human can frame another but that does not mean I don’t believe it is a possibility.

    I mean, if your theory implies the existence of X, but X is nowhere to be found, then your theory should be falsified on that account, no?

    The hypothesis is not detailed enough to know how and where to detect the form of energy and thus cannot be confirmed or denied on empirical grounds. At this point it is merely an inference from (a) and (b).

    What is the consensus of quantum physicists on this score?

    I’m no expert on quantum physics myself and I’m saying that dualism does NOT violate the conservation of energy. I’m making the assumption that if the conservation of energy posed a devastating problem for dualism that no scientist would defend dualism. But here are some quotes on the matter:

    The argument depends on identifying ‘standard physics’ with classical physics. The argument collapses when one goes over to contemporary physics, in which trajectories of particles are replaced by cloud-like structures, and in which conscious choices can influence physically described activity without violating the conservation laws or any other laws of quantum mechanics. Contemporary physical theory allows, and its orthodox von Neumann form entails, an interactive dualism that is fully in accord with all the laws of physics. (Chris Carter, Science and the Near-Death Experience, 77, citing Stapp, Mindful Universe, 81)

    Some theorists deny the possibility of duality by arguing that a signal from a non-material mind could not carry energy and thus could not influence material brain cells. Because of this inability of a mind to supply energy to influence the neurons of the brain, it is claimed that physics demonstrates an inescapable flaw of dualism. However, no energy need be involved in determining to which particular situation a wave function collapses. Thus the determination of which of the physically possible conscious experiences becomes the actual experience is a process that need not involve energy transfer. Quantum mechanics therefore allows an escape from the supposed fatal flaw of dualism. It is a mistake to think that dualism can be ruled out on the basis of physics. (Chris Carter, Science and the Near-Death Experience, 78, citing Rosenblum and Kuttner, “Consciousness and Quantum Mechanics: The Connection and Analogies,” 248).

    The most parsimonious theory is that the mind is generated by the brain-body-world interaction, and is inherently embodied, embedded and extended, as the current lingo goes.

    I would agree with you if it were not for parapsychological data and philosophy of mind issues. My main point is that you don’t have to start with an assumption about the materiality of the mind.

    But from the standpoint of phenomenology, you cannot help but experience your mind as embodied. You do not experience it under normal circumstances as anything other than something intrinsically related to your body. That is the default state prior to theorizing.

    Our first experience of mind is in embodied form, yes. But that mere fact does not entitle us to not look at all the data before theorizing. As you admitted, if you thought the parapsychological data was better you’d hold a position similar to mine so I’m not sure there’s much more we can pursue on this front. We may be splitting hairs or talking past each other somewhat.

    Visual perception is visual perception. Either visual perception is the same in the embodied state as the disembodied state, or there is no sense in “seeing” anything in the disembodied state.

    Fair enough, there is physical sight and spiritual sight (that’s why I placed “sees” in quotation marks to begin with).

    New energy that is different from any energy we know

    I mentioned that as a possible reply to your conservation of energy problem. I don’t think dualism actually violates the conservation of energy.

    now a new form of visual perception that is different from any kind of visual perception we know

    It is not a modification to save my theory. Those who have experienced NDEs are quite explicit that something analogous to sight occurs and so my theory must account for that. I will also note that those who experience NDEs usually say that their “sight” in the NDE was better than their physical sight. This ties in with my theory that the brain-body restricts the mind.

    Similarly, what does “seeing” even mean in this context?

    I suppose blind people can ask the same question of us. You can give them all the third-person facts you want about light and so on but it will get them no closer to a full understanding of what the experience of sight is like. I can merely suggest that you read the accounts of those who have experienced NDEs to perhaps get a glimpse of what it is like.

  57. dguller says:

    Jayman:

    >> I would agree with you if it were not for parapsychological data and philosophy of mind issues. My main point is that you don’t have to start with an assumption about the materiality of the mind.

    First, the paranormal phenomena have not been demonstrated to be inconsistent with physicalism. They are inconclusive, at best.

    Second, what philosophy of mind issues are you referring to?

    >> Our first experience of mind is in embodied form, yes. But that mere fact does not entitle us to not look at all the data before theorizing. As you admitted, if you thought the parapsychological data was better you’d hold a position similar to mine so I’m not sure there’s much more we can pursue on this front. We may be splitting hairs or talking past each other somewhat.

    I have described the kind of study that would be convincing. Until then, the matter is just inconclusive, and when I compare the massive amount of empirical evidence in support of embodied cognition to the inconclusive evidence of disembodied cognition, then I will put my money on embodied cognition.

    >> Fair enough, there is physical sight and spiritual sight (that’s why I placed “sees” in quotation marks to begin with).

    Putting “spiritual” in front of “sight” does not confer sense upon it. The meaning is still parasitic upon normal physical sight, which is all we have experience with.

    >> I mentioned that as a possible reply to your conservation of energy problem. I don’t think dualism actually violates the conservation of energy.

    Sure, if you invent a new form of energy, then it does not violate the conservation of energy. I had no idea that it was so easy to diffuse objections. All I have to do is make something up that is logically consistent, but this is precisely the logical possibility that I object to. Without some kind of empirical grounding, it is all sheer speculation that we have no way of confirming or disconfirming.

    >> It is not a modification to save my theory. Those who have experienced NDEs are quite explicit that something analogous to sight occurs and so my theory must account for that. I will also note that those who experience NDEs usually say that their “sight” in the NDE was better than their physical sight. This ties in with my theory that the brain-body restricts the mind.

    First, they do not say that something is analogous to sight. They explicitly say that they SEE things. There is no analogy, and their reports are clear. There is visual perception.

    Second, what about dreams? There is visual perception in dreams. Do you believe that we become disembodied minds and travel to dreamland to perceive what happens in dreams? If not, why not? That would be consistent with dualism, no?

    >> I suppose blind people can ask the same question of us. You can give them all the third-person facts you want about light and so on but it will get them no closer to a full understanding of what the experience of sight is like. I can merely suggest that you read the accounts of those who have experienced NDEs to perhaps get a glimpse of what it is like.

    Fair enough, but as I mentioned above, from what I have read on this site, at least, there are no analogies to sight. There is sight. Visual perception. It is you who are describing “spiritual sight” as a means to saving your theory from the objections that I mentioned. And it requires you to assume that spiritual perception is overwhelmed by bodily perception somehow. However, when those tyrannical neurological pathways that are inhibiting spiritual perception are damaged, there is no spiritual perception, finally free of its bodily coils, but rather there is NO perception. Why does this happen? Well, you have no idea. But when the brain is finally dead, the mind is finally free to engage in spiritual perception.

    Another interesting question is why EVERY case of brain death does not result in spiritual perception. Why does it only occur in some cases, and not in every case? I would think that if spiritual perception is inhibited by bodily perception, then invariably when bodily perception stops with death, then everyone should have spiritual perception. Why does this not happen?

  58. jayman777 says:

    dguller:

    First, the paranormal phenomena have not been demonstrated to be inconsistent with physicalism. They are inconclusive, at best.

    I’ll agree to disagree on that count.

    Second, what philosophy of mind issues are you referring to?

    Mainly intentionality and qualia. How can matter be about something? How can matter be self-aware? It seems that in principle it cannot be either.

    Putting “spiritual” in front of “sight” does not confer sense upon it. The meaning is still parasitic upon normal physical sight, which is all we have experience with.

    Those who have experienced it seem to think it is analogous to physical sight in some way.

    Sure, if you invent a new form of energy, then it does not violate the conservation of energy.

    That’s not what I meant. I’m referring to the citations from physicists who don’t think the conservation of energy is violated if dualism is true and there is no new kind of energy. I gave three separate answers to the conservation of energy problem.

    First, they do not say that something is analogous to sight. They explicitly say that they SEE things. There is no analogy, and their reports are clear. There is visual perception.

    Here’s Pam Reynolds:

    “I remember seeing several things in the operating room when I was looking down. It was the most aware that I think I have ever been in my entire life. . . . I was metaphorically sitting on Dr. Spetzler’s shoulder. It wasn’t like normal vision. It was brighter and more focused and clearer than normal vision. . . .

    “At some point very early in the tunnel vortex I became aware of my grandmother calling me. But I didn’t hear her call me with my ears. . . . It was a clearer hearing than with my ears. I trust the sense more than I trust my own ears.

    Second, what about dreams? There is visual perception in dreams. Do you believe that we become disembodied minds and travel to dreamland to perceive what happens in dreams? If not, why not? That would be consistent with dualism, no?

    Because while in dreamland we normally do not acquire information that is unavailable to us through normal physical means.

    However, when those tyrannical neurological pathways that are inhibiting spiritual perception are damaged, there is no spiritual perception, finally free of its bodily coils, but rather there is NO perception.

    The brain can be damaged in the sense that it negatively effects the mind or it can be damaged in the sense that it allows the mind to detach from the brain. Your comment assumes the two types of damage are one and the same.

    Another interesting question is why EVERY case of brain death does not result in spiritual perception. Why does it only occur in some cases, and not in every case? I would think that if spiritual perception is inhibited by bodily perception, then invariably when bodily perception stops with death, then everyone should have spiritual perception. Why does this not happen?

    A good question and I can only offer possible reasons:

    (1) The exact moment of death is difficult to determine and so, among those who come back from the brink, they may not have actually been dead.

    (2) Those who have NDEs usually reach a point where they are not allowed to travel any further and are told they must return to their body. Perhaps God offers this glimpse of the next life to a select few (for His own reasons) and leaves the rest in their bodies until their actual, final death.

    (3) More people do experience NDEs but are afraid to share them with others out of fear of being ridiculed.

    (4) Some people will be annihilated upon physical death.

  59. dguller says:

    Jayman:

    >> Mainly intentionality and qualia. How can matter be about something?

    Good question.

    My thinking is that it would have to be parasitic upon the inherent teleology of physical laws and therefore, physical organisms. In other words, there is an inherent directedness to all physical entities. At the very least, they operate according to the laws of nature, which are directed towards being obeyed. Some physical entities are sufficiently complex that they have the appearance of design for a purpose, and can be understood to be behaving with the goal of fulfilling that purpose. Take a bacterium, for example, which appears designed to move towards food (e.g. glucose), but away from toxic substances. Does the bacterium know what its goals are? No, it lacks the capacity to represent anything explicitly, but still operates according to some rationale. Other physical entities are even more complex, and have the ability to explicitly represent these goals and purposes in nature to themselves, and thus can reflect upon them. This ability is the intentionality that you are talking about, which is the conscious directedness towards something else. However, it does not seem impossible for this to occur gradually from the basic physical entities operating according to the teleology of physical laws, to some form of design, and then to the intentional entities that you are concerned about.

    >> How can matter be self-aware? It seems that in principle it cannot be either.

    First, as I said above, if you assume that matter lacks any kind of teleology or directedness at all, then your objection stands. There is no reason to think this, because if matter follows the laws of nature, then matter DOES have an inherent directness, at the least to follow the laws of nature. From that foundation, other more complex behaviors and capacities can evolve, such as consciousness and intentionality.

    Second, what is self-awareness? It is just the capacity to represent the past, present and (possible) future states of a self. Furthermore, it requires that one be aware THAT one is representing these states. In other words, a robot that follows an algorithm that represents its past behavior, present behavior, and possible future behaviors would not be self-aware. However, if it could have an additional representation OF the fact that it is representing itself, then I would consider that self-awareness, of a type.

    >> That’s not what I meant. I’m referring to the citations from physicists who don’t think the conservation of energy is violated if dualism is true and there is no new kind of energy. I gave three separate answers to the conservation of energy problem.

    But what is the consensus of quantum physicists? What is taught in quantum physics textbooks? And even if consciousness did affect the behavior of subatomic particles, then this does not prove that consciousness is disembodied. If it was embodied, then it is part of the physical world, and as a physical entity, it would be able to affect other physical entities, such as atoms. Remember that one cannot look at an atom under a microscope, but must use technology that actually physically affects the atoms in question, such as an electron microscope. It is all physical to its core, I think.

    >> “At some point very early in the tunnel vortex I became aware of my grandmother calling me. But I didn’t hear her call me with my ears. . . . It was a clearer hearing than with my ears. I trust the sense more than I trust my own ears.”

    It seems that all she is describing is a more vivid and clear form of vision and hearing, but not an altogether different category of perception, like the sonic perception of bats, for example. A really fast runner is still running, and a really amazing form of vision is still vision. And if it is still vision, then it is still vulnerable to my objection. And if her vision was so clear and amazing, then why did she get the description of the bone saw incorrect?

    >> Because while in dreamland we normally do not acquire information that is unavailable to us through normal physical means.

    cl would dispute this.

    >> The brain can be damaged in the sense that it negatively effects the mind or it can be damaged in the sense that it allows the mind to detach from the brain. Your comment assumes the two types of damage are one and the same.

    Again, parsimony would lead me to reject this distinction as completely unnecessary.

    On the one hand, one has abundant evidence that brain damage has a negative effect on cognitive function. On the other hand, one has abundant evidence that altering the brain can cause a subjective experience of being outside the body, amongst other bizarre experiences. The most sparing hypothesis would be that when the brain functions normally, our conscious awareness is embodied and normal, and when the brain functions abnormally, then our conscious awareness can become disembodied, or bizarre in several other ways.

    And just because we perceive something to be occurring does not imply that it necessarily is occurring. Our brain is well-known to add extra details that are not present in our environment, e.g. phantom limbs, and we are known to hallucinate, as well, and so it is plausible that a bizarre experience is not evidence that what it is experience of is truly occurring, but rather that something in the functionality of the brain has been disrupted, and the downstream effect is that our conscious experience has become bizarre. This theory can also explain paranormal experiences as byproducts of brain changes, many of which can be replicated in a lab.

    In addition, this does not require the postulation of a non-physical entity that came from who knows where, is bound and limited by this specific body for who knows why, interacts with it via some unknown mechanism, and then floats off who knows where after death. My theory does not have any such unnecessary complications, and is fully unified and coherent. It is also predictive, because once we know which regions of the brain do what, then we can infer that damage or alteration to those regions would cause in our conscious awareness.

    So, I’m afraid that a physical account of the mind is just the best one around. Dualism raises more questions than it answers, and is ultimately outside the reach of any kind of verifiable form of inquiry.

    >> (1) The exact moment of death is difficult to determine and so, among those who come back from the brink, they may not have actually been dead.

    Fair enough. I would only add that if one cannot determine whether one was actually dead, then there is no way to know whether the experiences were truly disembodied, or just experienced as disembodied due to radical brain changes. As such, they are inconclusive, and cannot be used by any of us to support our respective positions, and thus should be rejected altogether.

    >> (2) Those who have NDEs usually reach a point where they are not allowed to travel any further and are told they must return to their body. Perhaps God offers this glimpse of the next life to a select few (for His own reasons) and leaves the rest in their bodies until their actual, final death.

    Again, this is a hypothesis that is impossible to test.

    >> (3) More people do experience NDEs but are afraid to share them with others out of fear of being ridiculed.

    That’s quite plausible.

    >> (4) Some people will be annihilated upon physical death.

    So, my theory always works, except when it doesn’t. How is that helpful?

  60. jayman777 says:

    dguller:

    My thinking is that it would have to be parasitic upon the inherent teleology of physical laws and therefore, physical organisms. . . . Other physical entities are even more complex, and have the ability to explicitly represent these goals and purposes in nature to themselves, and thus can reflect upon them. This ability is the intentionality that you are talking about, which is the conscious directedness towards something else.

    The problem is: how can you go from goal-directedness (which I accept) to being inherently about something else? An organism being directed towards food is not the same thing as an organism thinking about food. Adding and mixing different unconscious teleologies together does nothing to create conscious teleology.

    However, if it could have an additional representation OF the fact that it is representing itself, then I would consider that self-awareness, of a type.

    And with all the complex goal-directedness in computers we’re no closer to that.

    And even if consciousness did affect the behavior of subatomic particles, then this does not prove that consciousness is disembodied.

    I was responding to your objection that the conservation of energy disproves dualism. I never claimed that the compatibility of the conservation of energy and dualism proves dualism.

    It seems that all she is describing is a more vivid and clear form of vision and hearing, but not an altogether different category of perception

    Do we agree that there are both similarities and differences between the sense perceptions in waking life and in an NDE? I’m not sure why you wrote earlier that “Either visual perception is the same in the embodied state as the disembodied state, or there is no sense in ‘seeing’ anything in the disembodied state.”

    So, I’m afraid that a physical account of the mind is just the best one around. Dualism raises more questions than it answers, and is ultimately outside the reach of any kind of verifiable form of inquiry.

    New theories will always raise new questions. I reject the physical account of the mind because it does not explain all the data I think it needs to explain. Dualism does even if it there are many unanswered questions.

    Fair enough. I would only add that if one cannot determine whether one was actually dead, then there is no way to know whether the experiences were truly disembodied, or just experienced as disembodied due to radical brain changes. As such, they are inconclusive, and cannot be used by any of us to support our respective positions, and thus should be rejected altogether.

    If while in what appears to be a disembodied state you acquire information that could not be acquired from your body’s physical location then you do have evidence of being truly disembodied.

  61. dguller says:

    Jayman:

    >> The problem is: how can you go from goal-directedness (which I accept) to being inherently about something else? An organism being directed towards food is not the same thing as an organism thinking about food. Adding and mixing different unconscious teleologies together does nothing to create conscious teleology.

    You are correct that an organism having an underlying teleology towards food does not imply that the organism is also thinking about food. However, if that organism becomes able to represent its underlying teleological behavior, then that would be the first step to thinking about it. Consciousness appears to be an awareness of what is going on, and thus can be conceived as a higher-order representation of lower-order representations and processes. I do not see how this is inherently impossible.

    >> And with all the complex goal-directedness in computers we’re no closer to that.

    No, we’re not, but at least this is a research project that may bear fruit over time. Only time will tell. However, as I said above, it seems plausible to me that human consciousness is a manifestation of underlying recursive feedback loops in the brain that are fundamentally based upon representations of some sort.

    >> Do we agree that there are both similarities and differences between the sense perceptions in waking life and in an NDE? I’m not sure why you wrote earlier that “Either visual perception is the same in the embodied state as the disembodied state, or there is no sense in ‘seeing’ anything in the disembodied state.”

    I was referring specifically to visual perspective. In other words, when you look out into the world, it is from a particular perspective, and that perspective is rooted in your bodily orientation in space, and how light from surrounding objects enters your eyes. In other words, it is fundamentally embodied and embedded, and the idea of a disembodied visual experience is incoherent, because the very idea of a perspective is rooted in our bodily orientation in space in relation to external objects.

    >> New theories will always raise new questions. I reject the physical account of the mind because it does not explain all the data I think it needs to explain. Dualism does even if it there are many unanswered questions.

    What data does the physical account of the mind fail to explain?

    >> If while in what appears to be a disembodied state you acquire information that could not be acquired from your body’s physical location then you do have evidence of being truly disembodied.

    If chance and other confounding factors have been ruled out, then yes, this would be compelling evidence of disembodied cognition.

  62. jayman777 says:

    dguller:

    Consciousness appears to be an awareness of what is going on, and thus can be conceived as a higher-order representation of lower-order representations and processes.

    What’s the difference between a higher-order representation and a lower-order representation?

    What data does the physical account of the mind fail to explain?

    Intentionality, qualia, and supernatural/paranormal phenomena (which you reject).

  63. dguller says:

    Jayman:

    >> What’s the difference between a higher-order representation and a lower-order representation?

    A lower-order representation is a representation of an object or event in the world. A higher-order representation is a representation of a lower-order representation. For example, say I have a representation of a dog, which would a lower-order representation, and then I have a representation that I have a representation of a dog, which would be a higher-order representation.

    The relevant aspects to consciousness would be that sensory information may become encoded in the brain of an organism in order to be utilized to plan its behavior, but that does not mean that it is having a subjective experience. I think that it is plausible that subjective experience is parasitic upon these first-order representations being processed in such a way to be represented in a higher-order fashion from which conscious awareness emerges. (I know, detailed, no?).

    >> Intentionality, qualia, and supernatural/paranormal phenomena (which you reject).

    First, why is intentionality and qualia impossible on a physicalist account of the mind? Why is it not possible for the neurobiological processes in the brain to result in intentional and phenomenal states? Sure, we have a hard time understanding the details of this process at this time, but that does not mean that it is impossible to have occurred.

    Second, I do reject supernatural and paranormal phenomena. The evidence just isn’t compelling for me, but I am learning more about these phenomena on this blog, and maybe I will change my mind in the future.

  64. jayman777 says:

    dguller:

    A lower-order representation is a representation of an object or event in the world. A higher-order representation is a representation of a lower-order representation.

    I believe I get what you are attempting to say but I don’t think it stands up to scrutiny. What you call a HOR is also a representation of something in the world, namely the LOR.

    Perhaps you could re-define a LOR as a representation in the brain of something external to the brain and a HOR as a representation of a LOR. However, this won’t do either. First, we think about the dog itself and not our own representation of the dog. Second, the materialist is committed to a representation that is physical and thus must explain why the HOR results in consciousness while the LOR does not. I mean both the LOR and the HOR are material representations of other matter, right? Why does the matter containing the LOR not result in consciousness while the matter containing the HOR does? It’s matter all the way down, isn’t it?

    I think that it is plausible that subjective experience is parasitic upon these first-order representations being processed in such a way to be represented in a higher-order fashion from which conscious awareness emerges. (I know, detailed, no?).

    PCs can already have a LOR of something external to the PC and a HOR of that LOR and yet they are no closer to displaying consciousness. Once again we can ask why the brain’s HORs create consciousness while the PC’s HORs do not.

    First, why is intentionality and qualia impossible on a physicalist account of the mind?

    Because, as far as we can tell, matter is not inherently about other things and does not experience qualia. Even the materialist seems forced to admit that the brain is special: only matter in brains can exhibit intentionality and experience qualia. But, when we look at the matter that composes the brain, we can’t find anything that differentiates it from the matter in the rest of the universe. At this point I think we at least have to consider the very real possibility that the brain is not the mind and that the mind is immaterial (not composed of matter). Paranormal/supernatural phenomena would merely be empirical validation of a theory derived wholly from philosophy.

    Sure, we have a hard time understanding the details of this process at this time, but that does not mean that it is impossible to have occurred.

    You don’t even have a process to obtain details from.

  65. dguller says:

    Jayman:

    >> Perhaps you could re-define a LOR as a representation in the brain of something external to the brain and a HOR as a representation of a LOR. However, this won’t do either.

    >> First, we think about the dog itself and not our own representation of the dog.

    This is an excellent point that is very difficult to address. The best answer that I can give is that when we think about the dog, we are really activating a representation of the dog, and then adding a subjective feeling that our thought is directed towards the external dog. In other words, it is partially illusory in the sense that our brain is adding something to our experience that is not entirely there. Certainly, this is something that our brain is well-known to do in many other subjective experiences, and it is certainly possible – maybe even plausible – that it does so with our conscious thoughts.

    Take our feeling of knowing something. We often have beliefs and we feel that we know that they are true. However, there are also situations in which we feel something to be true despite knowing that it is false, and when this happens, we will trust our feeling more than our logic. For example, it has been shown that some people who vividly recall a specific memory and are provided with concrete and indisputable evidence that their memory is false will continue to feel that their memory is true, and refuse to relinquish it.

    The point is that we often have the experience of knowing something on the basis of good reasons, but there are some situations in which this becomes disconnected, and we see that they are distinct processes that we typically experience as unified. Perhaps something similar occurs when we think about dogs in the sense that we have a representation of the dog PLUS the subjective feeling that it is directed towards the dog in the world, and that we typically experience this as a unified experience, which is why your objection seems to be valid.

    This likely appears to be quite confused, and your feedback would be helpful to clarify these ideas somewhat.

    >> Second, the materialist is committed to a representation that is physical and thus must explain why the HOR results in consciousness while the LOR does not. I mean both the LOR and the HOR are material representations of other matter, right? Why does the matter containing the LOR not result in consciousness while the matter containing the HOR does? It’s matter all the way down, isn’t it?

    I think a decent stab at an answer would point to the fact that LOR is present even in subconscious states of mind. For example, a fear response can be triggered outside of conscious awareness, but it could not be triggered unless the sensory stimuli did not activate an underlying LOR of a dangerous situation that requires a response in the first place. One of the reasons for this is that when sensory input is sent to the thalamus, it is then sent directly to the amygdala to be processed for any potentially dangerous situations, which happens outside our awareness. (Another neural pathway goes from the thalamus to the primary sensory cortices, which are then processed into conscious awareness.) So, one can have LOR without conscious awareness at all, and I would say that any sufficiently sophisticated biological organism, even without consciousness, would have LOR as a means of representing its internal and external environments for the purpose of planning and determining its subsequent behavior.

    As for the HOR, I think that it is a different form of neural organization than the LOR, and requires cortical processes that provide a new level of computational processing. Now, I cannot provide sufficient detail to explain how this HOR of the LOR does generate consciousness, but I think that it is fairly clear that our conscious awareness is OF our experience, and our experience is fundamentally based upon our sensory experience of the external world, our internal physiological state, our emotions, feelings, thoughts, desires, goals and plans, all of which can be LOR’s. Perhaps the HOR organizes these LOR’s in a particular way, which results in unified conscious awareness.

    >> PCs can already have a LOR of something external to the PC and a HOR of that LOR and yet they are no closer to displaying consciousness. Once again we can ask why the brain’s HORs create consciousness while the PC’s HORs do not.

    Because their structural and functional organization is different.

    >> Because, as far as we can tell, matter is not inherently about other things and does not experience qualia. Even the materialist seems forced to admit that the brain is special: only matter in brains can exhibit intentionality and experience qualia. But, when we look at the matter that composes the brain, we can’t find anything that differentiates it from the matter in the rest of the universe.

    Perhaps it is a matter of how matter is organized that holds the key. Perhaps the type of structural and functional organization of matter is what makes some material entities capable of intentionality and qualia whereas others cannot. There is a lot of interesting work in terms of understanding the underlying networks of neural processes, and by correlating these processes to the subjective reports of individuals, trying to map out consciousness as a byproduct of the brain.

    >> At this point I think we at least have to consider the very real possibility that the brain is not the mind and that the mind is immaterial (not composed of matter). Paranormal/supernatural phenomena would merely be empirical validation of a theory derived wholly from philosophy.

    But how does an immaterial mind answer any of these questions, except by assertion? How does an immaterial mind has intentionality? Well, it just does. How does an immaterial mind has qualia? Well, it just does. There is nothing else involved that can help explain anything at all. I mean, I could say the same thing about a material mind. In other words, I can just say that a material does, in fact, have intentionality and qualia. That is certainly unsatisfactory, but at least there is a scientific research program trying to understand HOW a material brain can generate consciousness. I cannot see how an analogous program could be performed for an immaterial mind.

  66. Ronin says:

    Dr. Vallicella sums it up best when he writes:

    But the naturalist does something equally questionable: he takes phenomena that are given, intentionality, qualia, etc. and either denies their very existence, or attempts to interpret them in naturalistic terms that are incompatible with their own nature. He does this because of his faith that only what lies within the space-time world is real. Clearly, this faith is empirically unverifiable. What it amount to is a decision to count as real only what can be encountered in the world of space-time. This is why the naturalist does not give up when his arguments are shown to fail. Abandoning naturalism is not an option for him.

    http://maverickphilosopher.blogspot.com/2005/01/naturalists-version-of-fides-quaerens.html

  67. jayman777 says:

    dguller:

    The best answer that I can give is that when we think about the dog, we are really activating a representation of the dog, and then adding a subjective feeling that our thought is directed towards the external dog. In other words, it is partially illusory in the sense that our brain is adding something to our experience that is not entirely there.

    That I am perceiving what I am perceiving is the most well-established fact in the universe (from my perspective). Even if there is no dog out there it is still true that I am perceiving a dog.

    I think a decent stab at an answer would point to the fact that LOR is present even in subconscious states of mind.

    Is it a fact that LORs are present in the subconscious? It seems a fear response could be generated without having any representation of the object that is feared.

    Because their structural and functional organization is different.

    What would your reaction be if the Blue Brain Project fails to become conscious?

    But how does an immaterial mind answer any of these questions, except by assertion?

    It doesn’t answer questions. It merely follows from the fact that material explanations fail. Scientists have done the same thing in cases such as dark matter.

    I mean, I could say the same thing about a material mind. In other words, I can just say that a material does, in fact, have intentionality and qualia.

    It’s unsatisfactory because we know that matter does not exhibit intentionality or experience qualia.

    That is certainly unsatisfactory, but at least there is a scientific research program trying to understand HOW a material brain can generate consciousness. I cannot see how an analogous program could be performed for an immaterial mind.

    But we’re interested in the truth not whether we can come up with a scientific research program.

  68. dguller says:

    Jayman:

    >> That I am perceiving what I am perceiving is the most well-established fact in the universe (from my perspective). Even if there is no dog out there it is still true that I am perceiving a dog.

    Right. It is well-established, because we have an experience associated with a subjective feeling of certainty. Because these two aspects of subjective experience always go together, we assume that it is just one experience, but I wonder if maybe there is the HOR of the LOR plus this activated feeling of certainty. Remember, “well-established” could just refer to our sense of absolute certainty about our subjective experience, and there is decent evidence that this feeling can misfire.

    >> Is it a fact that LORs are present in the subconscious? It seems a fear response could be generated without having any representation of the object that is feared.

    But then how could the brain identify an external object as fearful without a representation OF that object AS fearful? Why does that object, and not others around it, stand out in the brain as something worth activating a fear response?

    >> What would your reaction be if the Blue Brain Project fails to become conscious?

    I have no idea.

    >> It doesn’t answer questions. It merely follows from the fact that material explanations fail. Scientists have done the same thing in cases such as dark matter.

    What if the reasoning also operated in reverse? What if the fact that an immaterial mind does not explain any of our subjective mental experiences, plus has additional questions that cannot be answered, implies that it is false?

    >> It’s unsatisfactory because we know that matter does not exhibit intentionality or experience qualia.

    I would say that we do. I know that I am composed of matter and I experience both. We do not know how this happens, but it is a fact that it does happen.

    >> But we’re interested in the truth not whether we can come up with a scientific research program.

    Is there a better way of determining the truth of something than a research program?

  69. jayman777 says:

    dguller:

    It is well-established, because we have an experience associated with a subjective feeling of certainty.

    No, it is well-established because I am having the experience of having an experience. It isn’t merely well-established, it’s undeniable.

    Remember, “well-established” could just refer to our sense of absolute certainty about our subjective experience, and there is decent evidence that this feeling can misfire.

    You’re conflating our perception with the object of our perception. That I perceive a dog is undeniable. Whether there is actually a dog in front of me is a separate question. A feeling of certainty is irrelevant. If I’m doing drugs I may be very uncertain whether a dog is actually sitting in front of me but it is still certain that I have the perception of a dog sitting in front of me.

    But then how could the brain identify an external object as fearful without a representation OF that object AS fearful? Why does that object, and not others around it, stand out in the brain as something worth activating a fear response?

    If a fear response is merely a bio-chemical reaction of some kind then all that is necessary is a trigger to set the bio-chemical reaction in motion. The brain does not have to identify anything. For example, a sound above 100 decibels could trigger a fear response even if the brain cannot identify the sound (e.g., the sound of a lion roaring might cause a fear response in someone who does not know what a lion is).

    I have no idea.

    If a computer had the exact same structural and functional organization as the human brain, should you not expect it to be conscious (I would expect it not be conscious)? Of course, in the real world, we could still debate whether the computer correctly modeled the brain and whether it was truly conscious, but it is an interesting thought experiment at least.

    What if the reasoning also operated in reverse? What if the fact that an immaterial mind does not explain any of our subjective mental experiences, plus has additional questions that cannot be answered, implies that it is false?

    That is not analogous to my reasoning on the material mind. It is not that we currently can’t explain the mind in materialist terms or answer every question, it’s that it seems to be impossible to explain the mind in materialist terms in principle.

    I would say that we do. I know that I am composed of matter and I experience both. We do not know how this happens, but it is a fact that it does happen.

    The facts are that you are (1) conscious and (2) composed of matter. Your belief that your brain alone causes consciousness is an interpretation of the facts.

    Is there a better way of determining the truth of something than a research program?

    That isn’t my point. My point is that the mere fact that you can’t construct a research program trying to understand how the immaterial mind is conscious is not an argument against the truth of an immaterial mind. If research can only take you to fact X you don’t reject fact X merely because you have reached a barrier.

  70. dguller says:

    Jayman:

    >> No, it is well-established because I am having the experience of having an experience. It isn’t merely well-established, it’s undeniable.

    Is it possible to have an experience, but to be unaware that one is having it?

    Is it possible to have an experience, but deny that one is having it?

    >> You’re conflating our perception with the object of our perception. That I perceive a dog is undeniable. Whether there is actually a dog in front of me is a separate question. A feeling of certainty is irrelevant. If I’m doing drugs I may be very uncertain whether a dog is actually sitting in front of me but it is still certain that I have the perception of a dog sitting in front of me.

    I disagree. One of the essential features of qualia is that one cannot possibly doubt that one is having one, and that it is utterly indubitable and certain. My contention is that this feeling of indubitability and certainty could be an added on feature to our subjective experience. This is because it is possible to have an experience, but lack the certainty and indubitability that one is having the experience.

    For example, take Capgras delusions in which an individual perceives familiar family members, but believes that they are imposters. They have the same perceptual experience of a family member, because that has remained identical, but they lack the feeling of familiarity or knowing that they are, in fact, their family member. If they hear the person’s voice, then they recognize them, but their facial recognition mechanisms and the emotional responses that follow are compromised. They then reason that the family member must be an imposter, and no amount of evidence or logic will convince them otherwise.

    In our everyday experience, when we experience something, we experience it as something and have the additional feeling of knowing it, but it is possible in some neurological and psychiatric conditions for this unity to be severed and for bizarre experiences to result. How is this relevant? I am saying that it is possible that our sense of indubitability of our qualia is not inherent to the qualia themselves, but are an added feature that our brains combine with the subjective experience itself, and that it is possible to have the experience without the certainty of having the experience.

    >> If a fear response is merely a bio-chemical reaction of some kind then all that is necessary is a trigger to set the bio-chemical reaction in motion. The brain does not have to identify anything. For example, a sound above 100 decibels could trigger a fear response even if the brain cannot identify the sound (e.g., the sound of a lion roaring might cause a fear response in someone who does not know what a lion is).

    Yes, but the brain still must identify the sound as something to be feared, which requires some form of representation. The point is that no matter what it is in our environment that triggers the subcortical and subconscious fear mechanism, it must be represented by the brain as something fearful, and thus must be a representation. I’m afraid that you just can’t escape this conclusion.

    >> If a computer had the exact same structural and functional organization as the human brain, should you not expect it to be conscious (I would expect it not be conscious)? Of course, in the real world, we could still debate whether the computer correctly modeled the brain and whether it was truly conscious, but it is an interesting thought experiment at least.

    I would say that if it had the same structural and functional organization as the human brain, plus had the requisite developmental history, requisite bodily component, and capacity to interact with its external environment, and its responses could not be distinguished from human responses, then sure, I would call it conscious. I don’t think that I would have any reason not to. Why wouldn’t you call it conscious?

    >> That is not analogous to my reasoning on the material mind. It is not that we currently can’t explain the mind in materialist terms or answer every question, it’s that it seems to be impossible to explain the mind in materialist terms in principle.

    Yes, but the reasons that it is impossible to do so could also be leveled at the immaterial mind. After all, it just comes down to a current inability to conceive or imagine a solution, because in many ways, we just lack the concepts and language to talk about it properly.

    >> The facts are that you are (1) conscious and (2) composed of matter. Your belief that your brain alone causes consciousness is an interpretation of the facts.

    No, it is the result of experiments. I know that by electrically stimulating various parts of the brain, one can cause different conscious experiences. Either the changes in the brain have caused the changes in consciousness, or it is just an incredible coincidence akin to Leibniz’s pre-established harmony, which I find ludicrous. I think that the case for an immaterial mind ultimately comes down to certain aspects of consciousness that we cannot explain on a material account at this time. Perhaps we never will, but to say that, therefore, an immaterial mind is the answer is just wrongheaded, I think, because it does not answer anything, and it raises more questions than it answers anyway, and thus we are stuck with an even deeper mystery.

    >> That isn’t my point. My point is that the mere fact that you can’t construct a research program trying to understand how the immaterial mind is conscious is not an argument against the truth of an immaterial mind. If research can only take you to fact X you don’t reject fact X merely because you have reached a barrier.

    I agree, but the fact that your belief just … stops, and lacks the capacity to increase our knowledge base in any way, counts against it. It is like saying “God did it”, which is not an explanation at all, and just giving up. I prefer to continue to study the matter scientifically and try to figure things out rather than just giving up and postulating magical entities with bizarre properties as some kind of solution.

  71. jayman777 says:

    dguller:

    Is it possible to have an experience, but to be unaware that one is having it?

    No.

    Is it possible to have an experience, but deny that one is having it?

    No.

    They have the same perceptual experience of a family member, because that has remained identical, but they lack the feeling of familiarity or knowing that they are, in fact, their family member.

    The feeling of (un)familiarity is part of their unified experience.

    Yes, but the brain still must identify the sound as something to be feared, which requires some form of representation.

    I’m not convinced but it’s a minor point since a LOR does not exhibit inherent intentionality.

    Why wouldn’t you call it conscious?

    I said I do not expect such a computer to become conscious. It’s a prediction not a description.

    Yes, but the reasons that it is impossible to do so could also be leveled at the immaterial mind.

    Really? You, who do not even believe in the immaterial, know enough about the immaterial to know that it is not possible for the immaterial to explain the mind?

    After all, it just comes down to a current inability to conceive or imagine a solution, because in many ways, we just lack the concepts and language to talk about it properly.

    No, it comes down to knowing enough about matter to know its limitations. It’s similar to knowing enough about matter and gravity to know that there must be dark matter in galaxies.

    I agree, but the fact that your belief just … stops, and lacks the capacity to increase our knowledge base in any way, counts against it.

    You can’t agree and then claim that a practical boundary counts against a fact. Either the reasons for believing the fact are good or they are bad. I doubt that if you failed to come up with a research program for the nature of time (for example) that you would count that as a mark against the existence of time. You would simply accept that there are limits to our empirical investigations.

  72. dguller says:

    Jayman:

    >> Is it possible to have an experience, but to be unaware that one is having it?
    No.

    In change blindness, we are presented with two alternating scenes that are identical in every respect, except for a single minor difference. It often takes people many seconds to detect that difference. The interesting question is before the difference is detected, whether the qualia of the difference were changing from one scene to the other.

    If the qualia were changing, then they changed without one’s awareness, which you admitted was impossible, because it would imply that we can have qualia that are outside our awareness. If the qualia were not changing, then there is no way for you to detect the difference to begin with! The fact that you do detect the difference eventually means that they were changing, but you were not aware of it, which appears to contradict your claim.

    And there are other possibilities. Our subjective experience unfolds over time, and it is possible for a change in our experience to be so subtle that we quickly forget that it happened, removing it from our awareness in that moment even though we are having an experiene. Furthermore, there are cases of individuals who lose their color vision, but do not know it, and give answers about what colors they see that are no better than chance! So, it appears that it is possible to have an experience, but be unaware of having it.

    >> The feeling of (un)familiarity is part of their unified experience.

    The point is that our experience can become fragmented, especially with the emotional coloring and salience of the experience. I wondered about the possibility of there being a distinction between having an experience and believing it to be indubitable. There are a number of neurological and psychiatric conditions where everyday experiences that we have become fragmented and bizarre in ways that we just cannot imagine.

    >> I said I do not expect such a computer to become conscious. It’s a prediction not a description.

    That’s not an explanation, either, for why you wouldn’t consider it conscious if it met all the conditions I laid out.

    >> Really? You, who do not even believe in the immaterial, know enough about the immaterial to know that it is not possible for the immaterial to explain the mind?

    Go ahead. Explain our conscious experience using a hypothesis of an immaterial mind.

    >> No, it comes down to knowing enough about matter to know its limitations. It’s similar to knowing enough about matter and gravity to know that there must be dark matter in galaxies.

    Again, this could be evidence of a failure of imagination. I mean, ultimately this comes down to the fact that right now, given our conceptual tools, we just cannot understand how the brain can generate our conscious awareness, but this does not imply that the brain does not do so. And like dark matter, there is enough indirect evidence to justify its existence.

    >> You can’t agree and then claim that a practical boundary counts against a fact. Either the reasons for believing the fact are good or they are bad. I doubt that if you failed to come up with a research program for the nature of time (for example) that you would count that as a mark against the existence of time. You would simply accept that there are limits to our empirical investigations.

    Of course there are limits to our empirical investigations, but it does not follow that therefore there is a free-for-all for other explanations.

  73. dguller says:

    Jayman:

    And here are some questions that you might want to try to answer:

    (1) How does an immaterial mind explain our subconscious mental life?

    (2) How does an immaterial mind explain why our emotions override our reason?

    (3) How does an immaterial mind explain our ability to reason and use language?

    (4) How does an immaterial mind explain our intentionality?

    (5) How does an immaterial mind explain our qualia?

    (6) If the mind is not caused by the brain, then where does the mind come from before the brain exists?

    (7) Why is the immaterial mind affected by damage to the brain?

    (8) Why is there even a correlation between the immaterial mind and the brain?

    Thanks.

  74. dguller says:

    Jayman:

    Oh, and just so you know, when I wrote: “Furthermore, there are cases of individuals who lose their color vision, but do not know it, and give answers about what colors they see that are no better than chance!” I was referring to Anton’s syndrome, or visual anosognosia, in case you wanted to look it up.

    You may also want to look up blindsight, which is where someone sees something without actually seeing anything.

    The point is that there are a number of bizarre phenomenological experiences that only make sense on the understanding the disrupted neural processes can result in disrupted subjective experiences, and make no sense if the mind is an immaterial and disembodied entity that is ontologically independent of the brain.

  75. jayman777 says:

    dguller:

    The interesting question is before the difference is detected, whether the qualia of the difference were changing from one scene to the other.

    We are focusing on different parts of the picture as we continue to look for changes in the picture. Thus we need to rephrase the question. If you are looking in the exact same spot of the picture is the quale changing from frame to frame? I would say that it is not. I detect the change by moving my eyes and thus changing the quale.

    Change blindness is an interesting issue and this is my initial thought on the matter. I’d like to see some philosophers with opposing views discuss the matter but did not have much luck with a quick search.

    That’s not an explanation, either, for why you wouldn’t consider it conscious if it met all the conditions I laid out.

    I’m not trying to provide an explanation. I was basically wondering whether you think your theory of the mind would be falsified if a computer clone of the human brain failed to achieve consciousness. I think we’re talking past each other so I’ll drop it.

    I mean, ultimately this comes down to the fact that right now, given our conceptual tools, we just cannot understand how the brain can generate our conscious awareness, but this does not imply that the brain does not do so.

    I’m not claiming absolute certainty. I’m saying our current understanding of matter seems good and it seems that matter cannot account for some aspects of the mind. An entirely material mind would seem more plausible to me if I became convinced that we do not know as much about matter as I thought or a plausible model for a purely material mind is created.

    Of course there are limits to our empirical investigations, but it does not follow that therefore there is a free-for-all for other explanations.

    I’m not proposing a free for all. I’m proposing that the mind is made of something other than the everyday matter we are familiar with and that, whatever this something is, its nature permits inherent intentionality, qualia, and consciousness. I make no claim to have all the details worked out.

    (1) How does an immaterial mind explain our subconscious mental life?

    Recall that I believe the brain-body does impact the immaterial mind. Thus parts of answers to your questions could refer to the brain-body. Since you are apparently interested in the immaterial mind side of things I will restrict my answers accordingly.

    The subconscious would be that part of the immaterial mind that we do not have conscious access to because the brain-body is restricting it.

    (2) How does an immaterial mind explain why our emotions override our reason?

    I can’t answer this question because my emotions seem entrenched in the physical processes of my body. It is hard to imagine what an emotion would be like without a body. In other words, this phenomena may only exist when the immaterial mind is attached to the body.

    (3) How does an immaterial mind explain our ability to reason and use language?

    I was tempted to put the ability to reason down as a case where materialism fails. Reason involves immaterial rules and abstract objects. The ability of the immaterial mind to grasp the immaterial is mysterious, but no more mysterious than the alleged ability of the material to grasp the immaterial.

    Language is an example of the immaterial mind giving intentionality to something else (in this case words). The immaterial mind exhibits intentionality inherently which is why it can give derived intentionality to things like words. This answers (4) too.

    (5) How does an immaterial mind explain our qualia?

    The immaterial mind has, by its nature, the potential to be conscious and thus experience qualia.

    (6) If the mind is not caused by the brain, then where does the mind come from before the brain exists?

    I don’t believe the mind exists before the body. I believe God is the primary cause of the mind’s existence but there may be secondary causes beyond our ability to study.

    (7) Why is the immaterial mind affected by damage to the brain?

    Because the brain can send signals to the mind.

    (8) Why is there even a correlation between the immaterial mind and the brain?

    Because the mind sends signals to the brain and vice versa. Since there is interaction between the two you will see some correlation.

    The point is that there are a number of bizarre phenomenological experiences that only make sense on the understanding the disrupted neural processes can result in disrupted subjective experiences

    I don’t deny that.

  76. dguller says:

    Jayman:

    >> We are focusing on different parts of the picture as we continue to look for changes in the picture. Thus we need to rephrase the question. If you are looking in the exact same spot of the picture is the quale changing from frame to frame? I would say that it is not. I detect the change by moving my eyes and thus changing the quale.

    So, you have to be looking at the exact same spot to have a quale? When you are focusing upon the screen of your computer, you are not having any quale around the screen? It is all just nothingness? I think that you are still having qualia even in areas of your vision that you are not focusing your attention upon. The fact is that you can have qualia without being aware of them, which according to you is impossible.

    >> I’m not claiming absolute certainty. I’m saying our current understanding of matter seems good and it seems that matter cannot account for some aspects of the mind. An entirely material mind would seem more plausible to me if I became convinced that we do not know as much about matter as I thought or a plausible model for a purely material mind is created.

    Well, we currently do not have an adequate theory of how neurons organized in a particular functional way can cause consciousness. That does not mean that it is impossible, but only in need of further reflection and empirical investigation. Maybe this will ultimately be fruitless, but the effort is worthwhile, and many key insights about how the world works required radical revisions to our concepts – including about matter itself – and centuries of investigation. Personally, I think that there is enough indirect evidence to justify the necessary neurobiological underpinnings of consciousness, even if we do not understand how this happens. Understanding THAT it happens is a good start, and figuring out HOW will come with time, I hope.

    >> I’m not proposing a free for all. I’m proposing that the mind is made of something other than the everyday matter we are familiar with and that, whatever this something is, its nature permits inherent intentionality, qualia, and consciousness. I make no claim to have all the details worked out.

    Fair enough. I just wonder if your immaterial theory of consciousness not only fails to answer the problems with a material account, and actually sharing in them, but also raises new problems that it cannot answer. I think that this is enough reason to justify preferring a material account for now.

    >> The subconscious would be that part of the immaterial mind that we do not have conscious access to because the brain-body is restricting it.

    So, once the mind becomes fully disembodied, then we would have full access to our subconscious? Wouldn’t that be completely chaotic and erratic? I mean, there is always much more going on outside our awareness than in our awareness, which is good, because this selective presentation of information does not completely overwhelm us. Could you imagine being aware of every single step in your thought process, every single underlying memory, every single urge and impulse, and so on? You would go insane.

    >> I can’t answer this question because my emotions seem entrenched in the physical processes of my body. It is hard to imagine what an emotion would be like without a body. In other words, this phenomena may only exist when the immaterial mind is attached to the body.

    Does that mean that NDE of OBE experiences lack any emotional salience or content at all? Is there no feeling of peace or anxiety or anything?

    >> I was tempted to put the ability to reason down as a case where materialism fails. Reason involves immaterial rules and abstract objects. The ability of the immaterial mind to grasp the immaterial is mysterious, but no more mysterious than the alleged ability of the material to grasp the immaterial.

    Yup. I will agree with you on this. Both our accounts are unable to account for this.

    >> The immaterial mind has, by its nature, the potential to be conscious and thus experience qualia.

    I could say that a material mind has, by its nature, the potential to be conscious and thus experience conscious if its various components and subsystems are organized in the right way.

    >> I don’t believe the mind exists before the body. I believe God is the primary cause of the mind’s existence but there may be secondary causes beyond our ability to study.

    How do you know that the mind does not exist before the body? I mean, if it is ontologically distinct from the brain, then there is no reason why it could not pre-exist it. Plato certainly thought so. And I think it is not particularly helpful to bring God into this, because saying “God did it” does not explain anything.

    >> Because the brain can send signals to the mind.

    So, a damaged brain sends a signal to the mind to stop working in some way? Wouldn’t it make more sense that the brain sends a signal to the mind to function, and that a damaged brain fails to send that signal, which results in dysfunction? But in that case, doesn’t it appear that the mind is not independent of the brain at all, and seems utterly dependent upon it to function at all?

    >> I don’t deny that.

    Then why not just go all the way and say that our minds depend upon the brain to function, and that the idea of a disembodied mind just does not match up with the facts? Since you brought God into the equation, there are understandable religious reasons to resist this conclusion, but is that a good enough reason to reject the obvious conclusion that although we do not fully understand how the brain generates the mind, it is a fact that it does so?

  77. jayman777 says:

    dguller:

    So, you have to be looking at the exact same spot to have a quale?

    No, you have a quale at all times. It’s that you have a different quale when your eyes are focused on different areas.

    When you are focusing upon the screen of your computer, you are not having any quale around the screen? It is all just nothingness?

    If you are asking whether I have some visual perception of the area outside of what I am focusing on, then, yes, I have such a perception. However, that part of my visual field is not crystal clear and so changes in the external world do not necessarily result in a change in my perception.

    So, once the mind becomes fully disembodied, then we would have full access to our subconscious?

    I think part of the subconscious is from the brain-body so we would not have access to that subconscious. But yes you would have access to the subconscious from the immaterial mind. Of course a precise definition of “subconscious” is hard to come by.

    Does that mean that NDE of OBE experiences lack any emotional salience or content at all? Is there no feeling of peace or anxiety or anything?

    It means emotions in that state are not identical to emotions in the embodied state. We could ask those who have had an NDE what it feels like but we would never fully understand the experience if we don’t experience it for ourselves.

    I could say that a material mind has, by its nature, the potential to be conscious and thus experience conscious if its various components and subsystems are organized in the right way.

    It comes down to how much you think you know about matter. If you think you don’t know much (relatively speaking) then materialism seems more plausible. If you think you know enough (relatively speaking) then materialism seems implausible.

    How do you know that the mind does not exist before the body? I mean, if it is ontologically distinct from the brain, then there is no reason why it could not pre-exist it. Plato certainly thought so.

    Since we have no memory of our pre-existence it seems most parsimonious to believe we do not exist before our physical creation.

    Then why not just go all the way and say that our minds depend upon the brain to function, and that the idea of a disembodied mind just does not match up with the facts?

    I think I’ve already summarized why I believe in an immaterial mind.

  78. mpg says:

    The hypothetical would prove that mind is physical, and is analogous to the software that runs on the hardware of a computer. If that is what you mean by dualism, then yes the mind would be dualistic.

    Physicalism of the mind does not require mind-brain monism,

  79. mpg says:

    @jayman777:

    I agree with you. Materialists-physicalists are free to accept that mind can exist independent of the brain, (no one believes that computer software only exists on a desktop computer).

  80. dguller says:

    Jayman:

    >> No, you have a quale at all times. It’s that you have a different quale when your eyes are focused on different areas.

    That is a fair point. But I wonder how narrow does the focus have to be? What I mean is that while you are staring at a particular patch of an image, then would you say that everything within that patch counts as focused and present to your attention? What about if you are scanning this patch throughout the image, looking for the change, and the patch passes through the actual change, and it registers as a qualia, but you are unaware of the change? That seems to be what happens.

    I think that you will see what I mean when you actually look at some pictures used to demonstrate change blindness. You can find some examples here: http://www2.psych.ubc.ca/~rensink/flicker/download/ There are times when you literally have scanned the entire image, but still cannot see the difference, which means that the qualia have been present to your perception of the scene, but you are unaware of the change. I really think that this unusual phenomenon demonstrates that having a quale does not mean that one is aware of having it.

    >> I think part of the subconscious is from the brain-body so we would not have access to that subconscious. But yes you would have access to the subconscious from the immaterial mind. Of course a precise definition of “subconscious” is hard to come by.

    But remember that our conscious thoughts and experiences do not occur ex nihilo and out of nowhere. They are the result of subconscious processes. Otherwise, where do they come from? So, if the very having of any thoughts and feelings and experiences requires some subconscious processing, then a disembodied mind with thoughts, feelings and experiences becomes impossible, if the subconscious depends upon a brain-body. Furthermore, how could an immaterial mind have access to its subconscious? All it would have it conscious awareness, and thus could not find its subconscious at all. We are aware of subconscious processes by objective study of neurobiological processes, and the experience of behaviors that are inconsistent with our conscious desires and motivations, which demonstrate something else outside our awareness going on. Without such objective biological and bodily phenomena, the disembodied mind would have no way of even knowing anything about its subconscious at all!

    >> It means emotions in that state are not identical to emotions in the embodied state. We could ask those who have had an NDE what it feels like but we would never fully understand the experience if we don’t experience it for ourselves.

    Fair enough. It is just that our current understanding of feelings and emotions demonstrates that they are fundamentally rooted in our embodied existence, because their experience is always of some changing in the body in addition to changes in the mind.

    >> It comes down to how much you think you know about matter. If you think you don’t know much (relatively speaking) then materialism seems more plausible. If you think you know enough (relatively speaking) then materialism seems implausible.

    Why? It is pretty clear that the brain causes the conscious mind, but the details of this causation is a mystery right now that active investigation is trying to uncover. Just because we do not understand the details does not falsify the causal relationship. As I pointed out elsewhere in this site, the fact that Newton did not understand the nature of gravity still allowed him to accurate describe bodily motions in space that are affected by gravity. The relationships held in all macroscopic cases, and thus the relationship was held to be true. A similar point can be made about the brain and mind. There is just too much evidence that the brain causes the mind, and the evidence against it comes down to certain mysteries that are being investigated, and paranormal phenomena that are equivocal and inconclusive (as far as I know).

    >> Since we have no memory of our pre-existence it seems most parsimonious to believe we do not exist before our physical creation.

    Since we are talking parsimony, then isn’t it also more parsimonious to conclude that the mind is a process caused by the brain rather than an independent entity that has the God-like power to intervene into the causal order while being unaffected by it?

  81. dguller says:

    Mpg:

    >> Materialists-physicalists are free to accept that mind can exist independent of the brain, (no one believes that computer software only exists on a desktop computer).

    Yes, but the mind cannot exist independent of any physical substrate just as computer software cannot be active without some hardware for it to operate in.

  82. cl says:

    How often does science uproot the stakes humans plant?

  83. dguller says:

    cl:

    I’m afraid for as long as the truth matters more than our hurt feelings over losing the comfort of certain beliefs.

  84. jayman777 says:

    dguller

    What about if you are scanning this patch throughout the image, looking for the change, and the patch passes through the actual change, and it registers as a qualia, but you are unaware of the change?

    The quale is the result of where your eyes are looking as well as the attention you are applying to your visual field. I might scan the issue looking for things appearing/disappearing, then scan again looking for changes in shapes, and so on. Sight is not a purely passive activity.

    So, if the very having of any thoughts and feelings and experiences requires some subconscious processing, then a disembodied mind with thoughts, feelings and experiences becomes impossible, if the subconscious depends upon a brain-body.

    I’m not saying the subconscious is fully dependent on the brain-body.

    Furthermore, how could an immaterial mind have access to its subconscious?

    In the disembodied state I believe you would not have a subconscious. You would have access to parts of the immaterial mind that you do not have access to in the embodied state.

    It is pretty clear that the brain causes the conscious mind

    If it was clear we wouldn’t be having this discussion.

    Since we are talking parsimony, then isn’t it also more parsimonious to conclude that the mind is a process caused by the brain rather than an independent entity that has the God-like power to intervene into the causal order while being unaffected by it?

    Only if you believe materialism explains all of the relevant data.

  85. dguller says:

    Jayman:

    >> The quale is the result of where your eyes are looking as well as the attention you are applying to your visual field.

    So, when I am absent-minded and caught up in a reverie of thought, then I have no qualia? That seems absurd.

    >> I might scan the issue looking for things appearing/disappearing, then scan again looking for changes in shapes, and so on. Sight is not a purely passive activity.

    So what? The point is that your attention was directed at the specific area of the picture where the difference occurs, but you failed to be aware of the change, despite seeing the quale of the change. I’m afraid that it is possible to have a quale without being aware of it, which falsifies your claim.

    >> I’m not saying the subconscious is fully dependent on the brain-body.

    So, an immaterial mind has a subconscious, independent of neurobiological processes? How exactly does that work? Does the immaterial mind have subcomponents and processes outside of its awareness where the subconscious resides? If so, then how exactly do these various parts of the immaterial mind explain its phenomenal capacities? It seems that we are stuck with the same set of problems that the physicalist account has. In other words, how non-conscious processes can generate conscious processes, whether those non-conscious processes are material or immaterial. Postulating an immaterial mind does nothing to solve this problem.

    >> In the disembodied state I believe you would not have a subconscious. You would have access to parts of the immaterial mind that you do not have access to in the embodied state.

    Wait, I thought you wrote earlier that the subconscious was NOT fully dependent upon the brain-body. That means that the subconscious is either partially dependent, or completely independent, of the brain-body. But you wrote above that in a disembodied and fully immaterial state, there is no subconscious, and thus the subconscious must be fully dependent upon the brain-body, because without the brain-body, such as during full disembodiment, there is no subconscious at all! So, there seems to be a contradiction in your thinking.

    >> If it was clear we wouldn’t be having this discussion.

    It is clear, but you are refusing to accept it. There are problems and mysteries about consciousness, but they are common to both material and immaterial accounts. However, the immaterial account has a number of ADDITIONAL problems to address that the material account does not. So, I would prefer the theory with less problems and that happens to be more consistent with the current scientific understanding of the mind and brain.

    >> Only if you believe materialism explains all of the relevant data.

    No theory explains ALL the data, and thus they are all incomplete. But one theory explains more data, and with less complications and problems, and it does not seem to be yours.

  86. jayman777 says:

    dguller:

    So, when I am absent-minded and caught up in a reverie of thought, then I have no qualia? That seems absurd.

    No, because (1) your thought process is part of your qualia and (2) you still have visual qualia but it may not be identical to the visual qualia you would experience if you were in a different state of mind.

    The point is that your attention was directed at the specific area of the picture where the difference occurs, but you failed to be aware of the change, despite seeing the quale of the change.

    I’m saying your quale did not change (in the relevant respect) even though the image itself changed. I would change your conclusion to read: it is possible for the image to change without the relevant quale changing.

    So, an immaterial mind has a subconscious, independent of neurobiological processes?

    Yes, when in the embodied state and in the sense that there is part of the immaterial mind that you can’t access.

    How exactly does that work?

    This is a case where I believe the brain-body restricts the immaterial mind creating what could be called a subconscious realm of the immaterial mind.

    Postulating an immaterial mind does nothing to solve this problem.

    Postulating an immaterial mind that by its nature permits consciousness is what is necessary.

    Wait, I thought you wrote earlier that the subconscious was NOT fully dependent upon the brain-body. . . . So, there seems to be a contradiction in your thinking.

    In the embodied state the subconscious is dependent on the immaterial mind in the sense that part of the subconscious resides in the immaterial mind. You appear to be taking dependence in a different sense.

    No theory explains ALL the data, and thus they are all incomplete.

    Which is why I used the term relevant data. You’ve already admitted that certain paranormal phenomena could convince you to switch to something like my position. I assume you would make the switch because the materialist position fails to explain all the relevant data.

  87. dguller says:

    Jayman:

    >> No, because (1) your thought process is part of your qualia and (2) you still have visual qualia but it may not be identical to the visual qualia you would experience if you were in a different state of mind.

    So, now my “thought process” is part of my qualia? That is true, but only in the sense that our qualia do not occur in isolation, but as part of an overall functional context, which includes our background thoughts, feelings, beliefs, goals, expectations, and so on. In other words, our “thought process” is part of the background and underlying mechanisms that generate qualia, but they are completely invisible within the quale itself, which just is the subjective and conscious experience of some sense impression. There is no getting behind the quale, because it just is the seeming itself.

    >> I’m saying your quale did not change (in the relevant respect) even though the image itself changed. I would change your conclusion to read: it is possible for the image to change without the relevant quale changing.

    But if the quale did not change, then how did we become aware of the difference between the pictures at all? Again, either the quale changed, but we were not aware of it, or it did not change, which means detecting the difference becomes impossible.

    >> Yes, when in the embodied state and in the sense that there is part of the immaterial mind that you can’t access.

    If I can’t access the subconscious, then how can I know about it at all?

    >> This is a case where I believe the brain-body restricts the immaterial mind creating what could be called a subconscious realm of the immaterial mind.

    How can a physical object inhibit something immaterial? Can a wall inhibit love?

    >> Postulating an immaterial mind that by its nature permits consciousness is what is necessary.

    Sheer assertion. I can just as easily say that the physical brain causes consciousness by its nature.

    >> In the embodied state the subconscious is dependent on the immaterial mind in the sense that part of the subconscious resides in the immaterial mind. You appear to be taking dependence in a different sense.

    First, which part of the subconscious resides in the brain and which part resides in the immaterial mind?

    Second, what are the different components of the immaterial mind?

    >> Which is why I used the term relevant data. You’ve already admitted that certain paranormal phenomena could convince you to switch to something like my position. I assume you would make the switch because the materialist position fails to explain all the relevant data.

    Right, if the paranormal phenomena were genuine and there was no possible materialist explanation of the experience of it, then that would be compelling. So far, not even close to convincing.

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