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Consciousness Is Not Brain Activity

Rational_Thinker9119
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8/17/2014 12:21:08 AM
Posted: 2 years ago
I think I have a good argument against the notion that the conscious mind is just what the "brain does" as some people like to say.

P1: If consciousness is brain activity, then it is the case that a decrease in brain activity always entails a decrease of conscious awareness
P2: It is not the case that a decrease in brain activity always entails a decrease of conscious awareness
c: Therefore, consciousness is not brain activity

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P1 is true by definition. If consciousness is brain activity, then whatever is true for consciousness is true for brain activity (as they are the exact same thing). Ergo, if brain activity decreases, then the corresponding consciousness should always decrease. Also, if brain activity increases, then consciousness and awareness should always increase.

P2 is based on scientific experiments which show that mind-expanding drugs like psilocybin actually decrease brain activity even though the subject experiences an expansion of conscious awareness (an increase in conscious awareness). Here is the link a paper explaining such an experiment done by neuropsychopharmacologist David Nutt and his team:

http://www.pnas.org...

Abstract of the paper:

"As predicted, profound changes in consciousness were observed after psilocybin, but surprisingly, only decreases in cerebral blood flow and BOLD signal were seen, and these were maximal in hub regions, such as the thalamus and anterior and posterior cingulate cortex (ACC and PCC). Decreased activity in the ACC/medial prefrontal cortex (mPFC) was a consistent finding and the magnitude of this decrease predicted the intensity of the subjective effects."

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"This paper has shown that there is only a decrease in brain activity if you use psychedelics, yet, there is an enormous expansion of awareness. If awareness is brain activity, then how come they go in opposite directions?" - Bernardo Kastrup

There are other papers that lean in the same direction, but this one is the only one necessary to advance my argument.

---

So, P1 is true by definition if we grant that consciousness is identical with brain activity, and P2 is supported by scientific experiment; the conclusion logically follows.

What do you guys think?
Rational_Thinker9119
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8/17/2014 1:01:31 AM
Posted: 2 years ago
At 8/17/2014 12:56:58 AM, Sargon wrote:
I'd be interested in doing a debate on this argument.

I don't think I am confident enough in the science behind this to have a full debate (I just thought it made sense to me, and I just wanted to know what people thought about it). However, if you have any points of contention then I am all ears.
rross
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8/17/2014 1:17:51 AM
Posted: 2 years ago
I don't think you can equate brain activity to conscious awareness because most brain activity is related to unconscious processing. Only a small part relates to consciousness and it's spread around - no specific part of the brain is dedicated to it, although I think peopke usually implicate the cortex and thalamus, and maybe some other areas.

In any case, there's no reason to think that more activity would mean more awareness in the way you describe. A certain strength or vividness of conscious experience has nothing to do with quantity of neurons firing as far as I know.
Rational_Thinker9119
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8/17/2014 1:33:46 AM
Posted: 2 years ago
At 8/17/2014 1:17:51 AM, rross wrote:
I don't think you can equate brain activity to conscious awareness because most brain activity is related to unconscious processing. Only a small part relates to consciousness and it's spread around - no specific part of the brain is dedicated to it, although I think peopke usually implicate the cortex and thalamus, and maybe some other areas.

That is because if consciousness is produced by the brain, then it would most likely implicate parts like the cortex, thalamus and other areas based on experiments.


In any case, there's no reason to think that more activity would mean more awareness in the way you describe.

Yes there is. If conscious awareness = brain activity, then brain activity should increase as awareness does; they are supposed to be the same thing. However, if you are saying that consciousness isn't brain activity, then this argument doesn't even apply to your position.

A certain strength or vividness of conscious experience has nothing to do with quantity of neurons firing as far as I know.

Well, I think that may be false (http://en.wikipedia.org...). Consciousness is correlated with neural activity. Ergo, the more neural activity; the more consciousness we would expect; which is observed most of the time, as certain neuron firings can be attributed to conscious experiences. But all we need is one deviation to show consciousness cannot be equated with that brain activity, or at least certain types of brain activity. How can there be mind-expanding experience of conscious awareness if brain activity decreases, then brain activity is supposed to be purely responsible, or identical to consciousness?
Sargon
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8/17/2014 1:34:04 AM
Posted: 2 years ago
At 8/17/2014 1:01:31 AM, Rational_Thinker9119 wrote:
At 8/17/2014 12:56:58 AM, Sargon wrote:
I'd be interested in doing a debate on this argument.

I don't think I am confident enough in the science behind this to have a full debate (I just thought it made sense to me, and I just wanted to know what people thought about it). However, if you have any points of contention then I am all ears.

I was intrigued by this OP because I've actually done research into psilocybins independent of its implications on the philosophy of mind. Now that you are connecting these two things in a novel way, I feel obligated to provide some feedback.

As for whether or not psilocybins decrease brain activity, research has yielded contradictory results.

"Huxley was operating under the assumption that psychedelics decrease brain activity. Some recent data have lent support to this view; for instance, a neuroimaging study of psilocybin suggests that the drug primarily reduces activity in the anterior cingulate cortex, a region involved in a wide variety of tasks related to self-monitoring. However, other studies have found that psychedelics increase activity throughout the brain. " ("Drugs and the Meaning of Life" by Sam Harris)

As a physicalist, my belief is that consciousness arises from brain states. That's not saying that there is an identity relationship between consciousness and brain states, but only that conscious experience is supervenient on brain states. The fact that psilocybins change our conscious experience by affecting our brain is support for this contention. For this reason, I'm not concerned about any argument that consciousness is not identical with brain states. This is why your argument, even if true, is very narrow in importance; There are not many philosophers of mind who believe that conscious activity is literally identical to brain states. The physicalists I'm familiar with always hold that conscious experience is supervenient on brain states, with some of them being reductionists, and others non-reductionists.

(As a note, I have only said that consciousness is supervenient on brain states, not a specific brain state, which should circumvent any objection from multiple-realizability.)

Of course, your argument addresses those who believe that consciousness is identical to brain states. The first problem I noticed with the argument is that while we may gain new conscious experiences while using psilocybins, conscious experience decreases in the sense that our normal conscious experiences have vanished, so one could soundly state that there is a decrease in conscious experience along with a decrease in brain activity. As somebody who has used psilocybins, I can state that while you gain new conscious experiences, you also lose your everyday and mundane conscious experiences along with this. Phrases like "increases in conscious experiences" and "decreases in conscious experiences" are very fuzzy, so I'm not sure how progress would be made in answering the question of whether or not there is on balance an increase in conscious activity, a decrease in conscious activity, or an equilibrium in conscious activity. This is a conceptual issue facing any argument which invokes such terminology.
Rational_Thinker9119
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8/17/2014 2:15:33 AM
Posted: 2 years ago
At 8/17/2014 1:34:04 AM, Sargon wrote:
At 8/17/2014 1:01:31 AM, Rational_Thinker9119 wrote:
At 8/17/2014 12:56:58 AM, Sargon wrote:
I'd be interested in doing a debate on this argument.

I don't think I am confident enough in the science behind this to have a full debate (I just thought it made sense to me, and I just wanted to know what people thought about it). However, if you have any points of contention then I am all ears.

I was intrigued by this OP because I've actually done research into psilocybins independent of its implications on the philosophy of mind. Now that you are connecting these two things in a novel way, I feel obligated to provide some feedback.

As for whether or not psilocybins decrease brain activity, research has yielded contradictory results.

"Huxley was operating under the assumption that psychedelics decrease brain activity. Some recent data have lent support to this view; for instance, a neuroimaging study of psilocybin suggests that the drug primarily reduces activity in the anterior cingulate cortex, a region involved in a wide variety of tasks related to self-monitoring. However, other studies have found that psychedelics increase activity throughout the brain. " ("Drugs and the Meaning of Life" by Sam Harris)

The problem I see with the response is that the activity throughout the brain that is being described is probably not attributed to the neural correlates of consciousness; which is supposed to be responsible for consciousness in a materialistic worldview. I mean, you can cut out whole sections of the brain and still be conscious, there are only some parts of the brain responsible for it if the materialistic worldview is correct, and those are what has been shown to be decreased in the experiment if I am not mistaken.


As a physicalist, my belief is that consciousness arises from brain states. That's not saying that there is an identity relationship between consciousness and brain states, but only that conscious experience is supervenient on brain states. The fact that psilocybins change our conscious experience by affecting our brain is support for this contention. For this reason, I'm not concerned about any argument that consciousness is not identical with brain states. This is why your argument, even if true, is very narrow in importance; There are not many philosophers of mind who believe that conscious activity is literally identical to brain states. The physicalists I'm familiar with always hold that conscious experience is supervenient on brain states, with some of them being reductionists, and others non-reductionists.

Well, actually, this thread was sort of directed at a DDO poster TheGreatAndPowerful who states that consciousness actually is neural activity (but I want other's opinions too). Also treating consciousness as something that is supervenient on brain states implies that only brain states can cause conscious/mental states, and that mental/ conscious states have no power on their own and are completely dependent on brain states; causation is a one way street. However, this means that conscious volition is an illusion. However, volition is something that we experience just as much as what we call physical matter itself. So, to deny volition because of observations of physical matter causing conscious states seems to be without warrant. The best view, in my opinion, is that our conscious awareness and our correlated brains both have a causal relationship with each other instead of it being a one way street (my consciousness can will my arm to move freely, and drugs can cause my consciousness to change).


(As a note, I have only said that consciousness is supervenient on brain states, not a specific brain state, which should circumvent any objection from multiple-realizability.)

Of course, your argument addresses those who believe that consciousness is identical to brain states. The first problem I noticed with the argument is that while we may gain new conscious experiences while using psilocybins, conscious experience decreases in the sense that our normal conscious experiences have vanished, so one could soundly state that there is a decrease in conscious experience along with a decrease in brain activity. As somebody who has used psilocybins, I can state that while you gain new conscious experiences, you also lose your everyday and mundane conscious experiences along with this. Phrases like "increases in conscious experiences" and "decreases in conscious experiences" are very fuzzy, so I'm not sure how progress would be made in answering the question of whether or not there is on balance an increase in conscious activity, a decrease in conscious activity, or an equilibrium in conscious activity. This is a conceptual issue facing any argument which invokes such terminology.

I disagree, because anybody who has done psychedelics (like DMT for example) knows that you have much more awareness on the influence of those substances than in normal every day life even if it is different than everyday life. So, if all these wonderful conscious experiences are really completely dependent on neural correlates of consciousness, then a decrease in one should mean a decrease in the other. At least, one would predict. Also, there are cases where activity of the neural correlates of the mind decrease, and this corresponds to more complex writing (http://www.plosone.org...). However, wouldn't we expect more brain activity for more complex writing? It seems that the causation of the brain on the conscious mind only goes so far.
rross
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8/17/2014 3:59:18 AM
Posted: 2 years ago
At 8/17/2014 1:33:46 AM, Rational_Thinker9119 wrote:
At 8/17/2014 1:17:51 AM, rross wrote:
I don't think you can equate brain activity to conscious awareness because most brain activity is related to unconscious processing. Only a small part relates to consciousness and it's spread around - no specific part of the brain is dedicated to it, although I think peopke usually implicate the cortex and thalamus, and maybe some other areas.

That is because if consciousness is produced by the brain, then it would most likely implicate parts like the cortex, thalamus and other areas based on experiments.


In any case, there's no reason to think that more activity would mean more awareness in the way you describe.

Yes there is. If conscious awareness = brain activity, then brain activity should increase as awareness does; they are supposed to be the same thing. However, if you are saying that consciousness isn't brain activity, then this argument doesn't even apply to your position.

No, I think that consciousness is brain activity, but that it's only a very small part of what the brain does. Most of the brain's activity is unconscious processing. That means that if there's an increase or decrease in overall processing, there's no reason to think that it will impact on conscious awareness.

It's like, people go into a department store for all kinds of reasons, and you can't assume that a big increase or decrease in people entering the store will necessarily translate into sales of pillowslips (for example). They could be there for all kinds of reasons, and traffic could be directly related to other causes, such as a shoe sale.

The only way we could make that connection would be if we could differentiate conscious processing related brain activity from all other brain activity. For instance, if conscious processing did occur in a particular location in the brain, then we could monitor activity in that location and make conclusions about conscious activity based on that. But conscious processing is diffuse and, as far as I know, it cannot be neurologically distinguished from the vast majority of brain processing, which is unconscious.

A certain strength or vividness of conscious experience has nothing to do with quantity of neurons firing as far as I know.

Well, I think that may be false (http://en.wikipedia.org...). Consciousness is correlated with neural activity. Ergo, the more neural activity; the more consciousness we would expect; which is observed most of the time, as certain neuron firings can be attributed to conscious experiences. But all we need is one deviation to show consciousness cannot be equated with that brain activity, or at least certain types of brain activity. How can there be mind-expanding experience of conscious awareness if brain activity decreases, then brain activity is supposed to be purely responsible, or identical to consciousness?

I think that maybe this article is misleading. Statistically, if two things are correlated then their variation is directly proportionate. But I think that the "correlate" in this article has a different meaning, namely, that there is a connection or relationship between brain activity and consciousness, and the exact nature of that relationship in terms of amount of neural firing, is unspecified.

http://www.oxforddictionaries.com...

In relation to "mind-expanding experience of conscious awareness," this is a very subjective assessment. In general, people are not very good at knowing how they're thinking. That is, people may have a sense of awareness, but that doesn't mean that they're more aware. Just as you can have a feeling of deja vu awake or in a dream, and it may or may not mean that you've seen the thing before.

In any case, at some point it may make sense to differentiate between awareness and consciousness, or do you use them interchangeably?
rross
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8/17/2014 5:16:39 AM
Posted: 2 years ago
At 8/17/2014 12:21:08 AM, Rational_Thinker9119 wrote:

P2 is based on scientific experiments which show that mind-expanding drugs like psilocybin actually decrease brain activity even though the subject experiences an expansion of conscious awareness (an increase in conscious awareness). Here is the link a paper explaining such an experiment done by neuropsychopharmacologist David Nutt and his team:

http://www.pnas.org...

In the study, this subjective expansion of awareness was rated on intensity of the experience (0-10), but there were additional items about the experience, and here are the top rated items for the drug group cf controls:

I saw my surroundings change in unusual ways.
I saw geometric patterns.
I felt unusual bodily sensations.
Things looked strange.
My imagination was extremely vivid.
My sense of size or space was altered.
Sounds influenced things I saw.
My thoughts wandered freely.
My sense of time was altered.
The experience had a dreamlike quality.


To me, this experience is intense because it is so unlike the normal conscious state. I don't see anything in this that describes awareness being enhanced. Quite the opposite, actually. The participants are feeling disconnected from their perceptions of the external world. So I'm curious why you interpreted this as greater consciousness.

It kind of comes back to the question of what you think consciousness is, exactly. I've never really come across this idea before that you can have more/less conscious awareness, or better/worse. It's not obvious to me how you would compare conscious states. Perhaps in terms of perception of the external environment or in terms of amount of information processed? Rather than in terms of subjective vividness?
dylancatlow
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8/17/2014 9:44:13 AM
Posted: 2 years ago
This argument has a few problems. As Sargon pointed out, quantifying consciousness - like you do when you say "a decrease in consciousness" - is not as cut and dry as quantifying brain activity. A decrease in brain activity could easily lead to more intense states of consciousness for the conscious observer. Indeed, the suspension of certain cognitive barriers would even seem to imply this much.

For another thing, consciousness only represents part of our brain activity. That is, no one claims we are aware of everything that is happening in our brain. Thus, a decrease in brain activity would not necessarily affect the areas which produce consciousness.
CanWeKnow
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8/17/2014 11:00:31 AM
Posted: 2 years ago
Yeahrr I am going to have to agree with some of the other contradictory posts here.

P1 Just isn't true. The brain can at times be more active during sleep than it is during normal day to day operations. You are unconscious when you are asleep.
Rational_Thinker9119
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8/17/2014 12:00:59 PM
Posted: 2 years ago
At 8/17/2014 9:44:13 AM, dylancatlow wrote:
This argument has a few problems. As Sargon pointed out, quantifying consciousness - like you do when you say "a decrease in consciousness" - is not as cut and dry as quantifying brain activity.

Then that means consciousness is not brain activity; which is all I was arguing. It seems you are conceding the conclusion.

A decrease in brain activity could easily lead to more intense states of consciousness for the conscious observer.

I agree, of course it could, in fact, it does (as the experiment I posted points out). The problem is that this means that consciousness is not brain activity.

Indeed, the suspension of certain cognitive barriers would even seem to imply this much.

Then how do you explain patients who wright more complex while brain activity is decreased (http://www.plosone.org...)? Doesn't more complex writing require more cognitive ability?

For another thing, consciousness only represents part of our brain activity.

Exactly. Only some aspects of the brain are correlating with consciousness.

That is, no one claims we are aware of everything that is happening in our brain.

I am not saying that. I am talking about the people who say that certain brain activity is consciousness. Of course not all brain activity is consciousness.

Thus, a decrease in brain activity would not necessarily affect the areas which produce consciousness.

But the experiments specifically address the areas which produce consciousness (like the cortex). It is these areas that are decreasing!
Rational_Thinker9119
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8/17/2014 12:03:31 PM
Posted: 2 years ago
At 8/17/2014 11:00:31 AM, CanWeKnow wrote:
Yeahrr I am going to have to agree with some of the other contradictory posts here.

P1 Just isn't true.

It is true by definition. If certain brain activity IS consciousness, then whatever is true for that brain activity has to be true for consciousness (as they are the exact same thing). To deny P1 is to deny the Law of Identity.

The brain can at times be more active during sleep than it is during normal day to day operations. You are unconscious when you are asleep.

You are not unconscious when you dream. Also, the only aspects of the brain that are relevant here are the ones with neural correlates related to consciousness (not all of the brain is responsible for consciousness under physicalism).
Rational_Thinker9119
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8/17/2014 12:10:51 PM
Posted: 2 years ago
At 8/17/2014 3:59:18 AM, rross wrote:
At 8/17/2014 1:33:46 AM, Rational_Thinker9119 wrote:
At 8/17/2014 1:17:51 AM, rross wrote:
I don't think you can equate brain activity to conscious awareness because most brain activity is related to unconscious processing. Only a small part relates to consciousness and it's spread around - no specific part of the brain is dedicated to it, although I think peopke usually implicate the cortex and thalamus, and maybe some other areas.

That is because if consciousness is produced by the brain, then it would most likely implicate parts like the cortex, thalamus and other areas based on experiments.


In any case, there's no reason to think that more activity would mean more awareness in the way you describe.

Yes there is. If conscious awareness = brain activity, then brain activity should increase as awareness does; they are supposed to be the same thing. However, if you are saying that consciousness isn't brain activity, then this argument doesn't even apply to your position.

No, I think that consciousness is brain activity, but that it's only a very small part of what the brain does.

But that is still false, because the aspects of the brain responsible for consciousness are decreased when the conscious experience increases.

Most of the brain's activity is unconscious processing.

Agreed.

That means that if there's an increase or decrease in overall processing, there's no reason to think that it will impact on conscious awareness.

But the argument isn't that there is a decrease in overall brain activity, ergo, there is a decrease in conciousness.... It is that there is a decrease in brain activity with regards to the neural correlates of consciousness.


It's like, people go into a department store for all kinds of reasons, and you can't assume that a big increase or decrease in people entering the store will necessarily translate into sales of pillowslips (for example). They could be there for all kinds of reasons, and traffic could be directly related to other causes, such as a shoe sale.


The only way we could make that connection would be if we could differentiate conscious processing related brain activity from all other brain activity. For instance, if conscious processing did occur in a particular location in the brain, then we could monitor activity in that location and make conclusions about conscious activity based on that.

That's exactly what is happening!

But conscious processing is diffuse and, as far as I know, it cannot be neurologically distinguished from the vast majority of brain processing, which is unconscious.

False. We can cut parts of the brain out and not effect consciousness, we have a decent idea of which parts would be responsible for consciousness (if any at all).


A certain strength or vividness of conscious experience has nothing to do with quantity of neurons firing as far as I know.

Well, I think that may be false (http://en.wikipedia.org...). Consciousness is correlated with neural activity. Ergo, the more neural activity; the more consciousness we would expect; which is observed most of the time, as certain neuron firings can be attributed to conscious experiences. But all we need is one deviation to show consciousness cannot be equated with that brain activity, or at least certain types of brain activity. How can there be mind-expanding experience of conscious awareness if brain activity decreases, then brain activity is supposed to be purely responsible, or identical to consciousness?

I think that maybe this article is misleading. Statistically, if two things are correlated then their variation is directly proportionate. But I think that the "correlate" in this article has a different meaning, namely, that there is a connection or relationship between brain activity and consciousness, and the exact nature of that relationship in terms of amount of neural firing, is unspecified.

http://www.oxforddictionaries.com...

In relation to "mind-expanding experience of conscious awareness," this is a very subjective assessment.

Consciousness is itself subjective lol

In general, people are not very good at knowing how they're thinking. That is, people may have a sense of awareness, but that doesn't mean that they're more aware.

They report being more aware. If we can't trust people's reports of experiences then I guess we out to throw out neuroscience all together with regards to consciousness... As all the neuroscience with regards to consciousness is based on what the subject reports.

Just as you can have a feeling of deja vu awake or in a dream, and it may or may not mean that you've seen the thing before.

Ad hoc.


In any case, at some point it may make sense to differentiate between awareness and consciousness, or do you use them interchangeably?

Awareness must be conscious.
Rational_Thinker9119
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8/17/2014 12:15:04 PM
Posted: 2 years ago
At 8/17/2014 5:16:39 AM, rross wrote:
At 8/17/2014 12:21:08 AM, Rational_Thinker9119 wrote:

P2 is based on scientific experiments which show that mind-expanding drugs like psilocybin actually decrease brain activity even though the subject experiences an expansion of conscious awareness (an increase in conscious awareness). Here is the link a paper explaining such an experiment done by neuropsychopharmacologist David Nutt and his team:

http://www.pnas.org...

In the study, this subjective expansion of awareness was rated on intensity of the experience (0-10), but there were additional items about the experience, and here are the top rated items for the drug group cf controls:

I saw my surroundings change in unusual ways.
I saw geometric patterns.
I felt unusual bodily sensations.
Things looked strange.
My imagination was extremely vivid.
My sense of size or space was altered.
Sounds influenced things I saw.
My thoughts wandered freely.
My sense of time was altered.
The experience had a dreamlike quality.


To me, this experience is intense because it is so unlike the normal conscious state.

It doesn't matter why, it is still more intense.

I don't see anything in this that describes awareness being enhanced.

Then you have obviously never done psychedelics. I have.

Quite the opposite, actually. The participants are feeling disconnected from their perceptions of the external world.

Perceptions of an external world =/= perceptions in general. Being more aware of your inner self is still being more consciously aware, even it isn't of an external world.

So I'm curious why you interpreted this as greater consciousness.

It is self-evident to anyone who has ever done psychedelics like DMT.


It kind of comes back to the question of what you think consciousness is, exactly. I've never really come across this idea before that you can have more/less conscious awareness, or better/worse. It's not obvious to me how you would compare conscious states. Perhaps in terms of perception of the external environment or in terms of amount of information processed? Rather than in terms of subjective vividness?
popculturepooka
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8/17/2014 12:23:32 PM
Posted: 2 years ago
I always scratch my head at physicalists about the mind. What motivation is there to be one?
At 10/3/2016 11:49:13 PM, thett3 wrote:
BLACK LIVES MATTER!
Rational_Thinker9119
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8/17/2014 12:43:15 PM
Posted: 2 years ago
At 8/17/2014 12:23:32 PM, popculturepooka wrote:
I always scratch my head at physicalists about the mind. What motivation is there to be one?

They usually say neuroscience supports the position, or that we live in a material world so the mind is material (or "supervenes") on it. I think our experience of our minds should disprove the notion that it is physical, however, I suppose if you are ambitious enough to deny your own non-physical minds then you come up with nonsense like the "mind is physical". I know what it is like, I used to be a physicalist.
dylancatlow
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8/17/2014 3:21:28 PM
Posted: 2 years ago
At 8/17/2014 12:00:59 PM, Rational_Thinker9119 wrote:
At 8/17/2014 9:44:13 AM, dylancatlow wrote:
This argument has a few problems. As Sargon pointed out, quantifying consciousness - like you do when you say "a decrease in consciousness" - is not as cut and dry as quantifying brain activity.

Then that means consciousness is not brain activity; which is all I was arguing. It seems you are conceding the conclusion.


A decrease in brain activity could easily lead to more intense states of consciousness for the conscious observer.

I agree, of course it could, in fact, it does (as the experiment I posted points out). The problem is that this means that consciousness is not brain activity.

I mean it could lead to more intense states even though the two are correlated.


Indeed, the suspension of certain cognitive barriers would even seem to imply this much.

Then how do you explain patients who wright more complex while brain activity is decreased (http://www.plosone.org...)? Doesn't more complex writing require more cognitive ability?

An overactive brain can have a hard time focusing, and writing takes focus. Also, creativity could be enhanced when certain parts of the brain are less active. Anyway, how do you explain the fact that people with severe brain damage think differently?


For another thing, consciousness only represents part of our brain activity.

Exactly. Only some aspects of the brain are correlating with consciousness.

That doesn't mean consciousness isn't wholly a representation of part of the brain...


That is, no one claims we are aware of everything that is happening in our brain.

I am not saying that. I am talking about the people who say that certain brain activity is consciousness. Of course not all brain activity is consciousness.

Then decreased brain activity wouldn't necessarily affect the parts of the brain which produce consciousness.


Thus, a decrease in brain activity would not necessarily affect the areas which produce consciousness.

But the experiments specifically address the areas which produce consciousness (like the cortex). It is these areas that are decreasing!

Doesn't the idea that the cortex produces consciousness run counter to your argument?
CanWeKnow
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8/17/2014 8:55:01 PM
Posted: 2 years ago
But... what?

If you aren't unconscious when you are asleep then when are you EVER unconscious? I can hardly think of an example. This doesn't make any sense to me.
Jedi4
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8/17/2014 10:07:37 PM
Posted: 2 years ago
At 8/17/2014 12:21:08 AM, Rational_Thinker9119 wrote:
I think I have a good argument against the notion that the conscious mind is just what the "brain does" as some people like to say.

P1: If consciousness is brain activity, then it is the case that a decrease in brain activity always entails a decrease of conscious awareness
P2: It is not the case that a decrease in brain activity always entails a decrease of conscious awareness
c: Therefore, consciousness is not brain activity

---

P1 is true by definition. If consciousness is brain activity, then whatever is true for consciousness is true for brain activity (as they are the exact same thing). Ergo, if brain activity decreases, then the corresponding consciousness should always decrease. Also, if brain activity increases, then consciousness and awareness should always increase.

P2 is based on scientific experiments which show that mind-expanding drugs like psilocybin actually decrease brain activity even though the subject experiences an expansion of conscious awareness (an increase in conscious awareness). Here is the link a paper explaining such an experiment done by neuropsychopharmacologist David Nutt and his team:

I think you've been taking too much psilocybin.

Hook me up btw. Who's your dealer?
http://www.pnas.org...

Abstract of the paper:

"As predicted, profound changes in consciousness were observed after psilocybin, but surprisingly, only decreases in cerebral blood flow and BOLD signal were seen, and these were maximal in hub regions, such as the thalamus and anterior and posterior cingulate cortex (ACC and PCC). Decreased activity in the ACC/medial prefrontal cortex (mPFC) was a consistent finding and the magnitude of this decrease predicted the intensity of the subjective effects."

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"This paper has shown that there is only a decrease in brain activity if you use psychedelics, yet, there is an enormous expansion of awareness. If awareness is brain activity, then how come they go in opposite directions?" - Bernardo Kastrup

There are other papers that lean in the same direction, but this one is the only one necessary to advance my argument.

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So, P1 is true by definition if we grant that consciousness is identical with brain activity, and P2 is supported by scientific experiment; the conclusion logically follows.

What do you guys think?
Rational_Thinker9119
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8/17/2014 10:30:10 PM
Posted: 2 years ago
At 8/17/2014 3:21:28 PM, dylancatlow wrote:
At 8/17/2014 12:00:59 PM, Rational_Thinker9119 wrote:
At 8/17/2014 9:44:13 AM, dylancatlow wrote:
This argument has a few problems. As Sargon pointed out, quantifying consciousness - like you do when you say "a decrease in consciousness" - is not as cut and dry as quantifying brain activity.

Then that means consciousness is not brain activity; which is all I was arguing. It seems you are conceding the conclusion.


A decrease in brain activity could easily lead to more intense states of consciousness for the conscious observer.

I agree, of course it could, in fact, it does (as the experiment I posted points out). The problem is that this means that consciousness is not brain activity.


I mean it could lead to more intense states even though the two are correlated.

Not if that certain brain activity actually is consciousness. If X is identical to Y, then what ever is true for X is true for Y (they are the same after all). Ergo, a decrease in the relevant brain activity could not be correlated with an increase in conscious awareness.



Indeed, the suspension of certain cognitive barriers would even seem to imply this much.

Then how do you explain patients who wright more complex while brain activity is decreased (http://www.plosone.org...)? Doesn't more complex writing require more cognitive ability?


An overactive brain can have a hard time focusing, and writing takes focus. Also, creativity could be enhanced when certain parts of the brain are less active.

The paper specifically argues against the notion that mere relaxation (or lack of overactiveness) is responsible:

"The fact that subjects produced complex content in a trance dissociative state suggests they were not merely relaxed, and relaxation seems an unlikely explanation for the underactivation of brain areas specifically related to the cognitive processing being carried out."

Anyway, how do you explain the fact that people with severe brain damage think differently?

Because consciousness and brain activity causally influence each other. If I consciously will my arm to move; that is consciousness acting on the brain. If I bump my head and screw up my brain activity; that is the brain activity causing changes in consciousness. That doesn't mean they are the same thing just because they causally influence each other.



For another thing, consciousness only represents part of our brain activity.

Exactly. Only some aspects of the brain are correlating with consciousness.

That doesn't mean consciousness isn't wholly a representation of part of the brain...

All I am arguing is that consciousness isn't identical to any brain activity. Also, if it is a representation, than a decrease in the relevant brain activity should correlate with a decrease in cognitive ability and awareness.




That is, no one claims we are aware of everything that is happening in our brain.

I am not saying that. I am talking about the people who say that certain brain activity is consciousness. Of course not all brain activity is consciousness.


Then decreased brain activity wouldn't necessarily affect the parts of the brain which produce consciousness.

The paper specifically states the areas of the brain that decreased, and it is the areas correlated with consciousness (which would have to be responsible for consciousness if the brain produces consciousness at all).



Thus, a decrease in brain activity would not necessarily affect the areas which produce consciousness.

But the experiments specifically address the areas which produce consciousness (like the cortex). It is these areas that are decreasing!

Doesn't the idea that the cortex produces consciousness run counter to your argument?

Not necessarily, but I did use the wrong wording. I am not saying that the cortex produces consciousness. I am saying that if the brain produces consciousness, then it would be parts like the cortex (and others) that produce it based on what neuroscience tells us. In my view, there is a correlation and cause and effect relationship but no actual full production of consciousness from the brain, and certain brain activity isn't identified with my experiences. However, if the brain produces consciousness, then it would have to be due to parts of the brain like the cortex based on experimental results.
slo1
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8/18/2014 4:45:06 PM
Posted: 2 years ago
I think you paint much too wide with P1. You and everyone else has no idea exactly the physical brain parts that help/hinder/orchestrate consciousness.

Take a look at this new discovery. Turning on and off consciousness

http://www.newscientist.com...

The most interesting thing about this is that brain activity increased when she lost consciousness.
Rational_Thinker9119
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8/18/2014 8:13:04 PM
Posted: 2 years ago
At 8/18/2014 4:45:06 PM, slo1 wrote:
I think you paint much too wide with P1. You and everyone else has no idea exactly the physical brain parts that help/hinder/orchestrate consciousness.

Take a look at this new discovery. Turning on and off consciousness

http://www.newscientist.com...

The most interesting thing about this is that brain activity increased when she lost consciousness.

P1 is necessarily true, because of the Law of Identity. If X is Y, then whatever is true for X is true for Y because they are the same (Leibniz' Law as well). If a increase in brain activity entails less consciousness; then they cannot be the same. Remember, this argument is only for people who equate consciousness with brain activity.
Sidewalker
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8/18/2014 9:16:35 PM
Posted: 2 years ago
And now for something completely different.....I wholeheartedly agree with you RT.

But I think it"s difficult, if not impossible to make the case definitively because changes in "aggregate" brain activity are hard to nail down in a meaningful way. Changes in patterns, integration, locations, pathways, cycles and the like, in brain activity are associated with reported changes in consciousness; it"s incredibly hard to make a correlation between neural activity and degrees of consciousness. Also, as has already occurred, the reports of heightened states of consciousness will typically meet skepticism and charges of either being too subjective to be reliable, or anecdotal at best, which makes it practically impossible to correlate with the brain activity. The neurological data is ambiguous at best, and more often than not, two researchers looking at the exact same data reach opposite conclusions.

There is one area of research that hasn"t been addressed yet that I think does make your case, and if you haven"t researched it, you should. That"s near death experiences, almost always associated with a sharp decrease in brain activity, and almost always reported to be an extremely intense state of consciousness. There are a ton of reports of heightened intensity of consciousness or awareness in "brain dead" patients where brain activity had either stopped, or was at an absolutely minimal level, a large body of evidence exists on cases where the NDE occurred while the subject's brain activity was being monitored,

This is anecdotal at best also, but I can speak from personal experience on the matter, I had an NDE, I"m old and have experienced a lot in my lifetime, and I can tell you in no uncertain terms that the most intense subjective conscious experience of my life occurred during that NDE when I was in a state that presumably had either none, or a very low level of brain activity. These experiments on rats are unconvincing because there"s no way to know if the rats were conscious of anything, but there are thousands and thousands of examples with humans and the associated data for NDEs regarding reports of heightened consciousness during reduced brain activity is very hard to deny.
"It is one of the commonest of mistakes to consider that the limit of our power of perception is also the limit of all there is to perceive." " C. W. Leadbeater
000ike
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8/18/2014 9:24:24 PM
Posted: 2 years ago
At 8/17/2014 12:23:32 PM, popculturepooka wrote:
I always scratch my head at physicalists about the mind. What motivation is there to be one?

I'm not so sure about the validity of the position, but the appeal of it should be very understandable... It gives us a neat, consistent, and godless account of our existence and places all of reality within the investigatory scope of empirical analysis.
"A stupid despot may constrain his slaves with iron chains; but a true politician binds them even more strongly with the chain of their own ideas" - Michel Foucault
Rational_Thinker9119
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8/18/2014 9:31:10 PM
Posted: 2 years ago
At 8/18/2014 9:24:24 PM, 000ike wrote:
At 8/17/2014 12:23:32 PM, popculturepooka wrote:
I always scratch my head at physicalists about the mind. What motivation is there to be one?

I'm not so sure about the validity of the position, but the appeal of it should be very understandable... It gives us a neat, consistent, and godless account of our existence and places all of reality within the investigatory scope of empirical analysis.

But the Idealist can give a neat and consistent account as well. It may not be a Godless account, but the physicalist must adhere to a mind-independent reality (and the Idealist doesn't need that assumption); we both have to make an assumption. To me, a mind-independent reality is much more of an assumption than some grand mind.
Benshapiro
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8/18/2014 9:58:34 PM
Posted: 2 years ago
I think you raise good points. Our imagination can picture something that exists without requiring any physical representation. If no physical representation exists for something that exists in our mind, reality can't be purely physical.
Wocambs
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8/18/2014 9:58:54 PM
Posted: 2 years ago
At 8/17/2014 12:21:08 AM, Rational_Thinker9119 wrote:
I think I have a good argument against the notion that the conscious mind is just what the "brain does" as some people like to say.

P1: If consciousness is brain activity, then it is the case that a decrease in brain activity always entails a decrease of conscious awareness
P2: It is not the case that a decrease in brain activity always entails a decrease of conscious awareness
c: Therefore, consciousness is not brain activity

---

P1 is true by definition. If consciousness is brain activity, then whatever is true for consciousness is true for brain activity (as they are the exact same thing). Ergo, if brain activity decreases, then the corresponding consciousness should always decrease. Also, if brain activity increases, then consciousness and awareness should always increase.

P2 is based on scientific experiments which show that mind-expanding drugs like psilocybin actually decrease brain activity even though the subject experiences an expansion of conscious awareness (an increase in conscious awareness). Here is the link a paper explaining such an experiment done by neuropsychopharmacologist David Nutt and his team:

http://www.pnas.org...

Abstract of the paper:

"As predicted, profound changes in consciousness were observed after psilocybin, but surprisingly, only decreases in cerebral blood flow and BOLD signal were seen, and these were maximal in hub regions, such as the thalamus and anterior and posterior cingulate cortex (ACC and PCC). Decreased activity in the ACC/medial prefrontal cortex (mPFC) was a consistent finding and the magnitude of this decrease predicted the intensity of the subjective effects."

---

"This paper has shown that there is only a decrease in brain activity if you use psychedelics, yet, there is an enormous expansion of awareness. If awareness is brain activity, then how come they go in opposite directions?" - Bernardo Kastrup

There are other papers that lean in the same direction, but this one is the only one necessary to advance my argument.

---

So, P1 is true by definition if we grant that consciousness is identical with brain activity, and P2 is supported by scientific experiment; the conclusion logically follows.

What do you guys think?

Not if that certain brain activity actually is consciousness. If X is identical to Y, then what ever is true for X is true for Y (they are the same after all). Ergo, a decrease in the relevant brain activity could not be correlated with an increase in conscious awareness.
Because consciousness and brain activity causally influence each other. If I consciously will my arm to move; that is consciousness acting on the brain. If I bump my head and screw up my brain activity; that is the brain activity causing changes in consciousness.
Not necessarily, but I did use the wrong wording. I am not saying that the cortex produces consciousness. I am saying that if the brain produces consciousness, then it would be parts like the cortex (and others) that produce it based on what neuroscience tells us. In my view, there is a correlation and cause and effect relationship but no actual full production of consciousness from the brain
P1 is necessarily true, because of the Law of Identity. If X is Y, then whatever is true for X is true for Y because they are the same (Leibniz' Law as well). If a increase in brain activity entails less consciousness; then they cannot be the same. Remember, this argument is only for people who equate consciousness with brain activity.

Let me put all this absurdity to rest. You've done a fantastic job of making a straw man of what I have said to you.

Your imaginary physicalist's argument rests on the premise that 'consciousness is identical to brain activity'. As far as I'm aware, what I have said is that the brain performs the function of creating a consciousness via brain activity. Therefore no such 'increase/decrease' relationship is required. Furthermore, the idea of quantifying consciousness is dubious itself, as typically it is conceived of as a dichotomy, unconscious or conscious, and the quantity of information you are conscious of is an irrelevance.