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Psychedelic States A Problem For Physicalism?

Rational_Thinker9119
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7/7/2016 2:00:26 AM
Posted: 5 months ago
Certain experiences contain more information than others. For example, looking up at the night sky with multiple fireworks is going to ensure a more "richness" of experience than staring at a wall. Psychedelic experiences contain much more information than regular states of consciousness, and contain a much richer experience and broadening of awareness. Now, if Physicalism is true then mental states are either brain states or a process of brain states (Reductive Physicalism), or mental states supervene on the Physical (Non-Reductive Physicalism). Either way, an experience containing a higher informational content with an increase of awareness should correlate with an increase in the relevant brain activity. However, FMRI scans of the brain present a devastating blow to this worldview. We notice that when a patient is in a Psychedelic trance there are only reductions in neural activity and no increase in neural activity found anywhere in the brain (Carhart-Harris et all 2016, 5 and 6). Now, clearly not all aspects of the brain deal with consciousness, as there are many functions of the brain that only aid in unconscious activity. However, the scans show pure reductions in activity across the board.

In conclusion? Physicalist assumptions seem incompatible with scientific studies of the brain.
BlueDreams
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7/7/2016 4:21:32 AM
Posted: 5 months ago
You're hinging your argument on the long-disputed pharmacological question of whether or not psychedelics slow down or speed up brain function.
Rational_Thinker9119
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7/7/2016 4:27:24 AM
Posted: 5 months ago
At 7/7/2016 4:21:32 AM, BlueDreams wrote:
You're hinging your argument on the long-disputed pharmacological question of whether or not psychedelics slow down or speed up brain function.

It has nothing to do with the speed of the neural activity, but how much of it there is. So, your response is a misrepresentation.
BlueDreams
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7/7/2016 4:40:15 AM
Posted: 5 months ago
At 7/7/2016 4:27:24 AM, Rational_Thinker9119 wrote:
At 7/7/2016 4:21:32 AM, BlueDreams wrote:
You're hinging your argument on the long-disputed pharmacological question of whether or not psychedelics slow down or speed up brain function.

It has nothing to do with the speed of the neural activity, but how much of it there is. So, your response is a misrepresentation.

The slower your brain processes information, the less neural activity there will be, so I'm not.
BlueDreams
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7/7/2016 4:43:35 AM
Posted: 5 months ago
In any case, you mischaracterize what a physicalist has to believe in order to be a physicalist, which is a common pattern in your arguments. A physicalist doesn't have to believe that richer experiences necessarily require more neural activity. A physicalist could endorse Huxley's theory that psychedelics slow down/reduce activity in the brain resulting in less "filtering" of the external world by our brain, which leads to the intense experiences of psychedelia.
Rational_Thinker9119
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7/7/2016 3:38:16 PM
Posted: 5 months ago
At 7/7/2016 4:40:15 AM, BlueDreams wrote:
At 7/7/2016 4:27:24 AM, Rational_Thinker9119 wrote:
At 7/7/2016 4:21:32 AM, BlueDreams wrote:
You're hinging your argument on the long-disputed pharmacological question of whether or not psychedelics slow down or speed up brain function.

It has nothing to do with the speed of the neural activity, but how much of it there is. So, your response is a misrepresentation.

The slower your brain processes information, the less neural activity there will be, so I'm not.

I don't see why that follows, there could be a lot of neural activity but the activity is processing slowly.
Rational_Thinker9119
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7/7/2016 3:43:56 PM
Posted: 5 months ago
At 7/7/2016 4:43:35 AM, BlueDreams wrote:
In any case, you mischaracterize what a physicalist has to believe in order to be a physicalist, which is a common pattern in your arguments. A physicalist doesn't have to believe that richer experiences necessarily require more neural activity. A physicalist could endorse Huxley's theory that psychedelics slow down/reduce activity in the brain resulting in less "filtering" of the external world by our brain, which leads to the intense experiences of psychedelia.

But the more intense the experience means the more information rich that experience must be. So while the filtering part of the brain would reduce activity, the part of the brain responsible for producing rich experiences should still be more active. The problem with your response is that there is only a reduction in brain activity across the board; not merely in the parts of the brain responsible for filtering.
dylancatlow
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7/7/2016 6:16:50 PM
Posted: 5 months ago
There are plenty of explanations for this phenomenon which don't require us to abandon the notion that consciousness is more or less a function of what happens inside the brain. To begin with, the assumption that subjectively intense experiences require a lot of brain activity is just that -- an assumption. It's an intuitively plausible assumption, but it might not be true. It could be that a great deal of our brain activity is actually there to constrain our experience and render it comprehensible to us -- "filtering out" subconscious processes for example -- and when it goes our normally orderly experiences become weird and chaotic. It's common for people in psychedelic states to think they've attained a higher state of awareness and managed to grasp something profound about the universe, only later to realize that their "moment of brilliance" produced nothing of value. "William James describes a man who got the experience from laughing-gas; whenever he was under its influence, he knew the secret of the universe, but when he came to, he had forgotten it. At last, with immense effort, he wrote down the secret before the vision had faded. When completely recovered, he rushed to see what he had written. It was: "A smell of petroleum prevails throughout." Second, it's possible that the seat of consciousness occupies a relatively small area in the brain, such that a decline in brain activity would not necessarily affect the areas of the brain responsible for consciousness. Or maybe the sheer amount of brain activity is less relevant than the patterns in which neurons fire.
ShabShoral
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7/7/2016 6:22:33 PM
Posted: 5 months ago
At 7/7/2016 2:00:26 AM, Rational_Thinker9119 wrote:
Certain experiences contain more information than others. For example, looking up at the night sky with multiple fireworks is going to ensure a more "richness" of experience than staring at a wall. Psychedelic experiences contain much more information than regular states of consciousness, and contain a much richer experience and broadening of awareness. Now, if Physicalism is true then mental states are either brain states or a process of brain states (Reductive Physicalism), or mental states supervene on the Physical (Non-Reductive Physicalism). Either way, an experience containing a higher informational content with an increase of awareness should correlate with an increase in the relevant brain activity. However, FMRI scans of the brain present a devastating blow to this worldview. We notice that when a patient is in a Psychedelic trance there are only reductions in neural activity and no increase in neural activity found anywhere in the brain (Carhart-Harris et all 2016, 5 and 6). Now, clearly not all aspects of the brain deal with consciousness, as there are many functions of the brain that only aid in unconscious activity. However, the scans show pure reductions in activity across the board.

In conclusion? Physicalist assumptions seem incompatible with scientific studies of the brain.

To you, the existence of matter would be a problem for physicalism...

Seriously though, this isn't a problem with physicalism in any conceivable sense - just potentially for one variety.
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Rational_Thinker9119
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7/7/2016 6:33:28 PM
Posted: 5 months ago
At 7/7/2016 6:16:50 PM, dylancatlow wrote:
There are plenty of explanations for this phenomenon which don't require us to abandon the notion that consciousness is more or less a function of what happens inside the brain. To begin with, the assumption that subjectively intense experiences require a lot of brain activity is just that -- an assumption. It's an intuitively plausible assumption, but it might not be true.

But the more intense the experience, the more information rich the experience. This entails much more information processing which can only be associated with more brain activity.

It could be that a great deal of our brain activity is actually there to constrain our experience and render it comprehensible to us -- "filtering out" subconscious processes for example -- and when it goes our normally orderly experiences become weird and chaotic.

I already responded to this objection. The aspect of the brain that filters things out isn't the same aspect of the brain correlating with enriched conscious experience. Basically, a reduction in neural inhabition would still lead to an increase NCCs that such a reduction stops inhibiting.

It's common for people in psychedelic states to think they've attained a higher state of awareness and managed to grasp something profound about the universe, only later to realize that their "moment of brilliance" produced nothing of value.

The truth value of the experience is irrelevant.

. "William James describes a man who got the experience from laughing-gas; whenever he was under its influence, he knew the secret of the universe, but when he came to, he had forgotten it. At last, with immense effort, he wrote down the secret before the vision had faded. When completely recovered, he rushed to see what he had written. It was: "A smell of petroleum prevails throughout."

Again, the truth value of the experience is irrelevant to how enriched and powerful the experience is.

Second, it's possible that the seat of consciousness occupies a relatively small area in the brain, such that a decline in brain activity would not necessarily affect the areas of the brain responsible for consciousness.

But neuroscientists know many of the neural correlates of consciousness, it's not that small. There should still be an increase in the NCCs. The studies I mentioned show a reduction in brain activity across the board. So ALL brain activity in the FMRI reduces.

Or maybe the sheer amount of brain activity is less relevant than the patterns in which neurons fire.

This response might hold some weight, but even still, it's still hard to see how a reduction in all brain activity scanned in the FMRI would lead to more intense experiences. At the very least, this seems to pose a problem for Physicalism. There doesn't seem to be any evidence of any major pattern change in neural firing.
ShabShoral
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7/7/2016 6:37:39 PM
Posted: 5 months ago
At 7/7/2016 6:20:19 PM, dylancatlow wrote:
I might have even used the same Russell quote 0.0

AND YOU BUTCHERED IT THEN, TOO, YOU IDIOT.

This is perhaps my favourite quote of all time.

And. You. Defaced. It.

The NON-RETARDED VERSION:

"I once inhaled a pretty full dose of ether, with the determination to put on record, at the earliest moment of regaining consciousness, the thought I should find uppermost in my mind. The mighty music of the triumphal march into nothingness reverberated through my brain, and filled me with a sense of infinite possibilities, which made me an archangel for the moment. The veil of eternity was lifted. The one great truth which underlies all human experience, and is the key to all the mysteries that philosophy has sought in vain to solve, flashed upon me in a sudden revelation. Henceforth all was clear: a few words had lifted my intelligence to the level of the knowledge of the cherubim. As my natural condition returned, I remembered my resolution; and, staggering to my desk, I wrote, in ill-shaped, straggling characters, the all-embracing truth still glimmering in my consciousness. The words were these (children may smile; the wise will ponder): "A strong smell of turpentine prevails throughout.""
"This site is trash as a debate site. It's club penguin for dysfunctional adults."

~ Skepsikyma <3

"Your idea of good writing is like Spinoza mixed with Heidegger."

~ Dylly Dylly Cat Cat

"You seem to aspire to be a cross between a Jewish hipster, an old school WASP aristocrat, and a political iconoclast"

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"fvck omg ur face"

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Rational_Thinker9119
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7/7/2016 7:19:10 PM
Posted: 5 months ago
At 7/7/2016 6:22:33 PM, ShabShoral wrote:
At 7/7/2016 2:00:26 AM, Rational_Thinker9119 wrote:
Certain experiences contain more information than others. For example, looking up at the night sky with multiple fireworks is going to ensure a more "richness" of experience than staring at a wall. Psychedelic experiences contain much more information than regular states of consciousness, and contain a much richer experience and broadening of awareness. Now, if Physicalism is true then mental states are either brain states or a process of brain states (Reductive Physicalism), or mental states supervene on the Physical (Non-Reductive Physicalism). Either way, an experience containing a higher informational content with an increase of awareness should correlate with an increase in the relevant brain activity. However, FMRI scans of the brain present a devastating blow to this worldview. We notice that when a patient is in a Psychedelic trance there are only reductions in neural activity and no increase in neural activity found anywhere in the brain (Carhart-Harris et all 2016, 5 and 6). Now, clearly not all aspects of the brain deal with consciousness, as there are many functions of the brain that only aid in unconscious activity. However, the scans show pure reductions in activity across the board.

In conclusion? Physicalist assumptions seem incompatible with scientific studies of the brain.

To you, the existence of matter would be a problem for physicalism...

Seriously though, this isn't a problem with physicalism in any conceivable sense - just potentially for one variety.

It's a problem for any form of physicialism I can conceive of.
ShabShoral
Posts: 3,234
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7/7/2016 7:22:02 PM
Posted: 5 months ago
At 7/7/2016 7:19:10 PM, Rational_Thinker9119 wrote:
At 7/7/2016 6:22:33 PM, ShabShoral wrote:
At 7/7/2016 2:00:26 AM, Rational_Thinker9119 wrote:
Certain experiences contain more information than others. For example, looking up at the night sky with multiple fireworks is going to ensure a more "richness" of experience than staring at a wall. Psychedelic experiences contain much more information than regular states of consciousness, and contain a much richer experience and broadening of awareness. Now, if Physicalism is true then mental states are either brain states or a process of brain states (Reductive Physicalism), or mental states supervene on the Physical (Non-Reductive Physicalism). Either way, an experience containing a higher informational content with an increase of awareness should correlate with an increase in the relevant brain activity. However, FMRI scans of the brain present a devastating blow to this worldview. We notice that when a patient is in a Psychedelic trance there are only reductions in neural activity and no increase in neural activity found anywhere in the brain (Carhart-Harris et all 2016, 5 and 6). Now, clearly not all aspects of the brain deal with consciousness, as there are many functions of the brain that only aid in unconscious activity. However, the scans show pure reductions in activity across the board.

In conclusion? Physicalist assumptions seem incompatible with scientific studies of the brain.

To you, the existence of matter would be a problem for physicalism...

Seriously though, this isn't a problem with physicalism in any conceivable sense - just potentially for one variety.

It's a problem for any form of physicialism I can conceive of.

Not one that doesn't say that brain activity and information are positively correlated.
"This site is trash as a debate site. It's club penguin for dysfunctional adults."

~ Skepsikyma <3

"Your idea of good writing is like Spinoza mixed with Heidegger."

~ Dylly Dylly Cat Cat

"You seem to aspire to be a cross between a Jewish hipster, an old school WASP aristocrat, and a political iconoclast"

~ Thett the Mighty

"fvck omg ur face"

~ Liz
Rational_Thinker9119
Posts: 9,054
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7/7/2016 7:30:54 PM
Posted: 5 months ago
At 7/7/2016 7:22:02 PM, ShabShoral wrote:
At 7/7/2016 7:19:10 PM, Rational_Thinker9119 wrote:
At 7/7/2016 6:22:33 PM, ShabShoral wrote:
At 7/7/2016 2:00:26 AM, Rational_Thinker9119 wrote:
Certain experiences contain more information than others. For example, looking up at the night sky with multiple fireworks is going to ensure a more "richness" of experience than staring at a wall. Psychedelic experiences contain much more information than regular states of consciousness, and contain a much richer experience and broadening of awareness. Now, if Physicalism is true then mental states are either brain states or a process of brain states (Reductive Physicalism), or mental states supervene on the Physical (Non-Reductive Physicalism). Either way, an experience containing a higher informational content with an increase of awareness should correlate with an increase in the relevant brain activity. However, FMRI scans of the brain present a devastating blow to this worldview. We notice that when a patient is in a Psychedelic trance there are only reductions in neural activity and no increase in neural activity found anywhere in the brain (Carhart-Harris et all 2016, 5 and 6). Now, clearly not all aspects of the brain deal with consciousness, as there are many functions of the brain that only aid in unconscious activity. However, the scans show pure reductions in activity across the board.

In conclusion? Physicalist assumptions seem incompatible with scientific studies of the brain.

To you, the existence of matter would be a problem for physicalism...

Seriously though, this isn't a problem with physicalism in any conceivable sense - just potentially for one variety.

It's a problem for any form of physicialism I can conceive of.

Not one that doesn't say that brain activity and information are positively correlated.

All physicalists say consciousness is dependent on brain activity, scientists even know of neural correlates of consciousness.
ShabShoral
Posts: 3,234
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7/7/2016 7:46:35 PM
Posted: 5 months ago
At 7/7/2016 7:30:54 PM, Rational_Thinker9119 wrote:
At 7/7/2016 7:22:02 PM, ShabShoral wrote:
At 7/7/2016 7:19:10 PM, Rational_Thinker9119 wrote:
At 7/7/2016 6:22:33 PM, ShabShoral wrote:
At 7/7/2016 2:00:26 AM, Rational_Thinker9119 wrote:
Certain experiences contain more information than others. For example, looking up at the night sky with multiple fireworks is going to ensure a more "richness" of experience than staring at a wall. Psychedelic experiences contain much more information than regular states of consciousness, and contain a much richer experience and broadening of awareness. Now, if Physicalism is true then mental states are either brain states or a process of brain states (Reductive Physicalism), or mental states supervene on the Physical (Non-Reductive Physicalism). Either way, an experience containing a higher informational content with an increase of awareness should correlate with an increase in the relevant brain activity. However, FMRI scans of the brain present a devastating blow to this worldview. We notice that when a patient is in a Psychedelic trance there are only reductions in neural activity and no increase in neural activity found anywhere in the brain (Carhart-Harris et all 2016, 5 and 6). Now, clearly not all aspects of the brain deal with consciousness, as there are many functions of the brain that only aid in unconscious activity. However, the scans show pure reductions in activity across the board.

In conclusion? Physicalist assumptions seem incompatible with scientific studies of the brain.

To you, the existence of matter would be a problem for physicalism...

Seriously though, this isn't a problem with physicalism in any conceivable sense - just potentially for one variety.

It's a problem for any form of physicialism I can conceive of.

Not one that doesn't say that brain activity and information are positively correlated.

All physicalists say consciousness is dependent on brain activity, scientists even know of neural correlates of consciousness.

I don't.
"This site is trash as a debate site. It's club penguin for dysfunctional adults."

~ Skepsikyma <3

"Your idea of good writing is like Spinoza mixed with Heidegger."

~ Dylly Dylly Cat Cat

"You seem to aspire to be a cross between a Jewish hipster, an old school WASP aristocrat, and a political iconoclast"

~ Thett the Mighty

"fvck omg ur face"

~ Liz
Fkkize
Posts: 2,149
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7/7/2016 8:14:53 PM
Posted: 5 months ago
At 7/7/2016 7:30:54 PM, Rational_Thinker9119 wrote:
All physicalists say consciousness is dependent on brain activity, scientists even know of neural correlates of consciousness.

M8 I think you're stuck in the 60s
: At 7/2/2016 3:05:07 PM, Rational_Thinker9119 wrote:
:
: space contradicts logic
Rational_Thinker9119
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7/7/2016 8:36:48 PM
Posted: 5 months ago
At 7/7/2016 8:14:53 PM, Fkkize wrote:
At 7/7/2016 7:30:54 PM, Rational_Thinker9119 wrote:
All physicalists say consciousness is dependent on brain activity, scientists even know of neural correlates of consciousness.

M8 I think you're stuck in the 60s

How so?
BlueDreams
Posts: 199
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7/7/2016 11:45:01 PM
Posted: 5 months ago
At 7/7/2016 3:38:16 PM, Rational_Thinker9119 wrote:
At 7/7/2016 4:40:15 AM, BlueDreams wrote:
At 7/7/2016 4:27:24 AM, Rational_Thinker9119 wrote:
At 7/7/2016 4:21:32 AM, BlueDreams wrote:
You're hinging your argument on the long-disputed pharmacological question of whether or not psychedelics slow down or speed up brain function.

It has nothing to do with the speed of the neural activity, but how much of it there is. So, your response is a misrepresentation.

The slower your brain processes information, the less neural activity there will be, so I'm not.

I don't see why that follows, there could be a lot of neural activity but the activity is processing slowly.

Consjder an experiment on two subjects, with one subject faster at processing neural information that the other subject. Let's just say that subject A can process the standard muscle reflex in five seconds whereas subject B can process the standard muscle reflex in seven seconds. If you run the experiment for five seconds, subject A's faster processing speed entails that he had more neural activity because his neural activity included all of the muscle reflex response whereas subject B was only partially through the neural activity of muscle reflexes. Thus, faster processing of information leads to more brain activity
BlueDreams
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7/7/2016 11:52:52 PM
Posted: 5 months ago
At 7/7/2016 3:43:56 PM, Rational_Thinker9119 wrote:
At 7/7/2016 4:43:35 AM, BlueDreams wrote:
In any case, you mischaracterize what a physicalist has to believe in order to be a physicalist, which is a common pattern in your arguments. A physicalist doesn't have to believe that richer experiences necessarily require more neural activity. A physicalist could endorse Huxley's theory that psychedelics slow down/reduce activity in the brain resulting in less "filtering" of the external world by our brain, which leads to the intense experiences of psychedelia.


But the more intense the experience means the more information rich that experience must be.

You're just repeating the very thing you're trying to prove. And I can easily see how non-mundane, unfiltered experiences would become "rich" due to our lack of experience with them. It's completely possible that psychedelic experiences are not information rich and are only perceived that way due to the novelty of the unfiltered world.

So while the filtering part of the brain would reduce activity, the part of the brain responsible for producing rich experiences should still be more active

Not necessarily. The idea is that the lack of filtering creates the intense experience, not a different part of the brain responsible for producing rich experiences. So there is no need for any part of the brain to be more active on this hypothesis.

The problem with your response is that there is only a reduction in brain activity across the board; not merely in the parts of the brain responsible for filtering.

Irrelevant. As long as there is a reduction in the parts of the brain responsible for filtering information, then the explanation is consistent with the experiment you mentioned. I should mention that this is a disputed point in pharmacology, so your argument cannot establish a contradiction between physicalism and science.
Rational_Thinker9119
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7/8/2016 12:24:18 AM
Posted: 5 months ago
At 7/7/2016 11:52:52 PM, BlueDreams wrote:
At 7/7/2016 3:43:56 PM, Rational_Thinker9119 wrote:
At 7/7/2016 4:43:35 AM, BlueDreams wrote:
In any case, you mischaracterize what a physicalist has to believe in order to be a physicalist, which is a common pattern in your arguments. A physicalist doesn't have to believe that richer experiences necessarily require more neural activity. A physicalist could endorse Huxley's theory that psychedelics slow down/reduce activity in the brain resulting in less "filtering" of the external world by our brain, which leads to the intense experiences of psychedelia.


But the more intense the experience means the more information rich that experience must be.

You're just repeating the very thing you're trying to prove. And I can easily see how non-mundane, unfiltered experiences would become "rich" due to our lack of experience with them.

There is an increase in experience not a lack of one.

It's completely possible that psychedelic experiences are not information rich and are only perceived that way due to the novelty of the unfiltered world.

Anybody who has ever had one can tell you they are information rich and entails and expansion of awareness, the part of the brain that filters out external information isn't the same part of the brain which correlates to conscious experiences.



So while the filtering part of the brain would reduce activity, the part of the brain responsible for producing rich experiences should still be more active

Not necessarily. The idea is that the lack of filtering creates the intense experience, not a different part of the brain responsible for producing rich experiences. So there is no need for any part of the brain to be more active on this hypothesis.

But that hypothesis cannot be true, because a lack of external information isn't sufficient for the experiences had in a psychedelic trance.


The problem with your response is that there is only a reduction in brain activity across the board; not merely in the parts of the brain responsible for filtering.

Irrelevant. As long as there is a reduction in the parts of the brain responsible for filtering information, then the explanation is consistent with the experiment you mentioned.

A lack of external information doesn't equate to an overload in internal information. There is no sufficiency there.

I should mention that this is a disputed point in pharmacology, so your argument cannot establish a contradiction between physicalism and science.

Reductive Physicalism says conscious states are particular brain states. Therefore, whatever is true for the conscious states must be true for the particular brain states in question (as they are the same). So a more intense conscious experience needs to equate to more intense brain activity. Non-Reductive Physicalists believe that consciousness supervene on these brain states, so if there are less intense brain activity then there needs to be less intense conscious experience.
Axon85
Posts: 137
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7/10/2016 11:29:52 PM
Posted: 4 months ago
At 7/7/2016 2:00:26 AM, Rational_Thinker9119 wrote:
Certain experiences contain more information than others. For example, looking up at the night sky with multiple fireworks is going to ensure a more "richness" of experience than staring at a wall. Psychedelic experiences contain much more information than regular states of consciousness, and contain a much richer experience and broadening of awareness. Now, if Physicalism is true then mental states are either brain states or a process of brain states (Reductive Physicalism), or mental states supervene on the Physical (Non-Reductive Physicalism). Either way, an experience containing a higher informational content with an increase of awareness should correlate with an increase in the relevant brain activity. However, FMRI scans of the brain present a devastating blow to this worldview. We notice that when a patient is in a Psychedelic trance there are only reductions in neural activity and no increase in neural activity found anywhere in the brain (Carhart-Harris et all 2016, 5 and 6). Now, clearly not all aspects of the brain deal with consciousness, as there are many functions of the brain that only aid in unconscious activity. However, the scans show pure reductions in activity across the board.

In conclusion? Physicalist assumptions seem incompatible with scientific studies of the brain.

It's an interesting article, to be sure.

A few observations in response to your post.

1. You seem to be going from "richness" of experience, a qualitative measure, to amount of information, a quantitative measure. I'm not sure if transitioning from one measure to the other is as clear cut and intuitive as you make it out to be. For example, let's say we take a person and bombard each sensory modality with very high levels of stimulation. Let's say another person is asked to peacefully meditate in a sensory deprivation tank. The person in the 1st scenario may be experiencing greater amounts of information but that information would not necessarily translate into richness of experience. The opposite may be true of the second person. So again, I would challenge the assumption of a linear relationship between richness of experience and amount of information. In some cases the two may correlate (such as your example of fireworks) but in other cases "richness of experience" may be characterized by the novelty or emotional salience of the information, as opposed to mere quantity.

2. Your post seems to also assume a linear relationship between amount of brain activity and quality of experience. We should be careful with such assumptions. Imagine observing two brains side by side, one shows moderate levels of activity while the other is lit up like a Christmas tree. We might jump to the conclusion the more active brain is producing a richer experience and greater level of awareness until we realize that this is a brain in the throes of a grand mal seizure. Secondly, some of the working memory literature has found that people with greater memory capacity actually exhibit less activity than people with lower capacity. This may seem counterintuitive, but the idea is that people who are dealing with cognitive decline due to aging or other factors need to recruit more parts of the cortex to perform at the same level as healthy people. So again, we need to keep in mind that when talking about brain activity inhibitory networks are just as important as excitatory networks, not all brain activity is good activity and more is not always better. As it relates to the psychedelic experience, one commonly reported phenomenon is the disillusion of the self and the feeling of "oneness" with reality. The available evidence suggests that this experience is related to a decrease in activity in the parietal lobe and other regions responsible for constructing boundaries separating the self from the environment. So again, an example where attenuation, not excitation, of activity correlates with "richness of experience".

3. When we are talking about the amount of activity in the context of fMRI, we are usually talking about univariate analyses. For example, if I wanted to localize the FFA (a face selective region in the temporal lobe), I would show people pictures of faces while recording brain activity. Next, I would locate the brain areas that show greater activity (voxels whose activation exceeds some statistical threshold) in response to faces compared to baseline or other non-face images (tools, houses, etc.,). Thus, the voxels that consistently show greater activation to faces will be deemed "face-selective". Traditionally, fMRI research has relied on such univariate analyses. However, just because some brain region does not show increased activity above a statistical threshold, does that mean it is irrelevant? Over the last decade or so, the field has been switching to multivariate analyses that examine the aggregate pattern of activity across a brain region. What you find is that patterns of activity often contain important information (that can be decoded) even if individual voxels show sub-threshold levels of activation. Thus, the quality of experience may have more to do with the pattern of brain activity as opposed to activation strength. Thus, it is wholly conceivable that changes in patterns along with deactivation of certain brain regions can account for the "richness of experience" caused by psychedelics.

4. In conclusion, I really don't see how this poses a problem for physicalism. The very fact that tampering with the neurochemical state of the brain (via ingestion of psychedelics) can create such profound changes in conscious experience would seem to lend support for physicalism, if nothing else.
Rational_Thinker9119
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7/11/2016 12:35:12 AM
Posted: 4 months ago
At 7/10/2016 11:29:52 PM, Axon85 wrote:
At 7/7/2016 2:00:26 AM, Rational_Thinker9119 wrote:
Certain experiences contain more information than others. For example, looking up at the night sky with multiple fireworks is going to ensure a more "richness" of experience than staring at a wall. Psychedelic experiences contain much more information than regular states of consciousness, and contain a much richer experience and broadening of awareness. Now, if Physicalism is true then mental states are either brain states or a process of brain states (Reductive Physicalism), or mental states supervene on the Physical (Non-Reductive Physicalism). Either way, an experience containing a higher informational content with an increase of awareness should correlate with an increase in the relevant brain activity. However, FMRI scans of the brain present a devastating blow to this worldview. We notice that when a patient is in a Psychedelic trance there are only reductions in neural activity and no increase in neural activity found anywhere in the brain (Carhart-Harris et all 2016, 5 and 6). Now, clearly not all aspects of the brain deal with consciousness, as there are many functions of the brain that only aid in unconscious activity. However, the scans show pure reductions in activity across the board.

In conclusion? Physicalist assumptions seem incompatible with scientific studies of the brain.

It's an interesting article, to be sure.

A few observations in response to your post.

1. You seem to be going from "richness" of experience, a qualitative measure, to amount of information, a quantitative measure. I'm not sure if transitioning from one measure to the other is as clear cut and intuitive as you make it out to be. For example, let's say we take a person and bombard each sensory modality with very high levels of stimulation. Let's say another person is asked to peacefully meditate in a sensory deprivation tank. The person in the 1st scenario may be experiencing greater amounts of information but that information would not necessarily translate into richness of experience. The opposite may be true of the second person. So again, I would challenge the assumption of a linear relationship between richness of experience and amount of information. In some cases the two may correlate (such as your example of fireworks) but in other cases "richness of experience" may be characterized by the novelty or emotional salience of the information, as opposed to mere quantity.

They do correlate in the case of a Psychadelic trance. Fireworks are nothing compared to that.


2. Your post seems to also assume a linear relationship between amount of brain activity and quality of experience. We should be careful with such assumptions. Imagine observing two brains side by side, one shows moderate levels of activity while the other is lit up like a Christmas tree. We might jump to the conclusion the more active brain is producing a richer experience and greater level of awareness until we realize that this is a brain in the throes of a grand mal seizure.

I'm sure the experimenters made sure the patient wasn't having a seizure.

Secondly, some of the working memory literature has found that people with greater memory capacity actually exhibit less activity than people with lower capacity. This may seem counterintuitive, but the idea is that people who are dealing with cognitive decline due to aging or other factors need to recruit more parts of the cortex to perform at the same level as healthy people. So again, we need to keep in mind that when talking about brain activity inhibitory networks are just as important as excitatory networks, not all brain activity is good activity and more is not always better.

The point still remains that all activity scanned is significantly reduced even though there is an expansion of awareness and a more intense experience. If consciousness equates to brain states (or supervene on them) then it makes no sense why a richer more information filled experience would correlate with no increase in brain activity anywhere.

As it relates to the psychedelic experience, one commonly reported phenomenon is the disillusion of the self and the feeling of "oneness" with reality. The available evidence suggests that this experience is related to a decrease in activity in the parietal lobe and other regions responsible for constructing boundaries separating the self from the environment.

But it's a more powerful experience, so while the parts of the brain "filtering" reality being reduced should be expected, what is surprising under Physicalism is the fact that there is no increase of brain activity anywhere.

So again, an example where attenuation, not excitation, of activity correlates with "richness of experience".

3. When we are talking about the amount of activity in the context of fMRI, we are usually talking about univariate analyses. For example, if I wanted to localize the FFA (a face selective region in the temporal lobe), I would show people pictures of faces while recording brain activity. Next, I would locate the brain areas that show greater activity (voxels whose activation exceeds some statistical threshold) in response to faces compared to baseline or other non-face images (tools, houses, etc.,). Thus, the voxels that consistently show greater activation to faces will be deemed "face-selective". Traditionally, fMRI research has relied on such univariate analyses. However, just because some brain region does not show increased activity above a statistical threshold, does that mean it is irrelevant? Over the last decade or so, the field has been switching to multivariate analyses that examine the aggregate pattern of activity across a brain region. What you find is that patterns of activity often contain important information (that can be decoded) even if individual voxels show sub-threshold levels of activation. Thus, the quality of experience may have more to do with the pattern of brain activity as opposed to activation strength. Thus, it is wholly conceivable that changes in patterns along with deactivation of certain brain regions can account for the "richness of experience" caused by psychedelics.

But patterns arrive out of activity; they are patterns of activity. Also the argument I bring forward deals with the amount of information of the brain activity (which correlates with the information of the experience). The experiments in question show less information across the board on the scans, while the information in the experience increases.


4. In conclusion, I really don't see how this poses a problem for physicalism. The very fact that tampering with the neurochemical state of the brain (via ingestion of psychedelics) can create such profound changes in conscious experience would seem to lend support for physicalism, if nothing else.

This seems to be based on the fallacy of correlation equating to causation. There is a correlation between altered brain states and altered consciousness but that doesn't mean that the altered brain state caused the altered consciousness state. In my view, the specific brain states are just what first person experience looks like from a second-person perspective. The brain is an image of a process in mind, just like a flame is the image of combustion. We wouldn't say the a flame causes combustion just because there are correlations, in the same sense it would be wrong to say brain states cause consiousness.
Axon85
Posts: 137
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7/11/2016 2:48:07 AM
Posted: 4 months ago
At 7/11/2016 12:35:12 AM, Rational_Thinker9119 wrote:
At 7/10/2016 11:29:52 PM, Axon85 wrote:
At 7/7/2016 2:00:26 AM, Rational_Thinker9119 wrote:
Certain experiences contain more information than others. For example, looking up at the night sky with multiple fireworks is going to ensure a more "richness" of experience than staring at a wall. Psychedelic experiences contain much more information than regular states of consciousness, and contain a much richer experience and broadening of awareness. Now, if Physicalism is true then mental states are either brain states or a process of brain states (Reductive Physicalism), or mental states supervene on the Physical (Non-Reductive Physicalism). Either way, an experience containing a higher informational content with an increase of awareness should correlate with an increase in the relevant brain activity. However, FMRI scans of the brain present a devastating blow to this worldview. We notice that when a patient is in a Psychedelic trance there are only reductions in neural activity and no increase in neural activity found anywhere in the brain (Carhart-Harris et all 2016, 5 and 6). Now, clearly not all aspects of the brain deal with consciousness, as there are many functions of the brain that only aid in unconscious activity. However, the scans show pure reductions in activity across the board.

In conclusion? Physicalist assumptions seem incompatible with scientific studies of the brain.

It's an interesting article, to be sure.

A few observations in response to your post.

1. You seem to be going from "richness" of experience, a qualitative measure, to amount of information, a quantitative measure. I'm not sure if transitioning from one measure to the other is as clear cut and intuitive as you make it out to be. For example, let's say we take a person and bombard each sensory modality with very high levels of stimulation. Let's say another person is asked to peacefully meditate in a sensory deprivation tank. The person in the 1st scenario may be experiencing greater amounts of information but that information would not necessarily translate into richness of experience. The opposite may be true of the second person. So again, I would challenge the assumption of a linear relationship between richness of experience and amount of information. In some cases the two may correlate (such as your example of fireworks) but in other cases "richness of experience" may be characterized by the novelty or emotional salience of the information, as opposed to mere quantity.

They do correlate in the case of a Psychadelic trance. Fireworks are nothing compared to that.


2. Your post seems to also assume a linear relationship between amount of brain activity and quality of experience. We should be careful with such assumptions. Imagine observing two brains side by side, one shows moderate levels of activity while the other is lit up like a Christmas tree. We might jump to the conclusion the more active brain is producing a richer experience and greater level of awareness until we realize that this is a brain in the throes of a grand mal seizure.

I'm sure the experimenters made sure the patient wasn't having a seizure.

Of course they did! I don't think my post implied that the control subjects showed greater activity due to synchronous seizures. I am making the point that simply measuring the amount of brain activity does give very much insight into the quality, intensity or richness of one's conscious experience.

Secondly, some of the working memory literature has found that people with greater memory capacity actually exhibit less activity than people with lower capacity. This may seem counterintuitive, but the idea is that people who are dealing with cognitive decline due to aging or other factors need to recruit more parts of the cortex to perform at the same level as healthy people. So again, we need to keep in mind that when talking about brain activity inhibitory networks are just as important as excitatory networks, not all brain activity is good activity and more is not always better.

The point still remains that all activity scanned is significantly reduced even though there is an expansion of awareness and a more intense experience. If consciousness equates to brain states (or supervene on them) then it makes no sense why a richer more information filled experience would correlate with no increase in brain activity anywhere.


As it relates to the psychedelic experience, one commonly reported phenomenon is the disillusion of the self and the feeling of "oneness" with reality. The available evidence suggests that this experience is related to a decrease in activity in the parietal lobe and other regions responsible for constructing boundaries separating the self from the environment.

But it's a more powerful experience, so while the parts of the brain "filtering" reality being reduced should be expected, what is surprising under Physicalism is the fact that there is no increase of brain activity anywhere.

Again, your argument boils down to the assumption of a direct, linear relationship between the quality of one's conscious experience and the amount of corresponding neural activity as measured by a univariate analysis of the fMRI BOLD signal (which I should add is a fairly crude measure of neural activity). I am not aware of any law in neuroscience that necessitates such a relationship. A change in the "richness" of experience can, in theory, be caused by a change in pattern of activity without any global increase. Furthermore, it may be precisely the attenuation of certain brain regions, and not excitation, that causes the numinous experiences had under psychotropics. We should not impose commonsense, folk-psychology notions onto something as complicated as the workings of the brain. Finally, to jump to such broad metaphysical conclusions and claim that the dagger has been plunged into the heart of physicalism on the basis of a single study with puzzling results, is premature to say the least. If physicalism has a silver-bullet this isn't it.
Rational_Thinker9119
Posts: 9,054
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7/11/2016 5:07:03 AM
Posted: 4 months ago
At 7/11/2016 2:48:07 AM, Axon85 wrote:
At 7/11/2016 12:35:12 AM, Rational_Thinker9119 wrote:
At 7/10/2016 11:29:52 PM, Axon85 wrote:
At 7/7/2016 2:00:26 AM, Rational_Thinker9119 wrote:
Certain experiences contain more information than others. For example, looking up at the night sky with multiple fireworks is going to ensure a more "richness" of experience than staring at a wall. Psychedelic experiences contain much more information than regular states of consciousness, and contain a much richer experience and broadening of awareness. Now, if Physicalism is true then mental states are either brain states or a process of brain states (Reductive Physicalism), or mental states supervene on the Physical (Non-Reductive Physicalism). Either way, an experience containing a higher informational content with an increase of awareness should correlate with an increase in the relevant brain activity. However, FMRI scans of the brain present a devastating blow to this worldview. We notice that when a patient is in a Psychedelic trance there are only reductions in neural activity and no increase in neural activity found anywhere in the brain (Carhart-Harris et all 2016, 5 and 6). Now, clearly not all aspects of the brain deal with consciousness, as there are many functions of the brain that only aid in unconscious activity. However, the scans show pure reductions in activity across the board.

In conclusion? Physicalist assumptions seem incompatible with scientific studies of the brain.

It's an interesting article, to be sure.

A few observations in response to your post.

1. You seem to be going from "richness" of experience, a qualitative measure, to amount of information, a quantitative measure. I'm not sure if transitioning from one measure to the other is as clear cut and intuitive as you make it out to be. For example, let's say we take a person and bombard each sensory modality with very high levels of stimulation. Let's say another person is asked to peacefully meditate in a sensory deprivation tank. The person in the 1st scenario may be experiencing greater amounts of information but that information would not necessarily translate into richness of experience. The opposite may be true of the second person. So again, I would challenge the assumption of a linear relationship between richness of experience and amount of information. In some cases the two may correlate (such as your example of fireworks) but in other cases "richness of experience" may be characterized by the novelty or emotional salience of the information, as opposed to mere quantity.

They do correlate in the case of a Psychadelic trance. Fireworks are nothing compared to that.


2. Your post seems to also assume a linear relationship between amount of brain activity and quality of experience. We should be careful with such assumptions. Imagine observing two brains side by side, one shows moderate levels of activity while the other is lit up like a Christmas tree. We might jump to the conclusion the more active brain is producing a richer experience and greater level of awareness until we realize that this is a brain in the throes of a grand mal seizure.

I'm sure the experimenters made sure the patient wasn't having a seizure.

Of course they did! I don't think my post implied that the control subjects showed greater activity due to synchronous seizures. I am making the point that simply measuring the amount of brain activity does give very much insight into the quality, intensity or richness of one's conscious experience.

Secondly, some of the working memory literature has found that people with greater memory capacity actually exhibit less activity than people with lower capacity. This may seem counterintuitive, but the idea is that people who are dealing with cognitive decline due to aging or other factors need to recruit more parts of the cortex to perform at the same level as healthy people. So again, we need to keep in mind that when talking about brain activity inhibitory networks are just as important as excitatory networks, not all brain activity is good activity and more is not always better.

The point still remains that all activity scanned is significantly reduced even though there is an expansion of awareness and a more intense experience. If consciousness equates to brain states (or supervene on them) then it makes no sense why a richer more information filled experience would correlate with no increase in brain activity anywhere.


As it relates to the psychedelic experience, one commonly reported phenomenon is the disillusion of the self and the feeling of "oneness" with reality. The available evidence suggests that this experience is related to a decrease in activity in the parietal lobe and other regions responsible for constructing boundaries separating the self from the environment.

But it's a more powerful experience, so while the parts of the brain "filtering" reality being reduced should be expected, what is surprising under Physicalism is the fact that there is no increase of brain activity anywhere.

Again, your argument boils down to the assumption of a direct, linear relationship between the quality of one's conscious experience and the amount of corresponding neural activity as measured by a univariate analysis of the fMRI BOLD signal (which I should add is a fairly crude measure of neural activity). I am not aware of any law in neuroscience that necessitates such a relationship. A change in the "richness" of experience can, in theory, be caused by a change in pattern of activity without any global increase. Furthermore, it may be precisely the attenuation of certain brain regions, and not excitation, that causes the numinous experiences had under psychotropics. We should not impose commonsense, folk-psychology notions onto something as complicated as the workings of the brain. Finally, to jump to such broad metaphysical conclusions and claim that the dagger has been plunged into the heart of physicalism on the basis of a single study with puzzling results, is premature to say the least. If physicalism has a silver-bullet this isn't it.

These possibilities you mention seem to have been addresseed in this paper:

http://www.cognethic.org...

It is actually pretty short and worth a read, the author does a better job than me at explaining the concept.

Now, if you read my OP, I used be word SEEMS. I didn't say any dagger was plunged into the heart of Physicalism. In fact, even the author of the paper admits there are possible "outs" as well. However, at the present time the findings seem more compatible with the Buddhist notion that your conscousness becomes more one with nature due to less activity in the brain; monks who meditate can attest to this. Even if it is compatible with Physicalism, any explanation would seem to be ad hoc at best.
Axon85
Posts: 137
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7/11/2016 7:06:37 AM
Posted: 4 months ago
At 7/11/2016 5:07:03 AM, Rational_Thinker9119 wrote:

It's an interesting article, to be sure.

A few observations in response to your post.

1. You seem to be going from "richness" of experience, a qualitative measure, to amount of information, a quantitative measure. I'm not sure if transitioning from one measure to the other is as clear cut and intuitive as you make it out to be. For example, let's say we take a person and bombard each sensory modality with very high levels of stimulation. Let's say another person is asked to peacefully meditate in a sensory deprivation tank. The person in the 1st scenario may be experiencing greater amounts of information but that information would not necessarily translate into richness of experience. The opposite may be true of the second person. So again, I would challenge the assumption of a linear relationship between richness of experience and amount of information. In some cases the two may correlate (such as your example of fireworks) but in other cases "richness of experience" may be characterized by the novelty or emotional salience of the information, as opposed to mere quantity.

They do correlate in the case of a Psychadelic trance. Fireworks are nothing compared to that.


2. Your post seems to also assume a linear relationship between amount of brain activity and quality of experience. We should be careful with such assumptions. Imagine observing two brains side by side, one shows moderate levels of activity while the other is lit up like a Christmas tree. We might jump to the conclusion the more active brain is producing a richer experience and greater level of awareness until we realize that this is a brain in the throes of a grand mal seizure.

I'm sure the experimenters made sure the patient wasn't having a seizure.

Of course they did! I don't think my post implied that the control subjects showed greater activity due to synchronous seizures. I am making the point that simply measuring the amount of brain activity does give very much insight into the quality, intensity or richness of one's conscious experience.

Secondly, some of the working memory literature has found that people with greater memory capacity actually exhibit less activity than people with lower capacity. This may seem counterintuitive, but the idea is that people who are dealing with cognitive decline due to aging or other factors need to recruit more parts of the cortex to perform at the same level as healthy people. So again, we need to keep in mind that when talking about brain activity inhibitory networks are just as important as excitatory networks, not all brain activity is good activity and more is not always better.

The point still remains that all activity scanned is significantly reduced even though there is an expansion of awareness and a more intense experience. If consciousness equates to brain states (or supervene on them) then it makes no sense why a richer more information filled experience would correlate with no increase in brain activity anywhere.


As it relates to the psychedelic experience, one commonly reported phenomenon is the disillusion of the self and the feeling of "oneness" with reality. The available evidence suggests that this experience is related to a decrease in activity in the parietal lobe and other regions responsible for constructing boundaries separating the self from the environment.

But it's a more powerful experience, so while the parts of the brain "filtering" reality being reduced should be expected, what is surprising under Physicalism is the fact that there is no increase of brain activity anywhere.

Again, your argument boils down to the assumption of a direct, linear relationship between the quality of one's conscious experience and the amount of corresponding neural activity as measured by a univariate analysis of the fMRI BOLD signal (which I should add is a fairly crude measure of neural activity). I am not aware of any law in neuroscience that necessitates such a relationship. A change in the "richness" of experience can, in theory, be caused by a change in pattern of activity without any global increase. Furthermore, it may be precisely the attenuation of certain brain regions, and not excitation, that causes the numinous experiences had under psychotropics. We should not impose commonsense, folk-psychology notions onto something as complicated as the workings of the brain. Finally, to jump to such broad metaphysical conclusions and claim that the dagger has been plunged into the heart of physicalism on the basis of a single study with puzzling results, is premature to say the least. If physicalism has a silver-bullet this isn't it.

These possibilities you mention seem to have been addresseed in this paper:

http://www.cognethic.org...

It is actually pretty short and worth a read, the author does a better job than me at explaining the concept.

Cool. I"ll take a gander tomorrow... after my physical brain has been infused with caffeine resulting in increased levels of awareness and richness of experience :)

Now, if you read my OP, I used be word SEEMS. I didn't say any dagger was plunged into the heart of Physicalism. In fact, even the author of the paper admits there are possible "outs" as well.

Ok, fair enough. But you did use some hyperbolic language like "devastating blow". Also, you referenced incompatibility with "scientific studies of the brain" when your argument is only based on the results of one or two studies, while a number of other studies show conflicting findings.

However, at the present time the findings seem more compatible with the Buddhist notion that your conscousness becomes more one with nature due to less activity in the brain; monks who meditate can attest to this. Even if it is compatible with Physicalism, any explanation would seem to be ad hoc at best.

Not sure if it is ad hoc, but I suppose you can say it is post hoc. In science, when encountering strange results, one posits tentative explanations then turns those explanations into new and testable hypotheses. Either way, I see nothing here that would be incompatible with a purely naturalistic & scientific approach to the study of consciousness as an emergent property of neural activity.
Rational_Thinker9119
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7/11/2016 7:26:54 AM
Posted: 4 months ago
At 7/11/2016 7:06:37 AM, Axon85 wrote:
At 7/11/2016 5:07:03 AM, Rational_Thinker9119 wrote:

It's an interesting article, to be sure.

A few observations in response to your post.

1. You seem to be going from "richness" of experience, a qualitative measure, to amount of information, a quantitative measure. I'm not sure if transitioning from one measure to the other is as clear cut and intuitive as you make it out to be. For example, let's say we take a person and bombard each sensory modality with very high levels of stimulation. Let's say another person is asked to peacefully meditate in a sensory deprivation tank. The person in the 1st scenario may be experiencing greater amounts of information but that information would not necessarily translate into richness of experience. The opposite may be true of the second person. So again, I would challenge the assumption of a linear relationship between richness of experience and amount of information. In some cases the two may correlate (such as your example of fireworks) but in other cases "richness of experience" may be characterized by the novelty or emotional salience of the information, as opposed to mere quantity.

They do correlate in the case of a Psychadelic trance. Fireworks are nothing compared to that.


2. Your post seems to also assume a linear relationship between amount of brain activity and quality of experience. We should be careful with such assumptions. Imagine observing two brains side by side, one shows moderate levels of activity while the other is lit up like a Christmas tree. We might jump to the conclusion the more active brain is producing a richer experience and greater level of awareness until we realize that this is a brain in the throes of a grand mal seizure.

I'm sure the experimenters made sure the patient wasn't having a seizure.

Of course they did! I don't think my post implied that the control subjects showed greater activity due to synchronous seizures. I am making the point that simply measuring the amount of brain activity does give very much insight into the quality, intensity or richness of one's conscious experience.

Secondly, some of the working memory literature has found that people with greater memory capacity actually exhibit less activity than people with lower capacity. This may seem counterintuitive, but the idea is that people who are dealing with cognitive decline due to aging or other factors need to recruit more parts of the cortex to perform at the same level as healthy people. So again, we need to keep in mind that when talking about brain activity inhibitory networks are just as important as excitatory networks, not all brain activity is good activity and more is not always better.

The point still remains that all activity scanned is significantly reduced even though there is an expansion of awareness and a more intense experience. If consciousness equates to brain states (or supervene on them) then it makes no sense why a richer more information filled experience would correlate with no increase in brain activity anywhere.


As it relates to the psychedelic experience, one commonly reported phenomenon is the disillusion of the self and the feeling of "oneness" with reality. The available evidence suggests that this experience is related to a decrease in activity in the parietal lobe and other regions responsible for constructing boundaries separating the self from the environment.

But it's a more powerful experience, so while the parts of the brain "filtering" reality being reduced should be expected, what is surprising under Physicalism is the fact that there is no increase of brain activity anywhere.

Again, your argument boils down to the assumption of a direct, linear relationship between the quality of one's conscious experience and the amount of corresponding neural activity as measured by a univariate analysis of the fMRI BOLD signal (which I should add is a fairly crude measure of neural activity). I am not aware of any law in neuroscience that necessitates such a relationship. A change in the "richness" of experience can, in theory, be caused by a change in pattern of activity without any global increase. Furthermore, it may be precisely the attenuation of certain brain regions, and not excitation, that causes the numinous experiences had under psychotropics. We should not impose commonsense, folk-psychology notions onto something as complicated as the workings of the brain. Finally, to jump to such broad metaphysical conclusions and claim that the dagger has been plunged into the heart of physicalism on the basis of a single study with puzzling results, is premature to say the least. If physicalism has a silver-bullet this isn't it.

These possibilities you mention seem to have been addresseed in this paper:

http://www.cognethic.org...

It is actually pretty short and worth a read, the author does a better job than me at explaining the concept.

Cool. I"ll take a gander tomorrow... after my physical brain has been infused with caffeine resulting in increased levels of awareness and richness of experience :)

See that's where Physicalists have it wrong, the brain alteration in your caffeine scenario is just what the change of subjective experience looks like from a second-person perspective. So to say that the brain alteration caused the corresponding consciousness experience isn't necessarily so. Also, you assume the brain is fundamentally outside mind; which begs the question against Idealism ;)


Now, if you read my OP, I used be word SEEMS. I didn't say any dagger was plunged into the heart of Physicalism. In fact, even the author of the paper admits there are possible "outs" as well.

Ok, fair enough. But you did use some hyperbolic language like "devastating blow". Also, you referenced incompatibility with "scientific studies of the brain" when your argument is only based on the results of one or two studies, while a number of other studies show conflicting findings.

I said it seems incompatible in my OP, yes.



However, at the present time the findings seem more compatible with the Buddhist notion that your conscousness becomes more one with nature due to less activity in the brain; monks who meditate can attest to this. Even if it is compatible with Physicalism, any explanation would seem to be ad hoc at best.

Not sure if it is ad hoc, but I suppose you can say it is post hoc. In science, when encountering strange results, one posits tentative explanations then turns those explanations into new and testable hypotheses. Either way, I see nothing here that would be incompatible with a purely naturalistic & scientific approach to the study of consciousness as an emergent property of neural activity.

I didn't say incompatible necessarily, it just entails a lot of ad hoc explaining away at the very least. Also, there is no reason to believe conscousness emerges from the brain. Things that emerge form physical systems can be experienced from a second-person perspective. For example, patterns of snowflakes emerge from water molecules, and solidness emerges from certain particle configurations. However, someone's first-person experience cannot be experienced from a second-person perspective. It's totally different from what we know emerges from physical systems, so it "doesn't fit the profile". Emergence is a bad theory and there doesn't seem to be a lick of evidence for it.
Rational_Thinker9119
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7/11/2016 7:33:38 AM
Posted: 4 months ago
At 7/11/2016 7:06:37 AM, Axon85 wrote:
At 7/11/2016 5:07:03 AM, Rational_Thinker9119 wrote:

It's an interesting article, to be sure.

A few observations in response to your post.

1. You seem to be going from "richness" of experience, a qualitative measure, to amount of information, a quantitative measure. I'm not sure if transitioning from one measure to the other is as clear cut and intuitive as you make it out to be. For example, let's say we take a person and bombard each sensory modality with very high levels of stimulation. Let's say another person is asked to peacefully meditate in a sensory deprivation tank. The person in the 1st scenario may be experiencing greater amounts of information but that information would not necessarily translate into richness of experience. The opposite may be true of the second person. So again, I would challenge the assumption of a linear relationship between richness of experience and amount of information. In some cases the two may correlate (such as your example of fireworks) but in other cases "richness of experience" may be characterized by the novelty or emotional salience of the information, as opposed to mere quantity.

They do correlate in the case of a Psychadelic trance. Fireworks are nothing compared to that.


2. Your post seems to also assume a linear relationship between amount of brain activity and quality of experience. We should be careful with such assumptions. Imagine observing two brains side by side, one shows moderate levels of activity while the other is lit up like a Christmas tree. We might jump to the conclusion the more active brain is producing a richer experience and greater level of awareness until we realize that this is a brain in the throes of a grand mal seizure.

I'm sure the experimenters made sure the patient wasn't having a seizure.

Of course they did! I don't think my post implied that the control subjects showed greater activity due to synchronous seizures. I am making the point that simply measuring the amount of brain activity does give very much insight into the quality, intensity or richness of one's conscious experience.

Secondly, some of the working memory literature has found that people with greater memory capacity actually exhibit less activity than people with lower capacity. This may seem counterintuitive, but the idea is that people who are dealing with cognitive decline due to aging or other factors need to recruit more parts of the cortex to perform at the same level as healthy people. So again, we need to keep in mind that when talking about brain activity inhibitory networks are just as important as excitatory networks, not all brain activity is good activity and more is not always better.

The point still remains that all activity scanned is significantly reduced even though there is an expansion of awareness and a more intense experience. If consciousness equates to brain states (or supervene on them) then it makes no sense why a richer more information filled experience would correlate with no increase in brain activity anywhere.


As it relates to the psychedelic experience, one commonly reported phenomenon is the disillusion of the self and the feeling of "oneness" with reality. The available evidence suggests that this experience is related to a decrease in activity in the parietal lobe and other regions responsible for constructing boundaries separating the self from the environment.

But it's a more powerful experience, so while the parts of the brain "filtering" reality being reduced should be expected, what is surprising under Physicalism is the fact that there is no increase of brain activity anywhere.

Again, your argument boils down to the assumption of a direct, linear relationship between the quality of one's conscious experience and the amount of corresponding neural activity as measured by a univariate analysis of the fMRI BOLD signal (which I should add is a fairly crude measure of neural activity). I am not aware of any law in neuroscience that necessitates such a relationship. A change in the "richness" of experience can, in theory, be caused by a change in pattern of activity without any global increase. Furthermore, it may be precisely the attenuation of certain brain regions, and not excitation, that causes the numinous experiences had under psychotropics. We should not impose commonsense, folk-psychology notions onto something as complicated as the workings of the brain. Finally, to jump to such broad metaphysical conclusions and claim that the dagger has been plunged into the heart of physicalism on the basis of a single study with puzzling results, is premature to say the least. If physicalism has a silver-bullet this isn't it.

These possibilities you mention seem to have been addresseed in this paper:

http://www.cognethic.org...

It is actually pretty short and worth a read, the author does a better job than me at explaining the concept.

Cool. I"ll take a gander tomorrow... after my physical brain has been infused with caffeine resulting in increased levels of awareness and richness of experience :)

Now, if you read my OP, I used be word SEEMS. I didn't say any dagger was plunged into the heart of Physicalism. In fact, even the author of the paper admits there are possible "outs" as well.

Ok, fair enough. But you did use some hyperbolic language like "devastating blow". Also, you referenced incompatibility with "scientific studies of the brain" when your argument is only based on the results of one or two studies, while a number of other studies show conflicting findings.


However, at the present time the findings seem more compatible with the Buddhist notion that your conscousness becomes more one with nature due to less activity in the brain; monks who meditate can attest to this. Even if it is compatible with Physicalism, any explanation would seem to be ad hoc at best.

Not sure if it is ad hoc, but I suppose you can say it is post hoc. In science, when encountering strange results, one posits tentative explanations then turns those explanations into new and testable hypotheses. Either way, I see nothing here that would be incompatible with a purely naturalistic & scientific approach to the study of consciousness as an emergent property of neural activity.

In my view, neural activity is what certain processes in mind look like from a second-person perspective. But you cannot actually experience the redness I experience when visualizing an apple by merely looking at the brain, but with all other emergent properties in physical reality, we can see and the emergent properties from what they emerge from in this way. Again, conscousness doesn't fit the profile of emergence.
keithprosser
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7/11/2016 11:20:36 AM
Posted: 4 months ago
Emergence is a tricky thing because it can be used as an explanaion or instead of one. A genuinely emergent phenomenon is the flocking of starlings. The theory is that each bird is following simple, local rules and the marvelous and beautiful patterns a flock makes 'emerges' from the operation of those rules in an ensemble. The simple rules and the emergence of flocking can be demonstrated by, for example a software simulation. I think that is an entirely justifed use of 'emergence'.

But when people say 'consciousness is an emergent phenomenon' they generally don't have a clear idea of what the low-level rule are, nor any idea of how such rules actually might produce consciousness when appled to many neurones at once. In that case 'Emergence' is really a word used in preference to an admission that they don't have a clue how consciousness works, totally unlike the case with flocking where we have a very good idea how it works. Given our present state of ignorance about the brain 'Consciousness is an emergent property' is more an attestation of faith in physicalism than anything else.

When I took LSD or mushrooms as a student many moons ago the principle effect on me was to ruin my sense of spatial relationships. I was acutely conscious that I couldn't trust my judgements of size and distances so didn't cross any roads and playing pool was hilarious, at least it was to me and my pals who tried it. As the Russell quote indicates, it can seem at the time that a 'trip' is giving one a deep and instense experience when in fact the experience is impoverished, inaccurate and banal - "A strong smell of turpentine prevails throughout."

The brain under the influence of a psychodel is like a computer working with unreliable ram chips, or a old pentium with a faulty divide unit. It still works - just about - but its not working properly. If you don't like the computer analogy its like an engine running with the wrong sort of fuel - it still goes, but with a lot of extraneous bangs and smoke.