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The Case of the Blind Brain and Other Strange Tales posted 03 July 2004 in Philosophy DiscussionThe Case of the Blind Brain and Other Strange Tales by TakLoufer, Candidate

Seeing as you have spent so much time on your post, i thought it only fair that someone respond to it in someway.


Thanks! I wasn't expecting many people to respond (after all, this isn't a high traffic forum, and this is a weird subject), but the more replies the merrier! <!-- s:) --><img src="{SMILIES_PATH}/icon_smile.gif" alt=":)" title="Smile" /><!-- s:) -->

What i wanted to discuss with you is what you said about sentience. Personally, i have no problem with the apparent contradiction of there being sentience and non-sentience without moving into dualism,


The contradiction is a subtle one, but real nonetheless. In any materialist model of mind, except eliminativism (which is self refuting as it requires consciousness to deny the existence of consciousness]), something else is added (usually without the theorist even realizing it) to the materialist metaphysic. This added something can be said to be a basic "point of view" - or the explanation is merely correlative ("when these neurons light up, the color red is seen") which are just "bolted on" to materialism and lack any explanatory value. We know there is neural correlates to consciousness - the question is how this neural activity can lead to consciousness. Materialism, by itself, just lacks the tools needed to answer this question. If materialism is true, it, by necessity, would have to have panexperiental or dualistic characteristics.

but before i say more on that, it would good if you could say just exactly what you feel sentience is.


By sentience, I mean the "something it is to be like" - or, the "inside" of a living thing. Like, for example, you have an "outside" (your body, your brain, etc.) and an "inside" (your mind, feelings, memories, etc).

If an object only has an "outside" (a "vacuous entity"), then it is considered insentient. Objects with and an "inside" as well as an "outside" are considered sentient.

Panexperientalism states that the basic units of reality aren't composed of insentient "things" but rather "occasions of experience" - or "actual entities". All objects in the world have this primal sentience. The primary building blocks that all "entities" (from electrons to stars) are composed of are "eternal objects," which includes experiences of colors, sounds, sensations, mathematics, mass, space, time(duration?), etc. Think about it, all "things" "have" these attributes - and these attributes is what reality is "made" of. Think about it like the eternal objects are "paint" and reality is a painting. One can "paint" any object (chairs, people, atoms, etc) into the "painting" - but the object will be made up of different combinations of "paint" (colors, sounds, space, time, whatever).

And no, panexperientalism does not say rocks and telephones can think, but their base units do have a sort of primordial sentience (an "inside"). Rocks and chairs are Aggregational Societies. People, animals, etc, are what Hartshorne calls Compound Individuals, which is (presumably through the brain, perhaps via quantum coherence in the microtubuals?) a "society" of experience "emerging" (not in the materialist meaning of the term) into a dominant individual.

Mental Monism is like panexperientalism, except I feel (now that I'm re-reading Griffin and Whitehead's Process and Reality) that panexperientalism may make more sense - or at least go into more detail.

For more information on the topic, I recommend Christian De Quincey's Radical Nature. It's a good starting point (though I disagree with him on some minor points), and it's written for the lay person.

[url:38z0swoj]http&#58;//www&#46;amazon&#46;com/exec/obidos/tg/detail/-/1931229155/qid=1088827186/sr=1-1/ref=sr_1_1/104-8758842-9813524?v=glance&amp;s=books[/url:38z0swoj]

And here is a short introduction to "Process Philosophy" - [url:38z0swoj]http&#58;//members&#46;aol&#46;com/NeoNoetics/Process_Philosophy&#46;html[/url:38z0swoj]

Hi Tak... Back from Canada Day shennanigans.


Is that like our 4th of July?

Regarding the unexplained explainer: The regress of justification ensures that we'll always bump into these, certainly - I took that as a given. What I was questioning was what warrants your 'mentalist' unexplained explainer. I need you to spell out to me, decisively (given the foibles of philosophical thought), how you get from 'Materialism is inadequate' to 'Mental monism is true.'


I'm not saying that. I'm saying, for a variety of reasons, materialism is, at least in its current form, inadequate in allowing experience to exist.

Mental monism, or panexperientalism, or even dualism (which has its share of problems) can allow for experience. Any materialist theory either gives correlative explanations (which don't answer the question - and imply some form of dualism or pan-ex-ism) or otherwise let an unspoken observer "in through the back door" so to speak. So basically, materialism inevitably ends up using some characteristic of a "mental" theory in its explanation. Something "outside" of the rules of materialism is put forward.

While the details elude us (and may indefinitely elude us, just as air eludes the ducks, or the concept of a cube eludes Flatlanders) I feel it is safe to say that in order for consciousness (and intention) to exist, some form of "experience" must be a foundation of reality.

Until then, your position strikes me as ad hoc at best: of the 'if it's not material, then it must be mental' variety. Why not something unknown?


And this unknown theory should allow consciousness and volition to exist, which should imply either the "unknown factor" should be an outside influence (dualism) or an intrinsic property (Pan-ex-ism). We may not understand the details (another dimension, quantum coherence, a "sentient vacuum", metamind, ?), but experience should be a part of it. Some form of mental monism, dualism, or pan-ex-ism are three broadly painted paths that are available to us. The most conservative would be pan-ex-ism, the most ontologically reckless mental monism (though, if pursued, it seems to turn into Whiteheadian Pan-ex-ism).

Why can't we know? Why should it be unknown? We are, no doubt, unable to know the nitty details of the foundation of reality, but I see no reason why the general idea should forever elude us. We should put forward different metaphysics, and see if the world works within them.

I think Whitehead summed up the purpose of metaphysics nicely when he stated:

Speculative Philosophy is the endeavor to frame a coherent, logical, necessary system of general ideas in terms of which every element of our experience can be interpreted


If a metaphysic can do this, and have better explanatory value than its competitors, then it should be considered a viable stance and, if not the Truth, then at least a step in the right direction.

Spinoza and Heidegger's 'frame complaint' comes to mind here as well. Whatever meaning we accord the term 'mental' (for Spinoza the term was 'God' and for Heidegger it was 'Being') arises from WITHIN the frame of experience. So the question is, how can we know that meaning is even remotely adequate for the frame itself.


We can't know . . . though we can come up with theories that fit the experienced phenomena.

But you are right in that we are stuck within our own experienced mental worlds, so we are at an almost impossible disadvantage to discover what is "really" going on. And the meaning of "mental" should be considered "things that can be experienced"- this should cover about everything. It's the things that we cannot experience (or at least experience indirectly) that will permanently elude us. But, whatever it is that is outside our experience, whatever is "behind the curtain" should account for our experience.

The three obvious choices are:

That which we cannot directly experience is . . .

1) in another universe (dualism)

2) Intrinsically part of our universe (panexperientalism)

3) Is what is really REAL, and the world around us is its construction/illusion (Idealism).

Now in cosmology we have comparatively robust empiricall observations and mathematical models upon which to base our inferences (as well as a track record of breathtaking success).


Science has had great success at describing, predicting, and utilizing the physical world - but hasn't a clue as to what the world is. The folks in Plato’s cave may congratulate each other on their knowledge of the movement of shadows, but that's all they will ever know.

As Griffin stated in his article "Panexperientalist Physicalism and the Mind-Body Problem":

. . . that science, like any other activity, abstracts from the things it discusses, focusing only on those aspects germane to the questions being asked. As Chalmers (1995, p. 217) says, 'physics characterizes its basic entities only extrinsically, in terms of their relations to other entities. . . . The intrinsic nature of physical entities is left aside'-which is reminiscent of Whitehead's (1967b, p. 153) that 'physics ignores what anything is in itself. Its entities are merely considered in respect to their extrinsic reality'. This insight is ignored when Searle, for example, says that 'science tells us' what the ultimate units of nature are like in themselves. It does no such thing. It tells us about those aspects of those entities that its methods have been suited to reveal, and those aspects, for all 'science' knows, may well be abstractions from the full reality of those entities. Simply to equate those abstractions with the concrete entities themselves is to commit what Whitehead (1967b, p. 51) called the 'fallacy of misplaced concreteness'.


Here's a link to the article.

[url:38z0swoj]http&#58;//members&#46;aol&#46;com/Mszlazak/PanExpMind&#46;html[/url:38z0swoj]

Even if science discovers every single correlate of consciousness, they will still be ignorant of how this correlation can cause qualia.

Here, on the other hand, all we have are metaphysical interpretations - which are doomed to be flimsey in the extreme.


Which still doesn't mean science can answer these questions.

Though mysterianism may be the most conservative of choices, this is by no means a given, and there is no reason why we can't, at least, understand the general idea of how reality is structured.

Here's another link to a paper I came across that is of relevance; though, to be honest, some parts just left me confused. I'll read it more attentively when I’m more awake (it's 2 A.M.)

[url:38z0swoj]http&#58;//mcs&#46;open&#46;ac&#46;uk/sma78/belgium&#46;pdf[/url:38z0swoj] view post


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