Sunday, July 20, 2014

Consciousness Contradiction Hunting

To defeat confirmation bias, usually it's sufficient to purposefully look for disconfirming evidence. It can also be supercharged by method-acting the opposing belief, fooling the bias into working against your 'true' belief, and I've done this several times for dualism. Here I hope to demonstrate that I did not find any serious obstacles, and that the above technique would have let me admit if I had. Perhaps I will yet find such an obstacle, as I haven't fully analyzed yet. While I have privileged information - I have in the past mistakenly thought I found obstacles - it would be nice to have an unprivileged version. (Part 2.)

Overall I expect to demonstrate that a dualist need not disagree with mainstream facts, but merely point out an overlooked interpretation.

"Dualism must therefore explain how consciousness affects physical reality."
Indeed. In my case, I'm looking for an entity which has both objective and subjective properties.

"Critics of dualism have often asked how something totally immaterial can affect something totally material"
One of Descartes' mistakes. They indeed cannot affect each other. At best, we would have a violation of Newton's third law; epiphenomenal consciousness can see physics but not the reverse. To be clear, I find epiphenomenalism absurd.

"First, it is not clear where the interaction would take place. For example, burning one's finger causes pain. Apparently there is some chain of events, leading from the burning of skin, to the stimulation of nerve endings, to something happening in the peripheral nerves of one's body that lead to one's brain, to something happening in a particular part of one's brain, and finally resulting in the sensation of pain." 
Hardly unclear. Subjective entities don't have physical locations. Further, we can see the causal chain goes through the finger but the nexus of consciousness is in the brain. If we disconnect the finger, we don't feel it anymore, but we do feel everything upstream of the disconnection, thus allowing us to consistently define 'upstream.'

It may be difficult to work out the stream direction within the brain, since that's where the ability to report sensations comes from. If we destroy the vocal processor, we have (as yet) no way of knowing whether it was upstream or downstream of consciousness.

"However, there is a second problem about the interaction. Namely, the question of how  the interaction takes place, where in dualism "the mind" is assumed to be non-physical and by definition outside of the realm of science."
Non-physical does not mean by definition out of the realm of science, at least if they mean to imply that consciousness is defined to be in contradiction to naturalism. Non-objective does not mean immune to investigation and inquiry.

Not to say dualists haven't made this mistake. But it is a mistake.

"Many physicists and consciousness researchers have argued that any action of a nonphysical mind on the brain would entail the violation of physical laws, such as the conservation of energy."
As always, I hate to provide aid and comfort to 'quantum is woo' types, but in this case they're not far wrong. The apparently random nature of quantum decoherence allows something to affect physics without violating any known law. For example, by their nature, quantum events are indeterminate in part because both possibilities involve equivalent transfers of energy; the ambiguity of outcome reflects physics' ambivalence toward the outcomes.

Consciousness is about thinking which is about information. It is not about stronger muscles or more efficient digestive enzymes. If randomness were secretly nonrandom, it provides a conduit for information to get from consciousness to physics, whereupon physics simply needs to evolve a suitable instrument and amplifier to pick up and use the signal. (Hopefully you noticed I'm cheating here. I {think I} found such a device and then concluded that physics needs it; however, I've hopefully shown it's possible to do it the right way around.)

"When a person decides to walk across a room, it is generally understood that the decision to do so, a mental event, immediately causes a group of neurons in that person's brain to fire, a physical event, which ultimately results in his walking across the room. The problem is that if there is something totally nonphysical causing a bunch of neurons to fire, then there is no physical event which causes the firing."
It's not hard to understand how to route around this now we've made computers.

The random event was going to fire anyway. On one fork, it is not amplified; the signal hits an open switch and stops. On the other fork, the signal is amplified and continues until it is strong enough to cause muscle contraction patterns.

"Dualistic interactionism has therefore been argued against in that it violates a general heuristic principle of science: the causal closure of the physical world."
Begging the question is almost always a status move. Authority says physics is causally closed, which means it becomes impossible for anyone enthralled by Authority to believe in dualism. The scholastic community failed miserably when it allowed anyone vulnerable to Authority to claim to be a scholar. But of course such a thing is inevitable when you must espouse HNU.

"The first reply is that the mind may influence the distribution of energy, without altering its quantity, but such an influence still violates energy conservation."
Redistributing energy requires a force, which requires energy. That is, either La Wik is misconstruing their arguments, or their arguments have a contradiction. If consciousness affected energy in this way, we could simply construct a model and do an experiment, rather than having to faff about with logic. It is ignorant to believe consciousness can rearrange energy but cannot be detected by experiment.

"The second possibility is to deny that the human body is causally closed, as the conservation of energy applies only to closed systems. However, physicalists object no evidence exists for the causal non-closure of the human body."
Begging the question tends to corrupt downstream thought.

As above, the key is to find a physical non-closure that does not violate physical conservation. While a modern dualist has no problem with a partly-physical and partly-mental entity, physical energy is still purely physical and cannot be converted to or from mental energy, meaning its conservation cannot be affected by mental contact.

"An overdetermined event is fully accounted for by multiple causes at once.[65] However, J. J. C. Smart and Paul Churchland have pointed out that if physical phenomena fully determine behavioral events, then by Occam's razor an unphysical mind is unnecessary."
Indeed. Unfortunately, I still observe that I have consciousness. I suggest you observe yourself to determine if you also have consciousness. If an unphysical mind is unnecessary, dualism is true. (But I still think epiphenomenalism is absurd.)

Let us go through the entities once again.

You perceive a blue box that's really there. There's a box, the photons, your eye and the interaction, the visual cortex, and the blue-box-quale.

We can separate most of these out by instead supposing you dream of a blue box. Still there is the visual cortex and the blue-box-quale.

Perhaps quale just is the visual cortex? If it was, you could fully re-create the cortex by examining the properties of the quale. Perhaps the quale represents merely part of the cortex? A feature of the cortex? Then you could re-create that part. It is not the cortex.

"Another reply to this objection, given by Robinson, is that there is a possibility that the interaction may involve dark energy, dark matter or some other currently unknown scientific process.[9]  However, such processes would necessarily be physical, and in this case dualism is replaced with physicalism, or the interaction point is left for study at a later time when these physical processes are understood."
Conservation of mystery fails again.
Put precisely, a dark matter interaction puts an upper bound on how much energy shuttling consciousness involves. While the brain is a noisy place, the bound is still low since we can access and do experiments on individual neurons.

"If a nondeterministic interpretation of quantum mechanics is correct then microscopic events are indeterminate, where the degree of determinism increases with the scale of the system (see Quantum decoherence)."
On my ideas: standing on the shoulders of giants, etc.

"Philosophers Karl Popper and John Eccles and physicist Henry Stapp have theorized that such indeterminacy may apply at the macroscopic scale."
Specifically, I am certain, it is possible to amplify the indeterminacy. How certain? To the point it's boring. The phrencell might not work for a variety of reasons, but if it doesn't, I will merely directly address the reasons it doesn't by changes in the design until it does so work.

"However classical and quantum calculations show that quantum decoherence effects do not play a role in brain activity.[68] Indeed, macroscopic quantum states have only ever been observed in superconductors near absolute zero."
Wrong tree. Same wrong tree the 'quantum is woo' folk go up. The correct thing to try to amplify and exploit is not superpositions and entanglement, but the collapse of such things. Work with Nature, not against Her.

"Thomas Breuer in 1994 had proven  that physical theories valid for the whole universe are impossible. Any theory will be wrong when applied to a system which contains the observer himself due to self-reference.[dubious ]  This proves that the observer's own body does not follow the same physical laws as the rest of the universe. But other people from the observer's point of view will obey the usual physical laws, so conducting experiments on them would not indicate any divergence from the physical predictions."
Indeed dubious. Nevertheless, without going into overkill analysis of this theory, it correctly predicts the existence of a subjective-objective split. That two complex theories reach the same prediction constitutes independent corroboration. While I have privileged information that I did not know until now about Breuer, you should probably doubt; corroboration is most useful internally.

There's also something here about physics not knowing what physics is going to do, yet managing to do it anyway. I will try to work out what.

Right, of course. Each particle constitutes a valid frame of reference, but (in principle) cannot predict its interaction with the rest of physics. All such frames being valid, it means physics cannot predict itself.

That means we have a complex of three independent complex theories. Even if I tried to defraud you by hearing of both before coming up with mine, by making it consistent with both I would constrain myself so tightly I would have no choice in what theory I espoused. There's astronomical odds against one of them being false and either of the others not-false.

Incidentally overkill analysis shows that it can be seen as both true and false, depending on which questions you answer "I don't care" to, and that it's not that the observer doesn't obey the laws, but rather 'do I obey the laws?' is a wrong question; the predictive answer is neither 'no' nor 'yes.'

"Robin Collins responds that energy conservation objections misunderstand the role of energy conservation in physics. Well understood scenarios in general relativity violate energy conservation and quantum mechanics provides precedent for causal interactions, or correlation without energy or momentum exchange."

"This argument has been formulated by Paul Churchland, among others. The point is that, in instances of some sort of brain damage  (e.g. caused by automobile accidents, drug abuse, pathological diseases, etc.), it is always the case that the mental substance and/or properties of the person are significantly changed or compromised. If the mind were a completely separate substance from the brain, how could it be possible that every single time the brain is injured, the mind is also injured?"
There's a fundamental logical problem here.
In unidirectional causation epiphenomenalism, we can't know the mind is damaged. It's completely inaccessible to both other minds and every body. We have an equivocation on 'mind.'

If physics is meaningfully unclosed without consciousness, the quote isn't even unintuitive, let alone a problem.

"Property dualism and William Hasker's "emergent dualism" seek to avoid this problem. They assert that the mind is a property or substance that emerges from the appropriate arrangement of physical matter, and therefore could be affected by any rearrangement of matter."
Emergent properties don't real. They're not reductionist, and rescuing reductionalist physicalism is the whole point of proposing them. They are magic - somehow, arranging paint into a star-like line shape causes the paint to do things that can't be predicted without observing previous such arrangements.

If it can be predicted from more base properties, the emergent properties die to Ockham's razor.

"Phineas Gage, who suffered destruction of one or both frontal lobes by a projectile iron rod, is often cited as an example illustrating that the brain causes mind."
I wish I didn't have to be rude, but here's enough unstated assumptions to choke a bison.

It affected his behaviour. How do you know it affected his mind? If he told you so, how do you know he wasn't lying? It is very, very important to know the mind's True Name.

"Case studies aside, modern experiments have demonstrated that the relation between brain and mind is much more than simple correlation. By damaging, or manipulating, specific areas of the brain repeatedly under controlled conditions (e.g. in monkeys) and reliably obtaining the same results in measures of mental state and abilities, neuroscientists have shown that the relation between damage to the brain and mental deterioration is likely causal. This conclusion is further supported by data from the effects of neuro-active chemicals (such as those affecting neurotransmitters) on mental functions, but also from research on neurostimulation (direct electrical stimulation of the brain, including transcranial magnetic stimulation)."
Begging the question. If dualism is true, the correct way to do such experiments is on yourself. Others may be lying, mistaken, or inarticulate. Even if they speak honestly and apprehend correctly, ultimately you must compare their reports to your own internal life to know what they're talking about.

If you insist on being agnostic on the existence of that life, you cannot conclude anything about the mind.

If you admit you have an internal life, then there's no need for the experiment.

If you assume you don't have one, there's no need for an experiment.

Subjective events are not objective and cannot be investigated objectively.

"Another common argument against dualism consists in the idea that since human beings (both phylogenetically and ontogenetically) begin their existence as entirely physical or material entities and since nothing outside of the domain of the physical is added later on in the course of development, then we must necessarily end up being fully developed material beings."
While not surprising, it is still feels disappointing that such weak arguments are afforded enough status to appear in Wikipedia.

Humans; life in general; existence in general did not start out fully material. Next?

"In some contexts, the decisions that a person makes can be detected up to 10 seconds in advance by means of scanning their brain activity. Furthermore subjective experiences and covert attitudes can be detected, as can mental imagery. This is strong empirical evidence that cognitive processes have physical basis in the brain."
Assuming the scientists can correctly interpret their findings. Not only is this dubious in general, the entire basis of the dualist argument is a different interpretation of the facts.

(The advance decision experiments work on things humans do not inherently care about. It's hard to press a button at all, let alone to see one button or another as identity-confirming, among other problems. The researchers inherently disrespected consciousness and constructed a self-confirming prophecy.)

A modern dualist does not deny the causal chain runs through the brain.

The advance decision experiment confirms the existence of a quale separate from the actual processing of the brain. By appearing a different time, the 'decision' cannot be feeling of decision. Moreover, this quale feeds back into physical brain processes that allow the subject's larynx to report when it occurred.

"The argument from simplicity is probably the simplest and also the most common form of argument against dualism of the mental."
Ahem, "...but no simpler." The physicalist predicts I don't have an inner life. I do have an inner life.

I predict they don't have an inner life. :-)

"This argument was criticized by Peter Glassen in a debate with J. J. C. Smart in the pages of Philosophy in the late 1970s and early 1980s. Glassen argued that, because it is not a physical entity, Occam's Razor cannot consistently be appealed to by a physicalist or materialist as a justification of mental states or events, such as the belief that dualism is false."
A real argument by a real person, defeated by logic, except it was an embarrassment to its allies in the first place, meaning no doubt thereby falls on healthier versions of the argument.

'Tin man' was proposed, but that's already taken for, apparently, portraying libertarians as heartless.

Pig iron man? Copper man? Gold man? (Glitters nice, but not exactly robust...)

Now I'm going to go eat, come back, and, if I'm not interrupted see if Stanford's online encyclopedia can do better. If they can't, I'm going to declare I've returned the serve, the burden of proof is now in the opposite half.

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