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Could our actions be decided by our conscious mind?

 
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09 January 2019 03:16
 
Speakpigeon - 09 January 2019 02:57 AM
Dissily Mordentroge - 08 January 2019 11:10 PM

Given the repetition in this argument of the phrase ‘for all we know’ makes any attempt at refutation null and void - well that’s how I read it.

“Premise 1 - For all we know, somebody’s conscious mind may be the state of a group of neurones in this person’s brain;
Premise 2 - What somebody does is determined by the state of a group of neurons in this person’s brain;
Conclusion - Therefore, for all we know, what somebody does may be determined by the conscious mind of this person.”

Not quite.
Refutation could be produced in two ways. Either you prove the argument invalid, i.e. you show that somehow the conclusion doesn’t follow necessarily from the premises, or you prove at least one of the premises false.
As far as I can tell, the argument is valid and I’m pretty sure about that. Still, you’re right that the phrase “for all we know” is essential in this respect in that the conclusion couldn’t be more assertive than the premises without invalidating the argument. The first premise is made weak by its own “for all we know”, and this compels the repetition of the “for all we know” in the conclusion itself. Without it, the argument would be invalid.
Still, you could also try to show how at least one of the premises false. The “for all we know” doesn’t make that impossible.
For premise 1, maybe someone could somehow prove that we know in fact that somebody’s conscious mind isn’t the state of a group of neurons in this person’s brain. I doubt very much anybody knows such a thing, so I’m pretty confident only idiots will claim premise 1 false, even though that situation might come to change in the future.
For premise 2, I chose to eschew the “for all we know” to take the point of view most scientists would support, in effect what they believe rather than what they may or may not know, i.e. that what somebody does is indeed determined by the state of a group of neurons in this person’s brain, even though you could argue that it might not be the case after all. So, here a few people will either claim that premise 2 is false or that it might well be false. I’m aware of only two people who seemed to lean this way but they declined to explain themselves properly or to support their claim with hard science.
So, no, the phrase “for all we know” doesn’t make it irrefutable but not all people will want to refute it the only way I think it might be, if at all.
One objection, to be more specific, is that nature might not be deterministic after all, contrary to what many scientists have long claimed, and this could falsify premise 2 which relies on the word “determine”. But, this would have to be argued properly and no one volunteered to do that.
EB

If nature isn’t deterministic we have no way of knowing why we’ve chosen to put forward any argument ( even if the argument itself appears sound) which takes us back to that awful topic I want to avoid for now, free will. As to ‘conscious mind’ I’ve yet to encounter a clear elucidation of what it is apart from those ‘groups of neurones’ indulging in iteration.
I’m happy to have my lack of formal philosophic education corrected. I have more than a dim understanding of it’s limits.

 
 
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09 January 2019 10:30
 
Dissily Mordentroge - 09 January 2019 03:16 AM

If nature isn’t deterministic we have no way of knowing why we’ve chosen to put forward any argument ( even if the argument itself appears sound) which takes us back to that awful topic I want to avoid for now, free will.

I agree that maybe that would be a problem but they haven’t really clarified what their argument was so maybe there’s more to it.

Dissily Mordentroge - 09 January 2019 03:16 AM

As to ‘conscious mind’ I’ve yet to encounter a clear elucidation of what it is apart from those ‘groups of neurones’ indulging in iteration.

If you don’t know, there’s nothing much anybody can do for you. The conscious mind is what you experience subjectively when you are conscious, things like for example pain, colours, but also your own ideas, memories, logical intuitions, impressions, however vague and nondescript, and you normally know all these things by experiencing them. If it’s not the case, well, that’s it and you won’t be able to understand what people talk about when they talk about the pain they feel, the idea they have, the beauty of the sunset, memories of their childhood, etc. I kind of doubt you don’t know all that.

Dissily Mordentroge - 09 January 2019 03:16 AM

I’m happy to have my lack of formal philosophic education corrected. I have more than a dim understanding of it’s limits.

I’m not much interested in what philosophers have to say so I can’t help you here, but it seems obvious to me that many of them have contributed to the ideas we have today, like Descartes for example with the Cogito, although apparently too many people seem to experience a kind of suspicious failure of understanding about it. You can’t read everything and I would say philosophy shouldn’t be the priority. But reading a bit of philosophy here and there would probably do a lot of good to most people if only they tried, not least scientists, assuming they could read the stuff with an open mind, something most people don’t have.
The argument doesn’t say that we know what the conscious mind is. It is just an admission that given the limitation of our knowledge, the conscious mind may well just be the state of a group of neurons in our brain. And I would say that, given what science says, I don’t see what else it could possibly be.
Many people don’t seem to like it, though. I wonder why that is, but it’s obviously funny since they can’t fault the logic of the argument or the truth of the premises, except possibly with this caveat on determinism, which is anyway something most people find too awful to even consider.
EB

 
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09 January 2019 13:09
 
Speakpigeon - 09 January 2019 03:03 AM
burt - 08 January 2019 11:18 PM
Dissily Mordentroge - 08 January 2019 11:10 PM

Given the repetition in this argument of the phrase ‘for all we know’ makes any attempt at refutation null and void - well that’s how I read it.

“Premise 1 - For all we know, somebody’s conscious mind may be the state of a group of neurons in this person’s brain;
Premise 2 - What somebody does is determined by the state of a group of neurons in this person’s brain;
Conclusion - Therefore, for all we know, what somebody does may be determined by the conscious mind of this person.”

Exactly, it’s not a matter of refutation but rather pointing out the inadequacy of the statements. And the posters error is in the “therefore,” which does not follow from the premises. He asks for comment and then can’t take the heat.

Even this is incoherent. On the face of it you’re explicitly agreeing with DM even though what he says here implies that the argument is valid while you are claiming it isn’t. That’s a straightforward self-contradictory statement you just made here, of your own accord, all in the same post. Ignoring you is definitely the best sensible people will do.
EB

You are plugging your ears and chanting “I can’t hear you.” DM did not say the argument was valid, rather that, to paraphrase Pauli, “it’s not even wrong.” You still have not refuted my point that there are multiple ways you conclusion could fail while the premises remain correct. Here are some:
1. the neurons involved in the conscious self are a different set of neurons than those involved in an action and there is no causal relation between them. The action is committed and there is a conscious awareness of its being committed.
2. the neurons involved in an action are exactly the same as the neurons involved in conscious awareness of that action, but both the action and the conscious awareness are results and there is not causal connection between the phenomenon of conscious awareness and the material action.
3. Perhaps the neurons resulting in an action precede consciousness of the action so that causality is from action to conscious awareness of that action rather than in the other direction as your conclusion supposes. 
And so on. The point is that your two premises do not establish the necessity or even the likelihood of the conclusion, which is only a supposition of a possibility that, although it is not excluded by the premises, is not established by them either. Your “for all we know” is just an out so you can claim that you are only suggesting one of multiple possibilities while trying to dress up your statements as a formal deduction rather than speculation.

[ Edited: 09 January 2019 13:12 by burt]
 
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09 January 2019 16:32
 
Speakpigeon - 09 January 2019 10:30 AM

If you don’t know, there’s nothing much anybody can do for you. The conscious mind is what you experience subjectively when you are conscious, things like for example pain, colours, but also your own ideas, memories, logical intuitions, impressions, however vague and nondescript, and you normally know all these things by experiencing them. If it’s not the case, well, that’s it and you won’t be able to understand what people talk about when they talk about the pain they feel, the idea they have, the beauty of the sunset, memories of their childhood, etc. I kind of doubt you don’t know all that.


There’s a difference between knowing and experiencing. If there wasn’t all manner of experiences such as visions of Jesus, Shakti etc would constitute knowing they exist. I may indeed grasp the concept of empathy when others talk about their pain but that tells me little about what consciousness actually is or how or where it happens other than knowing there’s an almost universally accepted notion of it happening ‘inside my head’. 

Many people don’t seem to like it, though. I wonder why that is, but it’s obviously funny since they can’t fault the logic of the argument or the truth of the premises, except possibly with this caveat on determinism, which is anyway something most people find too awful to even consider.
EB

The fear of ceasing to exist at death is the source, I suggest, of wanting to believe in a number of strange ideas. The mind/ body dichotomy and the brain/ soul division for instance. It’s a powerful weapon most religions have used to subjugate believers for centuries and admittedly a comfort (even if deluded) for many.

I like your ‘I don’t know, there’s nothing much anybody can do for you’ as it suggests I’m un-conscious. Well, I do lapse now and again I’ll admit.

 
 
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10 January 2019 04:13
 
burt - 09 January 2019 01:09 PM

You are plugging your ears and chanting “I can’t hear you.”

No, no, I can assure you I’m still listening, well, reading your stuff. There’s a fascination effect, I think. You seem to be a well-educated, even knowledgeable guy, even perhaps a former scientist, but I guess your emotional state seems to throw you off course. I’ll try to start a thread soon to sort out your mistake.

burt - 09 January 2019 01:09 PM

DM did not say the argument was valid, rather that, to paraphrase Pauli, “it’s not even wrong.” You still have not refuted my point that there are multiple ways you conclusion could fail while the premises remain correct. Here are some:
1. the neurons involved in the conscious self are a different set of neurons than those involved in an action and there is no causal relation between them. The action is committed and there is a conscious awareness of its being committed.
2. the neurons involved in an action are exactly the same as the neurons involved in conscious awareness of that action, but both the action and the conscious awareness are results and there is not causal connection between the phenomenon of conscious awareness and the material action.
3. Perhaps the neurons resulting in an action precede consciousness of the action so that causality is from action to conscious awareness of that action rather than in the other direction as your conclusion supposes. 
And so on. The point is that your two premises do not establish the necessity or even the likelihood of the conclusion, which is only a supposition of a possibility that, although it is not excluded by the premises, is not established by them either. Your “for all we know” is just an out so you can claim that you are only suggesting one of multiple possibilities while trying to dress up your statements as a formal deduction rather than speculation.

All this is irrelevant as you should know just by reading the argument.
Apparently, there are a few words in there that make your reasoning process go wrong.
There isn’t much I can do for you, though. This is an experiment. I can’t explain exactly how you are wrong or else I would spoil the game. But I’ll try to open up a bit the conversation. That may come to help you.
EB

 
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10 January 2019 04:33
 
Dissily Mordentroge - 09 January 2019 04:32 PM
Speakpigeon - 09 January 2019 10:30 AM

If you don’t know, there’s nothing much anybody can do for you. The conscious mind is what you experience subjectively when you are conscious, things like for example pain, colours, but also your own ideas, memories, logical intuitions, impressions, however vague and nondescript, and you normally know all these things by experiencing them. If it’s not the case, well, that’s it and you won’t be able to understand what people talk about when they talk about the pain they feel, the idea they have, the beauty of the sunset, memories of their childhood, etc. I kind of doubt you don’t know all that.


There’s a difference between knowing and experiencing. If there wasn’t all manner of experiences such as visions of Jesus, Shakti etc would constitute knowing they exist.

I would say myself that I know pain whenever I experience pain. I don’t see how this could be a problem. People who have a vision of Jesus don’t experience Jesus. They experience a vision of Jesus. As such, they know their vision of Jesus without knowing Jesus. When we look at a red flower, all we know is our subjective experience of the percept of the red flower. Science now tells us there’s likely no redness in a red flower, something people have long realised, Newton for once. Instead, science may say that a red flower is essentially a collection of elementary particles or some quantum thing. This should tell us we don’t know a red flower just by looking at it. So, we know the redness that we experience but we don’t know the actual red flower. Consequently, I don’t see anything we would know of reality outside things like pain, redness, our own memories of our childhood (the memories, not what really happened in our childhood).
For the moment, I haven’t found anybody to fault this way of looking at things. But, wait, I’m sure it’s coming!

Dissily Mordentroge - 09 January 2019 04:32 PM

I like your ‘I don’t know, there’s nothing much anybody can do for you’ as it suggests I’m un-conscious. Well, I do lapse now and again I’ll admit.

I do have to allow for the possibility that some other people might not experience consciousness the way I do and the way other people report it. Some people for example will display a behaviour consistant with being in pain while not reporting being in pain. I interpret that as a split in the conscious mind. One part is not experiencing pain while talking to other people, the other part is experiencing pain but is for some reason unable to report it. I’m sure some scientist must be working on this sort of hypothesis. We’ll have to wait for the result.
And we’re all doing all sorts of things about which we’re not conscious, so it’s no big deal. We’re most likely doing quantitatively far more that we’re unconscious about than things we’re conscious about. So, we spend most of our lives largely unconscious. I guess we try to focus on what’s really interesting to us, so maybe it’s just as well.
EB

 
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10 January 2019 20:39
 
Speakpigeon - 10 January 2019 04:33 AM
Dissily Mordentroge - 09 January 2019 04:32 PM

There’s a difference between knowing and experiencing. If there wasn’t all manner of experiences such as visions of Jesus, Shakti etc would constitute knowing they exist.

I would say myself that I know pain whenever I experience pain. I don’t see how this could be a problem.

Dealing in abstractions when attempting to decribe experience is often problematic, instance Freud.

People who have a vision of Jesus don’t experience Jesus. They experience a vision of Jesus. As such, they know their vision of Jesus without knowing Jesus.

But do they accept their’s is only a vision and not a genuine encounter with The Risen Lord? Many true believers ( a signficant designation in this context I suggest) will vehemently assert their experience is fact.

When we look at a red flower, all we know is our subjective experience of the percept of the red flower. Science now tells us there’s likely no redness in a red flower, something people have long realised, Newton for once. Instead, science may say that a red flower is essentially a collection of elementary particles or some quantum thing. This should tell us we don’t know a red flower just by looking at it.


Seeing and knowing both appear necessary for ’Redness’ to be known. Is it absolutely necessary for collections of elementary particles or ’some quantum thing’ to be known as part of what we observe about a particular rose for the term ‘Red’ to be valid, repeatable usage?  Unless dealing with the colour blind an agreed meaning for ‘Red’ may be established empirically without any need to resort to quantum theory or collections of elementary particles.

So, we know the redness that we experience but we don’t know the actual red flower.

Actual red flower? Why must we ‘know’ the totality of any objects sub-atomic structure, chemical composition down to the last detail to be able to consistently and reliably have others understand what we mean by ‘red rose’?

For the moment, I haven’t found anybody to fault this way of looking at things.

And I haven’t found anyone apart from academic philosophers wanting to suggest ’this way of looking at things’ is either a necessary of efficient manner in which to describe, and deal with, the day to day world we live in.

Dissily Mordentroge - 09 January 2019 04:32 PM

I like your ‘I don’t know, there’s nothing much anybody can do for you’ as it suggests I’m un-conscious. Well, I do lapse now and again I’ll admit.

I do have to allow for the possibility that some other people might not experience consciousness the way I do and the way other people report it. Some people for example will display a behaviour consistant with being in pain while not reporting being in pain. I interpret that as a split in the conscious mind. One part is not experiencing pain while talking to other people, the other part is experiencing pain but is for some reason unable to report it. I’m sure some scientist must be working on this sort of hypothesis. We’ll have to wait for the result.
And we’re all doing all sorts of things about which we’re not conscious, so it’s no big deal. We’re most likely doing quantitatively far more that we’re unconscious about than things we’re conscious about. So, we spend most of our lives largely unconscious. I guess we try to focus on what’s really interesting to us, so maybe it’s just as well.
EB

Just as well indeed . It has been suggested by neurologists some hallucinogenic drugs induce a state where every sensation both internally generatied, externally stimulated and the processing involved in ‘knowing’ them are bought into full consciousness the resultant overload can manifest as no less than terrifying confusion.
Speaking of which I’ve just returned from having had minor surgery which included short term general anaesthesia, muscle relaxants etc making me only too aware my thoughts here and now may be muddled and that I ’ll just have to take the word of the medical practitioners as to what actually took place.

[ Edited: 10 January 2019 20:46 by Gone]
 
 
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11 January 2019 03:35
 

For those who may be interested here, thank you to try to express the formal structure of the argument, as you understand it.
I repeat it here for convenience:

Premise 1 - For all we know, somebody’s conscious mind may be the state of a group of neurons in this person’s brain;
Premise 2 - What somebody does is determined by the state of a group of neurons in this person’s brain;
Conclusion - Therefore, for all we know, what somebody does may be determined by the conscious mind of this person.

Everything is admissible as long as it’s what you think is the best expression of the structure of the argument and that you are prepared to argue your view.
Thank you to focus for now on this particular point.
I will myself keep away from this thread to let you all try to arrive at a consensus independently of my own view, hopefully through something like a rational debate.
Thank you in advance for your contribution.
EB

 
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11 January 2019 17:19
 
Speakpigeon - 11 January 2019 03:35 AM

For those who may be interested here, thank you to try to express the formal structure of the argument, as you understand it.
I repeat it here for convenience:

Premise 1 - For all we know, somebody’s conscious mind may be the state of a group of neurons in this person’s brain;
Premise 2 - What somebody does is determined by the state of a group of neurons in this person’s brain;
Conclusion - Therefore, for all we know, what somebody does may be determined by the conscious mind of this person.

Everything is admissible as long as it’s what you think is the best expression of the structure of the argument and that you are prepared to argue your view.
Thank you to focus for now on this particular point.
I will myself keep away from this thread to let you all try to arrive at a consensus independently of my own view, hopefully through something like a rational debate.
Thank you in advance for your contribution.
EB

For me a contribution isn’t so simple given the structure of the original assertions/argument.
1: What is meant by ‘What somebody does’? Is this an unambiguous phrase refering to an action taken in dealing with the external world? On the other hand it may include a conscious view not acted upon for any number of reasons for refraining.
2; Expressing this from another angle ‘..... . . . what somebody does may be determined by the conscious mind of this person’. I’m somewhat thrown by ‘may be’ which appears to imply, without being specific, an action may be taken due to an unconscious urge/decision/reflex etc.

[ Edited: 12 January 2019 00:24 by Gone]
 
 
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12 January 2019 04:24
 
Dissily Mordentroge - 11 January 2019 05:19 PM

For me a contribution isn’t so simple given the structure of the original assertions/argument.
1: What is meant by ‘What somebody does’? Is this an unambiguous phrase refering to an action taken in dealing with the external world? On the other hand it may include a conscious view not acted upon for any number of reasons for refraining.

If you don’t understand the phrase “what somebody does”, there isn’t much I can do about it.
The argument is couched in ordinary English sentences and can be interpreted using any good English dictionary.
If the argument as worded and phrased is ambiguous, then anything I could add will also be ambiguous.
I was careful to use words we all understand and I was careful to phrase it in the most straightforward way.
I also used English rather than any formal expression because many people don’t understand the latter.
Apparently, most people don’t understand English either.

Dissily Mordentroge - 11 January 2019 05:19 PM

2; Expressing this from another angle ‘..... . . . what somebody does may be determined by the conscious mind of this person’. I’m somewhat thrown by ‘may be’ which appears to imply, without being specific, an action may be taken due to an unconscious urge/decision/reflex etc.

What do you mean “imply” here?
If you mean “logically imply”, then, obviously, the answer is no. Instead, it allows that what somebody does may not be determined by the conscious mind, without going into what may determine what somebody does if not the conscious mind.
If by “imply” you mean “suggest”, then, no, it doesn’t suggest anything. The expression “may be” should be understood as the ordinary English expression “may be” we all understand.
EB

 
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12 January 2019 06:06
 

Mr. Pigeon, we would hope to steer you to a different and more useful conclusion than ‘most people don’t understand English’. Your requested consensus has already arrived. We try to be helpful. I’ll see if I can find where Mart left the fire extinguisher just in case.

 
 
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13 January 2019 04:37
 
Nhoj Morley - 12 January 2019 06:06 AM

Mr. Pigeon, we would hope to steer you to a different and more useful conclusion than ‘most people don’t understand English’. Your requested consensus has already arrived. We try to be helpful. I’ll see if I can find where Mart left the fire extinguisher just in case.

I would have thought it sufficiently in evidence that my replies to comments have throughout been reasonable and sufficiently articulate for people to argue their corners if they could.
As to most people not understanding English, it was nothing like a conclusion and therefore not meant as a useful conclusion. Rather, a fact of life and an empirical observation supported by long practice. I may have been a bit inflamed by finding out for myself the inanity of many of the comments I got here. I’m satisfied people got their due, though.
And as to useful conclusions, you should also be able to verify for yourself that I do reply to most of the comments that are relevant and that I do it in a very reasonable way, which I think is what counts as far as useful conclusions are concerned.
EB

 
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