As of April 29, 2016, this post is being upgraded.
(Starting April 28, 2016, this post is slowly being converted to an abbreviated form of the original at https://reasonandthereal.wordpress.com/internals/vers/version-1-consciousness-statement-a-part-1/ )
Consciousness Statement A Part 1
Copyright 2015 by Bob Elschlager
keywords: consciousness, mind body, physics, philosophy, Statement A, the hard problem of consciousness.
Some experts see consciousness as the quintessential modern problem in philosophy, and in physics too.
Everybody has had an impossible time even trying to say what consciousness is.
However, I say, consider when you are talking with someone. This talking is an example of two consciousnesses interacting. We may have extreme problems in saying what consciousness is, but one thing we can look at with complete precision and define-ed-ness, is the sequence of words coming out of the vocal chords of the two physical bodies of the consciousnesses.
This is a little like Isaac Newton’s theory; he did not, and refused to, say what “gravity” was, but he did say what it was connected to.
*** from here to x7. something needs to be done with this ***
*** end x7 ****
Let us continue focusing in on the physical.
The brain has about one hundred thousand million neurons, each neuron having up to about ten thousand connections to other neurons. The brain is a big, busy place.
A neuron has fibers coming out of it. A signal starts at the end of an input fiber, and travels along the fiber to the body of the neuron. If the neuronal body fires, signals are sent out on all the output fibers, and they travel to the end of the output fiber, where they jump across to the tip of the input fiber of the next neuron.
Actually, whether the body of the neuron fires is influenced by which input fibers are delivering signals and which are not, and so on. The neuronal body is around the size of the usual cell, but the fibers are thin and absolutely incredibly long. Maybe xxxxx times as long as the body. Neurons are the only cells like this. Well, figures, huh?, the signals are communicating information from all over the body, organizing information, moving information, processing it, coming to conclusions, getting instructions, sending out instructions.
The brain is indeed a big, busy place. For our purposes, we take the brain to include the mass of neurons in the spinal column as well as nerves and fibers spreading out from the spinal column, connecting to all parts of the human body, head, face, heart, lungs, shoulders, arms, hands, fingers, leg parts, feet, toes.
Every muscle cell in the human body can only be activated by an output fiber from a neuron – some output fibers connect to a muscle cell rather than an input fiber of another neuron. A signal at the tip of an output fiber where it contacts the muscle cell causes the muscle cell to want to contract. [***in exceptions later: heart muscle keeps up some rythmic contractions even if no signaling from nerve fibers, or ?? possibly even if for a short while, removed from the body. In teh above I did not mention that muscles are made of muscle cells ****]
An absence of a signal lets the muscle cell relax. By the way, a muscle is composed of many muscle cells.
It is in this manner that the brain controls all the muscle cells in the body, including the muscles that move and pull the vocal cords, and throat, and lips and teeth and jaw and the diaphragm that creates general air pressure through the vocal cords, and all of these create the speech – words, sentences, and so on, that come out of the mouth of the human body.
It is in this manner that the brain controls every muscle cell in the whole body, including the muscles that ——- , [see some of stuff in updated conc stmnt A, on egs of muscles. Add all the mscles that control vocal chords, all the muscles that control the throat, the mouth, the tongue, the lips, the diaphragm, all of these, are activated by signals in nerve fibers sent to the muscle, all are activated by the brain, all the actions come from the brain. Therefore, every word that comes out of the mouth of the human body, in all situations, with no exception, no matter what, is created by the brain. [no, don’t go into eg this has monumental implications] . To see some of the consequences of this, let’s look at the following.
[the issue of “could” speak – wrap this and all kind of others (maybe even “the one or more or many more ” ) – into some mention maybe or maybe not in a pre-mention somewhere, or a post-mention [eg this is gone into in horrific detail in the original post] somewhere. And remember, it has been clearly pointed out that the original more technical Statement A post is off in some page. maybe above is *** the kernel of the arg ***. “this argument can be extended not just to word or words that spoken but to could be spoken in any situaitoin, one word, many words, even very long sequence of words as in book length. then [ maybe the one thing to mention in more detail –> ] muscles also muscles that control the fingers and hands and arms and so on, writing or typing. ]
So speech comes totally solely from the signals flying around in the brain. As will be seen from the examples below, this is sort of obvious and yet it isn’t. In fact, in some very strong ways, it isn’t, and that is what the examples force us to see, and don’t be disturbed that the examples may disturb you; ultimately these are related to some of the deeper mysteries of the universe, and indeed the are deep mysteries of the universe.
As for speech spoken to oneself, every few such words could, with a little more effort, be spoken out loud, and if desired the speech could be recorded and later transcribed to the written or typed word.
***we might as well point out the following additional fact*** The above applies not only to the muscles that cause speech, but to all muscles in the body. Hence, the signals coming out of the brain control all muscles and hence all actions done by the body, and thus also all the muscle motions used in writing or typing, these taking place through muscles in the forearm (these control the fingers – there is not enough room in the hand for good muscles), along with other muscles in the arms and shoulders, the head, neck, eyes, and so on.
*** interrupt proof for a long (very, very, long) discursive look at the concept of cause and effect *** ***this whole section has to be removed or at least severely shortened in this less technical post***
(Theologically, the issue of cause and effect plays an underlying role, in the issue of “God causes / does” such and such, or in ancient times, “the gods cause this or that.” The discussion here shows that the concept of “cause and effect” – the predicate “cause and effect” – in the strictest framework of the most careful formulation of physics – Newtonian mechanics – is more complicated than casual thinking suggests, I think, than the casual or otherwise, thinking of scientists and mathematicians, suggests or says – maybe.)
***end of cause and effect***
*** back to the proof of Statement A ***
***a lot of the following needs to be condensed or removed in this less technical post***
Here are a few technical additions to our proof.
An exception to the our description in this post, are sensory neuron cells, for instance, the rods and cones in the retina in the back of the eye, or the olfactory neuron cells for smell, in the nose, or the cilia in the chochlea behind the eardrum http://neuronbank.org/wiki/index.php/Cochlea_hair_cell ), and the like. Even though sensory neuron cells do not impact the interests of this post, I will point out, in the interests of being more accurate, that sensory neuron cells do not have input fibers, such fibers being replaced by the sensory detection itself; also, the output signals from sensory neurons are very different than that described above.
Also, we have ignored the intrusion for instance of a neurosurgeon into the nervous system.
Also, we might point out that some muscles can act without signals from the brain. When a heart is removed and placed on a table, it will continue to rhythmically contract for a certain period of time by itself. There are also muscle spasms, for instance charlie horses, where the muscle may be contracting, I would presume, without a signal being sent to it.
A further technical addition to the proof is this. In the future, advanced technological equipment might, via electromagnetic waves in the vicinity of the body, be able to take over what some muscles do. Hence, the muscle would contract but not from signals having moving along nerve fibers.
Also, things of all sorts outside the body could push, for instance, fingers and arms and so on, to move in certain ways, even though there were no signals from neurons in the body to do so. All these issues in general will be dealt with in a future post. I’m not sure if most disciplines, e.g. philosophy, neurobiology, and so on, might just do a dismissive wave of the hands, that these are not issues that need to be mentioned. But we are interested in a statement A that is virtually as tight logically as is a mathematical theorem (incidentally, contrary to common belief, a great deal of mathematics is non-numerical), and so we need to dig carefully into these things – in a future post.
Also, for a matter not concerning the issue here of cause and effect, but for those interested, are the details of when the signal jumps from the end of an output fiber to the beginning of the input fiber of another neuron, in technical language, synapses. See note 6.
*** end of proof of Statement A ***
We now look at examples of the surprising consequences of Statement A (for a technical aside on terminology, see note 7).
*** example 1. Statement A itself ***
The first example is Statement A itself. All spoken words (to oneself, or out loud, one word or a sequence of many) are totally and solely created in the brain, a physical system in the physical world as given us by physics.
I have noticed that a pretty large percentage of people assume or believe their words do not come from the brain, or at least not every single word. People may be pretty vague about this belief, but if you tried to tell them otherwise, they might become angry, and simply go back to what they were saying; or maybe just walk away.
Statement A shows that this assumption is false. People’s words do come, totally and solely, from the brain, the brain being a physical system in a physical world as given us by physics.
Is it upsetting to know this?
Yet, we should not get overly carried away by such knowledge. It may just mean that the universe is more multi-faceted, intricate, deep, and not as straightforward, and clean-cut, as we had earlier conceptualized it. For instance, we might ask, what things are influencing the brain that it produces the words? Are some of the influences quite special in the larger picture?
At any rate, all spoken words (to oneself, or out loud, one word or a sequence of many) are totally and solely created in the brain, a physical system in the physical world as given us by physics.
***the academic version of this paper/post has the following, which I am deciding whether or not to leave here*** Logic Glass.
put at end of Logic Glass: Logic Glass is extremely important. It allows us to make and prove a precise statement about someting that could contain a huge number of possibilities. where we have no idea what it is but is still extremely important, such as in teh above, consciousness, or in the time of Newton, gravity. And then we can make extremely fruitful deductions from the statement, such as with the statement about consciousness above, or with Newton’s statement about gravity. And this even though it is not known what consciousness is, or, in Newton’s time, what gravity is. (Even today, I am not convinced that it is known what gravity “really” is.)
Or, some words on logic and physics. Or, some words on logic and the material world. Or, some words on logic. Or, the contribution of mathematical logic and physics to Statement A ***
Here are some words on logic and physics. The idea of looking at a word or sequence of words, without considering the meaning of the words, is, in a loose, general way, already suggested in mathematical logic. So that is the contribution of mathematical logic to Statement A.
As for the contribution made by physics, that is obvious, But it might be good to state it explicitly.
It is certainly in the idea of physics as it defines the structure and motions of particles and atoms and molecules and so on, as matter is built into higher and higher levels of organization, of an entity, such as that of the human body. But the contribution of physics is also in the idea, close to the particle / atomic / molecular level, of signals traveling along fibers of the neurons in the brain and to the muscles. For Statement A, the emphasis is on the levels starting at the vocal cords, as part of the body, and then down to lower levels of parts of organs of the body, then tissues of the organs, and down to molecules, and then down to the level of atoms, and so on, and thus physics.
We now want to look at an idea that we will invoke at different places. I will call the idea “Logic Glass.”
By the way, Logic Glass solves one of Francis Bacon’s concerns. Bacon, 1561-1626, was the person who stated most of the bases for modern science. One basis was: We must have precise and definite meanings of the terms that we use. Terms cannot be vague, ill-defined, have more than one meaning, and so on. Logic Glass shows how we can sometimes satisfy this requirement, even when we don’t have precise meanings, because we may be able to get hold of precise properties and relations that pertain to the imprecise, uncertain, or vague meanings. And those precise properties and meanings may allow us to make precise deductions about imprecise vague meanings.
(Perhaps a better term instead of Logic Glass would be Logicscope or Logiscope
In a way, Logic Glass is already used in Statement A: Statement A had some relation to consciousness, even though we never defined consciousness. This idea of defining precise properties about imprecise or undefined meanings, or precise relations between imprecise meanings, I will call “Logic Glass.” The precise properties or relations can then be used in precise logical deductions.
This Logic Glass occurs in this post, with Statement A being a precise property about an imprecise meaning of consciousness. But Logic Glass also occurs outside the post, for instance, in Isaac Newton’s introduction of precise properties of gravity, but gravity itself he kept undefined. The precise properties (mainly, force equals mass times acceleration) explained all kinds of things, from the motions of the planets to interactions of objects on earth.
In fact, Newton refused to say what gravity was – his famous “hypotheses non fingo” – I make no hypotheses (as to what gravity is). He only stated precise relations about gravity to such things as mass and distance and acceleration. (Using google, tt seems hard to find a good explanation in English of Newton’s “Hypotheses non fingo” – but see pages 274-280 of http://www.ucpress.edu/book.php?isbn=9780520088177 The Principia, by Isaac Newton, a new translation [etc] by Cohen, Whitman, and Budenz. In fact, just now, I was going through the index for this book, which is online at the url (May 3, 2016, I was unable to access the index at the site). Search for “Hypotheses” – don’t add “non fingo” – otherwise, for some reason, the search fails. There are only 5 places in the index of this almost thousand page book, where the word “hypotheses” occurs. And just use common sense, and you will find every place where the issue of the “hypotheses non fingo” comes up.)
Statement A does not say what consciousness is. Newton does not say what gravity is. Both are examples of this Logic Glass. Both give precise properties of things not defined. Both make precise deductions from those precise properties.
or Logoscope, by analogy with the words Microscope and Telescope. Indeed,Telescope and Microscope are just the rudimentary beginnings of what is a Logoscope.)
*** end of Logic Glass ***
*** example 2. The immaterial world ***
Statement x1: Suppose that a certain person p is knowledgeable enough and careful enough, such that when p makes a statement s that has the term “immaterial world” in it, s is true.
(Quotes were added around “immaterial world”; and the two words “the term” were inserted; in order to avoid a technical complication of formal logic, which I will not go into here.)
Now, suppose p makes a statement s that has the term “immaterial world” in it”. According to statement x1, s is true. However, according to Statement A, s comes totally and solely out of the physical object, the brain of p, and the brain of course is completely specified by the laws of physics.
Hence we have an object in the material world – the brain – an object totally specified by the laws of physics – and the object is creating true statements about the immaterial world. An object in the material world – a brain – is creating statements about the immaterial world. Are there any questions here?!
Now this is rather interesting.
On reading this, some people will jump to the conclusion that there is no such thing as the immaterial world, that it is created in the physics of the material world, that the immaterial world is only a phantasm created in the minds of humans. But if one looks carefully at this example, it does not say quite this. The only thing this example really shows is that there is a certain relation between the immaterial and what physics says the world is, but what exactly that relation is, is not so easy to see.
Nevertheless, this example does give us an additional view into these matters.
*** example 3. feeling feelings emotions moods ****
Suppose a person p says, “AAAHHH, stop, stop, AHHHH”, as the dentist accidentally discovers a sensitive part of a tooth.
By Statement A, basically a theorem, the sequence of words that p says come totally and solely from the brain, and just to reiterate what we have said over and over, the brain is a system – an object – in the material world as given us by physics.
At first glance, this example seems obvious and innocent, although people of a non-scientific persuasion may start to form the slightest furrow of the brows, knit brows. There is more involved here, maybe a whole lot more.
Let’s look at some more examples of feelings, emotions, moods.
Suppose a person p says, “I really feel sorry for Jack or Mary or my dog Pete or my political party or the opposition to my political party or the government” or of some person or entity or such.
Just as with the example of the dentist, the sequence of words that p speaks “feeling sorry for such and such” come totally and solely from the brain, and so on, as in the example of the dentist; the example seems innocent enough, but in a future post we will look much more deeply at this.
Here are more examples. “Things are going great in the new apartment I moved into.” “My life might as well be at an end, I feel so miserable about it.” “I just noticed now, a certain negativity or something coming into my thoughts, but I can’t say what it is; I wonder what it is.” “The sun is so beautiful today, and the universe itself is wonderful and good.” “The sun is so bright and cold in an unpleasant contrast to the just-too blue sky , [same sun and sky as previous sentence]. lt’s almost frightening, the inner being of everything, the universe itself is cold too – that’s how I feel.”
These things come totally and solely out of the physical object, the brain. Hence we can say, these “feelings”, “moods”, “emotions”, are literally computed by algorithms going on in the brain. To me, that is pretty shocking. (note 8).
*** example 4. orgasm ***
The intensity of orgasm: all of that is nothing but signals going around in the brain. The feeling and psychological intensity, extreme intensity. This would seem to be an example of an extreme metaphysical mismatch of the real with the current conceptualizations of the universe as offered by physics. Considering Statement A, this is even more so.
*** example 5. free will ***
Suppose person p says “I choose D and I do it of my own free will.”
By Statement A, p’s statement was totally and solely determined by what took place in the brain.
As with the previous examples, person p, if told this, will probably wave this information away, or get increasingly irked if you try to bring it up. P might eventually just walk away.
So much for person p. Now some comment on a more general issue. Statement A only says that p’s statement was totally and solely determined by the brain. Statement A gives no details at all about what might be going on in the brain regarding an “act of free will.”
Sometimes mathematical theorems are like that: they simply state that such and such is true, without giving any idea of how that can be.
*** examples that will be covered in next part of this multi-part post ***
And so we have finished looking at the examples in Part 1 of this multi-part post.
In the next part, we will have examples of: Qualia, Color, Frank Jackson, Eigenmannia. We also look at some important characterizations of the kinds of things that go on in the nervous system of a brain, hypothesized, but hypotheses based on strong evidence, hypothesized out of necessity because of the lack of our current knowledge of these matters.
The final example of this multi-part post – “Infinity” – a framework of logic for analyzing the larger perspective than given us by physics. Hopefully.
*** closing Comment ***
There is a larger issue, one made easier to see by Statement A. Experts in philosophy and in other areas too, even in physics, assume many of their ideas and feelings exist un-intermediated by the going-on’s in the material brain.
I say “material” simply for the purpose of stressing that the brain is nothing but a vast system solely in the physical material world. However, in trying to understand consciousness, and that includes the consciousnesses of philosopher persons and physicist persons, as a first step, we need to take into account the going-on’s in this brain, especially regarding what might be called the consciousness functionality, a subsystem within the vast system of functionality taking place in the brain object.
At this point I will not elaborate on the following proposition that all kinds of things, for instance, light versus no light, sound versus no sound, and all kinds of aspects that are computed for these perceptions and for other senses too, are all basically computed by algorithms going on in the brain object.
They are all creations, they are all outputs of algorithms going on in this brain object, and the outputs are further fed into other algorithms, and so on, and in a sense, all these outputs, some of which are the experience itself – the qualia – are completely unreal as far as far as the world presented to us by physics”.
One might even jump to larger considerations, and point out that the material world as presented to us by physics is constructed from purely, solely, abstract relations devoid of light or sound – this takes a little bit of explaining because our perception of light and sound is constructed by these algorithms in the brain and then other algorithms in turn project that out onto this system of property and relational abstractions presented to us by physics. In trying to understand this, to make it clear, we cannot use words like light and sound, because these words, in this deeper context, have multiple meanings. That is, we need to split these predicates into several different predicates.
Hopefully, in the last example of this multi-part p0ost, we will give a framework for this.
*** *** *** notes *** *** ***
Style on url’s and more
The whole issue of language styles and experts and groups of experts and groups of non-experts, e.g. different levels of education, social class, and on and on, as well as showing one’s social class or at least projected social class, as well as the degree of a-priori acceptance or rejection of looking at what is to be read, validity of acceptance or rejection and what does validity mean – all these are suitable topics for philosophy. Indeed, for philosophical children’s books also read by adults, see such as Saint-Exupery’s, The Little Prince, pg 17, where the Turkish astronomer in Turkish clothes, whom no one would listen to at a conference, but 11 years later, dressed in stylish Western clothes, and people now listened to him. By the way, I am not politically correct, but the incident in The LIttle Prince is a thoughtful example.
As stated in the introduction to this post, I have tried to use language that is accessible outside any area of experts. So I will say, the internet address of something is called a url, and all the url’s in this post have been checked on December 4, 2015, to see that they still have the same contents as when I wrote about them. Different groups of people and experts will refer to this date checking, in their own style. And in academia, much of this has even been formalized and dictated, for instance APA, MLA, Chicago, Harvard – see http://pitt.libguides.com/citationhelp or for interest, see https://www.mla.org/About-Us/Governance/Committees/Committee-Listings/Professional-Issues/Committee-on-Information-Technology/Guidelines-for-Authors-of-Digital-Resources . In some ways this is good, but the question also comes up whether these are towers of ossifying methodology and communication.
Professor Daniel N. Robinson, Oxford University, “The Great Ideas of Philosophy 2nd Edition,” The Great Courses 2004, Chantilly Virginia, Lecture 54, “Philosophy of Mind, If There is One”.
terminology of expert areas
For a picture that might help visualize the following, pause at the drawing at 3:03 into the video https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LkJN4X6wysM “neurons and synapses: how it all works”.
I use the word “fiber” in a way that is quite a bit as it is used neurobiology, but not completely the same. Dendritic fibers are what I call input fibers What I call output fibers is the axon and the signal paths that lead off the axon (?? only at the end of the axon or elsewhere too??). When the neuron fires, one signal moves down the axon and then to the signal paths that branch out from the axon. Actually, when the neuron fires, it is one or more voltage spikes that are sent out from the neuron onto its axon, and they travel down the axon and so on. This is what is referred to as a signal.
A synapse is where the signal jumps from the tip of an output fiber to the tip of an input fiber of another neuron. Yes, there is a small amount of space between the two tips, and yes, there has to be stuff in that space to make the signal jump between the two.
However, it seems absolutely everything in neurobiology has exceptions somewhere or another. Even the picture of a neuron, in the video above. I think many pictures are not drawn with the output fibers precisely this way.
In using the terms input fiber and output fiber, this post is introducing a high-level description.
Just the idea of giving a high-level description of something for which experts already have a very elaborate terminology and conceptology, just this idea by itself opens up philosophical issues. That’s because the high-level description can itself start to become an area of expertise. This in turn might start to introduce jarring thoughts into our minds as to what is an expertise area.
numbers of neurons. perspectives
For facts about the number of neurons, synapses, and so on, in the brain, see
and search for the following:
To get the approximate number of neurons in the brain, search “number of neurons”.
To get the number of what I call input and output fibers from a typical neuron, search for “Number of synapses for a”. (As sort of indicated in note 1, the number of synapses of a neuron will be equal to the number of input and output fibers of the neuron.)
For information about a few of our senses – audition, taste, smell (olfaction), vision, touch – search on “Sensory Apparatus”, the second occurrence. As an interesting aside, note how poor the sense of smell is in humans (“Number of human olfactory receptor cells”) compared to rabbits, dogs, or blood hounds (a billion is a thousand million).
For information on spinal cord, search “spinal cord”.
To begin to move into details of the synapse, see
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Synapse . There is a philosophical, mathematical, mentally perceptual fascination here. The way the topic of synapses is presented in most sources, the reader usually does not realize how much smaller is the world of a synapse compared to that of a neuron. And how much the time dimension is shrunk – a common phenomenon when moving to a much smaller world.
John Hancock building in Boston
The John Hancock building in Boston experienced several challenges as it was being built as well as immediately afterwards. For an exended description see http://www.pulitzer.org/archives/5826 and for the topic discussed here, search for “long thin”. One concern became whether it was well-built to handle a high wind – the building is a high and thin slab.
A specialist was hired to look into the matter.
It is not mentioned in the url, but I think I recall, probably from some TV documentary, that the person who was doing the computer simulation, found the building certainly safe from falling over in the usual way, but while flying back to tell the parties this, the specialist started to think about if it could fall over on its short side (to use the description in this url, like a book standing on a table might fall over on the side of its spine! Surely impossible! But maybe we should go all the way in the analysis to make sure). So he flew back, and checked that too. Lo and behold. Under certain rare situations, it could theoretically, not be within maybe standard overbuilt formulas – here I am totally on my own guessing at a possibility and wording – fall over on its spine side.
In our post, one advantage of a proof of a mathematical theorem, such as a proof of Statement A, is that if the proof is valid, one is guaranteed that all conceivable bases are covered, whether or not one has even conceived of all the bases.
The reason we refer to the proof of Statement A as “virtually a proof” is that not every single piece of logic in the terms and structure of Statement A has been delineated in the precise form demanded of mathematics.
Cajal Golgi synapses
Concerning signals flying from one output fiber and at the end jumping to the input fiber of another neuron. Cajal and Golgi claimed different explanations of what happened at the synapse. One of them claimed the synapse didn’t even exist. The severe contention between them existed till the day they died.
Much later, electron microscopes showed that there were cases in which there is no synapse area. http://www.nobelprize.org/nobel_prizes/medicine/laureates/1906/ http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20621648 http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17467058 .
deductions from examples
To be more technical and precise in our language, the phrase “We now look at examples of Statement A” should be “We now look at examples of deductions from, that is, consequences of, Statement A”. This latter phrasing is more precise, and also would be more in line with the precision in formal logic. But in terms of successful explanation, even for experts, the first phrasing is better. The first avoids, I believe, barriers of interfering thoughts in our consciousnesses grasping the higher level idea.
feelings as outputs of algorithms
This conclusion that we can accurately characterize feelings and so on as the outputs of algorithms going on in the brain, is, it does seem to me, logically valid. The validity is based on the fact that the brain is a physical object. Yet, anyone asserting such a conclusion probably needs to address the feelings that people have upon hearing such an assertion. One main point is, this assertion does not deny the genuine reality of feelings. It only deepens our awe of the universe. Indeed, that may be the problem: those who make this assertion as a cheap way to violently contradict reality.