(More or less, an academic research paper)
Consciousness Statement A Part 1
Copyright 2015 by Bob Elschlager
keywords: consciousness, mind body, physics, philosophy, Statement A, the hard problem of consciousness.
*** Abstract ***
Basic straightforward Ideas in mathematical logic are used with basic straightforward ideas of physics to take an initial step in carefully delineating a better understanding of consciousness. I call this initial step, “Statement A”, and this post is the first in a multi-part post developing these ideas.
At the end of this multi-part post, hopefully a framework for analyzing the issues in a context of logic larger than current physics will be setup.
(Internet sources can appear and disappear. On December 4, 2015, I have checked all the ones in this post to see that they are as stated. Note 1.)
(I have difficulty trying to work on all the possible directions in this post. MORE)
*** introduction ***
Statement A is a step perhaps on a new path for trying to understand the deepest unknowns of consciousness, unknowns in the physical world. This does not mean giving blindly bent knee to what physicists say, adulating the world and word as presented to us by physics.
There are actually some deep scientific fallacies that the minds of scientists inhabit.
The concept of consciousness is notoriously challenging to investigate or define. Indeed, some experts see it as the quintessential modern problem in philosophy, and in physics too.
As an example, consider Daniel N. Robinson’s lecture “Philosophy of Mind, if there is One.” (Lecture 54 of “The Great Ideas of Philosophy,” by Daniel N. Robinson, Oxford University. See note 2). I assume Robinson’s title of the lecture, “Philosophy of Mind, If There is One,” is a play on whether there is such a thing as mind, and if there is such, is there a philosophy of mind. Robinson delves into the great difficulties, perhaps even impossibilities?, in trying to get at the concepts of mind and consciousness.
However, somewhat in contradistinction to Robinson’s statement, 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 physical bodies (“belonging to” the two consciousnesses). This post presents Statement A, which gives a completely defined, completely precise statement of this. Well, virtually, almost overwhelming completely precise.
Statement A is basically a theorem, which in a little while, we will be giving a proof of.
The value of Statement A is this.
Statement A carefully relates two worlds. One world is what goes on in the brain. The other world is what we say, whether what we say is out loud, or written down, or silently to ourselves, whether it is one word, or a long sequence of words, or a very long sequence of words. Typically, we deal with these two worlds as if they were completely different, yet Statement A ties them closely together. The brain has around a 100 thousand million neurons, with each neuron having up to about 10,000 connections to other neurons (note 4). There are a huge number of words we can speak, and a much much larger number of sequences of words.
In a little while we will look at Statement A, which at first glance might seem trivial. But its consequences involve issues like: the mind-body problem, what is mind, what is the material and immaterial world, what is cause and effect (there are consequently theological issues, such as God causing things, though we do not discuss this in this post), free will, determinism, as well as, what is the experience itself that we have for instance when we see a color (in philosophy, this is the issue of qualia). Ultimately, Statement A is involved with consciousness.
In these posts, I have tried to use language outside the various areas of experts. Originally I wanted to mention more items from the area of philosophy, but it became too confusing to do so in a short space. So this post invokes philosophy, but philosophy as it is also involved with the idea of the material world, philosophy different than purely the traditional form. Indeed, in Robinson’s lecture on “Philosophy of Mind, If There is One,” Robinson looks at science several times, and at the end of the lecture, asks, even if science becomes substantial in the area of philosophy of consciousness, will not the essential problems still be there.
I invite commentary to this post, and that definitely includes from philosophers and physicists and from everyone else too.
*** end of Introduction ***
*** Statement A ***
Here is Statement A
All speech, including all words written, or spoken out loud, or silently to oneself, including sentences, paragraphs, even the equivalent in length of whole books, come totally and solely, from what is going on in the brain, the brain being a system wholly in the material world, the material world as given to us by physics.
Concerning the phrase “come totally and solely from,” our proof of Statement A will include a precise material-world definition of “cause and effect.”
We will be looking at so many situations with Statement A, we just have to have a different form of it, otherwise we will be getting all mixed up. But the above is still a complete and accurate and more direct version.
*** Statement A, in a little different form ***
Consider a person p. All the words from p, whether written or typed or spoken out loud, or spoken silently to p’s self, and whether it is one word or a sequence of words, whether the sequence is short or long or very long; the word or sequence of words come totally and solely from the brain of p. Note that the brain is a system wholly in the physical world, and we take the physical to be as given us by physics. We use the terms “material world” and “physical world” to mean the same thing as the world as given us by physics. When we say “come totally and solely” from the brain, we are talking about a version of cause and effect, or one thing determining another thing (note that such is simply one of the forms of partial determinism, and the general idea of determinism and partial determinism will be discussed in a future post). We give a precise definition of our particular version of cause and effect that we will use (this precise definition of cause and effect is given in the proof of Statement A).
*** end of Statement A ***
*** some comments on Statement A ***
We already talked about the main value of Statement A is that it focuses our attention on two profoundly different worlds of thought, and forces us to start to see them as close to each other.
One world is when our thoughts enter into looking at the brain, which is totally, wholly, purely as a physical system, for example, in technology. A completely different world is when our thoughts are involved with speaking and hearing others speak, and with our feelings and emotions and experiences and drives, and consciousness. Statement A forces us to start putting these two worlds together.
But there are other advantages to Statement A, one of them being the fact that it is virtually a mathematical theorem. Being virtually a mathematical theorem, it is harder to ignore; it has no soft edges where some people can start to chip away at the statement until it means virtually nothing. Further, any deductions from Statement A have the backing of virtually a mathematical theorem. These are big pluses.
*** end of comments on Statement A ***
*** proof of Statement A ***
The brain consists of about 100 thousand million neurons (note 4) (neurons are also referred to as neuron cells). We take the brain to include the mass of neurons in the spinal column, which directly, or indirectly through other neurons, connect to the mass of neurons in the skull, and then in different places from the spinal column, spread out to the body.
A neuron has input fibers and output fibers. There are more technical names for these, but that is what I will call them (note 3).
We run into a problem here right away, and I might as well speak to it out in the open. Modern science has developed into astounding levels of complexity. As just one example, medical-biological science, as it traces its way down to physics, gets involved with and astounding amount of detail even at any one level as it traces its way down to physics. To go into any of this detail, even to hint at all of it, throws us completely off track from what we want to accomplish in this post, it being really being poisonous to our goals, because it detracts our thinking from what we want to look at.
So. Where we are is: neurons have input fibers and output fibers.
Signals travel over the input fibers to the neuron body, whereupon the neuron body may or may not fire, and if it fires, signals travel out from it to the tips of the output fibers, where they jump across to the tips of some input fibers of other neurons. A single neuron can have up to about 10,000 input and output fiber connections to the fibers of other neurons (note 4).
However, some output fibers are instead connected to a muscle cell. In this case, the signal would go along the output fiber to the muscle cell and cause the muscle cell to contract. (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 person.
So speech comes totally solely from the signals flying around in the brain.
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.
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), other muscles in the arms and shoulders, the head, neck, eyes, and so on.
*** interrupt proof for a long discursive look at the concept of cause and effect ***
I got a bit carried away in this section on cause and effect, but all the material needed for the current post is the in next sentence, and if that works for you in this situation, you can skip to the end of this section on cause and effect. The full and total basis of cause and effect is that the signal, a voltage spike, starts at the neuron, and moves down the output fiber to where the signal jumps to the input fiber of the next neuron; and the start of the signal is, in time, before the signal gets to where it jumps to the next input fiber, and getting from start to jump point is a process of moving along the fiber (“moving along” being a concept involved with time).
For those who have not jumped to the end of this section on cause and effect, we now look at an important issue in Statement A, the concept of cause and effect, and signals. Statement A mentions cause and effect, and we want to give a precise definition of this concept of cause and effect. Philosophy, and other sciences too, banter about the term “cause and effect,” and “determinism”, with everyone assuming the meaning is obvious and does not need to be explicitly stated. It is only recently that a painful experience began to reveal otherwise to me. The Stanford researcher Sheldon Goldstein quantum mechanics (qm) of Bohm – http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/qm-bohm/ by Sheldon Goldstein http://www.math.rutgers.edu/~oldstein/ with a deterministic version of quantum mechanics. And I thought somewhere in the qm-bohm url, in talking about some historical researcher in qm, Bell (search for the many places where “Bell” occurs in the preceding qm-bohm url), that Bell says there simply is no such thing as cause and effect. But! – and this left me in quite a lurch – there was not a single word as to what it means that there simply is no such thing as cause and effect. There simply is no thing as cause and effect, and not a word as to why. Argh.
For some time I had been thinking about the issue cause and effect as it is illustrated in Newton’s founding equation to address everything, force equals mass times acceleration (maybe also it is the basis of the foundation formula of qm).
We think of the system of Newton – it is called Newtonian Mechanics and it is also called Classical Mechanics – as having cause and effect.
However! Look at problems in textbooks on Classical Mechanics. Look carefully. The givens
force only one situation to be possible. You just play with the givens along with some – what are in effect – purely mathematical concepts, whereupon you come up with the only situation possible – the givens have basically given it to you – and then looking at that situation, you see what part of the situation has the information the textbook problem is looking for. And you report that as the answer.
But seeing all the textbook problems being the same in this regard, injects into the background of our thinking, the false belief that there there is cause and effect in nature.
So cause and effect is not present in classical mechanics, the place where we most expected it.
I think we did not see this because we got so fixated with the indeterminism of qm, that we don’t realize cause and effect does not exist even in the old-fashioned standard classical mechanics. Well now, we need to be a little more careful in looking at all of this, but regardless, there is plenty going on here that is not part of what has been injected into the background of our thoughts.
I can’t help thinking about the Berkeley law professor Phillip E. Johnson, who challenges evolution as presented in science, on the basis that basically it is a technique lawyer’s use, I think something like, scientists basically make circular metaphysical assumptions. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uMKxx_KeTF8 youtube on interview with Phillip E.Johnson. Google “phillip Johnson evolution” for tons of stuff on him – I don’t think the youtube interview with him is that good. I found out about him from the the Great Courses course by Professor Edward J, Larson, in a course called “The Theory of Evolution: A History of Controversy, 26:38 into the last lecture, Lecture 12.
(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 – is more complicated than casual thinking suggests.)
As for signals traveling along filaments of neurons, Statement A mentions “totally and solely determined” (by the going-on’s in the brain). This thing about a signal going down a fiber is that it is one of the ways that we may assert with surety (and at that same time define what we mean by) cause and effect.
The signal is a spike of voltage. The signal starts at the neuron body, and after a time arrives at the end of the fiber – admittedly a very short time, but still a non-zero period of time. This is one of the definitions of cause and effect in the material world! Thus, Statement A is asserting a cause and effect, where the cause and effect is the most directly defined version of the concept there is in the material world – as opposed to philosophy and other sciences bantering about the concept. One point in time, and, necessarily, a point in time after that point in time. The starting point of the signal on the filament is at an earlier point in time than, as the signal travels along the filament not only in space but in time, when it arrives at the end of the filament: hence we have a totally and solely defined, concept of cause and effect.
(Here are some references for an even more detailed future post solely dedicated to this “cause and effect”, but at the same time understandable to the issues that go on in philosophy and in physics when trying to figure out consciousness – i.e. one must find a way to look at, but not let the more detailed information at these references become a distraction to the goals http://neuronbank.org/wiki/index.php/Integrate-and-fire_neurons http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17467058 )
This idea of cause and effect and determinism, in the material world, being defined in terms of time, is sort of ridiculously obvious. And yet, and yet.
Years ago, in some internet post, I came across a complex situation involving this. A professor made a comment in a discussion thread. I no longer have any idea of the professor’s name or the url. A student had asked about some obscure issue related to the quantum mechanics double slit experiment, something about a seeming paradox of the result of the experiment being determined by the experimenter’s knowledge. Some professor jumped into the discussion, connecting the paradox to relativity and simultaneity.
From a general perspective of this important concept of cause and effect and determinism and the like, I must go into this internet discussion thread from long ago because it is fascinating and because it is a sophisticated example of these kinds of issues, and also because it drives home the precision which I attempt in Statement A, in the material world.
The professor pointed out that the theory of relativity says whether a certain point A in space and time precedes or follows some other point B in space and time, can depend on the relative speed of the different frames of reference (a few years before this, when I was playing around with the relativity equations, trying to derive and understand the theory of relativity for myself
I was startled to find that the speed one is traveling at can switch which of A or B comes first in time, because what we call the theory of relativity not only predicts shortening of objects and time, but also predicts (well, this follows from the relativity equations), that in one (relative) frame of reference, event A can occur before event B, but in another (relative) frame of reference, the same event can literally occur A after event B. This can, of course, change whether A can cause B. As I said, I was startled. I had come across this phenomenon earlier, when I was digging into the equations of relativity theory, and I was so surprised it made me uncertain of my algebra and deductions. But after going over them carefully several times, I decided it was true.
But it still gnawed at me, that, in the theory of relativity, the same two events can change as to which one occurs first, depending on the reference frame, and that maybe I had somehow made a mistake in playing with the equations. So it was very nice to come across the internet discussion thread and the professor’s comment.
The details are more complex, and I no longer remember anything about them, except these general ideas.
I mention all this because a careful looking into the material universe can reveal issues that one might otherwise be completely unaware of.
(Compare this with the engineer who decided he also needed to check the wind on the short sides of the John Hancock building too – go all the way in the analysis. See note 5.)
Let us return to the issue of the the signal moving along the fiber, being at one place in time at the start, and only later, at the tip of the fiber. This is the most concrete, solid, definition that there is, in the material world, of cause and effect and determinism, and so it is fitting that Statement A should be so grounded and absolute.
It is this signal going from the start of a fiber to the end, arriving after it started, which is needed to show and prove, with no room for questioning, that what is going on in the brain, is what causes, totally and solely, the words that come out of the person. and don’t forget that determinism is defined in terms of *** end of cause and effect ***
*** back to the proof of Statement A ***
Here are a few technical additions to our proof.
By brain, I include the spinal column and neurons and fibers that come out of the spinal column. There is a hollow pathway inside the spinal column that contains a huge number of neurons and their fibers, coming from the brain, directly or indirectly though other neurons and fibers, and here and there spreading out from the spinal column to the rest of the body, for instance, the arms, hands, feet, legs, sensory neurons, muscles, all throughout the body.
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 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 some of their words. People may be pretty vague about this belief, but if you tried to tell them otherwise, they could 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.
*** Logic Glass. 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.
In a way, it 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 no longer saw the index at this 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.
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 our terms. 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 pertaining to the imprecise, uncertain, or vague meanings.
(Perhaps a better term instead of Logic Glass would be Logicscope or Logiscope 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.