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Preview: Comments on dangerous idea: Tom Gilson on the mind

Comments on dangerous idea: Tom Gilson on the mind





Updated: 2017-11-23T19:25:58.896-07:00

 



Another indication of the benefits of treating the...

2006-03-30T07:54:00.000-07:00

Another indication of the benefits of treating the mind as an object of scientific inquiry rather than as a mystery:

link



A correction.The last post is addressed to Mr. Tom...

2006-03-30T07:48:00.000-07:00

A correction.
The last post is addressed to Mr. Tom Gilson.
I should know better by now not to attempt any writing before my a.m. cup of coffee. I need that caffeine to properly stimulate my brain cells.
t.



“ask you to pause a moment and consider whether th...

2006-03-30T06:51:00.000-07:00

“ask you to pause a moment and consider whether that--physical/mechanical only--is the kind of causation you have in mind when you ask for explanation. If it is, and if you're not willing to consider a transition point in causation between material and non-material, then you might as well say so. That rules out the dualist approach on the level of the ground rules you're willing to apply to the question. But I think those ground rules come from a physicalist assumption: they beg the question. If only physicalist assumptions are admitted, only physicalist answers can follow. But we don't learn from that whether physicalism is the best or only approach.”


Tim, you are the one asserting that this mental stuff produces a change in the physical brain. All I’m doing is asking for an explanation of how it does this.


“Alzheimer's is a devastating tragedy; please don't take my next statements as implying anything else. But under physicalism (your assumption, not mine), it seems to me that the depositing of plaque in the brain is not "erroneous." It is the "proper" and quite natural outcome of the biochemical reactions that led to it.”

First, I didn’t say that Alzheimer’s itself was erroneous, I said it leads to or causes erroneous states in the brain. The brain no longer functions like we expect it to.
You fail to see that all of these neuronal activities are part of that thinking system, the brain. When they fail to produce reliable results then they can be said to be in an error state.
Why should Alzheimer’s occur in your dualistic model? This mental stuff is supposedly moving all these physical-chemical interactions in order to produce thought, why doesn’t it stop the formation of this plaque?
And you haven’t answered my other questions: why should some people be smarter than others? Why does this mental substance make mental mistakes? We have the beginnings of answers to thosse questions through the research of brain scientists. We wouldn’t know how Alzheimer’s develops or have hope of a cure for it without those same neurscientists.
You basically seem to be arguing that we shold be content with considering it a mystery.
I really don’t quite get this. You and Mr. Reppert seem to want to make an apologetical argument for Christianity, but I don’t think this is the way to go about it. Theism always comes up on the short end when it attempts to explain how things occur in the world. And it certainly is not against any Christian doctrine for a believer to think that God created the brain so that it could think.
It would be interesting to trace the history of this apologetical argument. Did Aquinas use it or Augustine? Seems to me to have arisen from that group of Christians who feel threatened by the scientific findings of the last couple of centuries.
t.



Tim,A few answers for you that I hope will help.An...

2006-03-28T08:17:00.000-07:00

Tim,

A few answers for you that I hope will help.

And where is the explanation for these things under the dualistic model you propose adopting?

What you're requesting is probably something that in the nature of things is not available. (See one of the Moreland quotes here.) If you're looking for a set of physical causes all the way back to immaterial mind, then you have to acknowledge there will be a break in that series. That's a break in the physical series, that is. If you're going to entertain a supposition that there may be immaterial mind, you have to be willing to entertain the necessity that the chain of causation is not all physical. I'm sure you can see that you can't end a chain in an immaterial locus while insisting that every link in that chain be material.

I ask you to pause a moment and consider whether that--physical/mechanical only--is the kind of causation you have in mind when you ask for explanation. If it is, and if you're not willing to consider a transition point in causation between material and non-material, then you might as well say so. That rules out the dualist approach on the level of the ground rules you're willing to apply to the question. But I think those ground rules come from a physicalist assumption: they beg the question. If only physicalist assumptions are admitted, only physicalist answers can follow. But we don't learn from that whether physicalism is the best or only approach.

Here you make the rather glaring mistake of looking at these material events apart from their organizational structure: that organ, the brain. A neural state can be erroneous if, for example, it does not follow from the previous state as expected due to the plaque build up that can be found in diseases like Alzheimer’s.

I'm really baffled as to what it means for a neural state to be erroneous. I know what it means for a mental state (a thought or belief, for example) to be erroneous, but I think (if physicalism is true) a neural state is just what it is, as a result of whatever physical/chemical events have preceded it. (How can the rock in the garden outside my door be erroneous?)

Alzheimer's is a devastating tragedy; please don't take my next statements as implying anything else. But under physicalism (your assumption, not mine), it seems to me that the depositing of plaque in the brain is not "erroneous." It is the "proper" and quite natural outcome of the biochemical reactions that led to it.

I spent time in my series and associated comments distinguishing mental states from neural states. See here, for example.



Tom, I don’t want to take up too much space here. ...

2006-03-26T08:44:00.000-07:00

Tom, I don’t want to take up too much space here. Brief comments are given to a few of the statements you made in your article(s).

“Here I argued that a purely physical explanation of mind cannot be correct, because it does not explain rationality, free will, or a causal link between our thoughts and our actions in the world.”

And where is the explanation for these things under the dualistic model you propose adopting?
You basically just affirm these things (like free will) exist because you intuit them. You provide no explanation for them under this dualistic model.


“The question about non-material mind affecting the material world had been raised in comments to Part One, and this was the start of the answer. The intent here was limited to just one thing, which is to show that we cannot set a standard of explanation, such that it must be given in terms of physical causes or composition. There are limits to physical explanation that we are already familiar with.”

Problem here is that there is a standard of explanation for interactions in the material world. You can’t ignore that standard as long as you are claiming that this immaterial substance actually causes changes in the physical brain. Otherwise, it appears that you are dodging the issue here.


And, lastly, here is a comment you made near the beginning of your article, where you attempt to demonstrate why the materialist cannot explain the mind:

“Clearly those sets of beliefs are erroneous. But what if I said, both of those neural states are erroneous? What could it mean for a physical state to be erroneous? How could a chemical reaction be "wrong"? Or, how could an electron go the wrong direction? Under a purely materialist viewpoint, physical systems just do what physical systems do, following their natural regularities (laws) or quantum indeterminacies. Can a natural law go wrong? Worse yet, can a chance quantum effect be described as a mistake? Certainly not.”

Here you make the rather glaring mistake of looking at these material events apart from their organizational structure: that organ, the brain. A neural state can be erroneous if, for example, it does not follow from the previous state as expected due to the plaque build up that can be found in diseases like Alzheimer’s. Or if there is a chemical imbalance in the brain, the neurons may fire too rapidly or not rapidly enough, which would result in errors.
It’s really very easy to understand why we make errors in reasoning when we study the underlying bio-mechanical organ that is doing the thinking. How would you explain an error in thought under your dualistic system? Why should this non-material substance you call the mind ever make a mistake? Why are there different levels in intelligence among people? Why are some people good at math while others are literary geniuses? I doubt you can give any kind of a coherent answer for these questions because you’ve made it impossible to empirically examine the mind by assuming that it is an immaterial substance.
t.



Jim: "[A]t best the conclusion is that the connect...

2006-03-25T11:08:00.000-07:00

Jim: "[A]t best the conclusion is that the connection between the physical causes and the rational inferences is at best a contingent one that is in need of explanation, which I think is a valid conclusion. But it's one that is in the process of being answered as we learn about how the brain and perceptual systems work, how language develops, and how the mind evolved."

See, faith ain't such a bad thing.



The conclusion that rationality is *undermined* do...

2006-03-25T10:23:00.000-07:00

The conclusion that rationality is *undermined* doesn't follow--at best the conclusion is that the connection between the physical causes and the rational inferences is at best a contingent one that is in need of explanation, which I think is a valid conclusion. But it's one that is in the process of being answered as we learn about how the brain and perceptual systems work, how language develops, and how the mind evolved.

If the fact that the brain operates in accordance with physical law undermined rationality, then the fact that computers operate in accordance with physical law would undermine their ability to perform logical inferences and computations.

The real question is *how* brains came to be able to engage in rational inferences in virtue of the way that they physically operate, not *whether* they do. Gilson (and Victor) argue that they could only have this ability by being divinely designed to do so--a thesis that doesn't seem to be particularly fruitful for scientific exploration.



I might ask you to read a little closer, Tim. I di...

2006-03-24T14:04:00.000-07:00

I might ask you to read a little closer, Tim. I didn't say the problem with materialism is its inability to completely explain how the mind works. (If that were the standard, who could even begin to ask the question, much less answer it?) I said the problem is materialism's inability to coherently explain how a rational mind is even possible; that materialist explanations are self-defeating. If you read the whole series, you would see the outline of a theistic answer to that question.

Having said that, I admit it's a difficult issue and one on which it's very easy to be confused, and I'm sure I am in many ways, but not (I think) the way you suggested here.



It is slightly amusing to see someone lambasting n...

2006-03-24T09:32:00.000-07:00

It is slightly amusing to see someone lambasting naturalism/materialism for not being able to completely explain how the mind works and then turn around and admit that he can't either.
Mr. Gilson could more aptly entitle his site "The Confused Christian":-)
t.