Materialism or Dualism

Materialism or Dualism

Postby Teaos » Thu Mar 14, 2013 10:02 pm

An interesting debate I got into with a bunch of students at my language class.

Somehow we got onto the topic of the relationship between the mind and the brain.

Is our conciousness just the meat in our head. A computer we dont yet fully understand but that works on sound rules of logic and science that we will one day be able to play with at will.

Or is it dualism. Is there something more than the meat in our head, does our conciousness, our personaility, what makes us human, does it have something deeper, something more than just the grey and pink jelly between our ears.

I and one Turkish guy were firmly on the "we are the meat in our heads" camp.

Pretty much everyone else their including our teacher was in the dualism camp, some being so extreme as to think the meat in our head was just a hard drive for emmories and everything speical about humans was on a different plain of existence.
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Re: Materialism or Dualism

Postby Mikey » Fri Mar 15, 2013 12:29 am

I've only debated this tangentially, as a descriptor of - or moot issue regarding - personal identity; something along the lines of whether or not physical identity (the temporally contiguous existence of the "meat") is a necessary criterion for continued identity of the individual. I guess that in order to define one's own viewpoint on dualism, one must needs first define what he considers to be identity. If one requires continuous physical identity as a component of personal identity, then either view is possible; if, OTOH, one does not, then materialism is impossible.
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Re: Materialism or Dualism

Postby RK_Striker_JK_5 » Fri Mar 15, 2013 1:54 am

I've always thought there's more than metaphorically meets the eye, but I've never been sure what.
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Re: Materialism or Dualism

Postby Teaos » Fri Mar 15, 2013 9:31 am

I am just more in the camp of, the meat in our head is capable of creating our conciousness ect, and until I see proof that there may be something more to it, or that the meat isnt enough. I just dont see why I should think there is more.
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Re: Materialism or Dualism

Postby Mikey » Fri Mar 15, 2013 11:15 am

Teaos wrote:I am just more in the camp of, the meat in our head is capable of creating our conciousness ect, and until I see proof that there may be something more to it, or that the meat isnt enough. I just dont see why I should think there is more.


I'm going to borrow a thought model from Dr. D. Parfit to explore this. Let's say man invents a transporter. It operates by making a detailed scan, down to the quantum level, of your entire body; then breaks it down and recreates it at the receiving site in exact similitude, even down to the spin of the quarks in the atoms of your body. So, you get in and get zapped across the planet. You step out, and you remember everything that happened, and "know" that you are Teaos and have instantly been transported.

Here's the question: are you the same person? Or did Teaos die and subsequently have Teaos-prime begin existence? If you say the former, then you must obviously believe that there is a measure of identity that isn't dependent on physical continuity; if you are the same person, then the consciousness that is Teaos obviously isn't dependent on the meat sack that was Teaos, because that meat sack is no longer in existence - rather, there is some quality of the consciousness that is Teaos that isn't bound to the physical body.

Now, I'm not saying "soul" or "spirit" or "kami" or anything like that... it doesn't need to be anything so supernatural. I do believe, and have the papers I wrote to discuss it somewhere in the attic, the personal identity can in this case be independent of physical identity and is carried by a a set of unique descriptors and a very specific set of responses that are molded both by the physical meat-sack as well as experiential pressures.
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Re: Materialism or Dualism

Postby Mikey » Fri Mar 15, 2013 1:45 pm

Here's a follow-up question: if, in the transporter model I described above, you do not believe that you are the same person before and after transport - that is, if the continuous physical existence is a determinant in identity - does it matter? If you believe this way, then Teaos and Teaos-prime are not identical... but does it really matter? You'd say that Teaos is gone... but if there is an exactly identical Teaos walking around with the same personality, experiences, sets of responses to given stimuli, etc.; then does it really make a difference that the extant individual is Teaos-prime rather than the original?
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Re: Materialism or Dualism

Postby IanKennedy » Fri Mar 15, 2013 3:29 pm

I pretty much believe we are simply a bag of meat. I think the experiments into temporal lobe stimulation at least start to point at even the more ethereal qualities of the human mind being firmly based in a structural and physical nature. This is an abstract on a pear reviewed paper on the subject. Unfortunately full version is access restricted, but the details are available.
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Re: Materialism or Dualism

Postby Teaos » Fri Mar 15, 2013 3:45 pm

In regards to the transporter debate.

I think that the copy is the same as the original.

What makes me,me is the unique way my brain has been programmed throuugh my life experiences.

So in your example for instance, if the original wasjust scanned and a copy made, but the original left intact, then for a second theirwould be two of me, since there are now two bags of meat.

If their was dualism this doubling would be impossiblesince it wouldeither split my soul,double it, make a new one or have one not be complete.

I use the word soul tomean any form of greater being.
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Re: Materialism or Dualism

Postby Mikey » Fri Mar 15, 2013 5:33 pm

IanKennedy wrote:I pretty much believe we are simply a bag of meat. I think the experiments into temporal lobe stimulation at least start to point at even the more ethereal qualities of the human mind being firmly based in a structural and physical nature. This is an abstract on a pear reviewed paper on the subject. Unfortunately full version is access restricted, but the details are available.


In fact, research on callosumotomy patients as early as the 60's tends to support the same ideas, in that higher-level personality functions, including those based on memory and experience - what you refer to as "ethereal qualities" can be generated nearly instantly and without experiential stimuli in patients who have had a complete severance of the corpus callosum. I don't recall, however, seeing any data on engrammatic changes in those patients, and I doubt there ever will be such data - there are drug therapies now to replace such radical and mind-altering surgeries.

Teaos wrote:In regards to the transporter debate.

I think that the copy is the same as the original.

What makes me,me is the unique way my brain has been programmed throuugh my life experiences.

So in your example for instance, if the original wasjust scanned and a copy made, but the original left intact, then for a second theirwould be two of me, since there are now two bags of meat.

If their was dualism this doubling would be impossiblesince it wouldeither split my soul,double it, make a new one or have one not be complete.

I use the word soul tomean any form of greater being.


Interesting - I'd say that the same viewpoint leads to the impossibility of materialism, as you are agreeing that identity can be continuous even without the contiguity of the physical "meat."
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Re: Materialism or Dualism

Postby Teaos » Fri Mar 15, 2013 6:04 pm

I'm not saying the physical meat is the important part, but what it does.

My harddrives are full of movies and porn that I love. When I say I love having my hard drives when I travel, Im not talking about the magnetic disk and the plastic but what it contains.

The hunk of meat in my head has formed and developed in unique ways through what has happened to me in my life. It is unique, but it is still just a hunk of meat.
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Re: Materialism or Dualism

Postby Captain Picard's Hair » Fri Mar 15, 2013 6:57 pm

In principle a pair of transporter clones should be identical at the moment they were created, but would immediately start to diverge as they collect different new experiences.

What we call the mind is a product of activity within the brain. There is evidence that what we see as consciousness is nothing more than an elaborate theater in our minds, as neurological tests show subjects having effectively made a decision before they are aware of having made one. Changing the brain, through chemical means or direct physical damage, changes the observable behavior of the mind immediately and significantly. If the mind were truly 'ethereal' we might not expect to be able to create what is effectively a different person by means of a pill.

My own experience informs my opinion here, since it is clear through personal experience that a chronic mental illness (an illness affecting the function of the brain) has a profound impact on the function of the associated 'mind' and that person's personality. I have to live with such a disorder, and while the effects can't be adequately expressed in words they are enormously profound. Consider as an example the autistic patient, a person with subtle changes in the anatomy of the brain linked to genetic mutations (some of which are also linked to other disorders), who in extreme cases cannot develop into a functional adult (mentally) at all.

As a more mundane example, consider the congenital effect on personality among normal people. Though there is a clear environmental influence, there is also a clear link on many dimensions among related people on multiple dimensions of personality, intelligence and other mental qualities. From a young age people show a disposition towards certain qualities: we do not start as identical blank slates. A purely ethereal mind should not care about the sequence of nucleic acids in one's DNA.
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Re: Materialism or Dualism

Postby Captain Picard's Hair » Fri Mar 15, 2013 7:03 pm

Teaos wrote:I'm not saying the physical meat is the important part, but what it does.

My harddrives are full of movies and porn that I love. When I say I love having my hard drives when I travel, Im not talking about the magnetic disk and the plastic but what it contains.

The hunk of meat in my head has formed and developed in unique ways through what has happened to me in my life. It is unique, but it is still just a hunk of meat.


What you care about, the 'person' you know may not be perceived as a lump of meat but since that meat directly controls the behavior of that person, it is uniquely valuable. The data (including porn) on your hard drives can be copied an arbitrary number of times onto different media without change, and identical code run on identical CPUs will produce identical results. This is not the case with organic brains since no two brains are identical. There is nothing that can be direly transferred from one brain to another, at least not with some subtle alterations. The same stimuli perceived by two different brains can result in slightly different experiences, which can't truly be expressed by any means we know.
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Re: Materialism or Dualism

Postby Mikey » Sat Mar 16, 2013 10:51 am

In my thought experiment, obviously the situation is hypothetical; but for in that thought model, one must consider the duplicate to be absolutely physically identical. Experiences would form engrams in precisely the same way, and prior engrams are duplicated faithfully. If the determination of identity is the "personality," which jibes with my own old papers (though in different details,) then such an exact duplicate preserves that identity - i.e., the duplicate and the original are the same person. If this is the case, then the continuity of the "meat" can't have any bearing. Here's the litmus test: if you know that the transporter would destroy the current body during the act of creating the exact duplicate with the same personality, would you get in it no problem, knowing that you'd continue on as the duplicate; or would you avoid that transporter as nothing more than a suicide booth?

Here's the can of worms: what happens if the original isn't destroyed? Now there are two of the same individual. Does that deny the identity of either one? Are they both the individual in question, or do we then fall back on a second-level criterion of numerical identity/physical continuity? If we do so, wouldn't the duplicate still feel pretty sure that he was the individual?
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Re: Materialism or Dualism

Postby IanKennedy » Sat Mar 16, 2013 11:10 am

Isn't this exactly the situation in TNG episode Second Chances? He was sure he was THE Will Riker and the personalities did diverge from the point of the split.

That said if the two copies has been swapped and experienced the others track in life they would surely become the same as the other duplicate, quantium / chaos theory effects aside. To put it another way if Thom Riker had swapped places with Will Riker and each experienced what the other had over those years they would have ended up doing what the other had done. In other words the same computer (brain) with the same data feed (experiences) would produce the same results.
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Re: Materialism or Dualism

Postby Mikey » Sat Mar 16, 2013 2:49 pm

Exactly. The fact that the two diverged subsequently to the split isn't material to the question; but at the exact time of divergence, which one was the "real" one? And further, if only one survived the transporter problem, would it matter which one was?
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