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  I find it interested that Amaqi mentioned that QM is “causal nondeterministic,” since that shows the errors one can fall into when using that term.

No, it shows two different errors. (1) You should not just accept what someone else says, and (2) you should not blame words themselves for the confused ideas of others.

I am not in the mood right now to present a detailed history of quantum mechanics, but the standard theory is both acausal and indeterministic. Max Born was the first to remove determinstic behavior from the quantum realm in 1926. Born presented his probabilistic interpretation of atomic collisions, and he showed how to interpret, contrary to Schroedinger, the wave intensity as a density of probability for a particle.

"If one translates this result into terms of particles, only one interpretation is possible ... gives the probability for the electron ... to give up determinism in the world of atoms." ["On the Quantum Mechanics of Collisions," Max Born, Zeitschrift fur Physik, 37, pp. 863-867, 1926.]

One year later, in 1927, Werner Heisenberg presented his "uncertainty principle" and therein removed causality from the quantum realm. Heisenberg ended this paper with:

"One can express the true state of affairs better in this way: Because all experiments are subject to the laws of quantum mechanics, and therfore to equation (1), it follows that quantum mechanics establishes the final failure of causality." ["Uber den anschaulichen Inhalt der quantentheoretischen Kinematik und Mechanik," Zeitschrift fur Physik, 43, pp. 172-198, 1927.]

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So there isn’t a fundamental difference between a computer virus a dog?

Last time I checked Norton did not include Cali, my golden retriever, in their virus definitions. And I must remark, I am thankful for that, because I love Cali dearly.

(Serious question: has this discussion been reduced to silliness? If so, I'll move on.)

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(Serious question: has this discussion been reduced to silliness? If so, I'll move on.)
Only your posts.......

;)

One final point:

Deterministic is a perfect word for the subcategory of causality as it applies to matter.

OPAR deals with with this on pages 62 to 68.

"The principle of causality does not apply to consciousness, however, in the same way that it applies to matter. In regard to matter, there is no issue of choice; to be caused is to be necessitated. In regard to the (higher-level) actions of a volitional consciousness, however, 'to be caused' does not mean 'to be necessitated.'" p.64

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Here is the point I was getting at. This is from OPAR, p189:

The actions of a living organism are self-generated and goal-directed.  The are actions initiated by the organism for the sake of achieving an end.

(Emphasis is Dr P's.)

Next page:

Being a living creature, its response is to use external factors for its own end. Being a living creature, it’s response consists  in initiating the kind of action that can preserve its life

This was my point in differentiating living from non-living entities. But you’re right, the term "prime-mover" implies a volitional consciousness, which animals lack.

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Here is the point I was getting at.  This is from OPAR, p189:

"The actions of a living organism are self-generated and goal-directed.  The are actions initiated by the organism for the sake of achieving an end."

But you have to be really careful about what meaning you attach to terms such as "self-generated" and "goal-directed." Harry Binswanger wrote an entire book (his thesis) on "The Biological Basis of Teleological Concepts," which clarifies the significance of terms such as these.

Later LP clarifies a bit by saying "'Goal' is not synonymous with 'purpose' ..." and he quotes Ayn Rand as saying

"Goal-directed [in this context] designates the fact that the automatic functions of living organisms are actions whose nature is such that they result in the preservation of an organisms life."

[Quoting Peikoff:]Being a living creature, its response is to use external factors for its own end. Being a living creature, it’s response consists  in initiating the kind of action that can preserve its life

This was my point in differentiating living from non-living entities.

The words I used myself clarify this further:

"The self-regulatory actions of life on the vegetative level are fully determined by the physiological/biological processes of the entity. The self-regulatory actions of the lower-level conscious animals are much more complicated but are still biologically "programmed" through the physical mechanisms (sensory-perceptual, etc.) which regulate their behavior, and are automatic."

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Intelligence requires consciousness.

Consciousness cannot be reduced to any specific software algorithm.

I have learned in my years that the ONLY thing impossible, is for; two mountains side by side, without a valley in between. Just because we are not smart enough to figure it out yet, doesn't mean it won't happen. Everything can be solved by mathmatics, so can conscious machines, just a matter of time. Probably not in my life time.

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Sailor, I presume that by your mountains example you mean to say: the only thing impossible is for A to be non-A.

The argument you cite is no less than the claim that, by the nature of a software algorithim, it cannot be conscious.

Has there been enough evidence presented to prove this, no, I don't think so. But your mountain example is irrelevant to the matter.

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I wonder if someone might comment on this. This discussion has led me to view the brain in a way I had not previously considered, and I am curious to know if anyone agrees with me. Earlier I said:

the neural circuitry that gives rise to consciousness is a physical process that is composed entirely of basic, deterministic chemical and physical interactions, which nonetheless, in the aggregate, produce consciousness--which is not determined. This circuitry then, as a whole, can also be called nondeterministic, because while it produces consciousness, it is also controlled by consciousness. Its output is therefore not determined.
What I want to know is whether the human brain should be identified along with the mind as being caused, but not deterministic.

From OPAR:

In regard to matter, there is no issue of choice; to be caused is to be necessitated. In regard to the (higher-level) actions of a volitional consciousness, however, 'to be caused' does not mean 'to be necessitated.

Now, the brain has no power of volition--it is only matter. Thought and choice are performed by consciousness in the mind, not in the brain.

And yet--every thought, every act of volition is expressed physically in the brain, at exactly the same time they occur in the mind. Consciousness causes directly a large portion of the physical action that occurs in the brain, and this action therefore is not the fixed outcome of any initial conditions--it is not deterministic. The physical course the brain takes parallels the course of consciousness, and so both are caused, but not necessitated.

Any thoughts?

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The physical course the brain takes parallels the course of consciousness, and so both are caused, but not necessitated.

No. Just like any other physical process, the actions of the brain are both caused and necessitated.

As stated in your quote from OPAR, the higher-level choices of consciousness are caused but not necessitated. But the primary choice of consciousness, when properly understood, is both caused and necessitated. (Read the pages after your quote up through page 69.

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Thanks for the response.

But the primary choice of consciousness, when properly understood, is both caused and necessitated.
But the brain doesn't just act in relation to the lower-level choices. Physical action occurs in step with every higher-level choice. Therefore the brain goes through a sequence of actions that are determined directly by the mental process of thought.

So how can the course of action that occurs in the brain be called deterministic?

Even if you believed that consciousness simply sets into motion mechanistic cascades of brain activity--the overall course of this activity would be set only by the course of your mind, including its highest functions of reason and volition.

[Edit: The above sentence is not enough to make my point. The following paragraph is necessary]

As a further point:

It's not even sufficient to say that consciousness sets into motion action in the brain during thought. It does, but that sort of action can only happen after the thought.

No conscious act can occur before it is expressed in the brain. For the thought process to exist in the first place, neural action must coincide with it--it must occur at the same time. Of course, we direct this process--we do the thinking. But the brain provides the physical pathways through which the information we deal with is processed. We experience this physical process as thinking, and we somehow control it as it's occuring. It is therefore not a deterministic process.

It is logically impossible for the course of the mind to be nondeterministic if the course of the brain is fixed in advance.

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But the brain doesn't ...

The brain is a physical mechanism and neural processes have no choice over their actions. Like any physical process the actions of the brain are determined by its nature and the environment within which it exists. Consciousness has causal efficacy back onto its physical substrate, and thereby consciousness becomes a part of the environment to which the brain physically responds.

It is logically impossible for the course of the mind to be nondeterministic if the course of the brain is fixed in advance.

If no volitional consciousness existed in all of reality, then indeed all physical processes would be "fixed in advance," in the sense that all actions in metaphysical reality would be not be only caused and necessitated, but all of metaphysical reality could not be otherwise. However, volitional consciousness does exist in man, and since consciousness has causal efficacy, man's choices affect metaphysical reality and therefore can change what would otherwise be. That includes the actions of the brain.

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However, volitional consciousness does exist in man, and since consciousness has causal efficacy, man's choices affect metaphysical reality and therefore can change what would otherwise be. That includes the actions of the brain.
You are narrowly focusing on only the effects that conscious acts have on the brain. What you have not addressed is how consciousness occurs at all.

Mental acts of any kind simply cannot occur without the simultaneous occurance of the neural action that is their expression in physical reality.

If the brain activity preceded the (higher-level) mental activity, then the mind truly would be necessitated and deterministic, and the brain would be the driver of our actions. Clearly that is not the case. If the mental act preceded (and merely caused) the neural act, then thought and volition would be utterly disconnected from the brain as they occur--they would "just happen," mystically and without physical expression. You have said you do not believe this to be possible.

Note that when I say neural act, I mean the specific act that matches the mental act. Of course there are other neural actions that result from and are caused by the mental act. I contend that these acts are the only ones you have taken into account. But there is only one act that ties any thought directly to the physical world, without which the thought would not exist.

It is precisely this singular act that makes the brain nondeterministic.

To show this another way, consider the act of volition.

A volitional act is a conscious act that is not necessitated by any chain of thought before it. It is a novel mental act that can occur because it is in the nature of human consciousness to make it occur.

In order for this novel mental act to occur, a neural act must accompany it, simultaneously. Therefore, this neural act is also not necessitated by any chain of either mental or neural action before it.

This neural act cannot be the result of any preceding neural acts, because then its form (and therefore the content of the thought) would be fixed. And it simply cannot be the result of the specific act of volition it expresses, because the mental act cannot precede the physical act. The mental act does not cause its simultaneous neural act anymore than the neural act causes the thought. They are two distinct categories of the same phenomenon.

The brain must have the capactity to support neural acts that are not necessitated if conscious acts of volition are to occur at all. This is my argument.

You cannot sever thought from its physical expression in the brain. Neither can be reduced to the other--neither consists of the other, but they are two sides of the same coin.

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Amagi,

It's a bit of a stretch for philosophy to dictate what science must find when it learns more about the biological basis of consciousness. There may be things involved that we have no idea about -- and that shouldn't be surprising, given how early in the game it is.

Harry Binswanger actually suggests in his Metaphysics of Consciousness lectures, for instance, that there might be a fifth force of nature involved only in volitional consciousness. He stated it as a very tentative thesis, and I personally think it's pretty far-fetched. (Not that I have any arguments against it, just that I don't see any real evidence for it.)

The point is this: it's unjustified to start making tons of broad claims about the basis of consciousness. How do we know that there's a single neural act to correspond to a given mental act? Putting aside current evidence that neurons might not even be the major players in the brain, why couldn't it be more holistic? How do we even know that every mental event is expressed in the brain at all?

I know I'll get accused of it, so I might as well tell you right now that I'm not arguing for dualism. I'm just arguing for caution.

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It's a bit of a stretch for philosophy to dictate what science must find when it learns more about the biological basis of consciousness.
The only thing I said must be dictated (by reality) is that every mental act must coincide with a concurrent brain act. The particulars of how this is possible are up to science.

Some comments on technical points you raised:

Putting aside current evidence that neurons might not even be the major players in the brain, why couldn't it be more holistic?
The word neural doesn't have to refer specifically to neurons. I meant it more broadly. Neural as in "relating to the nervous system."

How do we know that there's a single neural act to correspond to a given mental act?
By single act I mean the whole of whatever act is the physical expression of some mental process. Anything I could say about what form this might take would be pure speculation, but I would guess that for any complex conceptualization it involves a very large population of neurons and the sum of various neural circuits. But the whole process has to occur in step with the thought process. Think of it as a "brain act." If you like, replace all the instances of the word "simultaneous" with its synonym "synchronous." The result, I think, is the same, but synchronous connotes more of an ongoing process.

How do we even know that every mental event is expressed in the brain at all
The alternative is mysticism.

Your call for caution is noted. I realize I am making claims with very far-ranging implications. That is why I'd like to discuss them here. But as it stands, I am confident in their correctness.

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[Mental acts of any kind simply cannot occur without the simultaneous occurance of the neural action that is their expression in physical reality.

I am intimately aware of the decades of literature in the valid experimental aspects of the fields of cognition and neurophysiology which directly contradict your unsupported assertion above. I will not spend the time to document the turbulent experimental history here, but for the sake of others I will just briefly indicate one particular area where valid experimental research has been done, and the results demonstrate that volitional conscious action precedes brain activity.

One early way used to identify and measure the changes that occur in the brain before, during, and after a volitional movement is via a collection known as movement-related cortical potential (MRCP). Electrodes attached to the scalp monitor and measure the brain activity across a large number of self-generated movements, averaging across trials. Historically the first measured component of the MRCP was the Readiness Potential (RP) because of its relatively large amplitude and relatively long duration. RP occurs in the precentral and parietal areas of the cortex, varying from a negative to a positive potential across different areas. The early data was skewed because it was learned that the RP is a gradual rise and because electroencephalograms tend to have a lot of noise, and the exact time of the onset of RP was in doubt. Because of these and other technical problems the early data was quite suspicious, and the measurement eventually gave way to a different potential.

The lateralized readiness potential (LRP) is a much less ambiguous measure of the motor component of the electroencephalogram. The LRP amounts to a measurement of activity across the primary motor cortex ipsilateral calculated to remove any difference between hemispheric activities. The procedure really makes the LRP not a measure of potentials, but rather a measure of the difference between potentials. About six years ago it was determined that the LRP was very useful since onset is before the start of any motor movement. In short, the LRP turned out to be an excellent measure of the degree of preparation for movement of one hand over the other.

A whole battery of experiments have been done in the recent years, using procedures similar to that initially used by Libet to get his (somewhat invalid) results two decades ago. The detailed procedures vary, but generally follow along these lines. The monitored subject sits at a computer screen with fingers perched on the keyboard. An indicator on the screen randomly tells the subject to depress a key with either the left or right hand. The subject has a time interval within which he then decides to depress the appropiate key. The details involve variations for technical purposes, not important to the concept here. The brain activity is monitored through the procedure.

Across the board, and across time, the best EEG monitored results showed the mental action to [b}precede brain activity ranging, for different experiments, from 80 ms ["Cortical Movement Preparation before and After a Conscious Decision to Move," J.A. Trevena et al., Consciousness and Cognition, 11, pp. 162-190, 2002.] to 310 ms ["On the Relations Between Brain Potentials and the Awareness of Voluntary Movements," P. Haggard et al., Experimental Brain Research, 126, pp. 128-133.

It is sheer nonsense to arbitrarily assert simultaneity between conscious volitional action and brain action. Even the very early work in this field always showed time differences between the two. We know by introspection, and by monitoring, of the causal efficacy of consciousness, and even in a field beset with such problems that volition is often denied, the experimental results validate what we already knew.

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That is an extraordinarily elaborate way of saying that mental action occurs with no physical representation in the brain.

A postition which, by the way, you have already denied holding.

I asked you:

Are you saying that thoughts occur without any accompanying action of the brain
And you said:

clearly I do not believe, nor did I state, what you here imply

But now you are saying exactly that you do believe it. Because you are saying that the "accompanying action" occurs after the mental act. That means that some time before this "accompanying action" happens, mental action is occuring with no change in the physical world. In other words, no accompanying action.

To say that you do regard thoughts as being expressed physically because of this delayed brain activity is an enormously obvious contradiction. It's too late for those thoughts!! They're already going on with no physical reality--no connection to the brain whatsoever.

I can only ask you once more to answer unequivocally:

Do you believe that mental action can occur with no physical expression in the brain?

As for the studies you cite, I fail to see how experiments that show some neural action after a conscious decision prove that there was no corresponding neural action during the decision. Of course there will be all manner of activity resulting from conscious acts after the fact. Based on what you wrote about the experiments, they do not show that there was no physical neural process during the conscious act. They only show that whatever specific type of activity detected by the experimenters in the specific region they were looking at came after.

(After just glancing at your description of the studies, I'm curious about a few things. How did they determine when exactly the mental choice occured? They seem to be looking specifically at motor pathways--how do you know they were taking into account areas involved in the higher-level volitional choices? How can an experiment designed to measure electrical activity rule out that other forms of neural action weren't occuring in connection with the mental act? Not everything in the brain is mediated by action potentials. If you acknowledge that we don't know much about what the specific mechanisms are that create consciousness, how can you say that these experiments show they're not occuring? Of course it's very likely that action potentials are heavily involved, but the point is that their alleged absence in some particular region doesn't prove anything)

It is sheer nonsense to arbitrarily assert simultaneity between conscious volitional action and brain action.
I'm really not sure how to respond to someone who accuses anything of being nonsensical while at the same time declaring that, not only does thought occur independently of any process in the brain, but that we can all know this ahead of time through "introspection."
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I know I'll get accused of it, so I might as well tell you right now that I'm not arguing for dualism.  I'm just arguing for caution.

Actually, I would not be too concerned about being seen as a dualist, at least not when properly understood. I have written about this before, and I know so has Harry Binswanger.

Materialists love to argue against a straw man Objectivist poisition, slinging accusations of mysticism in regard to mind and matter being separate entities. It is the Cartesian form of dualism which is gravely mistaken, namely the mind-body dichotomy of sundering consciousness from the brain.

The proper relationship between consciousness and matter is the recognition that they each do exist -- and that the mind does depend on matter for its existence -- but that the mind is not reducible to matter. And, vice versa.

This is, in essence, a proper dualist position, but not to be confused with the more standard form of Cartesian dualism.

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Mr. Speicher

The proper relationship between consciousness and matter is the recognition that they each do exist -- and that the mind does depend on matter for its existence -- but that the mind is not reducible to matter. And, vice versa.....
I agree emphatically with the whole of that post. But I also think that in order to hold this view, you must recognize that the mind depends on more than the mere existence, the mere presence of the brain. The mind can't operate independently while the brain just works on some other unrelated projects in the background. It must be that the functioning of the mind depends on the parallel functioning of the brain. Therefore the mind can't function before anything occurs in the brain.

What I view as mysticism is the idea that it can--not the Objectivist position that the mind and matter are separate entities.

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The evidence provided for a mind before brain relationship seems an interesting paradox. Namely, could the first consciousness have come, evolutionarily, before the initial brain structure of a conscious being had evolved? If not, at what point did the consciousness begin to occur before its commensurate action in the brain?

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These are exactly the kinds of absurdities one gets into if one accepts the idea that consciousness occurs without any physical process in the brain, as Mr. Speicher does.

The questions are aspects of the question, "what is the relation between the brain and the process of consciousness if conscious acts do not depend on brain activity to exist."

The question is unanswerable. It would be literally impossible for us to ever discover, scientifically, how consciousness works if it occurs "before" any physical action. There would be nothing to investigate.

How does the mind send its instructions from the mind-realm to the brain? No way of knowing--there's no physical cause, thinking occurs first with no physical trace, and all we can measure are the aftereffects once the instructions have reached the brain. The instructions "just appear" in the brain.

How does the mind actually do the thinking? Well, since there's no information processing system in the brain that corresponds with abstract thought (that would be mechanism!! and we're against that!!) there's no way of knowing. All we can say is that it's in the nature of the human mind, metaphysically, to think. Beyond that all we can do is "introspect."

How did humans evolve the ability to perform an act which has no physical reality? No way of knowing, but we can certainly declare that nothing else can aquire the ability--therefore no AI.

In other words, the only to deal with any of these questions, if you've accepted the premise of thought-preceding-brain, is to declare them to be unanswerable--by claiming that consciousness is a mystical, unexplainable force. By viewing consciousness as an otherworldly ghost at the controls of a glorified calculator; the ghost does all the reasoning and choosing while the brain idles--then pushes the right buttons and the deterministic brain machine does the rest.

It's hard to imagine a more mystical view of the mind.

The proper alternative is to recognize that thought can only occur with a parallel process in the brain, and that this is in no way a deterministic process, because the brain is not "fixed in advance" any more than the mind is. The two occur together--thought and neural action are inseparable. Distinguishable, distinct, mutually-irreducible, but inseparable.

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These are exactly the kinds of absurdities one gets into if one accepts the idea that consciousness occurs without any physical process in the brain, as Mr. Speicher does.

For the record, it should be known that "amagi" does not speak for me. Whatever views I have, stated or otherwise, should never be confused with whatever "amagi" chooses to attribute to me. Furthermore, my lack of response to any particular post or issue which references me, should never be taken as agreement on my part.

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It's true, Mr. Speicher does not describe his views as I have characterized them, but It's very easy to show that he must accept the ideas I've ascribed to him to make the assertions he makes.

He has argued adamantly that no physical activity can be detected during a mental act of volition, and that brain activity comes later, in delayed response to the non-physically expressed thought.

Then, when I say he believes that thought occurs without physical expression, he denies this categorically, and tries to make it appear as if I am misrepresenting his views.

Mr. Speicher, if you are opting out of responding to me because I insist on naming the peculiar phenomenon I have just descibed for what it is, then I suppose it's for the best--because no rational discussion of any kind can occur if one of the participants declares that A can be non-A, that he can vocally endorse a given view while at the same time claiming outright to repudiate that view, that he can say explicitly that thought occurs without physical reality while at the same time reacting with dismissive defiance if someone points out that he believes what he says.

I have nothing to gain from such a discussion, so I support your silence as long as you continue to deny the obvious.

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