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GodConsciousness
post Nov 04, 2009, 08:52 PM
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QUOTE(code buttons @ Nov 04, 2009, 10:55 PM) *

QUOTE(Rick @ Nov 04, 2009, 05:15 PM) *

The hard problem is "why consciousness?"

Cool! So, it may turn out to be not how much we know, but how much we dare to dream! Or some combination of the two!


The "why" of consciousness is one of the deepest questions of our existence and perhaps an unresolved question of neuroscience that may never be fully answered. We simply don't seem to know why anything exists in this universe or why there is something rather than nothing at all. Our search for answers ultimately rests on a quest for origins.
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GodConsciousness
post Nov 04, 2009, 09:15 PM
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QUOTE(Lao_Tzu @ Nov 04, 2009, 08:58 AM) *

That's interesting, GC.

QUOTE(GodConsciousness @ Nov 04, 2009, 04:09 PM) *

The heart, for example, helps to pump and circulate blood. Circulating blood is what the heart does. We can better understand the heart by closely examining the valves and overall physical structure. Similarly, the living brain "thinks" and has consciousness.


Your analogy is salutary, too: the heart pumps blood; the brain 'pumps' consciousness. Well, it's true that when we examine the heart we find it pumping blood. But there the analogy fails, because when we examine the brain we find it pumping neurochemical and neuroelectrical signals, not consciousness. We have found physical, neural events; we have not found mental events.

It is only later, when we admit reports based upon a direct, first-person experience of the mind, that we can start to correlate neural processes with mental states. We find consciousness only when we use direct, first-person contemplation.

If it was true that we did find mental events (or consciousness) when we examined the brain, then we should be able to say what those mental events are (or what the consciousness is conscious of) by examining only the brain, without any recourse to first-person reports. But we cannot.


Lao- I see and appreciate the distinction you are making between first-person experiences of consciousness and the observations scientists make about the physical processes that give rise to consciousness. The actual experience of beauty is so much different than the scientific explanation of the experience of beauty. And the actual experiences of consciousness often seems categorically different than their neuroscientific explanations and descriptions. And yet first person observations of physical phenomena coupled with the awareness of the observer appears to be one of the best ways we obtain knowledge about anything. Both the observational details and the awareness or experience of the observation are mental constructs and made possible by the brain. It appears that the requisite neurochemistry and neurobiology are co-emergent with the experiences of thought and perception.
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Lao_Tzu
post Nov 05, 2009, 01:39 AM
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QUOTE(Rick @ Nov 05, 2009, 04:15 AM) *

"why consciousness?"

Interesting question.

I'm always skeptical of the "why" of naturalistic phenomena. "Why" seems to require a teleological answer, i.e. one that points to a purpose -- in this case a purpose for consciousness. I'm not sure that "why" really has a place in nature (although, it's helpful for pointing to the why-transcending epic weirdness of there being a reality, and to challenge man to make a purpose for his life).

These days the only fashionable frame for teleological inquiry is evolutionary. Would you look for the evolutionary value of consciousness, or are you looking for a bigger picture than that?
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Lao_Tzu
post Nov 05, 2009, 02:04 AM
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Thanks, GC. That's a subtle reply. I appreciate it.

However, your post contains assumptions that are not yet proved by science. Here are two of them:

QUOTE(GodConsciousness @ Nov 05, 2009, 08:15 AM) *

...the observations scientists make about the physical processes that give rise to consciousness.

That physical processes do indeed give rise to consciousness is an assumption, not yet shown to be true.

QUOTE(GodConsciousness @ Nov 05, 2009, 08:15 AM) *

Both the observational details and the awareness or experience of the observation are mental constructs and made possible by the brain.

That awareness is made possible by the brain is also an assumption, not yet shown to be true.

Insofar as your argument rests on these unproven assumptions, I can't accept it. If you can make an argument that rests only upon things we know to be true, I'll be right there with you.

To reply to one of your other statements...

QUOTE(GodConsciousness @ Nov 05, 2009, 08:15 AM) *

And the actual experiences of consciousness often seems categorically different than their neuroscientific explanations and descriptions.

Indeed. The only attribute consciousness shares with physical phenomena is susceptibility to causality. Where physical phenomena have shape, colour, mass, texture, position and boundaries, consciousness has none of these. Where consciousness is about things, physical phenomena are not.

These are not illusory or immaterial differences: they are actually highly significant. Given that mental phenomena share vanishingly few attributes with all physical phenomena, it seems plain foolish for science to insist that consciousness is a physical phenomenon.

But we can understand the reason for that insistence! The idea that consciousness must be a physical phenomenon has arisen only because science has hitherto (or at least for the last few centuries) confined itself to studying physical phenomena only. This limitation was necessary because science could not measure or objectively verify nonphysical phenomena, so it had to ignore them for the time being. Thus, given that only measurable, objectively verifiable phenomena have any scientific existence, what was nonphysical came to be thought nonreal, and everything that was real was thought to be necessarily physical. It is this process (in which science encounters the limitation of its own dependence on third-person verifiability) that has brought us to the stage where the origins of nonphysical phenomena are clumsily sought in the physical, and where neural states are falsely taken to be mental states, despite a lack of evidence for that identity.
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lucid_dream
post Nov 05, 2009, 03:58 AM
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QUOTE(Rick @ Nov 04, 2009, 06:15 PM) *

Looking at bigger and bigger tangled bundles of wires does not seem promising for understanding anything. The key to understanding how consciousness arises might lie in a single synapse. Or it might not lie anywhere. The medium problem (how consciousness?) might not be solveable. The hard problem is "why consciousness?"


that's like saying, looking at the connectivity of logic gates does not tell us anything about a CPU. Looking at how neurons are connected will tell us about how the brain is computing and what it computes, and I believe it will give us insight into consciousness...
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GodConsciousness
post Nov 05, 2009, 05:29 AM
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Lao-

Are we grappling with the foundations of the causality of consciousness and awareness? If so, are we thereby thrust into an ontological discussion?

The "why" questions may be foreign to nature and yet we are riddled with them all the same.

I personally see a continuum of consciousness all the way down to simple celled organisms and bacteria up through human and mammalian brains. Simple celled organisms appear to have some "awareness" of their immediate environments that assists in their adaptation and ability to survive. The chasm between the living and dead or those organisms that have awareness from those that do not seems rather significant. The first step in awareness of any kind was momentous in the universe and life on Earth. Yet, to suggest that the brain or any other kind of neurobiological structure (however simple) does not give rise to consciousness and awareness seems to suggest that something other than the physical causes and informational infrastructure of the organism is instead the cause. What might that cause be then? A cause of consciousness outside the physical? How can we avoid an account of the first cause? And whether or not the first cause has consciousness to give rise to conscious organisms?
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Lao_Tzu
post Nov 05, 2009, 06:10 AM
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Hey GC. I appreciate your replies! Your questions about the cause of consciousness are penetrating. Thanks.

QUOTE(GodConsciousness @ Nov 05, 2009, 04:29 PM) *

Are we grappling with the foundations of the causality of consciousness and awareness? If so, are we thereby thrust into an ontological discussion?

Admittedly, it does seem we're headed that way! Although I'd rather not go there... but hey. Perhaps it is, in the words of Agent Smith, inevitable.

I supposed I'd draw a distinction between human consciousness and consciousness 'per se' (this latter is problematic, but let's not go there - at least not yet). Given that the consciousness of a bat is different from the consciousness of a human (or I could reference the difference between the quality of everday consciousness and the quality of consciousness on magic mushrooms), it seems reasonable to make this distinction of degree (or aspect) between consciousnesses.

So having made that distinction, I would say that 'primordial consciousness' is orders of magnitude more profound than everyday human consciousness. It is so profound, in fact, that it transcends all of our concepts. That means, of course, that we can't really speak about it, but let's blunder on anyway: and it contains 'within' itself all of the phenomena we ordinarily regard as not being conscious, like rocks or trees. And in the final analysis, we note, rocks and trees are objects of awareness: there is no tree, as we know it, without a mind to cognise it.

In this way I'd make an argument for consciousness as nondual and in some way primordial, and conceptual thought as an adventitious but inevitably partial and one-sided mode of experiencing consciousness. This primordial consciousness is radically different from ordinary consciousness. Whereas ordinary consciousness seems to stand apart from its objects (as when 'I' see 'a tree'), logically we know that this duality is merely illusory. Primordial consciousness (we could call it Mind, capital M) is nondual: ultimately there is no distinction between the 'I' and the 'tree' -- so in this sense there is no distinction between ordinary mind and matter.

Naturally, like any ontological position this has pitfalls and potholes. (E.g. ultimately, there is also no difference between primordial consciousness and ordinary consciousness.) Most of these I think I can navigate, but it's probably not appropriate for me to try to do so in this forum, which is about the unsolved problems of neuroscience.

Anyway, in this model, which I think is tenable, it's unproblematic for the ordinary mind to be influenced by physical things (which, logic forces us to acknowledge, are not ultimately separate entities from the mind). In fact (now I'm rambling) one might even say that the ordinary mind is caused by some of them -- because when they cease, so does ordinary mind. But consciousness as such would not cease, because the whole palaver was part of it from whatever point we arbitrarily posit as the beginning.

I hope this comes across as logically tenable and not just mystical mumbling. That remains to be seen wink.gif
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GodConsciousness
post Nov 05, 2009, 06:38 AM
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QUOTE(Lao_Tzu @ Nov 05, 2009, 09:10 AM) *


So having made that distinction, I would say that 'primordial consciousness' is orders of magnitude more profound than everyday human consciousness. It is so profound, in fact, that it transcends all of our concepts. That means, of course, that we can't really speak about it, but let's blunder on anyway: and it contains 'within' itself all of the phenomena we ordinarily regard as not being conscious, like rocks or trees. And in the final analysis, we note, rocks and trees are objects of awareness: there is no tree, as we know it, without a mind to cognise it.


This primordial consciousness of which you speak is difficult if not impossible to prove scientifically. And I become a bit weary any time something is described as 'transcending all of our concepts' because it thereby becomes unprovable or scientifically unverifiable. I am not suggesting necessarily that something does not exist like primordial consciousness and I have a personal affection for non-dualism. Yet, once we start suggesting something is beyond our concepts and ability to understand, I think we start heading down a slippery slope. I could theoretically say that virtually anything exists and further argue that it is beyond our ability to comprehend or prove. Once the move is made, the entity in question begins to look rather vacuous. Many of the earlier philosophers challenged belief in the ancient gods in favor of a more rationalistic and nature-based methodology of understanding. We could still argue that the gods and goddesses of ancient Greece exist in some fashion and that they are beyond our comprehension or that they transcend our concepts. Yet, that does not mean that they do in fact exist. I am constantly in amazement at the range of beliefs in human society. People believe in all kinds of things, but that does not mean that their working assumptions and beliefs are accurate or true.
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Lao_Tzu
post Nov 05, 2009, 06:47 AM
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You're quite right, GC. I'm very sympathetic to that post.

It does of course raise people's hackles when you suggest something that transcends conceptuality. This probably isn't the place to expound on it further, or to work through the difficulties with it, but I am open to doing so in principle -- perhaps in the philosophy forum, if you are so inclined. Don't feel obliged.

For the time being, though, suffice it to say that since it's scientifically unproven (as yet) that consciousness is caused by the brain and also unproved that consciousness is not caused by the brain, that's still an unsolved problem for neuroscience (made all the more difficult to solve by the fact that neuroscientists have not yet observed consciousness).

EDIT: neuroscientists have not yet observed consciousness scientifically -- they might have done so in the first-person. So, perhaps as meditators, but not as scientists.
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Rick
post Nov 05, 2009, 11:13 AM
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QUOTE(Lao_Tzu @ Nov 05, 2009, 01:39 AM) *
These days the only fashionable frame for teleological inquiry is evolutionary. Would you look for the evolutionary value of consciousness, or are you looking for a bigger picture than that?

Both, actually. That consciousness exists suggests that evolution has selected for it and that therefore consciousness confers evolutionary advantage. But it could also be that consciousness is merely a side effect of other brain functions, and may fade eventually from the evolutionary scene. To ensure that consciousness grows in the future, it would be nice to have a good understanding of why consciousness is needed for optimal brain functioning. Wanting to ensure this assumes, of course, that consciousness, in itself, is a good thing. Following Leary, I think it is.

That question, of course, leads into the bigger picture, which I will leave alone for now. We have enough to try to understand with the lesser problems.
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Rick
post Nov 05, 2009, 11:20 AM
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QUOTE(lucid_dream @ Nov 05, 2009, 03:58 AM) *
that's like saying, looking at the connectivity of logic gates does not tell us anything about a CPU. Looking at how neurons are connected will tell us about how the brain is computing and what it computes, and I believe it will give us insight into consciousness...

I can look at a logic gate schematic and understand how those networks function for an adder or a shift register. However, if I look at the schematic for a million device IC chip, my mind is not aided in understanding. At that point, I need to abstract the system into a block diagram of functions to have any insight. So I think that we should focus on a few cells, connections, and synapses and understand them thoroughly first. I cannot grasp a hundred billion connections in some mouse's brain. But if someone gets the insight needed from following that approach, I hope he can communicate it to me.
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rhymer
post Nov 05, 2009, 12:24 PM
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Along these lines, does anyone know of a site (or indeed have a list of)
all known brain 'functions'?

By functions I mean eg., temperature control, heart beat rate, control of each bodily function etc.

Once that list is complete, it will be necessary to identify the brain parts involved in each function and then how each brain part works.

My own belief is that consciousness is an integrated co-operation of several or many of these parts.

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Rick
post Nov 05, 2009, 12:43 PM
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Then explain why most brain activity is unconscious.
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lucid_dream
post Nov 06, 2009, 10:28 AM
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QUOTE(Rick @ Nov 05, 2009, 12:20 PM) *

QUOTE(lucid_dream @ Nov 05, 2009, 03:58 AM) *
that's like saying, looking at the connectivity of logic gates does not tell us anything about a CPU. Looking at how neurons are connected will tell us about how the brain is computing and what it computes, and I believe it will give us insight into consciousness...

I can look at a logic gate schematic and understand how those networks function for an adder or a shift register. However, if I look at the schematic for a million device IC chip, my mind is not aided in understanding. At that point, I need to abstract the system into a block diagram of functions to have any insight. So I think that we should focus on a few cells, connections, and synapses and understand them thoroughly first. I cannot grasp a hundred billion connections in some mouse's brain. But if someone gets the insight needed from following that approach, I hope he can communicate it to me.


consciousness is structured neural activity. In order to understand that structured activity, it must be in the context of the underlying circuitry. I agree that having abstractions aids in understanding circuits, but Nature did not grace us with a priori abstractions. These abstractions will have to be determined a posteriori from the circuit itself, in all of its million-fold axonal glory. Mapping out the neural circuitry is the most promising approach to understanding neural computations, and ultimately, addressing consciousness. This is the only path that is beckoning. There is no other. Introspection, in itself, is useless, as are higher level abstractions without their being grounded in neural circuitry.
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GodConsciousness
post Nov 06, 2009, 10:37 AM
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QUOTE(lucid_dream @ Nov 06, 2009, 01:28 PM) *

Introspection, in itself, is useless, as are higher level abstractions without their being grounded in neural circuitry.


Looks like you are taking a pretty strong position here LD. Have you thought this way for quite some time or have your investigations and intellectual development led you in this direction more recently? Curious if any particular insights into the matter may have emerged.
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lucid_dream
post Nov 06, 2009, 11:43 PM
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yes, i have thought this as long as i can remember, but would hasten to point out that this position does not attempt to downplay the meaningfulness of expanded consciousness, or the importance of introspection. But for addressing the interesting questions of consciousness and cognition, it is requisite that the neural circuity be comprehensively mapped; otherwise, we are just stumbling around in the dark. New technologies for brain mapping make this comprehensive neural circuitry mapping feasible, and I expect that knowing precisely how the brain is wired together will provide a necessary piece of the puzzle for rigorously understanding what the brain is doing and how consciousness fits into the picture.
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Phi
post Nov 09, 2009, 02:01 PM
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i agree fully.

the hard part for me is that everyone seems to have wired themselves differently, so how do you set a control point when it would take so long to explain why somebody chose to wire a certain way...that's why I believe in explaining situations as much as possible so that perspectives can be generalized eventually.

i think as brain meta moves on, it's definitely helping in brain mapping....and that's a great step to evolve on
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astroidea
post Nov 21, 2009, 09:58 PM
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QUOTE(code buttons @ Nov 01, 2009, 09:20 AM) *

As for me, my quest is simple, but very meaninful to me: I'm interested in a total understanding of the difference between thought and action.


Easier said than done! wink.gif

My perception professor went glossed over this topic a bit in regards to the visual system. He provided a demonstration in which he placed his keys 15ft in front of a person, and asked them to make an approximation in how far it is. Subjects usually undershoot their estimate by about 5ft. Then the subjects are asked to throw an object to his keys, and they usually come quite a bit closer.
He explained that we have separate circuits for thought and action, and usually the action one is much closer to reality!
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astroidea
post Nov 21, 2009, 10:01 PM
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In case if some of you haven't seen this article, we're mapping out brain circuitry faster than ever now with robotic devices that automatically trace out circuits by systematically mapping out multiple single cell potential recordings at a time.
http://seedmagazine.com/content/article/ou...e/?page=all&p=y

tis is an exciting time
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phil241234
post Sep 11, 2010, 02:48 PM
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Hallo GC, Rick and the others,

sorry I have a late questions at this point and please apologize my bad english.

Do you really think to copy microcircuits (and their dynamic kind of firing) of the cortex, which counterfeit its integration of parallel impulses of billion of neurons subdivided in hirarchic organized systems of circuits can lead to a correlation of the human consciousness?

And why should this reproduction cause something like a perception or the easiest way of consciousness or maybe someday the hole conciousness?

Of course, I agree with the theory that the brain evokes conciousness, but because it was evolutionary obliged to do that and because it had the option to learn a view years (we can`t understand a consciousness of i.e. a baby, without speech, without discrimination and other basics, which binds our conscious life together).

So my question is: What do they try to find after this `operation of reproduction`? An answer from the computer or a signal? Or how should that approach to our consciousness look like?

I think a consciousness is caused by Genes, by the cells and of course the neural information-integrity of action potentials. But the hard question for me is to understand the molecular level of the interplay of this levels(Genes-Cell-Microcircuits) and because of what reason. Which problems we try to solve with our consciousness? The kind of consciousness is not only variable between every human but also because of the given problems of the surroundings.

Hope you could understand my points.

Kind regards,

Philipp
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GodConsciousness
post Sep 11, 2010, 02:55 PM
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LD would be the best to address the microcircuitry questions of the brain.

I am deeply puzzled by the informational dynamics of the brain. For instance, how is information encoded in the electrical circuits? How are genes expressed in the informational development of neurons?
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phil241234
post Sep 11, 2010, 03:50 PM
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Me too, it`s hard to understand the dynamics behind these processes. It`s just to small and to fast to comprehend it, you need really much more paradigms to approach this mathematical problem. The genes are of course on an other level. They are not directly comparable in this network, with the physical, fast acting electric impulses. Of course the genes and the neurons underlying chemical, physical rules but are working with another time rate but much more `creative`. The genes become changed i.e. by the environment on a lower level, the epigenetic aspect, and by learning itsself LTP. They define the distance betwen the syanpses (a point in autism), create the level and the code of the receptor on the cell surface and define the developmental steps of the brain. The biochemical metabolism is created by an interplay between genes and brain action, but the basic patterns are of course given by the genes.

There are much more secrets we don`t know about the Molecularbiology of the Neuron, therefore the debate of the hard problem is, in my opinion, to wide in the direction of pure physical impulses.
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