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Offline Titanscape

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The Mind, What Is It?
« on: 11/09/2007 18:04:26 »
The mind, is it the flow of potassium ions or is it something more?

Is the nervous system it's house or it's substance? Action of mind then corresponding action in the nervous system or action in the nervous system is the mind?


 

Offline lightarrow

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« Reply #1 on: 11/09/2007 20:30:10 »
The mind, is it the flow of potassium ions or is it something more?

Is the nervous system it's house or it's substance? Action of mind then corresponding action in the nervous system or action in the nervous system is the mind?
No one knows.
 

Offline neilep

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« Reply #2 on: 11/09/2007 21:24:24 »
The mind, is it the flow of potassium ions or is it something more?

Is the nervous system it's house or it's substance? Action of mind then corresponding action in the nervous system or action in the nervous system is the mind?

The mind is more than the sum of it's parts !!


 

Offline DoctorBeaver

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« Reply #3 on: 11/09/2007 23:14:42 »
I'm not going to get involved in this or the database will be filled!  :D
 

Offline neilep

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« Reply #4 on: 12/09/2007 02:46:39 »
I'm not going to get involved in this or the database will be filled!  :D

Ewe mean ewe can't make up your mind ?
 

Offline DoctorBeaver

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« Reply #5 on: 12/09/2007 07:45:30 »
The mind is very different from the brain, and the question "What is the mind?" is currently more a question for metaphysics.

There is that theory, discussed here a while ago, that the mind is created by quantum events in micro-tubules in the brain. To be honest, that's as good a theory as anything else I've heard. Something is going on somewhere that gives us self-awareness - but I'm fekked if I know what that something is.

But first, of course, one has to define what is meant by "the mind". Is it the ability to have autonomous thoughts? Is it self-awareness? Free will? Or all of those plus more? There have been many discussions and papers concerning whether animals have a mind. For instance, do dogs have self-awareness? Some animals certainly behave as if they "have a mind of their own"; but is their behaviour nothing more than instinctive behaviour that we have yet to recognise as such?
 

Offline kdlynn

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« Reply #6 on: 12/09/2007 07:48:53 »
i think you may have just involved yourself...
 

Offline DoctorBeaver

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« Reply #7 on: 12/09/2007 07:51:49 »
i think you may have just involved yourself...

Nah... just a passing comment
 

Offline Titanscape

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« Reply #8 on: 13/09/2007 14:41:55 »
I see the mind as self awareness, consciousness and subconciousness. The part of being with ability to percieve and think. Able to percieve and then hold obejective truth and subjective truth. Imagination, logic, motivation, coordination, expression and memory.
« Last Edit: 13/09/2007 14:44:44 by Titanscape »
 

Offline neilep

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« Reply #9 on: 13/09/2007 15:43:06 »
I see the mind as self awareness, consciousness and subconciousness. The part of being with ability to percieve and think. Able to percieve and then hold obejective truth and subjective truth. Imagination, logic, motivation, coordination, expression and memory.

Yep..that covers it Bren........and there's probably a whole lot more to add too. The thing is...as has been cited above.....it's impossible to describe something which can not be described...because we simply do not understand it. We can philosophise about it till the cows come home but for the time being it seems that it will always remain a mystery...open to conjecture and speculation...discussion and debate.
 

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« Reply #10 on: 14/09/2007 00:47:16 »
The mind is very different from the brain, and the question "What is the mind?" is currently more a question for metaphysics.

There is that theory, discussed here a while ago, that the mind is created by quantum events in micro-tubules in the brain. To be honest, that's as good a theory as anything else I've heard. Something is going on somewhere that gives us self-awareness - but I'm fekked if I know what that something is.

But first, of course, one has to define what is meant by "the mind". Is it the ability to have autonomous thoughts? Is it self-awareness? Free will? Or all of those plus more? There have been many discussions and papers concerning whether animals have a mind. For instance, do dogs have self-awareness? Some animals certainly behave as if they "have a mind of their own"; but is their behaviour nothing more than instinctive behaviour that we have yet to recognise as such?

Do we have autonomous thoughts, or free will - or is that simply an illusion?

What is self awareness, except that it is a function of language (that we have a label we can give ourselves), and we have an internal image of ourselves - but these are processing functions for which we can program a computer.
 

Offline moonfire

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« Reply #11 on: 14/09/2007 03:02:35 »
I vote for illusion!
 

Offline kdlynn

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« Reply #12 on: 14/09/2007 03:03:54 »
i just remembered! i know what the mind is... it's a terrible thing to waste.... or were we looking for a more scientific answer?
 

Offline DoctorBeaver

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« Reply #13 on: 14/09/2007 09:12:42 »


What is self awareness, except that it is a function of language (that we have a label we can give ourselves), and we have an internal image of ourselves - but these are processing functions for which we can program a computer.

I have to disagree with your 1st assertion. It would imply that before language was invented, humans were not self-aware. I would argue that self-awareness preceded language.

Also, consider that many animals leave their scent as a marker. That, in effect, acts as their label which they can later recognise. Is that not symbolic of a form of self-awareness as you have defined it insofar as they can identify the scent as their own?
 

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« Reply #14 on: 14/09/2007 21:09:34 »


What is self awareness, except that it is a function of language (that we have a label we can give ourselves), and we have an internal image of ourselves - but these are processing functions for which we can program a computer.

I have to disagree with your 1st assertion. It would imply that before language was invented, humans were not self-aware. I would argue that self-awareness preceded language.

Also, consider that many animals leave their scent as a marker. That, in effect, acts as their label which they can later recognise. Is that not symbolic of a form of self-awareness as you have defined it insofar as they can identify the scent as their own?

Very interesting issues, although I am not quite sure what conclusion you are drawing from them.

It certainly is an interesting consideration that scent may be as good a marker of self/non-self as any visual cue - after all, nobody would reasonably suggest that a blind man is not self aware.  It is ofcourse also quite possible to argue that since that scent carries information (not just of the individual, but about the hormonal state of the individual, and hence their state of mind), that it might be considered in a restricted sense to be a language.
 

Offline DoctorBeaver

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« Reply #15 on: 14/09/2007 22:02:48 »
Animal scent certainly carries messages. Whether or not that can be considered a rudimentary language is debatable. Certain properties of an elementary particle carry information about the particle, but I doubt anyone would class that as a language. And no-one would consider a particle to be self-aware.

The conclusion I draw is that language is not necessary for self-awareness. I would, however, argue that memory is. Self-awareness is having knowledge of one's self, of who one is. Without memory, each instant brings about a different, new self; we would not know anything about ourself from 1 second to the next. It is for that reason that I would also argue that babies are not self-aware. Oooh... that's radical!

They are aware of sensations such as temperature, hunger, etc.; but they have no sense of being an autonomous being. That can only come about when we have memories to call upon. Prior to that, we are purely instinctive.

It may well be that at our current stage of evolution, self-awareness & language develop together. Having seen children grow from babies into adolescence, I have no doubt that self-awareness is a progressive mechanism. I wouldn't like to say exactly at what stage we actually become self-aware, but I believe there is a "critical density" that is reached when we have sufficient memories.

 

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« Reply #16 on: 14/09/2007 22:25:51 »
It is ofcourse also quite possible to argue that since that scent carries information (not just of the individual, but about the hormonal state of the individual, and hence their state of mind), that it might be considered in a restricted sense to be a language.

Not so much their state of mind, but the jacobson's gland can and does detect when a woman is ovulating. I'm sure wikipedia will have some info on this.
 

Offline DoctorBeaver

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« Reply #17 on: 14/09/2007 22:42:10 »
It is ofcourse also quite possible to argue that since that scent carries information (not just of the individual, but about the hormonal state of the individual, and hence their state of mind), that it might be considered in a restricted sense to be a language.

I would say that a prime function of any language is the ability to express what one wishes to express - i.e. an adaptable vocabulary. Where the scent of an animal is concerned, the animal has no control over the message it contains.
 

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« Reply #18 on: 14/09/2007 23:13:43 »
Animal scent certainly carries messages. Whether or not that can be considered a rudimentary language is debatable. Certain properties of an elementary particle carry information about the particle, but I doubt anyone would class that as a language. And no-one would consider a particle to be self-aware.

Not really a good comparison.

Scent carries the information about self - it is the language, but it is not the listener, nor the speaker - that is the animal that leaves the scent and the one that sniffs it (which may be the same animal). An elementary particle may carry information, but it neither creates not interprets that information - thus the particle may be the vector of language, but it is the user of the language that would be self aware, not the vector.

The conclusion I draw is that language is not necessary for self-awareness. I would, however, argue that memory is. Self-awareness is having knowledge of one's self, of who one is. Without memory, each instant brings about a different, new self; we would not know anything about ourself from 1 second to the next. It is for that reason that I would also argue that babies are not self-aware. Oooh... that's radical!

They are aware of sensations such as temperature, hunger, etc.; but they have no sense of being an autonomous being. That can only come about when we have memories to call upon. Prior to that, we are purely instinctive.

You seem to be interpreting "self-awareness" as having a notion of self-history.

Clearly, language is flexible, and one cannot say that such an interpretation is wrong, only that I would have regarded self-awareness as being simply a distinction of self from other, and I would have thought that even a young baby has some minimal ability to distinguish self from other (although this is not to say that it can hold that distinction equally in all domains - but even some adults have a difficulty with that).

As for memory - DNA is memory.  Where one draws a distinction between language and memory ofcourse is an issue in itself.  Both amount to an abstraction of the real world, but diverge in terms of persistence and purpose, and in that context in may be argued you are correct to place greater stress on memory than language.

A written document is both language and memory, since it is persistent (and so has memory) and able to communicate to others, and so amounts to language.  It is reasonable to argue that self-awareness only requires self-communication, and so communication with others is not a prerequisite (although it is logical to assume that an organism that can communicate with itself can also communicate with others).

In practice, even the most primitive or organisms have both a minimal amount of memory and the ability to communicate to a minimal level (this is even true of bacteria).
 

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« Reply #19 on: 14/09/2007 23:19:32 »
It is ofcourse also quite possible to argue that since that scent carries information (not just of the individual, but about the hormonal state of the individual, and hence their state of mind), that it might be considered in a restricted sense to be a language.

I would say that a prime function of any language is the ability to express what one wishes to express - i.e. an adaptable vocabulary. Where the scent of an animal is concerned, the animal has no control over the message it contains.

Ofcourse this begs all sorts of questions about whether one has free will or not.

I do not agree that an animal has no control over scent (how it exercises that control - i.e. is it free will or pre-programmed behaviour is another matter).  At very least, it has control over whether to leave the scent (i.e. what territory it feels safe to mark as its own).  Beyond that, the scent also carries information regarding the emotional state of the animal, and so to some degree says something of its intent (although it cannot be said that we know whether an animal can at all control what emotion it displays in its scent).

What you seem probably to be saying (and I am not saying this is without merit) is that self-awareness is bound up with the ability to deceive.  So the question is to what extent can other animals deceive.
 

Offline DoctorBeaver

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« Reply #20 on: 14/09/2007 23:40:21 »
Animal scent certainly carries messages. Whether or not that can be considered a rudimentary language is debatable. Certain properties of an elementary particle carry information about the particle, but I doubt anyone would class that as a language. And no-one would consider a particle to be self-aware.

Not really a good comparison.

Scent carries the information about self - it is the language, but it is not the listener, nor the speaker - that is the animal that leaves the scent and the one that sniffs it (which may be the same animal). An elementary particle may carry information, but it neither creates not interprets that information - thus the particle may be the vector of language, but it is the user of the language that would be self aware, not the vector.

The conclusion I draw is that language is not necessary for self-awareness. I would, however, argue that memory is. Self-awareness is having knowledge of one's self, of who one is. Without memory, each instant brings about a different, new self; we would not know anything about ourself from 1 second to the next. It is for that reason that I would also argue that babies are not self-aware. Oooh... that's radical!

They are aware of sensations such as temperature, hunger, etc.; but they have no sense of being an autonomous being. That can only come about when we have memories to call upon. Prior to that, we are purely instinctive.

You seem to be interpreting "self-awareness" as having a notion of self-history.

Clearly, language is flexible, and one cannot say that such an interpretation is wrong, only that I would have regarded self-awareness as being simply a distinction of self from other, and I would have thought that even a young baby has some minimal ability to distinguish self from other (although this is not to say that it can hold that distinction equally in all domains - but even some adults have a difficulty with that).

As for memory - DNA is memory.  Where one draws a distinction between language and memory ofcourse is an issue in itself.  Both amount to an abstraction of the real world, but diverge in terms of persistence and purpose, and in that context in may be argued you are correct to place greater stress on memory than language.

A written document is both language and memory, since it is persistent (and so has memory) and able to communicate to others, and so amounts to language.  It is reasonable to argue that self-awareness only requires self-communication, and so communication with others is not a prerequisite (although it is logical to assume that an organism that can communicate with itself can also communicate with others).

In practice, even the most primitive or organisms have both a minimal amount of memory and the ability to communicate to a minimal level (this is even true of bacteria).


I only used the example of the particle to indicate that language is not necessary to carry information.

Yes, I believe self-history plays a large part in self-awareness. Without some concept of the past, the present is meaningless; each microsecond, picosecond, nanosecond or whatever, creates a new self. It is impossible to have knowledge of that self if one's awareness of it is so fleeting.

I'm finding this hard to put into words so please bear with me.

Try to imagine that you have no memory whatsoever. Every moment you live is a totally new experience. You wouldn't know that you existed a fraction of a second ago. How can self-awareness exist in such circumstances? I hate phrasing it like this but, you wouldn't be aware that you are aware. Does that make sense?

DNA is not memory. It is a record of patterns. It can be the cause of instinct, which some may interpret as a form of memory, but it is not memory itself. It is no more memory than is the Encyclopedia Britannica.

A piece of paper is not able to communicate. To use your expression with regard particles, it is a vector. It is the writer & reader who interpret the paper.

I would argue that bacterial communication is no more than instinctive. There is no deliberation involved; the bacteria is pre-programmed to behave in a certain way. It has no control over what is communicated.

I like this discussion. Thank you!  :)
 

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« Reply #21 on: 15/09/2007 00:59:44 »
Yes, I believe self-history plays a large part in self-awareness. Without some concept of the past, the present is meaningless; each microsecond, picosecond, nanosecond or whatever, creates a new self. It is impossible to have knowledge of that self if one's awareness of it is so fleeting.

All knowledge in some way requires a memory a computer cannot function without some form of memory.

I'm finding this hard to put into words so please bear with me.

Try to imagine that you have no memory whatsoever. Every moment you live is a totally new experience. You wouldn't know that you existed a fraction of a second ago. How can self-awareness exist in such circumstances? I hate phrasing it like this but, you wouldn't be aware that you are aware. Does that make sense?

But do you have to be aware that you are aware?  Is this recursive process a requirement for self-awareness?

DNA is not memory. It is a record of patterns. It can be the cause of instinct, which some may interpret as a form of memory, but it is not memory itself. It is no more memory than is the Encyclopedia Britannica.

But the Encyclopaedia Britannica is memory it is the memory of information stored on it by its creators.

How is writing the  Encyclopaedia Britannica different from storing it in electronic memory?

DNA is also memory.  It is a record of patterns, but all records are a form of memory.  It records a set of instinctive behaviours that has historically been shown to be beneficial, and this historic memory is then passed on generation to generation (no different in some ways to the way that tribal folk lore and folk history is passed from generation to generation).

What you might be correct in saying is that DNA is an abstract memory, in that it does not record a past environment (i.e. it is not like a photograph that shows an external physical reality in some past time), but it is more like a computer program stored in memory.  Nor is it merely passive memory, since genes can be switched on and off during the life of the cell, and so actually store information about the past life of the cell (i.e. if past events in the cells life cause a gene to be switched off, that is a memory stored, and when the gene is switched on again, the memory is flipped).

A piece of paper is not able to communicate. To use your expression with regard particles, it is a vector. It is the writer & reader who interpret the paper.

Yes, it is the reader and writer who communicate; but the piece of paper is still a memory (i.e. it is the medium in which the information is stored, but is dependent upon other processes to make sense of it).  This is rather like saying that a tape recording is a memory of past sounds, but is only meaningful in the context of a tape recorder that can interpret the recording, but it does not alter the fact that it is the tape itself that holds the memory (i.e. that tape can be read by any equivalent tape player behaves substantially independent of which player it is played upon; yet if a different tape is played, in whichever player, it will play a different memory of the sound; so the memory is totally dependent on the tape and not on the player).

I would argue that bacterial communication is no more than instinctive. There is no deliberation involved; the bacteria is pre-programmed to behave in a certain way. It has no control over what is communicated.

What do you mean by 'control'?  These are notions that are bound up with the concept of free will, but how would you define free will?

Do humans ultimately act other than by instinctive instruction?  True, we obfuscate that instinct behind a complex information processing but beneath it all, is it really anything but instinct?

You may talk about learned behaviour but is learned behaviour not just another form of instinct (i.e. we have an instinct to learn, and that instinct modifies our future behaviour, but nonetheless the behaviour is instinctive whether that instinct is a direct response to the immediate stimuli, or a historic instinctive response to a past event that caused a change in future behaviours)?

 

Offline DoctorBeaver

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« Reply #22 on: 15/09/2007 08:45:34 »
I would assert that there is a difference between memory and a record. And bear in mind I speak as a psychologist, not a physicist or chemist.

To me a record of something is nothing more than a series of symbols (or waves in the case of analog recording). Memory, on the other hand, is a process. It involves storing, keeping & retrieving data; it is a dynamic process. When a book is printed, or a computer file written, that data is static (unless the computer data gets corrupted, but that's a different matter). Human memory (and maybe that of other animals) is dynamic. Memory and interpretation of memories are interwoven. We may remember a particular incident; but, later, other information about that incident may come to light that amends our interpretation or even the memory itself.

That there is a process involved is evident from the fact that we do not have consistent, immediate recall. How many times have we not been able to remember something but then it suddenly comes to us "out of the blue"? You can argue that this is evidence only of a poorly-functioning system. I, however, take it as evidence of dynamicism.

Memories do not remain in the same place in our brains. They are shifted from short- to long-term memory (some argue there is an intermediate stage of medium-term memory also). I have a theory of dreams that involves this process.
 

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« Reply #23 on: 15/09/2007 09:09:55 »
When I said that an animal has no control over the scent messages it leaves, I meant that it cannot decide for itself the chemical composition of its scent.

 

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« Reply #24 on: 15/09/2007 13:41:06 »
When I said that an animal has no control over the scent messages it leaves, I meant that it cannot decide for itself the chemical composition of its scent.

I suspect that this statement is supposition rather than proven reality.

In humans, it is generally regarded that humans cannot control many autonomous bodily functions (e.g. pulse rate, brain electrical activity, etc.), yet it has been demonstrated that with appropriate training, even concious control of these functions is possible.

Other factors that might well effect an animals scent would include dietary factors.

I think the real question must as much be about what you presume an animals decision making process is, as much as whether a possible means of control exists.

In any event, for the purposes of our discussion, I am not sure that the chemical composition of the scent is relevant - since we are discussing notions of self, and other information that may exist in the scent that go beyond the identity of the individual who left the scent are peripheral to the issue of identifying self from other.  In that context, the only impact that having control over the scent might imply is that an individual might be able to pretend to be someone they are not.
 

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« Reply #24 on: 15/09/2007 13:41:06 »

 

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