The Mind, What Is It?

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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?
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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.

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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 !!


Men are the same as women, just inside out !

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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]
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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 ?
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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?
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Offline kdlynn

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

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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
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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 »
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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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another_someone

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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.

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« Reply #11 on: 14/09/2007 03:02:35 »
I vote for illusion!
"Just Me, Lo" Loretta

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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?

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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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another_someone

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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.

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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.

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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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another_someone

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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.

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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)?


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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 #25 on: 15/09/2007 13:46:13 »
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.

But are you not confusing a specific implementation with the general functionality?

That you want to define the concept of memory as a dynamic process that is more akin to the act of memorising and recalling, rather than merely take the narrower notion of the stored memory itself, is a semantic difference, and I have no problem with it.

On the other hand, I cannot see that the implementation specifics (that you have separate short and long term memories) has any bearing on the notion of self?

Even when looking back at the wider issue of what is the mind, one can only realistically answer the question if one steps back from implementation specific issues.
« Last Edit: 15/09/2007 13:49:07 by another_someone »

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Offline DoctorBeaver

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« Reply #26 on: 15/09/2007 13:46:32 »
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.

Not at all. It could choose how much of the truth to reveal. For instance, if a male smells a female, it may wish to leave a sent that says "I'm virile & strong". Under other circumstances it may choose to say "I'm feeling friendly" or "Don't mess with me coz I'm in a bad mood & I'm well hard!".

None of those need be deceitful.
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« Reply #27 on: 15/09/2007 13:49:10 »
Short- & long-term memory could have a bearing on one's concept of self. Short-term memory is transient and only holds 7 quanta of information. We could not form much of an opinion of self based on such limited, transient data.

Admittedly, it would give the ability to recognise that we had not suddenly popped into existence in that instant, but not much more.
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another_someone

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« Reply #28 on: 15/09/2007 13:51:17 »
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.

Not at all. It could choose how much of the truth to reveal. For instance, if a male smells a female, it may wish to leave a sent that says "I'm virile & strong". Under other circumstances it may choose to say "I'm feeling friendly" or "Don't mess with me coz I'm in a bad mood & I'm well hard!".

None of those need be deceitful.

Can you be sure it cannot?

Has it been demonstrated that the information left in the scent is always context independent?

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another_someone

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« Reply #29 on: 15/09/2007 13:54:11 »
Short- & long-term memory could have a bearing on one's concept of self. Short-term memory is transient and only holds 7 quanta of information. We could not form much of an opinion of self based on such limited, transient data.

Admittedly, it would give the ability to recognise that we had not suddenly popped into existence in that instant, but not much more.

Whether or not this is the case, it is still an implementation issue.

If the brain had no separate short term memory, but had a single level memory system that functioned with the speed of short term memory, but the capacity of long term memory - would such a system be incapable of determining the notion of 'self'?

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Offline DoctorBeaver

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« Reply #30 on: 15/09/2007 22:41:29 »
Short- & long-term memory could have a bearing on one's concept of self. Short-term memory is transient and only holds 7 quanta of information. We could not form much of an opinion of self based on such limited, transient data.

Admittedly, it would give the ability to recognise that we had not suddenly popped into existence in that instant, but not much more.

Whether or not this is the case, it is still an implementation issue.

If the brain had no separate short term memory, but had a single level memory system that functioned with the speed of short term memory, but the capacity of long term memory - would such a system be incapable of determining the notion of 'self'?

Exactly the opposite. My contention was that a lack of long-term memory would preclude a concept of self in any meaningful respect.

Maybe I am presuming with regard animals having no control over their scent; but I have read many papers, articles & books on animals and not once have I seen any suggestion that they may be able to control it.
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« Reply #31 on: 15/09/2007 23:29:21 »
Exactly the opposite. My contention was that a lack of long-term memory would preclude a concept of self in any meaningful respect.

But, as I indicated above, individual cells can record (and read and write) to DNA, and thus have long term memory; and ofcourse, species as a whole also use DNA for long term memory (in that case long term exceeds the life of an individual organism).

Another form of long term memory that animals have is the immune system (not sure if it is true of all animals, since there exists multiple types of immune system, and some do not rely on memory - but I would think it true of all vertebrates).

Maybe I am presuming with regard animals having no control over their scent; but I have read many papers, articles & books on animals and not once have I seen any suggestion that they may be able to control it.

As I said before, even if they do not control the exact message contained within the scent, the fact that they can control whether or not to send that message at all amounts to sufficient control for our purposes.

It is speculation as to whether finer detailed control is or is not possible, but for a long time it was assumed that animals (aside from humans) did teach their young, did not use tools, and did not use language.  All of these assumptions, now that we have looked closer, have turned out to be false.  My concern is that this is an area people have just not looked at, and since smell is as important a means of communication as sound or vision, I personally think it improbable that it is not subject to the same level of control (at least amongst those animals for which it is a prime means of communication).

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Offline DoctorBeaver

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« Reply #32 on: 16/09/2007 07:51:29 »
Whether you class DNA as a memory or a record is immaterial to the discussion at hand. My point is that long-term memory is necessary for self-awareness to be meaningful. I made no stipulation as to the physical form or structure of the agent holding the memory.

Also, I did not say that having a long-term memory automatically means one has self-awareness. I believe I'm right in saying that trees carry a record of soil & atmospheric conditions prevalent as they were growing (where's Stuart when you need him!). That could, and often is, much longer than the lifespan of a human; but are trees self-aware? I know some (I won't mention Prince Charles and his hydrangea) believe they are, but until any sort of evidence is put forward to support that theory, I will remain believing it not to be the case.

Calling DNA or the immune system a memory is, as you said earlier, a question of semantics. It just happens not to be the definition I use.

As to whether animals can choose whether or not to leave scent is another debatable point. How much of that is instinct? Many times I've taken, especially male, dogs for a walk, they've sniffed at something & tried to urinate on it to no avail. Was theirs a conscious decision to try to spray or was it an instinctive impulse? And that, of course, raises the question of where instincts reside, and I think that is a question for another thread.
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« Reply #33 on: 16/09/2007 11:16:36 »
Whether you class DNA as a memory or a record is immaterial to the discussion at hand. My point is that long-term memory is necessary for self-awareness to be meaningful. I made no stipulation as to the physical form or structure of the agent holding the memory.

Also, I did not say that having a long-term memory automatically means one has self-awareness. I believe I'm right in saying that trees carry a record of soil & atmospheric conditions prevalent as they were growing (where's Stuart when you need him!). That could, and often is, much longer than the lifespan of a human; but are trees self-aware? I know some (I won't mention Prince Charles and his hydrangea) believe they are, but until any sort of evidence is put forward to support that theory, I will remain believing it not to be the case.

If you are referring to tree rings, then I would accept your distinction between a record and a memory in this case, because the tree, as far as I am aware, has to access to this information, even though the information does exist.  Whether there are other biochemical records that the tree is actively able to access is another question.

In the case of cellular DNA, the cell does have access to this memory, and so it is more than merely a record.

The problem is that while I accept that memory is required for self awareness, but some memory is required for living organism to function (if only because they almost all have internal clocks, which require at least a memory of passing time; and also inevitably has some forms of modal behaviour that depends on a past event influencing present action).

The question is, to what extent is memory required for self-awareness that is greater than required for basic life itself?

You say a young baby is not self-aware - but aside from the communication difficulties (and this goes back to whether self-awareness requires language), how do you determine that a baby is not self aware?  Is an Alzheimer's patient self aware?  Is someone with severe amnesia self-aware?

I suppose there are distinctions here between being aware of the self (to have an ego), and having a notion of an identity (to be able to relate to, and form relationships with others, and so identify oneself within the collective and not merely in isolation of one's environment). But even here, certainly in any multicellular organism, the individual cells must be able to relate to their neighbours, and arguably many single cell life forms will selectively interact with others in group action, and so can be said to have a relationship with others.


As to whether animals can choose whether or not to leave scent is another debatable point. How much of that is instinct? Many times I've taken, especially male, dogs for a walk, they've sniffed at something & tried to urinate on it to no avail. Was theirs a conscious decision to try to spray or was it an instinctive impulse? And that, of course, raises the question of where instincts reside, and I think that is a question for another thread.

I suspect the difference here is primarily the difference between the view of psychology and behaviourology.  You are trying to empathise with the subject, and arguing from a perspective where you you can form such an empathy, whereas I am trying merely to observe, and arguing only from observed action.  I would not expect you to get inside the mind of a daffodil, because ofcourse a daffodil does not have a brain in the sense that you would understand it; yet even a daffodil must process information in some way, as all life must process information.  The question still remains in what ways are the behaviour of a daffodil fundamentally similar (as well as differences that are inevitable due to its different physiological capabilities) from that of a human being.

In that context - what is it about observable behaviour that can demonstrate a notion of self?

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Offline Titanscape

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« Reply #34 on: 18/09/2007 16:22:44 »
"Animals" some argue "do not have a soul."

Moths have complex chemistry and reproduce, finding eachother, and the opposite sex, with complex chemical releases, but they do not really have minds, do they?

Cats have instincts, I doubt humans do. My cat pooing in it's box with no kitty litter, will still try to cover it, moving it's paws to move as if, an imaginary substance. There is none. On card board or concrete...

Dogs spraying trees is the same in my view.

Whales, big brains and all, have instincts, and beach themselves, unable to adapt.

Awareness and adaption are relative in my view. Comprehension, seeking pleasure and peace and dominion too. Not essentially the latter.

Some defective people are called "vegetables." You could argue a person with brain trauma is not self aware anymore. Or with advanced Alzeimers. But none have returned. Comprehension of concepts, and concepts from memory, matter here.

Logic, comprehension, retainment, producing expression. We can determine or accept a purpose and devise tools and create.

I doubt a dog marking a tree has much self awareness, it is instinctively territorial. They have only small senses of relationship and other, pack sense. Pack ego, team work.

Animals cannot repent and choose destiny. Even apes, scarecly forsee the changes in season. We can see history and the future through culture and interaction, understanding similarities and differences in eachother, even to be able to operate on the brain to give well being. And to psycho analyse... or destroy, another or self.

Belief and prayer are human. Choosing or accepting ambition, discerning truth, fact, theory, hypothesis, obedience, rebellion. Animals ambitions are instinctive.

Do we have a mind when asleep?

Do the brain dead still have a mind?

Has it substance, mass...?
« Last Edit: 18/09/2007 16:49:56 by Titanscape »
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Offline dkv

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« Reply #35 on: 18/09/2007 21:30:38 »
Do we have a mind when asleep?
REP: Yes.

Do the brain dead still have a mind?
REP:Yes

Has it substance, mass...?
REP: Yes

I said nothing about the soul.
Life builds strategies to move towards sustainable pleasure.
All life activities can be understood within this framework of TSP.


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another_someone

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« Reply #36 on: 18/09/2007 22:22:55 »
Do we have a mind when asleep?
REP: Yes.

Do the brain dead still have a mind?
REP:Yes

Has it substance, mass...?
REP: Yes

I said nothing about the soul.
Life builds strategies to move towards sustainable pleasure.
All life activities can be understood within this framework of TSP.



I have moved your TSP contributions to a new thread, so they can be discussed without stopping the flow on this thread.

You can find the posts at http://www.thenakedscientists.com/forum/index.php?topic=10148.0

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Offline that mad man

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« Reply #37 on: 19/09/2007 22:32:01 »
Could there be some uncertainty principle involved in the storing of information in the brain?

If the brain is constantly updating/renewing and moving data about then we can never find out/tell exactly where that data is being stored.

From what I have read, the brain works in an analogue fashion and not digital, not sure what difference that would make as to how data would be processed in the brain though.  [???]

At what age does a baby become self aware?

I remember about some test that were done on young babies that could crawl. They were placed on glass tables and allowed to crawl, every one when reaching the edge didn't go further.

Bee

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another_someone

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« Reply #38 on: 20/09/2007 01:28:31 »
If the brain is constantly updating/renewing and moving data about then we can never find out/tell exactly where that data is being stored.

From what I have read, the brain works in an analogue fashion and not digital, not sure what difference that would make as to how data would be processed in the brain though.  [???]

As you say, the memory is an analogue system, and more important, is a distributed network.  As far as we know, memory is spread throughout the brain as a neural network, so there is no one place where the memory is, so physically finding it is not the issue that it is when memories are stored in discrete locations.

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Offline Titanscape

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« Reply #39 on: 21/09/2007 06:45:19 »
Babies yet unborn , suck their thumbs. We and other new born creatures crave comfort, the rhythm of a beating heart and gentle contact.

Babies brains keep growing under foetal growth hormone for a year and a half roughly if I remember right. Which means neurone division, biggerness, and more cells, then also a problem with links forming between cells, maybe synapse breaks due to growth. Not good for memory...

A baby is like unexposed film and is yet without character.

The "soul" is a Biblical and philosophical word, "mind" more scientific.

But the "soul" means , "mind, will and emotions."

The spirit and it's heart are another thing.

My earliet memories are as a three year old. Excitement in being spun around in a seat. Running up stairs to turn on lights and playing with a cord, remote control car. Lying back with a carton of milk, as if it were a bottle and spilling it, on my vest... and my father getting angry. As he worked on a Steinbeck machine.

My younger brother appeared from two and three to be aware he had possessions and did not like them being taken from him. Expressing will and emotion and recognition.

As soon as they say "ma" and "da" I think they are aware of others and from before the wording starts.

Babies begin to be able to focus and show hand eye co-ordiantion quite young, they have hanging toys. They begin to understand and smile, laugh... and from the moment they are born usually they can cry, emotions there.

When is there anything of a mind? As yet unborn?

Where does it come from?

As a Christian I believe a Zygote, first cell of a person, is a spirit, but I am not sure if there is a mind. If it has mass, how much, is it heavy, or only begins to have mind...?



« Last Edit: 21/09/2007 07:05:00 by Titanscape »
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