Back    All discussions

2016-11-21
The psychule: a model for the fundamental unit of consciousness

The psychule is a proposed model for a fundamental type of event related to mind/sentience/consciousness. The term "psychule" is meant to be analogous to the term "molecule" as the fundamental unit of a substance, except that a psychule is not a substance but an event.  I would like to say the proposed model describes the fundamental unit of consciousness (as in the subject line), but for many philosophers the term "consciousness" brings along certain expectations which tend to be missing from the simplest requirements of the model.  Similarly with the term "sentience".  Therefore I have coined (I think) a new term to describe the fundamental unit.  I will then claim that any sentient or conscious event is a psychule, and leave it to future generations to decide whether the definitions of consciousness and sentience should be extended to include each and every psychule.

As mentioned, a psychule is an event.  More specifically, a psychule is a pattern recognition type of event. I use the term "pattern recognition" with some trepidation, as that term seems also to bring some unwanted baggage for some philosophers.  Nevertheless, I find the term "pattern recognition" more intuitive than "pattern discernment", so I request that readers who object to the model based on the idea of "pattern recognition" replace that "recognition" with "discernment" and determine if the objection still stands.

I will try to make this explanation of the model as simple as possible and accept the risk that the description is too simple.  There are three main characters in the model: the input, the agent, and the output.  There are additional characters in the wings, but they can remain there until called for. So now for the statement of the model:

A psychule is an event wherein a well-defined subset of the internal relations (discernible variables) of an isolated configuration of matter (the input) is recognized by an agent which then generates a second configuration of matter (the output) such that the output is at least potentially a valuable response, that value accruing not to the agent but to whatever generated the agent.

To break this down a little, we start with a defined configuration of matter which is the input and which we will call system B (because system A is a prior system which will be drawn into this discussion later).  Depending on the makeup of system B, there may be many identifiable internal relations among the parts.  For example, if system B is a baseball, the discernible variables may include leather cover, threads, weight, diameter.  Alternatively, the pertinent variables may be the presence of specific molecules at a given temperature. The description of a psychule requires only that the subset of variables relevant to the agent be specified.

The agent is also a system (isolated configuration of matter), but we'll just call it the agent.  The agent, when presented with the input (system B), recognizes the specified set of variables and responds appropriately by generating the output. Note that the process of generating the output may be very simple, such as an enzyme recognizing a specific sequence in a DNA strand and cutting it.  The process may also be very complicated, such as a short order cook getting an order for a cheeseburger then generating an actual cheeseburger.  They both count as psychules. Note also that a process similar to the enzyme example does not (necessarily) count as a psychule, namely chemical catalysis.  The pertinent difference is what is missing from the latter: generation of value.  But even then, if that chemical catalyst is intentionally arranged, as in the catalytic converters in car engines, then the event generates value and can be considered a psychule.

So the simple event can be written: B --agent]--> C, or more simply just B -> C.

So how does something as simple as a psychule pertain to something as complicated as consciousness? The answer is that psychules can be combined in series and in parallel to form larger psychules. All of the "non-exposed" inputs and outputs, i.e., not initial inputs and not final outputs, become internal to an agent.  

As an example, let's consider a simple agent X: a group of molecules embedded in a membrane where the aqueous space on one side of the membrane has many positively charged ions. When that group recognizes a molecule, say, serotonin, on the correct side of the membrane (system B), it opens a channel and positive ions flow across the membrane (system C, the output).  We write this B -> C.

Nearby, another group of molecules, agent Y1, recognizes that some positive ions have flowed across the membrane and agent Y1 also opens a channel that lets more positive ions flow across the membrane (system D).  We write this C ->D.

Nearby agent Y2 (just like Y1) does the same thing Y1 did, generating system E. This continues until system P (yet more positive ions crossing the membrane) is recognized by agent Z, a vesicle filled with, say, glutamate(?), and agent Z responds by fusing with the membrane, thus releasing the glutamate to the outside (system Q, the final output, for now).

So we write this whole chain as B->C->D->E->[...]->P->Q,

Or we could just write this:  B(serotonin) --[neuron]--> Q (glutamate). (I'm not sure if any neurons actually take serotonin and generate glutamate, but you get the idea.)

Similarly we could have three agents that respectively perform A->B, C->D, and E->F, and one agent that performs B+D+F->Q. If it's useful, we could combine those agents and we end up with one agent that performs A+C+E->Q.

Finally, you can have agents that have a repertoire of psychules that is more than just one.  For example, you could combine the three agents mentioned in the previous example such that you have one agent that responds to A by producing B, responds to C by producing D, etc.

So the bottom line for this model is that any given consciousness, or conscious agent, can be designated somewhat arbitrarily as a combination of one or more sub agents.  I say somewhat arbitrary because it is generally useful to have a reason for any particular designation, such as one particular brain, as opposed to a completely arbitrary designation, such as my watch plus this cup of coffee.  Further, the "consciousness" of any designated agent is defined by the repertoire of psychules that the agent can perform.

There is much more to discuss, but I would appreciate comments, objections, etc., to what I have presented so far.  Thanks for reading.

*


2016-11-26
The psychule: a model for the fundamental unit of consciousness
Dear James,

You are attempting to define the fundamental unit of experience in the way that Leibniz did in the 1680s and Whitehead in the 1920s. Whitehead moves forward in  replacing immortal moans with 'actual occasions', which superficially appears a good move, although at the deepest level I think Leibniz may still be more rigorous.

Your psychules appear to be actual occasions, more or less. The problem that I see is that you are running into all the metaphysical pitfalls that Leibniz took pains to point out and avoid. An actual occasion is actual in the sense that it is not arbitrary but a real single event. And as Leibniz points out you cannot combine real single dynamic units to make bigger ones. It makes no sense because you no longer have a point of view, you have lots. Moreover, there is no reason why anything should just relate to some things as an event. That would violate the law of continuity. So an event must be a relation to everything. These objections might themselves seem arbitrary but as Leibniz points out they are not because violating them leads logically to contradictions. Moreover, modern physics respects them. All dynamic units in modern physics have no parts and relate to everything.

The general rule in science, and this is a scientific enquiry, is that you do not postulate new entity concepts unless you are quite sure there are none already defined that would do the job. We have individual events  in physics, with inputs from the world and outputs to the world. They do not add up but larger domain events supervene on clusters of smaller domain events in a way that is understood. Rather than postulate a psyche I would look to see what an actual occasion of experience might be in available physics - but it does have to be up to date physics. Traditional biological aggregate talk is not going to be much use here.

2016-11-26
The psychule: a model for the fundamental unit of consciousness
Hi Jo (I hope that moniker is still ok),

You can guess that I am not a scholar of Leibniz, so I hope you will consider actually paraphrasing his ideas rather than just referencing.  You said
An actual occasion is actual in the sense that it is not arbitrary but a real single event. And as Leibniz points out you cannot combine real single dynamic units to make bigger ones. It makes no sense because you no longer have a point of view, you have lots

I don't think I agree that "you cannot combine real single dynamic units to make bigger ones." Consider what I would call a single event: an apple falling off a tree.  Clearly there are a number of sub-events happening, including, for example, the apple hitting the ground. So what am I missing?

Also, I don't see a problem in having lots of points of view.  You just need to pick one that you're interested in and define its boundaries.

That said, it's possible that you would prefer changing the term "event" to "process".  I would be okay with that.

You also said
Moreover, there is no reason why anything should just relate to some things as an event. That would violate the law of continuity. So an event must be a relation to everything.
I am not familiar with "the law of continuity" (hopefully you can explain it somewhat), but you might be hinting at the idea that an event would relate to everything that lead up to that event, as opposed to actually "everything", and I would not have any problem with that.  How a particular agent would get value from the preceding events depends on the the agent.  

By the way, this is where the promised system A comes in. A more specific rendition of the model can be written as
A->B-->[agent]-->C
wherein A->B is a similarly defined event/process except that it is not necessarily a psychule, and C is a valuable response to one or more of the four "Aristotilian causes" of A->B.  In this model, A represents the material cause, B the formal cause, an agent (if any) the efficient cause, and the purpose (if any) final cause.

I'll stop there, for now.

*

2016-11-27
The psychule: a model for the fundamental unit of consciousness
Dear James,
Leibniz paraphrased himself in the Monadology of 1714. I paraphrased his paraphrase at https://www.ucl.ac.uk/jonathan-edwards/monadology.

To paraphrase (sort of). At age 30 Leibniz listens to Spinoza's view that the universe (Nature, or God) is all one continuous process that can be thought of in many ways. What we call events or objects would be just our arbitrary conceptual chunkings of one continuum. Leibniz sees this must be wrong because there are points of view. My point of view is distinct from yours and that must be something to do with the intrinsic nature of two separate processes or actions. A point of view cannot have the domain and perspective it does just because some other point of view conceives of it that way. So in Whitehead's terminology there must be intrinsically defined actual occasions.

So we are not entitled to add these actions or processes together and assume there is a combined process with a point of view. My point of view is from London, yours from Seattle. There is no point of view from Londonseattle. You cannot ask how far Delhi is from Londonseattle. What obscures this, as Leibniz appreciates and modern physics confirms is that if a number of small scale actions are very closely correlated then a larger scale new (not aggregate) action supervenes that seems to be the sum of the small actions. 

This non-mereology can be illustrated by an indirectly related aspect of modern physics. All units of action now have (dee Broglie) wavelengths. The d and s orbitals in a free silver atom have wavelengths. You cannot add these to get a wavelength for a ds orbital because there are no dynamic relations to d and s orbitals and only those orbitals and moreover you cannot just add wavelengths. However, if we consider all the orbitals and quarks of the silver atom together, which form a highly correlated set of actions that always migrate as a group then we have a new dynamic unit - the silver atom - with a new wavelengths which turns out to be much smaller than any of the constituent ones.

Leibniz develops this idea of hierarchies of actions, each with a point of view, over forty years and ends up with Monadology. The unit is the monad.

Leibniz also recognises early on the law of continuity. This based on empirical experience but also has a logical grounding. It says that all dynamic relations or actions vary with place and time in a smooth continuous way. An action can never cease to exist or change its nature in a step fashion at a point or line. To do so would make its speed or other variables infinite. You could not write any workable equations (removing infinities from equations is one of the most important aspects of modern physics theory). However much we may think that 'things' have 'edges' it turns out that all transitions are gradual even if they occur over very tiny distances or times.

The law of continuity has a very strange and pervasive upshot. Leibniz sees that we cannot arbitrarily say that action A relates to action B but not actions C and D. Nor can there be any boundary where action A suddenly stops relating to other actions, either in space or time. So there are no interactions just between two objects or actions. The only possible form of relation is between an action and the whole universe from creation to judgment day (Big Bang to Big Crunch). This sounds ridiculous but the equations of modern physics are written exactly like that. A mode of action (excitation) is defined by its relation to fields of potentials that have no edges - they go to infinity in space and time. Fortunately, modern theory also has an equivalent of Leibniz's realisation that within this infinity there will be a local domain where relation is 'non-trivial' and a vast other domain where relation is 'confused'. The local domain for familiar modes of action is what we (and Leibniz) call a body. 

Note that in this schema an apple falling to the ground is not one action but at least two. One is a dynamic autobiography from the point of view of an action we call the whole apple. The other is an autobiography from the point of view of the earth. The collision will be a major feature of the apple's biography but not of the earth's biography. (In fact there will be all sorts of actions tucked inside both components.)

So maybe you can see from all this that although we have many points of view you cannot add points of view together. It simply makes no sense. Nobody could describe such a thing mathematically (like the distance to Delhi). This is the nonsense of panprotopsychism. Leibniz never allowed himself to fall for this. Unfortunately, Whitehead seems to have allowed himself to fuse points of view into nexûs ('coalitions' of actions). Whitehead is nothing like as rigorous.

Jo

2016-11-28
The psychule: a model for the fundamental unit of consciousness
Hi Jo,
Thank you for that response.  I read your version of Leibniz' Monadology (up to paragraph 20) and I think I see the problem.  If you think my conclusions would be changed by subsequent paragraphs, please let me know.

Paragraph 17 begins:
17. Moreover, everyone must admit that perception and that which depends upon it are inexplicable on mechanical grounds, 

In fact, not everyone must admit this.  My model specifically refutes this.  This paragraph is the famous paragraph wherein Leibniz claims

Imagine there were a machine, so constructed as to think, feel, and have perception, it might be conceived on an enlarged scale, while keeping the same proportions, so that one might go into it as into a mill. That being so, we should, on examining its interior, find only parts which work one upon another, and never anything by which to explain a perception. 



This thought experiment is an exemplary case of missing the forest for the trees, the trees being the "parts which work one upon another".  I assume because Leibniz does not imagine consciousness in the mechanical processes, he must look elsewhere, and so finds perception and consciousness internal to the monad, and this is simply a mistake.  If my model can explain consciousness mechanically, which I think it does, trying to find consciousness in some indivisible part is unnecessary.






2016-11-28
The psychule: a model for the fundamental unit of consciousness
Dear James,
Paragraph 17 is probably the least important of all since it is so obvious and borrowed from Descartes, Newton and everyone else. The important paragraphs are the first few  and pondering the hard to see how necessary they are.

Note that 'mechanical' here refers to Descartes's mechanical theory which is long since defunct (so I wouldn't bother trying to build a theory on it!). In fact it was destroyed by Wren, Huygens and Hooke within thirty years by 1675. An odd feature of Leibniz's physics is that he insists that Descartes's mechanical theory remains valid for apparent empirical physics, despite Newton's theory of gravitation which is incompatible with it. His insistence is odd because his fundamental monadic theory is actually based on the empirical evidence from Hooke and Wren that refutes the mechanical theory. So to understand the implications of 17 you need to now the history of the theories.

That said I think the idea that a mechanical collision theory cannot explain our experience is pretty safe. If you consider the experience of any one object or material element then mechanically it is just a series of individual collisions. An object only ever collides with one thing at a time unless it is very squidgy. So we would have to explain an experience of watching an exciting football game or listening to the Archduke Trio on the basis of a series of completely unconnected bangs, bonks, brings and crunches. Once one bang is finished it is past and no longer part of experience, so where is the richness? 

If, as I suspect you would, you want to include the whole mill as having the experience you run into, as Terrence Deacon has said, a causal equivalent of the liar paradox (This sentence is false.) You get a self referential causal relation, which in physics makes no sense. So if the mill is component actions or events  A,B,C, D,E,F then to say that the mill experiences event B is no good because the mill already IS partly event B. Nothing can have a causal influence on itself. People assume you can switch from parts to wholes in physics freely because sometimes you can - as for Newton's concept of centre of gravity, which works because of a mathematical trick - but most of the time you cannot.

Leibniz's principle are based on very simple but very deeply hidden truths that one gradually comes to see the necessity for if one is involved in practical physics. Leibniz was himself an engineer, although he did not do academic physics the way Hooke or Huygens did. To pit yourself again Leibniz, Newton and Descartes is not for the faint hearted. These guys were not stupid. Having said that you might find yourself in good company since most neurobiologists interested in consciousness or experience seem to be completely unaware of these basic considerations. But I think you would find physicists tend to be familiar with them.


2016-11-28
The psychule: a model for the fundamental unit of consciousness
Hi Jo,

Your description of the processes inside the Mill misrepresents my model.  If we restate the processes to match my model, processes A and B are outside of the Mill, processes C, D, and E are internal to the Mill, and F is again external to the Mill. In this case the Mill "experiences" B by producing F.  C, D, and E may be experiences to sub-agents within the Mill, but they are not available as experiences to the Mill/Agent. 

Now it may be that B is actually three distinct events/collisions B1, B2, and B3.  If any of the three are missing, then the Mill does nothing.  But when they happen together, or maybe in a given series, or maybe in any order but within a given time period, then the Mill produces F.  In that case it would be wrong to say that the Mill experiences B1 separately. If only B1 happens, the Mill does nothing and experiences nothing. We can say that the Mill experiences B1,B2, and B3, or we can just say the Mill experiences B.

Keep in mind that the Mill might also be able to experience G by producing Q.  And so on.

Does that change anything?

*

2016-11-28
The psychule: a model for the fundamental unit of consciousness
Hello there,
This sounds like "mind dust" and therefore I am not sure I like the nomenclature but the general idea is sound I think.

Best,

Eray

2016-11-28
The psychule: a model for the fundamental unit of consciousness
Sorry, James, but you are making exactly the mistake I was talking about. 

If the mill is an aggregate of processes then it cannot be a subject because it cannot both be its subprocesses and be something else with its own relation to world. Causal relation just do not work like that. We have very good evidence from everyday observation that they do not and you cannot formulate any equations that would work like that. For an action or process to have an experience of the world it can only have one relation to world - that which determines the experience. Subprocesses all have different relations to world. You cannot add them to make a new relation. 
Moreover, I see no reason to think that experiencing involves 'producing a new process'. Experiencing is the relation of a dynamic unit or action or process to its input. The output from the action is quite another matter - another relation to other things. That has a new set of equations. Sure there will be further relations but they must be associated with new experiences for other subjects.

If you want to relate experience to physical relations I think you need to take seriously the constraints that apply in physics and more widely in all causal relations we handle more informally. Leibniz understood logic better than us and also understood how it applied to physical processes - he was effectively the first person to build computers. Quite apart from anything else your model will not work computationally - for the simple reason that the causal relations cannot exist in the way you propose.

The problem we have at the moment is that neurobiologists tend to build models very much like yours because they do not understand causality either. What intrigues me is that in the seventeenth century everyone interested in the mind understood the causal issues and yet nobody seems to now!

Jo

2016-11-29
The psychule: a model for the fundamental unit of consciousness
Hi Jo,
I think I must ask you to be more precise with your wording.  E.g., you say "If the mill is an aggregate of processes...", but the mill is not an aggregate of processes.  I guess the particular psychule could be considered an aggregate of processes.  The mill is an agent (a configuration of matter) that has that particular psychule in its repertoire.

You also say "Moreover, I see no reason to think that experiencing involves 'producing a new process'." Again, the experiencing does not produce a new process.  The experiencing produces a new configuration of matter, the output.

As for causality, a fuller explanation of my model will directly address Aristotle's ideas of causality.  I'm curious how your ideas of causality relate to Aristotle's.

*

2016-11-29
The psychule: a model for the fundamental unit of consciousness
Dear James,
In what way is my wording imprecise? The whole point of Leibniz's story is that you cannot find perception within an aggregate of mechanical actions of the sort we call a mill. If you are not using the mill as an aggregate then you are not using Leibniz's story. 

And you admit that the psychule could be an aggregate, when for the reasons I have given it cannot because aggregates cannot have real relations, only entities can have real relations. Basically what Leibniz's philosophy is all about is that you cannot rigorously apply predicates to aggregates as if they were entities and the reason for that is shown to us by the world around us. We cannot say Delhi is a hundred miles from Londonseattle. We cannot say a group of ten people has a perception of the sea. We cannot say that all the intricate interacting processes of a mill has a perception of the world. It makes no sense. The irony is that people go around saying that the intricate interacting processes of a brain has a perception of the world and seem to think that is possible. It is assumed that folklore and analysis of causation must be consonant parts of clear thinking They are not. Our folklore idea that 'persons' have experiences turns out to be empty nonsense.

I agree that we have to be careful about terminology when it comes to outputs. But you seemed to classify A, B, C, D, E  and F in the same class and you said the experience produced F and C and D were actions or processes. I agree that Aristotle's classification of cause is relevant here but Aristotle's system is itself is obsolete and ill-formed. Leibniz clarified it but modern physics clarifies it much more. A key point is that the classes of causation are quite different for aggregates treated as 'matter' and individual dynamic units treated as 'events' or 'actions'. That is the difference between so-called classical description and quantum level description. Moreover, inputs are influences described with reference to a token action, whereas outputs are effectively dispositional properties described without reference to any specific action being influenced. In classical terms these could be 'configurations of matter' but that does not give us forces so we probably want fields of potentials - which is certainly what we need at the quantum level, where they take on the role of formal causes. The language of physics hides all sorts of Aristotelian complexities that physicists tend to appreciate through practical use but cause merry hell if you try to subject the language to philosophical debate without knowing quite how the words work (a problem common to Churchland, Dennett, Chalmers, whoever...). An intriguing fact is that at the quantum level efficient causes are replaced by final causes, just as Leibniz said, but in a rather different sense from that envisaged by Aristotle.

2016-11-29
The psychule: a model for the fundamental unit of consciousness
Hi Jo,

I apologize for suggesting your wording was imprecise.  In fact, it turns out my wording was imprecise, but you are not blameless :) .  In my model I use capital letters to represent objects or material stuff or "configurations of matter".  I use arrows -> when modeling events.  A psychule necessarily, by definition, involves at least three such objects, and I model it thusly: B --> [agent] --> C, except sometimes I leave the agent out, giving B -> C.

When you said "if the mill is component actions or events  A,B,C, D,E,F", I objected because the mill is not events. The mill is physical stuff. And then I tried to restate the model in the context of the mill, but I inadvertently continued referencing A to F as events while in my head they were objects.  So let me try again to put the mill into the context of my model.

There are two possibilities. The first is that the mill is the agent.  In this case it really does not matter what goes on inside the mill.  It only matters that the mill responds to something in the world, a configuration of matter I call B, by generating a second configuration of matter I call F. The "experience" is the whole thing, starting with B and ending with F. (Remember, B and F are material, not events.)

The second possibility is that the mill has internal "experiences". This just means that there are one or more agents inside the mill.  Because the mill is material, the agents would be subsets of that material. In that case my model says you can look inside the mill and find events like C->D, which can also be written C-->[subagent which is not the whole mill] --> D. It would then be wrong to say that the mill "has" these experiences, because that sounds like you mean the mill is the agent.  If you want to say the mill "has" this kind of experience, that would be the same sense in which you could say the mill "has" agents.  They are both simply internal to the mill.  

And now we get to the part that confuses me.  You say " We cannot say Delhi is a hundred miles from Londonseattle".  Of course we can, in the same way we can say Russia is X miles from the United States.  It's very much like referring to the mass of the Sun.  The question is whether doing so is useful.  It's hard to imagine a reason we would want to think about London and Seattle as a unit, but that doesn't mean it's impossible or even wrong.

Finally, I would like to point out that considering this model at the level of quantum mechanics is a mistake.  The phenomenon of consciousness emerges at a higher level, and classical physics, chemistry, and biology is enough to explain it.  You might be able to take the model down into the quantum level, but why would you?

*

2016-11-30
The psychule: a model for the fundamental unit of consciousness
We are getting things a bit clearer, James. However, the problem with the physics remains.
As Russell and Eddington pointed out the one thing that physics does not deal with is 'physical stuff'. It only deals with causal or dynamic relations. It says nothing about the stuffness of the relata. It became clear in 1680 that our intuitive concept of stuff, which Descartes wanted to invoke, cannot be the basis of 'matter'. So since then serious physics has had no stuff. Configurations of matter are configurations of dispositional properties like forces or potentials.

That taken on board, I agree that there is an important distinction between an event, which is the instantiation of a token dynamic relation, and a configuration of potentials that might relate in that event (as A or B).

The real problem is the arbitrary chunking one. We are used to being able to call any collection we like a thing or a configuration of matter or even a configuration of potentials. However, as Leibniz sees, in the real world of dynamics unpackaged by a human thought there are no boundaries to fields of potentials or indeed to configurations of matter. Aristotle's formal cause for any event is the way the whole universe is arrayed. Much of it may not impact seriously on the event but remember that a star in a distant galaxy is having a gravitational effect on all the molecules in your body. When you hit your head on a door frame the electrical field that causes the pain includes a component from the molecules in the carpet upstairs. So the 'configuration of matter' is always U - the universe. That is what Leibniz tells us and what modern physics insists on.

We cannot say that Delhi is a certain distance away from Londonseattle in the sense that I introduced that metaphor. I introduced it in the context of points of view. Delhi is a certain fairness away from a point of view in London and a certain fairness away from a point of view in James but it is not a certain fairness from a point of view Jojames. 

I will admit that until very recently physics has been about as agnostic about points of view as it is about stuff. Newton's physics assumed that everything was a divisible aggregate which could be assigned agent or patient status as one likes. Intriguingly, even Newton had some thoughts about dynamic units, however, and even sort of guessed that the valency of a carbon atom was 4. With the identification of individual dynamic units in the late nineteenth century individual dynamic units became tractable. The paradox of the Democritan atom of infinitesimal size then had to be faced and it was resolved by the realisation that indeed there cannot be any stuff at all; all is potentials and modes of action. 

But for the deeper thinkers at that time - William James early on, and then Whitehead - this was of no help in understanding human subjects because it seemed that individual dynamic units had tiny domains and minuscule dispositional powers. It was not until around 1980 that a framework for dynamic units of larger scale was arrived at - just as an electron is a mode of excitation so is the ring of a bell. In fact the existence of larger scale dynamic units had been understood throughout the development of quantum theory. Feynman in his lectures talks of the de Broglie wavelength of a bullet. The Stern Gerlach apparatus studies the spin of entire silver atoms. But the field theory of the 1980s provided a simple explanation for how to define a real intrinsic dynamic unit that could have its own intrinsic 'point of view on the universe' or experience of that universe. All that is needed is that there is an asymmetry in the universal field that entails a certain domain having more or less totally correlated dynamic behaviour in contrast to the rest. So a bullet all spins as a single unit. A silver atom travels as a single unit. A bell rings as a unit. A Caribbean steel drum is an analogy I like. Each beaten patch of steel that makes a note is separated by a dynamic asymmetry from the rest and so is a dynamic individual.

So that means that if there were some dynamic action that London and Seattle instantiated and nothing else did there could actually be a Londonseattle point of view. But we know this is not the case. Michigan behaves much the same. So we now know how to identify agents; they are packets of action that are uniform within themselves and distinct from everything else. 

The natural response to this for those who feel a need to make the whole person or brain an agent  (which you seem to share) is to find a dynamic asymmetry that separates brain as a whole from world. The body is separated from the world in the sense that it can have its own mode of spinning on an ice rink but that is not a dynamic unit of interest to us. We want a dynamic unit that involves the signals of perception - neural signals. Giuseppe Vitiello and Walter Freeman have tried to do this with the suggestion that cortical neuropil is a dynamic unit and that the total buzzing of electrical potentials is like the ring of the bell (Giuseppe uses a lot of the arguments I have used above). However, for detailed technical reasons I have come to the conclusion that this simply cannot work. The fields and couplings involved cannot be defined and not just because we do not know what they are. We know they aren't.

On the point of using quantum theory - we have to. Quantum theory is not a theory about quarks. It is simply the theory of dynamic units. Classical physics is the theory of aggregates. It is as simple as that. The two theories require quite different rules. People were surprised when quantum theory had unfamiliar rules but theories necessarily from the fact that it is a theory of individual units (I can explain but not now). In physics post 1980 quantum theory has come to describe everyday objects just as much as quarks. To reject modern condensed matter physics at this level is simply to be anachronistic. And there is absolutely no reason to think that experience arises at a 'higher level'. Chemistry and biology are no longer at 'higher levels' than quantum theory. That is old hat. Everything is now treatable on an individual (quantum) or aggregate (classical) basis. You are stuck in the 1960s I fear. I am myself a practicing biophysicist and I have seen how everything has been transformed, even in my speciality of immunology. And surely the agent is an individual if anything is.

Eray very reasonably called your theory a mind-stuff theory. It might be called a Whiteheadian mind-stuff theory since it centres on experience events or actual occasions of experience  which has the advantage of being a dynamic theory. But the mind-stuff theory was raised by William James in order to point out its unworkability, because of the intractable combination problem it generates. Which is what I have been raising all along. As James said there is no (intrinsic) physical fact that is an experience in lots of separate nerves at once.

Which brings us to your second model, which seems to be the one I advocate.

To be fair, Leibniz's paragraph 17 and the mill illustrates two worries. One is the worry about aggregates. The other is the worry about getting rich relations from simple collisions or working of levers on beams. Leibniz tries to solve this elsewhere by suggesting a subject perceives by receiving signals rather like rays of light reaching a point from an infinite number of angles. In 'New Essays' he does better than that. He suggests that within the brain there are richly folded membranes (consider dendrites) that receive signals rather like light (electromagnetic potentials) and that the result depends on the combination of the pattern of signals and the way the membrane has come to be folded by previous memories of signals (Hebbian reinforcement). He then points out that it is not the membrane itself that is the subject but some mode of action or entelechy inhabiting the membrane that is not in itself any sort of material stuff. For me that would be an acoustic mode of excitation and your agent B. That mode generates its own field of potentials that plays a role in the next event as part of the universe U that impacts of other dynamic units down the line. But note that we have to think of configurations of matter in two classes. One is the universe U and the other is the dynamic unit B defined by an asymmetry. All physics equations dealing with individual events have both of these and only these. The agent receives as an individual but gives out only as part of the universe - again as Leibniz tells us.

If you reject combination, as I think physics says we have to, then you have something very reasonable. But I tend to agree with Eray that the new name psyche may be redundant. Soul is quite good, I think. It has an august heritage.

2016-11-30
The psychule: a model for the fundamental unit of consciousness
Hi Jo,

I wonder if you have read Sean Carroll's latest book: The Big Picture.  If not I highly recommend it.  In the book he espouses "poetic naturalism".  His use of "poetic", I think, is meant to say that we use different language when discussing the world at different levels of magnification.  For example, at the level of quantum fields we do not talk about time as having a direction (aka the arrow of time), but at higher levels such a concept makes sense.  Everything we say still has to be compatible with quantum fields, but quantum fields do not have to be part of every description.

The model I am proposing says experiences (psychules) are emergent because the concepts of value and purpose are emergent.  These concepts only make sense at the level of biology and higher. I am making the claim that consciousness can be explained by reference to psychules, and that no description at a level below biology (maybe chemistry?) is necessary. That doesn't mean that a description below that level is not possible. In certain cases, e.g., quantum computing, it might even be interesting.

You said
"The natural response to this for those who feel a need to make the whole person or brain an agent  (which you seem to share) is to find a dynamic asymmetry that separates brain as a whole from world."
In fact I do not feel the need to make the whole person or brain an agent, but I recognize that doing so is sometimes useful.  When I ask of someone whose eyes are closed "Are you awake?" ("Are you conscious?"), I am treating that whole person as the agent.  I am not asking what may be going on inside that agent, such as dreaming.  I am presenting the agent with input and checking to see whether there is output.

But my model very intentionally considers the possibility of sub-agents.  In a recent article (http://www.beinghuman.org/article/what- ... sciousness) Antonio Damasio describes three potential selves: the core self, the protoself, and the autobiographical self. In his words:  
This sounds complicated and it is, but let me break it down in digestible chunks. New research indicates that the protoself level corresponds to a gathering of information regarding the state of the body. It is constructed in the brain stem and it generates feelings that signify our existence. The protoself is the necessary foundation of the overall self, and in its absence one can not be conscious. The next level, the core self, is also indispensable for consciousness. It requires an interaction of the organism with an object. It is constructed in a dialogue between the brain stem and a few parts of the cerebral cortex. It yields a sense of the "here and now", devoid of historical perspective. It gives us a consciousness of the moment. The third level, the autobiographical self, creates the more or less coherent picture of our history, a narrative with a lived past and an anticipated future. The narrative is culled from real events, from imaginary events, and from past interpretations and re-interpretations of events. Identity emerges from the autobiographical self.
My model would argue that each of these selves describes a separate, not necessarily mutually exclusive, sub-agent within the brain.  The most interesting of these agents is the one that represents the autobiographical self.  I speculate that the subagent which represents the autobiographical self comprises the thalamus, the claustrum, the hippocampus, the basal ganglia, and possibly other parts of the sub-brain. (Please excuse my possibly incorrect use of neuro-anatomy jargon. For example, I am not sure exactly what counts as basal ganglia and what doesn't).  What's notably missing from that list is the neocortex.  The neocortex (I speculate) is the major source of inputs to that agent as well as the major target of outputs. This is an ultimately testable hypothesis.  It predicts that inhibiting specific neurons from the neocortex to one or more of these subunits will inhibit a specific experience.  Alternatively, exciting such neurons is anticipated to generate specific experiences.

Finally, for what it's worth, I too have a degree in Immunology. (Master's. After four years I didn't like what I saw in the future, so bagged the PhD.)

*

2016-12-01
The psychule: a model for the fundamental unit of consciousness

Hi James,

 

I looked at Sean Carroll’s entry on Wiipedia and he looks very boring. I read his blog, which also seems very dull. He quotes Hume and Dennett as mentors so I guess he probably is dull. At least Dan is a showman and great company, but I don’t think much of his ’insights’.

 

Laurence Durrell had this nice quote: Art is for Arting, as fart is for farting. I guess I think poetry is for poetring and natural science is for natural sciencing. Carroll is definitely no Wordsworth. He seems a bit like one of those helpful uncley physics teachers at school who know a little bit about deeper issues and want to fire up the boys with big ideas. I think we should be thinking at a deeper level.

 

There are different languages at different levels but the challenge is to link them all together so that you now exactly why you have to shift from one to another and what the translation is. I suspect Carroll does not offer a reason why time does not have a direction in QFT. Leibniz’s concept of the dynamic individual and the language needed to describe it indicates exactly why time does not appear to have a direction in QFT. It is because the word time conceals both a metric and sequence. At the indivdual level these come apart. The directionless metric is fused to the spatial dimensions. The sequence is hidden in the equation for the mode of excitation – it is given by the contrast between the mathematical structure of Ψ and that of V (the field of potentials). Taken as a whole, time has just as much an arrow at the quantum level as it does in the aggregate description.

 

Why do you think the ideas of value and purpose are emergent? My view would be that they are concepts that have real ‘feels’ to them that are hard to deny but they purport to describe dynamic relations when in fact they are dynamically incoherent. (Value might not seem dynamic but there is a chain of arguments that indicate it must be intended to be.) Even Leibniz gets purpose wrong. In science purpose has no place. Intriguingly, Leibniz is correct to rescue a form of final causation for individuals, but it is not purpose. (My paper on Leibniz and Telicity covers this  - available on Researchgate.) So the ideas of value and purpose may keep people happy but they belong to poetry, not naturalism. Moreover, I suspect that value and purpose can be applied equally to biological and nonbiological structures.

And I do not think the old idea of higher and lower levels exists any more. Now that fundamental physics is based on the concept of dynamic asymmetries the highest levels are the lowest levels. Chemistry isn’t a level any more, it is physics turtles all the way down (aka up) now. Old ideas take a long time to die!

 

Emergence seems to me to be something people have got badly wrong. There is an assumption that emergence is the arising of new properties from aggregates of events – complex systems. But no such new properties do emerge with complexity. Everything can be modelled using the dynamic parts. What do emerge with aggregates are new simple individual dynamic actions associated with asymmetries. Experience does not emerge from complicated cycles of perception and action as the enactive people think. It emerges with the new simplicity of a dynamic individual subject. That may require a very complex environment to survive but there is no reason why that could not be provided by a petri dish and a set of electronics if one had a sophisticated lab set up. My only caveat is that this real emergence, because it is as much top down as bottom up might be better called something like ‘immergence’ but I am not a fan of neologisms.

 

As I see it the idea that making a whole brain or whole person an agent is useful is having your cake and eat it. Sure, in a social context Peter is Peter and be done with it. But if we are admitting the analysis considers a ‘whole brain or a ‘whole person’ in such a way that we are wanting to know what we mean by these we are already at a finer grained level. It is implicit that we are considering less than a whole person. If you are going to talk psychules rather than Peter and Bob then you are committed to a new type of talk. That needs to be naturalistic rather than poetic because it cuts no ice on the poetring front.

 

So in fact when you ask someone if they are awake you are not treating a 'whole person' as an agent. In social terms you want to know whether you should treat Peter as, like you, having thoughts at the moment. And I do not seriously think you treat Peter as some behaviourist blackbox input output automaton; you want to know if he has thoughts at the moment. I think those who claim consciousness is behaviour are being disingenuous. When I am being social and poetic I think Peter has thoughts but if I am being naturalistic I no longer think that is a very useful approach.

 

I realise that your model does allow for smaller domain agents, although I am not clear in what sense they are sub-agents. An agent is an agent as far as I can see. 

Damasio’s various selves seem to me hopelessly unhelpful. He has no coherent dynamic framework. There may be new research but it does not indicate the sort of muddle he proposes. What an earth could it mean for a self to be constructed in the brainstem and generate feelings that signify existence? Do these feelings rise off the brainstem like a morning mist to enshroud something else? What would it be for a protoself to be a foundation of an overall self? There is no conceivable physical interpretation of this sort of voodoo. Damasio is a competent neuroscientist who amuses himself trying to persuade people he has deep thoughts. But his deep thoughts reveal that he does not even understand common sense meanings for words or the law of locality. This is all the fluff of popular science literature, which sadly threatens to replace real science. There is nothing testable about hypotheses of this sort. Without locality they cannot make predictions.

 

I would forget these popularist trends and get down to some serious metaphysics. You are on the right sort of track but unless you can say why William James is wrong in Chapter 6 I think the sub-agent idea needs to go in the bin.


2016-12-01
The psychule: a model for the fundamental unit of consciousness
Hi Jo,

You said:
"You are on the right sort of track but unless you can say why William James is wrong in Chapter 6 I think the sub-agent idea needs to go in the bin."
I will pick up that gauntlet.  Regarding emergence, James writes the following, with his emphasis:

"If evolution is to work smoothly, consciousness in some shape must have been present at the very origin of things."
By "origin of things", I think he means the Big Bang, more or less.  But I contend that consciousness emerged with life, just like respiration and circulation emerged with life.  Value and purposed emerged for the first time when a self-reproducing thing emerged.  At that level, something has value or purpose only with respect to whether it makes that self reproduction more or less likely. There can be higher level purposes and values, but we don't need to get into that yet

Regarding aggregations, James argues that aggregations aren't things of themselves.  He cites R. Joyce favorably:
"Aggregations are organized wholes only when they behave as such in the presence of other things."

This concept is in total agreement with my model.  With reference to my model, the aggregations are inputs. The "other thing" is the agent. According to the model, you would say the experience in question is an experience of the inputs in aggregate by the agent. 

Regarding agents and sub-agents, there is no significant conceptual difference.  Calling something a "sub-agent" is  a just a mnemonic device to remind us of the relationship that agent has to another agent.

*

2016-12-02
The psychule: a model for the fundamental unit of consciousness
Dear James--  I am responding to the section in your post regarding:  pattern recognition vs. pattern discernment.  I think the discrepancy in terminology and connotations is important with regard to recognition being a more convergent, judgmental, if you will, term, which is less conducive to open mindedness.  I am a scientist, a psychologist, who has developed research combining very disparate concepts (highly theoretical, yet rigorous works) with a creatively brilliant mentor professor (Dr. David Schuldberg, University of Montana), who, like me has studied creativity as it is "our strength."  (See an excellent journal, The Journal of Creative Behavior).  

When one wants to remain lucid, rigorous, realistic, scientific in the works that arise from one's thought, even in the context of creative scientific collaboration to develop research ideas, methodology, hypotheses, etc., based upon existing data, works, etc., from which speculative endeavors emerge, one diverges in one's thought (that is, one spins ideas that reach out to the farther, thinner branches of the tree/arboreal process of thought).  One often must retain a number of those ideas simultaneously, before climbing down even in a given collaborative conversation from the farthest branches to converge on some tentative conclusive statements, down to the terra firma of "reality" (operational definitions, realistic constraints, etc.) that must be considered to begin to devise the actual research plan.  

If you are too entrenched (perseverative to use psych jargon) with regard to existing schemata/pre-existing paradigms/biases in the existing zeitgeist, it is difficult to make ground-breaking creative inroads in science or any endeavor.  Thus, I prefer discernment to recognition.  Once a qualia of thought (psychule in your theory) is identified/labeled/recognized, creative open-mindedness (non-convergence) may be reduced to the detriment of productive retention of novelty, if that makes sense.
Out of room.  All the best, Maria from Missoula, MT  



2016-12-02
The psychule: a model for the fundamental unit of consciousness
Dear James,
Why would purpose and value start with life? What do they mean. As indicated before they are concepts we sense we know yet if you try to make use of them in a theory of dynamics  which is what we are doing here, they crash because they turn out not to have any coherent dynamic meaning. What is purpose?

The idea that there is something special called life, associated with purpose was I think finally scotched by Darwin, although Spinoza and Hobbes pointed the way. OK there are life forms with nervous systems that learn and there are forms of dynamics that involve testing token patterns against learned pattern types and responding in a way that assists survival some of the time, but we have machines that do that. I do not think it has anything whatever to do with some subject or subjects within being sentient or having experiences. For the experience to covary with external pattern types you do need the sort of complexity you have in a nervous system but that sort of complexity is commonplace in electronic devices now. 

Perhaps the important thing is that I see absolutely no reason to think human subjective experience somehow arises from the functioning of the whole body in the world or the whole brain in the body. There are obvious reasons for there being tight covariances but that is quite a different matter.

James does pick up on the historic issue of aggregates not being entities in themselves - which of course goes back to ancient Greece and is a favourite for Leibniz and Descartes. James is getting somewhere near the concept of dynamic unity associated with aggregate when he talks of behaving as a whole in the presence of other things but he misses the rigorous analysis that Leibniz gives to this. Leibniz points out that the dynamic unit associated with the whole is not the aggregate but something extra  which is what modern physics says.

But I cannot see how an aggregation can be an input. The causal input to anything is the universe. It makes no difference how you chunk inputs. If you place an electron in a box in which there are also little aggregates of charged vaporised matter it is no importance what the identity of the 'bits' of matter are. The input to the electron is the total electrical field - going out beyond the box to infinity. So there is no issue of aggregation, just totality. Units are only of interest as subjects - what the input is to - your 'other thing'. William James had great respect for Leibniz, which is interesting because Leibniz was almost unknown in 1890. James was a diligent and perspicacious reader of the classics. He says that ideas held by Leibniz, Hobart and Lotze must have some future but it would be in metaphysics - which is right because that is what we are discussing. Unfortunately, almost nobody quite got what Leibniz was saying about individuals until very recently.

And hang on  you say sub-agents are the same as agents but the term reminds us of the relation between the two. But that was my point. What relation? One of part to whole? That is where the sleight of hand creeps in. Combination. 

2016-12-02
The psychule: a model for the fundamental unit of consciousness
Reply to Tami Williams
Hi Maria of Missoula (it has a ring, I think you should go with it :),
Thank you for your response. It confirms my reason for including the caveat in the first place. Nevertheless, my natural inclination will be to use "recognize" and then reset when someone complains.

However, I am much more interested in your background in creativity.  Once I am satisfied with my base model, and I think I am, Jo Edwards notwithstanding, ;) , the next step is to expand it out to explain knowledge and creativity.  The creation side of creativity seems fairly straightforward.  In terms of my model, it simply requires an agent that has access to a set of inputs which can be combined more or less arbitrarily.  The output would simply be a memory of that combination.  The hard part becomes evaluating the combination.  For example, it is easy to model the concept of "Ben, the married bachelor."  The hard part is modeling the determination that the concept is self-contradictory.  If you might have any insights in that direction, I would love to discuss.

Best regards,

*
(By the way, for what it's worth, I associate qualia specifically with the input of a psychule, not the psychule itself. You would say a psychule has qualia, not is qualia.)

2016-12-02
The psychule: a model for the fundamental unit of consciousness

Dear James,

Your desire of describing a fundamental unit of mind in my idea is not much different than a mathematicians demand for defining the “pi”, except that this process for mind seems to begin with your term “psycule” where as the demand for defining a pi is at least 6000 years old.

To describe a fundamental unit for something, one needs to dissect or deconstruct it in order to find its smallest component.

Those trying to find the exact pi in ancient Greece were called tetragonidzeins. They were trying to square the circle and they ended up with a fractal like structure made of infinite squares decreasing in size. In this manner I guess the work of defining the exact psycule will directly lead us to the smallest known particle of the material.   

On the other hand, even if this is an infinite business like finding pi, the figure created will show us something, very possibly again a fractal repeating itself.

 

For example, I am quite sure that the sum of the neurons in a human brain cortex may organizationally mimic or resemble any appropriate group or scale of the human society. 

 

From this "as above so below" like aspect I could as well claim that a single neuron may resemble the complexity of the whole cortex in a much smaller scale.

 

This complexity of a neuron is not derived from the count or diversity of inputs or outputs, the source of this complexity is merely coming from the event of intracellular pattern recognition, which at least to me means that a neuron can make interpretation. 

 

Pattern recognition is a relatively new biological phrase, it happens by receptors which are placed at any level of a cell (membrane, cell fluid, organelles, nucleus). These receptors are practically countless and they may trigger or stop any process in a living cell including suicide. Moreover, they evaluate. Thus I would bet that a cell biologist interested in philosophy will not understand why any given cell is not considered as a subject rather than an object, because  if human has  free will, they too have it at their small scale.

 

To be a tetragonidzein in ancient Greek time was not considered as being in a useful business but they could refine the definition of pi in noteworthy decimals. Indeed it was very useful to show the big picture and to understand that this work will not have an end.  

 

Thus I am for this newborn psycule and will be thinking about this beautiful term with wishing to see its infancy.      

 

Sorry for my possible errors in English and thanks for reading

OZ

  


2016-12-02
The psychule: a model for the fundamental unit of consciousness
Reply to Osman Zekai
Dear Osman,
You make two interesting points in your response to James, which appears indirectly to touch on the debate we have been having about individual cells.

You point out that the complexity of a cell depends on its own structure and that seems fair enough. However, we are interested in its possible experiences of input information - or as you put it pattern recognition. It may be difficult to define the true complexity of such an interaction with input in the equivalent of 'pixel units', particularly as we only have indirect reports of experience with no way of probing it directly. However, in information theory complexity is often equated with the number of combinatorial options that are possible inputs. So something with three independent inputs of an on or off type has eight possible input patterns. I think it is reasonable to suggest that in terms of a neurons input of signal patterns that reflect the outside world or memories or other aspects relevant to 'thought' that the maximum complexity would be given by x to the power n where x is the number of distinguishable states of each synaptic input and n is the number of synapses. There would be good reasons for thinking this was overgenerous because some redundancy could be very useful in providing some statistical stability to the system. Thus one might guess that synapses worked in bunches of ten, with n effectively being reduced to n/10. 

There is, however, an interesting complication to this. For the pattern to impact on some single dynamic unit and therefore for there to be a single pattern recognition event rather than a cascade of integrations of pattern components, we need the receiving dynamic unit to have a sensitivity to difference between synapses or tens of synapses. It needs to have some sort of 'pattern sensitive grain'. A modal wavelength is the obvious option, such that synaptic potentials could positively or negatively interfere with a standing wave resonance. That then gives a functional level of complexity that may override the complexity of synapses. In fact it would be a good basis for a tenfold redundancy, although the model would not be simple. 

Neurons certainly will have receptors at a finer grain than synapses but it seems unlikely that they would be relevant to the complexity of pattern recognition involved in thinking.

You then make the interesting suggestion:
Thus I would bet that a cell biologist interested in philosophy will not understand why any given cell is not considered as a subject rather than an object, because  if human has  free will, they too have it at their small scale.

I am not sure I understand what you are driving at here. I personally think free will is an empty concept that has no meaning in naturalistic dynamics. Also I am a cell biologist and I very much understand why a cell is not considered as a subject. It is because we are culturally imbued with the idea that there is only one subject in side us. And beyond that I suspect our brains are actually wired up to almost force us to believe that because it has a clear Darwinian advantage. If all the cells think they are 'one person' then you will not get groups of cells acting antagonistically or developing inconsistent narratives. What does puzzle me is why those interested in philosophy do not come to see that we do not have to continue to believe in this assumption and that questioning it may help us see what is actually going on in brains.

2016-12-04
The psychule: a model for the fundamental unit of consciousness
Hi Jo,

While I've thought about your questions quite a bit, I haven't actually written anything on these, so I reserve the right to revise what I say below. How's that for hedging?

For the purposes of this discussion, let's say something is alive if it tends to self-reproduce. At the basic level then, something has value if it tends to increase the chances that the thing will reproduce.  In populations of things that tend to reproduce, those things which can access value will tend to predominate those populations. In this context, a purpose is an explanation of how something provides value.  For example, the purpose of a cell-surface receptor will be an explanation of what that receptor does for the reproducer.

And regarding subagents, you said:
... hang on  you say sub-agents are the same as agents but the term reminds us of the relation between the two. But that was my point. What relation? One of part to whole? 
In this case, subagents is more like  subsets.  Consider we are interested in sets of even numbers. We'll call sets of even numbers "blue". The set [2,4,6,8,10,12] is therefore blue. The set [4,6,8] is also blue, but it is also in the first set, so it is a sub-"blue set" of the first set.  The smaller subset isn't any less blue.  Does that help at all?

*

2016-12-04
The psychule: a model for the fundamental unit of consciousness

Dear James,

 

You are most welcome to revise at any time. The reason for engaging in debate is surely to find reasons to change ones own ideas for the better.

 

We could say that something is alive if it tends to reproduce but why bother with ‘alive’? Precise naturalistic accounts have given up on ‘life’ as a concept. It is a rag-bag and what are interesting are the various dynamic patterns and dispositions that you find in the bag. One is reproduction so why not just talk of reproduction?

 

I am a bit bothered by ‘tends to reproduce’. Some token entity may reproduce or belong to a type characterised by a disposition to reproduce under certain conditions. To get the dynamics right we need to distinguish tokens from types.

 

You say that something has value if it tends to increase the chances that the thing will reproduce. But what explanatory work does ‘value’ do here. We usually think of value as value to something and as Spinoza points out value to one thing may be the opposite to another. Something that increases the reproduction of clothes moths is not of value to my wife. Is it of value to the moth to reproduce? The moth will be dead in a week anyway. If it lays eggs is that value to it if the eggs are eaten by a beetle the day after the moth died? It is all very vague. Why bother with a dynamic concept of value?

 

You then start off with what sounds like a teleological rewrite of Darwin to do with natural selection. But the whole point of Darwin was that he made the concept of purpose redundant to the dynamics. What does it mean that an individual can access value? Some may access things that keep them alive long enough to reproduce but what is can here? If they are mutants that belong to a type for an increased disposition to survive they will be more likely to survive. It will happen. It is not a choice. And that does not need concepts of value and purpose. Moreover, 99% of such types are now extinct so they did not survive in the end. 99% of all living units have no offspring. Was there value in the wind that scattered the seeds that happened to be eaten by a goldfinch? It is all much too vague I think.

 

I fully realise that there is often a heuristic point in talking as if things like cell receptors had ‘functions’ that had ‘value’ to the animal. But when people take the concept of function too seriously they end up with hopelessly wrong theories. People used to think the purpose of feathers is to fly. We now realise this is one of their least important contributions to survival.

 

The bottom line for me is that concepts like value and purpose are fine for social chat about how we lead happy lives but are of no interest to understanding biology. Moreover, I fail to see that they have anything much to do with being an experiencing subject or psychule. What about worker bees that all die without ever reproducing. They may keep the queen’s offspring alive but what would that have to do with them harbouring psychules?

 

 

 

Your accout of the subagent as subset seems to strongly confirm my concern. The sets you quote are entirely arbitrary groupings defined by you. Experiencing units need to be defined by their own dynamics, not by you. Calling numbers blue adds nothing to the argument that I can see. Various sets of even numbers belong to the total set of even numbers but this is just a matter of how people classify aggregates. Moreover any real instance of a set 4,6,8 really is a part of a set 2,4,6,8,10,12. You have illustrated my point very nicely it seems.

 

The magic of Goldstone theorem, however, is that it provides a way to do exactly what you are wanting to do, but legitimately in physical dynamics. Sets of numbers are not real dynamic units but let us stick with them for now. If we take all the possible even numbers they have a property that they have and only they have. So in a sense they are a non-arbitrary set. There is a real mathematical asymmetry between this set and all other numbers, real or imaginary. Then we could take all the numbers divisible by four - again a non-arbitrary set of numbers with a property that they all have and only they have.

 

This begins to go in the right direction but sets of numbers are not real token dynamic units and that is what we are looking for. But the set of all molecules that rotate around the earth’s axis once a day do form a unique dynamic set and that means there is a real indivisible dynamic unit that is that ‘being a set’. Note that, I think the way you would like, it is not the group of molecules that is the dynamic unit but the action of ‘being a real set of molecules’ that is a new and different action from that of each molecule – a new real individual. The moon has a similar dynamic individual, but because these individuals are coupled through gravity and over millenia work is done by deformation the moon’s dynamic unit has ground almost to a halt – or it has been forced to turn once every earth month.

 

But the key point is that a true dynamic individual with a relation to world that can be a point of view must define its own domain of identity by its own dynamic asymmetry in the world; it cannot be defined by someone in London or Seattle on a whim. It would not know about the whim.

 


2016-12-05
The psychule: a model for the fundamental unit of consciousness
Hi Jo,
You said:
[I] say that something has value if it tends to increase the chances that the thing will reproduce. But what explanatory work does ‘value’ do here. We usually think of value as value to something and as Spinoza points out value to one thing may be the opposite to another. 
In fact, with respect to my model and reproducing things, I am defining "value" as increasing the chances that the reproducing thing will reproduce.  The trick here, which trick is easy to miss, is the identification of "the reproducing thing." That thing is definitely not (necessarily) the agent.  To say again, the value does not (necessarily) accrue to the agent. The value accrues to whatever created the agent.

Bees are a fine example. A psychule might be recognizing a flower (input) by a worker bee (agent) and collecting nectar therefrom (output), which process is valuable to the thing which created the worker bee, i.e., the hive. Here Dawkins would talk about selfish genes.  Now it's possible that this psychule is also of benefit to the bear that comes along later and steals the honey, but you would be hard-put to explain how the bear was responsible for creating the worker bee. The point here is that the value is what distinguishes the process from some random process which could otherwise arguably be called a pattern recognition, such as creating a footprint in beach sand.

*

2016-12-05
The psychule: a model for the fundamental unit of consciousness
Dear Jonathan,
Sorry for my late reply, it takes a while for me to try to understand and respond the things accurately.
Free will and self consciousness were among the most common terms used while defining the subject of being a subject in the limited and somewhat traditional literature I have been reading in my language. I picked up just the free will among these because I was afraid to sound ridiculous if I would mention that a neuron has self consciousness. But I have to admit that indeed this is what I lean to believe if I could ignore this yet unexpendable definition of self consciousness: "to be able to recognize and differentiate him/herself". You sounded to me as if you too have complaints about this subject while saying "It is because we are culturally imbued with the idea that there is only one subject in side us".  But I don't know what to think beyond this point, to my knowledge the problem of object/subject distinction is millenniums years old and any further dissection of the mind may not yield a noteworthy answer to that unless the paradigm of it remains unchanged.  

What if we put the component of self awareness to a side and find it enough to call any living unit as a subject just because they can make their own decisions. 

Lets put the living units to a side, even the units that can not be considered biologically as alive (here I mention the prions) may decide to incorporate or "not to incorporate and wait" in to the cell DNA in the same given condition. Despite it would sound very odd, would it be wrong to name this as a free will of the prion? 

A regular scientist would need to make a strong objection against this, perhaps even instinctively, but the art of this objection would hardly be different from a theologians art of objection against any challenged dogma.

For now I completed this challenging task of responding to your beautiful answer, but I have some new words to say about James's pyschule after witnessing your actual dialogues.

I am for adding a supposal new dimension to the concept of pyschules. 

Why don't we try to add a bit sexuality to this concept? The art of the reproduction of the pyschules may as well be considered as a sexual reproductivity. In order to do that all we have to do is dividing this term into two subunits. During this division sticking to the linguistic rules and giving a feminine and a masculine name would be wise, so the masculine component shall be called pyschul, and the feminine's name shall be pyschuline.

Now: pyschul connects pyschuline and delivers himself (as a bunch of information), as a result of this action: pyschuline may ignore the information and eat the pyschul, or store the information as it is, or change and store the information, or reproduce and forward it as it is, or change, reproduce and forward it as another bunch of information. 

Finally, she can add it to herself and by this way turn herself into another pyschuline who might act different at the next connection to a pyschul. 

Perhaps above all (as in macrocosmos too) pyschuline decides always about what to do.

Yours Sincerely
OZ

 

         

  

  

 

      

 


2016-12-07
The psychule: a model for the fundamental unit of consciousness

Dear James,

 

It strikes me that there should be more conversations like this, because these are the interesting questions. I, of course, think I have the stronger position, but I fully admit that its strength boils down to parsimony. And without a clear articulation of alternatives such as yours, that parsimony may not be apparent.

 

Here we are at the end of 2016, logging in to the premier international philosophical debating shop and who is online? Thee and me, the odd troll, and a few others popping in from time to time. I should not forget Glenn, but he seems a bit bogged down in philosophers jargon.

 

Turn back to 1666 and very similar discussions were going on, except that each message took a month to arrive and a lot more people were interested it seems: Hobbes, Spinoza, Leibniz, Cudworth, Arnauld, Conway, Huygens, Locke,  ... all interested in the nature of events and individuals from different angles. In 1866 perhaps there was a little revival with figures like Peirce, James, Thomas Huxley, etc.: people who valued metaphysics in the useful sense of knowing what your basic concepts refer to.

 

The problem with the concept of value is an old and interesting one. The church wanted good and bad to be absolute but Spinoza points out the obvious, entailed in your own definition, that it is relative to an individual or object. Ethologists actually already have your value concept. They call it Function. However, just as I think it is a mistake to try to make the intuitive concept of value do work in a naturalistic account I think the term-of-art form of Function is as bad.

 

I think the problem reflects a fundamental principle of ‘naturalistic’ accounts of the world. By naturalistic I think I mean an account that is found to have more robust truth conditions than a folklore account. Your theory of psychules is presumably put forward in the hope that it will lead to the possibility of more robust truth evaluation of propositions about experience - a naturalistic motivation Otherwise it is simply a poetic description that sounds satisfying  - and the fact that you are defining value in precise dynamic terms suggests that cannot be the case.

 

A key feature of naturalistic accounts is that they allow descriptions of dynamic relations between actual token individuals and their surroundings and they allow dynamic dispositional descriptions of possible types of individual, but they do not allow a mixture, because a mixture generates a logical incompatibility. It may be that historically Leibniz is the only person who actually enunciated this clearly but it is most practicing scientists have some implicit grasp of it.

 

So Einstein devoted his entire life to trying to find a language that would allow types of situation to be described in terms of dynamic dispositions without any dependence on a relation to an individual point of view – he wanted rules that were invariant whatever the frame of reference. It might seem ironic that he ends up with a theory in which everything is ‘relative to a point of view’. There is no incopatibility, however, because his theory is about the rules of translation between descriptions of actual token relations and descriptions of dispositional types in absolute token-independent terms. The surprise is that the absolute framework is not Newton’s absolute Euclidean space but something more like Leibniz’s sufficient reasons, which transcend any specifc spatial co-ordinates.

 

To be naturalistic a concept of value has, then, to be either a dispositional property applicable to types of situation or an actual relation to a token individual. And that is the difficulty because you are wanting to call value as a tendency or disposition but to relate it to a specific token individual or object. This is where evolutionary theories have crashed. A good example is the idea that sterility in social insects arises specifically in the context of haplodiploidy. EO Wilson was able to show that this suggestion is non-sequitur because it invokes the application of dispositional patterns to token individuals on to which those patterns can confer no disposition.  Unfortunately evolutionary theorising is riddled with this sort of error, even in the prestigious journals.  

 

I realise that the above may be completely unintelligible, so let me try a toy example. We say an electron has a single negative charge. That is a dispositional description of a type of dynamic unit that can be filed in a book and applied whenever needed. But if we want to know how an electron contributes to the dynamic history of a particular object we are no longer dealing with disposition but actuality and although we still talk of probabilities these are now dependent on epistemics. And by Bayes theorem, they depend entirely on how much we already know. As Leibniz points out and object as a real individual is only fully known if its entire dynamic history is known, which turns out to entail knwing the entire dynamic history of the universe. There can be no fact of the matter about tendencies or likelihoods here. And if the object is a mere aggregate there will be no fact of the matter over time what the bounds of that notional object are. We like to think of organisms as enduring aobjects but most of the molecules involved have gone and been replaced within a week. This might all seem hair-splitting, but it refelcts the fact that there cannot be any fact of the matter about what has value or Function. And in practice this turns out to be a very real issue and leads people to propose absurd theories about evolution.

 

In your bee example I do not think you can identify an experience with an input-output relation because we know that outputs are contingent both on experience and contextual (Aristotelian formal) causal factors in the brain that do not figure in the experience. This was David Chalmers’s error in his original book. I see no tight relation between experience and function or value. Dawkins’s idea of a selfish gene was intended to be a false metaphor. The whole point of Darwin is that selfishness is not a valid dynamic concept for building evolutionary theories. The title was tongue in cheek  or should have been.

 

There is nothing more random about a footprint in the sand than collecting nectar from flowers. Both follow the same laws of dynamics. There are some very peculiar and complex order-conserving events involved in living systems but I cannot see any motivation for linking that to whether or not there is an occasion of experience. There is every reason to link it to the complexity of the content of the experience and its covariance with other events but not to the deinifition of the domain of an experiential event. I think that has to follow basic dynamic rules of a naturalistic type – like quantisation.

 

 


2016-12-07
The psychule: a model for the fundamental unit of consciousness
It is too complicated for me but thanks for your article

2016-12-07
The psychule: a model for the fundamental unit of consciousness
Hi Jo,

"I realise that the above may be completely unintelligible ...".  Yup.  :)

But now we get to some good stuff.
"In your bee example I do not think you can identify an experience with an input-output relation because we know that outputs are contingent both on experience and contextual (Aristotelian formal) causal factors  in the brain that do not figure in the experience. "
In the OP, I mentioned that there were other actors in my model waiting in the wings.  It seems time bring them onstage.  The first such actor is "A".  Recall that I can write my model as B --> [agent] --> C, or just B -> C.  We can similarly write a preceding event/process as A -> B.  In this case, A is also a configuration of matter just like B.  In fact, A -> B may be a separate psychule, but does not need to be, and there may or may not be a physical agent involved between A and B. Also, there may be multiple internal processes between A and B.  We're just designating A as the starting point we care about.

The next actor to bring onstage is Aristotle and his four causes.  No, really. I understand that modern science has ditched most of Aristotle's causality, but I have reason to bring them all back.  We don't have to bring whatever baggage may have been created and discarded throughout history.  We can just redefine the terms now.  But I will use the same terms, because they seem to apply.  [Note, all of my knowledge of Aristotle's causality comes from the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy article "Aristotle on Causality".  Sorry.]

So, to restate the four causes relative to a given transformation of matter A -> B, the material cause is A, the formal cause is B (i.e., the form of B, i.e., the specific subset of measurable variables of B that we care about), the efficient cause is the agent if there is one or an explanation of the laws of physics that allowed the transformation if there is no agent, and the final cause is the purpose of creating the agent if there is an agent and there was a purpose for creating it.  The article mentioned above gives as an example the creation of a bronze statue.  The material cause is the bronze (A), the efficient cause is the sculptor, the formal cause is the shape of the statue (say, a horse)(B), and the final cause is an explanation of the purpose for creating the statue.

And now we can restate the model (new parts in bold and italic):

A psychule is an event wherein a well-defined subset of the internal relations (discernible variables) of an isolated configuration of matter (the input, B) is recognized by an agent which then generates a second configuration of matter (the output, C) such that the output is at least potentially a valuable response to one or more of the four Aristotelian causes of the input, that value accruing not to the agent but to whatever generated the agent.  The agent will necessarily embody knowledge generated by whatever created the agent, which knowledge was organized for the purpose of recognizing instances of the input.

So, in response to your statement
"we know that outputs are contingent both on experience and contextual (Aristotelian formal) causal factors",
 the model now specifies that the experience on which the output is contingent is embodied as knowledge in the agent, and the role of the Aristotelian causal factors is explicit.  Knowledge as used here will also be specifically defined, on request.

So where do you want to start?

*

2016-12-08
The psychule: a model for the fundamental unit of consciousness
So, what you are doing, James, is re-writing Leibniz. And since for me that is the only interesting game in town I think you are on the right track.
I do think you are making some errors in the way you relate the Aristotelian concepts to a naturalistic account compatible with the best physics we know but Leibniz made mistakes too, and not surprisingly because the solution to this riddle is hidden around so many unexpected turnings.

I think you should explore Leibniz and his commentators in depth. The way he remodels Aristotles causes and particularly final cause is a matter of current interest - people like Jeff McDonagh, Pauline Phemister and Richard Arthur are also interested in this. You should also try to get familiar with post 1980 field theory concepts because they make formal causation centre stage, together with one form of final causation.

There is a huge amount to say here but one thing that arose out of discussions at the recent 300th anniversary Leibniz conference in Hannover is that final cause cannot be seen as 'the agent's purpose' (pace Leibniz) or even the material body hosting the agent's purpose. The only possible owner of a purpose is God. And in this case it is the Leibnizian God, which bears no resemblance to any popular version of an Abrahamic God but is the totality of sufficient reasons. A purpose is a reason and reasons are independent of any time or place or even body or soul. They are just why. And why is eternal and pervasive - God. And physicists need such a God because otherwise there would be no reason why electron repel each other. 'Negative charge' is just a name for a disposition, not a reason for it.

The bit that was incomprehensible to you is actually important, because it is relevant to this. Things like whether bodies reproduce are trivial issues that worry the little heads of human subjects (or the little subjects of human heads). Reproducing is of no value to a mother spider that provides the food that her offspring feed off. Nothing would ever be of value to a sterile mule. Our cultural concepts of value are immensely naive. The only entity that can have a purpose is God. And of course that is what almost all religions have come to think, probably because the general insight that reasons transcend the pettiness of our existence is easy enough to reach through many routes.

So there is no reason to think psychules or monads should be events that are meaningful in our naive terms. It seems much more sensible to suggest that they are all pervasive. Nevertheless, as Leibniz indicates, psyches that benefit from rational human nervous systems and thereby come to know general truths about reasons may be considered in some sense privileged and even 'closer to God'.

2016-12-08
The psychule: a model for the fundamental unit of consciousness

Dear Jonathan,

It seems you are leaning on Whitehead much more than before.  However, in his metaphysics there are two modes of perception: presentational immediacy and causal efficacy. Since you’ve so far remained silent about the presentational immediacy, should you say that this mode of perception is beyond the consideration of science? Do you think dynamics is the ultimate frontier of rational thought? Whitehead also had been cautious enough to talk about actual worlds instead of the Universe. I think it is a rather important distinction. The input in an actual occasion (your dynamic unit) is an actual world not the Universe. This is the legacy of Special Relativity. The origin of structure in the Universe depends on the conservation of certain definite speed. Without the categorical imperative of the conservation of an ultimate speed there would be no structure and therefore no science. Structures are the structures of “mental stuff” of course. Structures of meaning or of feeling, is the question? What is your stand on eternal objects?


2016-12-08
The psychule: a model for the fundamental unit of consciousness
To be honest Aleksandar, I do not really understand any of your questions, since they are posed in terminology that seems very heavily laden with assumptions. I was not aware that Whitehead has 'two modes of perception'. Is that in P&R somewhere? What is an ultimate frontier of rational thought?
I do not think perception with presentational immediacy is in any way outside science. I think it is built in to all science, but that the more proximal you get in a dynamic chain the harder the ascertainment problems are. But then I am not quite sure what you are really asking. I forget what an 'eternal object' is for Whitehead. I actually think Leibniz is a much better place to start but Whitehead does try to address the problem of temporal divisibility  to make the dynamic unit an occasion rather than an immortal soul. Yet in the end I think he takes the wrong turning.

To be honest I find detailed analysis of Whitehead rather unproductive because it does not help that much in formulating a better system, which is what we are discussing.

2016-12-09
The psychule: a model for the fundamental unit of consciousness

I’m not sure what kind of system you are discussing but it’s pretty obvious that you never bothered to include presentational immediacy within it. Presentational immediacy is all about a thing called the “Outside”. This thing is a physical fact and it requires physical explanation. Kant was first who offered some explanation but it was rather poor and terribly anthropocentric. Endowing human animal with two pure senses which operate without external stimuli actually didn’t explain anything at all about the origin of the outside but Kant at least proved he was aware that outside was an entity.  I myself have some theory about the origin of outside which includes spreading the life histories of photons upon their termination on the instance of their reception, and the backward flow of time. But don’t worry Jonathan; I’m not going to bother you with my “homemade physics” again.  All I want is to turn your attention to the fact that there is becoming of outside. Outside has to come into being; it has to have physical origin. So one way to check your ideas about the localization of conscious experience could be looking for some physical symptoms of the becoming of outside. For example, a useful hypothesis could be that wherever there is backward flow of time there is becoming of outside, i.e. perception of light.

As for the eternal objects, the conservation low of definite ultimate speed, and the origin of structured worlds; well I agree to drop this subject. And yes, two modes of perception are discussed in Process and Reality.  

Best wishes.


2016-12-09
The psychule: a model for the fundamental unit of consciousness
Hi Jo,

Having read Leibniz' Monadology a little closer, I still get stuck in the Mill.  It very much seems to me that Leibniz' failure to see perception in the mechanism (which is where I see it) is at least partly what motivates the idea of the monad in the first place.  It's gotta be somewhere, right?  In any case, I am in the process of looking into the other sources you mentioned to see if any of that can change my mind.  In the meantime, I challenge you to get a handle on Sean Carroll's poetic naturalism as described in his book, The Big Picture.  If you have the opportunity to watch YouTube videos, he covered a lot of the book in the Gifford Lectures on Natural Theology.  Unfortunately they don't seem to have recorded the first of the five lectures, which lecture probably had the best intro to poetic naturalism.

Also, I'm wondering what you think of Donald Hoffman's theory of concsciousness.  In a nutshell, he says reality is nothing like what we perceive.  He gives a model of conscious agents which I think is exactly right because his model reads on my model, more or less.  But then he concludes that all of reality is just conscious agents.  While I disagree with the latter part, to the extent I can try to see things from his perspective, his conscious agents start to look a lot like monads.  Just wondering what a Liebnizian would say.

*

2016-12-10
The psychule: a model for the fundamental unit of consciousness

Hi James,

 

I think I can see why you are stuck at the mill. Paragraph 17 needs to be seen as an illustrative aside to the build up of argument in the preceding paragraphs. Leibniz is not saying there are no perceptions in mills. He is saying that a mill hosts an infinity of perceptions, but not on the basis of Mr Newton’s two-body mechanics. 17 is actually a technical physics argument that a lot of people have taken as something much vaguer.

 

Leibniz has made the claim, that he realises others find hard to follow, that a monad is complex in its dynamic nature but has no parts. As a thought experiment, he suggests that we consider a human soul that perceives a rich landscape as like a mill with internal moving parts in the hope that the richness of the perception can be explained by movements of parts. But if the soul X is composed of parts A,B,C,D and we see A push B and B push C etc that does not seem to give any explanation for the richness of some dynamic relation of world to X. Only B would be affected by A, not X, etc. etc.

 

What motivates the idea of the monad, thirty years earlier (but without the name), is the existence of points of view. The lesson of the mill is that the rich perception from the point of view of X cannot be explained by the action of A from the point of view of B.

 

So Leibniz is saying: 1. that we know points of view give rich perceptions. 2. That must mean that the monad (i.e. the P o V) has a rich or complex relation to world. Pierre Bayle has said that this must mean that the monad has parts. In 17 Leibnz is saying that this would not help. So, 3. Richness of relation has to be explained some other way.

 

The problem at the time is that all physics is described in terms of two-body interactions, or ‘mechanism’. Remember that there was no concept of electromagnetic force, even if they knew of lodestones. Gravity was a new idea that even its inventor hated as ‘occult’. Newton had formulated laws of force and motion that pave the way for more than two body systems but the idea of force fields had not been explored.

 

So Leibniz is saying in 17 that perception cannot be explained by the two body mechanical physics of the time. He realises that there is a clue to an alternative – which is light. Light was known to behave in a strange ‘telic’ way (i.e. as a final cause) that made little sense in mechanical terms. And Leibniz could see that because light is not antitypic and does not bump into other light a very large number of light rays could pass through the same point at once, from different angles. That would of course provide the richness of relation needed for a point of view.

 

But Leibniz has thought more about this and he has a problem. He knows that every point of view must be different. He has reasons to think that its complexity is not just due to the complexity of the world it perceives. He sees each monad as being a unique action, because of the principle of identity of indiscernibles, and he sees this as requiring a uniquely different ‘internal principle’ or ‘appetition’ for each monad. He might seem to be stepping beyond necessity here but he turns out to be right (and I think justified). The form of modern physics wave equations backs him up.

 

We can see this neatly in a 'd' electron orbital in an atom. If you look at d orbital shapes on Google you will see they are comlex. But they have no parts because there are never two components in two places at the same time. Moreover, there is actually no ‘motion’ in a d orbital, nor any ‘figure’ because the complexity is purely a complexity of probabilities, not of anything moving about. One of the basic rules that guided physicists to find the equations of quantum theory was that there should be no ‘preferred position’ that would allow one to talk of high parts and low parts of a wave as in a sea wave. The solution is the complex harmonic oscillation, where every phase position of the ‘wave’ is equivalent. Leibniz gets quite close to seeing a solution like this. He makes comments about complex numbers. But without any knowledge of electromagnetism he has no real chance of working it out.

 

So the bottom line is that Leibniz nearly saw that he should have expanded his idea of lots of light rays passing through a point to lots of electrical potentials operating on a ‘partless waveform’ focussed on a domain, just like a d orbital. So paragraph 17 is just saying that two body physics is a non-starter. Leibniz has realised that real direct dynamic interactions occur at a hidden level that looks nothing like the inside of a mill - and is now called quantum field theory.

 

 

I have had a second go at spending an hour or so going through Sean Carroll’s stuff on the net. To be honest I see nothing to get a handle on. He gives long, tedious and rather shcoolmasterly accounts of the sort of commonplace arguments about science and its contrast with religion that my father taught me as a young teenager. I cannot find anything original. Is there somethig you think is new? I wonder if Carroll was brought up in a religious family and became an atheist, so thinks it worth repeating these platitudes because he thinks others have not made the shift. This may be a North American phenomenon because in the UK organised religion has largely been forgotten in academia.

 

Carroll also seems very naïve about his physics and frankly wrong in places. He says we know of all the ‘particles’ in a spoon, suggesting that these are just quarks and leptons and maybe some gluons etc. This is pre-1970 stuff and now wrong. There are countless other particles, many of which we have probably not yet described, each representing a dynamic asymmetry. Phonons and magnons need adding for starters.

 

Similarly he seems to completely miss the point about emergence and top down causation as found in general field theory. His account would not even seem to explain latent heat. My overall impression is of someone like most of the television physicists who think they are explaining the mysteries of physics to the masses but in fact are exposing their lack of understanding of metaphysics at the level of Parmenides and Zeno, let alone Leibniz.

 

I don’t think I have the appetite to explore more having found nothing of interest so far. But if you can point out one original thing he has said I might see what the point is.

 

I will look up Hoffman but he sounds to be another would be metaphysician who has not got it yet. Reality is not ‘nothing like what we perceive’. Reality in itself is not ‘like anything’ because ‘being like something’ is always to something. This is to misread even Kant, who failed to grasp Leibniz. We need to be several steps beyond that sort of approach.

 

I am quite happy with all of reality being perceiving agents – which is Leibniz’s view. Consciousness tends to imply a rather special sort of perception and may not apply to everything. This is just panpsychism, which is at east 2500 years old and the obvious default approach.

 

And I guess I would ask why we should take much note of these contemporary writers who seem to have nothing original to say and who have made no particular mark on science when we could be going back to the guy with more original thoughts than any other human in history, including building the first computers, inventing calculus, formulating the basics of modern logic, formulating the basis of modern written law and on and on ...!!


Best wishes


Jo

 


2016-12-10
The psychule: a model for the fundamental unit of consciousness
Dear James,
I see that I have Googled Hoffman before. I am very unimpressed. His theory of combination is an empty muddle as far as I can see. His ideas about consciousness creating matter make the silly error of conflating our idea about a dynamic pattern with the dynamic pattern itself. This is sort of Chinese Whispers applied to Kant by the twittering classes for me. I am not aware of anyone in the consciousness studies community taking him seriously. If Hoffman had propounded his view to a gathering of intellectuals in the seventeenth century they would have rolled their eyes and wandered off to a tavern for a decent glass of porter.


2017-01-18
The psychule: a model for the fundamental unit of consciousness
All existing versions of the understanding of the Mind can not be reasonable, as they were built on a materialist worldview.

Nowadays we vitally need genuine Knowledge of the world. It does not have to consist of generalization of current religious and scientific thoughts, but of recognition of their principal inability to explain the world, justification of necessity of principal changes, fundamental demolition of existing worldview.

The only way to resolve this issue is refusal of materialism, which absorbed whole society and the church, and is incapable to explain meaningfully life, the human, thinking, soul, consciousness, etc.

 “We must request principally new mode of thinking, if the mankind wants to survive” A. Einstein.

At present, we cannot speak about the Rationality of the human.



2017-01-24
The psychule: a model for the fundamental unit of consciousness
Vycheslav, you said 
"materialism ... is incapable to explain meaningfully life, the human, thinking, soul, consciousness, etc.". 
With respect to the soul, I agree.  Otherwise, I disagree.  My original post purports to give a materialist explanation for consciousness.  If you have reasons to suggest that the explanation is faulty, I would love to see your reasons.  

*


2017-01-30
The psychule: a model for the fundamental unit of consciousness
First, it is desirable to properly understand the soul as a real object in the objective world. Do you agree?

2017-01-30
The psychule: a model for the fundamental unit of consciousness
I disagree. I see no reason to consider the soul as a real object in the objective world.  
*