Thursday, February 2, 2012

Answering Brap on Software analogy

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Meta said
:"I think in the computer world there is a useful distinction between soft ware and hard ware. The program is not the monitor."


Our friendly neighborhood space alien* visiting earth has commented on the software analogy I used in answering brain mind issue:

BRAP
I agree that the distinction between hardware and software is very useful. But it's useful because it would be impractical, not impossible, to have that distinction. It would obviously be very difficult andy cumbersome to describe the arrangement of those magnetic bits or those surface imperfections in terms of their physical properties ("hardware") instead of in terms of what they do ("software"). But it could be done, so it seems to me like software reduces to something physical. The word "software" is a shorthand way of describing something physical.
I can't believe you are harping on this. the original idea is some phenomena (ie consciousness) is thought to originate as a side effect of brain chemistry. This is like thinking the math problem we might see displayed on the screen of a monitor originate in the monitor and are just soemthing monitor does on its own until you hit it with a bat and break it. In reality the math is part of a word processing program lie a word doc that's written by someone who did not make the monitor and it can be saved on a disk and used on another computer if he do bash the monitor. It relay in fact has nothing to do with the monitor accept the monitor enable us to access it. That's the real point here is access and how we can be fooled about the role of the brain in accessing consciousness. The point of course is that the simplsitic athist answer "If you hit someone in the head it changes their consciousness" is not proof that consciousness is reduce able to brain function.

For you to go off on this tangent is not useful.


Brap:
The word "book" is a shorthand way of describing a physical object that consists of mostly paper and ink (before ebooks, anyway). I believe words like "mind" and "consciousness" are shorthand ways of describing what the brain does.

that's begging the question. to make hat assumption you have to accept a prior assumption not in evidence, ie the issue being debated, thus making it a question begging.

Brap:
Since I have four or five books about the mind, consciousness, and the brain sitting on my table right now, patiently waiting for my eyes to focus on the ink between their covers which will then lead to a series of events resulting in physical changes within my brain, there's no point in my getting too much deeper into this topic. I hope my current knowledge on this subject will seem infantile to me in the near future.
This is not your usual quality of reasoning. Are you trying to insinuate that becuase being expose to a text will change your consciousness then there's no distinction between brain and mind? That doesn't follow.

Brap
For now, I think the hardware/software analogy holds, although the brain/mind relationship is orders of magnitude more complicated. But there was a time in history when people thought it would never be possible to describe how the stars got in the sky, or how the earth was formed, or how humans could have evolved from other species. History seems to indicate there may not be anything that is impossible to know.
Argument from analogy. that doesn't back up reductionism. The answer about the stars doesn't lend credence to reductionism.


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*Brap is a sometime regular commenter on Metacrock's blog was his original story, the he was a space alien visiting earth and asking questions. it allowed him to use the anthropological technique called "playing the stranger" which means asking "stupid" questions that everyone "knows" the answer to to make us realize we don't know all the answers we think we do. He's kind of dropped that over the years but it was a great come on in the beginning.

5 comments:

Brap Gronk said...

Part 1 of 2:

Meta: I can't believe you are harping on this. the original idea is some phenomena (ie consciousness) is thought to originate as a side effect of brain chemistry.

I don't think I've used the word "originate" in this discussion, but if I were asked where consciousness originates, I'd say it doesn't originate anywhere. It's just a shorthand way of describing part of what the brain does. I know that doesn't help any and is probably just semantics. So where do you think consciousness originates? Does God do something to the brain at some point in the womb to give it consciousness? If so, what would happen if God hypothetically missed giving a perfectly normal brain consciousness?

Meta: This is like thinking the math problem we might see displayed on the screen of a monitor originate in the monitor and are just soemthing monitor does on its own until you hit it with a bat and break it.

No, it's like saying the math problem displayed on the monitor is simply an arrangement of pixels on the monitor. That particular arrangment of pixels only has meaning to those who understand the symbol set being used. To someone unfamiliar with that symbol set (an alien from another galaxy, for instance), that arrangement of pixels is just some meaningless non-random lines on the screen.

Meta: That's the real point here is access and how we can be fooled about the role of the brain in accessing consciousness.

I don't think we're accessing consciousness via the brain. I don't think consciousness is something that's accessible, it's just a way of describing what the brain does. We access and observe parts of the brain, not consciousness. We can observe parts of the brain with various imaging techniques, and see what happens as we do certain things or as we are presented with various stimulii. We can physically modify or manipulate parts of the brain to see the effects on various parts of our functioning. We can take drugs to chemically alter parts of the brain and observe the effects on our functioning. Some people might go so far as saying these things actually alter our consciousness.

Brap: I believe words like "mind" and "consciousness" are shorthand ways of describing what the brain does.

Meta: that's begging the question. to make hat assumption you have to accept a prior assumption not in evidence, ie the issue being debated, thus making it a question begging.

I simply said it's what I believe. If I ever see any arguments or evidence to the contrary I might not believe it any more.

Brap Gronk said...

Part 2 of 2:

Meta: This is not your usual quality of reasoning.

My primary purpose in that paragraph was to admit my ignorance on the subject. I guess I couldn't help myself by writing it in reductionist terms.

Meta: Are you trying to insinuate that becuase being expose to a text will change your consciousness then there's no distinction between brain and mind? That doesn't follow.

Do you think my brain will undergo any lasting physical changes if I read and understand the information presented in those books? Do you think my consciousness will change if I read and understand the information presented in those books?

Brap: ". . . there was a time in history when people thought it would never be possible to describe how the stars got in the sky, . . ."

Meta: "The answer about the stars doesn't lend credence to reductionism."

No, but it lends credence to the claim that much of the knowledge we take for granted today was previously thought to be impossible to acquire.
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Meta: *Brap is a sometime regular commenter on Metacrock's blog was his original story, the he was a space alien visiting earth and asking questions. . . . He's kind of dropped that over the years but it was a great come on in the beginning.

Brap: I find blog comments are an excellent way to test the computer I'll be entering in a future Turing Test competition. :-)

Moi said...

I really wish these sophmoric internet atheists would formulate better objections to the concrete science and philosophical argumentation that the mind is distinct from the brain.

Metacrock said...

I would like to have a real challenge for a change. rarely do I find an argument made by an atheist that's really challenging. they spend way more time patting themselves on the back and claiming they won becuase of something they said five days agot then they wont tell you what it is. they just asserting it agaisnt a new argument. "I beat this way back when."

Metacrock said...

Meta: This is not your usual quality of reasoning.

Brap:My primary purpose in that paragraph was to admit my ignorance on the subject. I guess I couldn't help myself by writing it in reductionist terms.

oops sorry Brap. I didn't think you really believed reading something will make a lasting change of any significance. but of course sometimes reading something does open your eyes or change your view I"m sure there's a corresponding change in brain cells.