Mind Matters Natural and Artificial Intelligence News and Analysis

CategoryPhilosophy of Mind

Acceleration of Painted Dream

A Reader Asks: Is It True That There Is No Self?

The assertion that self is an illusion is not even wrong — it’s self-refuting, like saying “I don’t exist” or “Misery is green”

Sir, I am confused after reading the view of materialist philosophers regarding the sense of self. One of them, Thomas Meitzinger, a German philosopher and expert in conciousness, said that “There is no self” in his book. He said that self is an illusion produced by modules of brain. Is it so? Please help me understand this view. Thomas Meitzinger (pictured) is a prominent philosopher of mind who has a strong interest in artificial intelligence. I don’t know his work well, but what I do know of it, I find unintelligible. Perhaps it’s me, or perhaps he’s a sophist, or perhaps both. But this much is clear: My self cannot be an illusion, because having an illusion presupposes a self.…

girl is flying in her bed

Yes, We Can Communicate With People When They Are Dreaming

At one time, the idea of communicating with people while they were dreaming would have been regarded by most scientists as hokey New Age stuff. But now a research group has done it.

A research group surprised the science world by reporting: “We found that individuals in REM sleep can interact with an experimenter and engage in real-time communication,” said senior author Ken Paller of Northwestern University. “We also showed that dreamers are capable of comprehending questions, engaging in working-memory operations, and producing answers. “Most people might predict that this would not be possible — that people would either wake up when asked a question or fail to answer, and certainly not comprehend a question without misconstruing it.” Cell Press, “Real-time dialogue with a dreaming person is possible” at ScienceDaily (February 18, 2021) The paper is open access. There is no clear science explanation for why we dream. But one restriction on dreams…

hedef başarısı ve birlik beraberlik ruhu

Walter Bradley: Finding a Life of Greater Purpose

Bradley has been a pioneer in the development of appropriate technologies for developing regions of the world

In last week’s podcast, “The Life of Walter Bradley With William Dembski (Part I),” Walter Bradley Center director Robert J. Marks and design theorist William Dembski discuss the biography they have written about a remarkable engineer, Walter Bradley, For a Greater Purpose: The Life and Legacy of Walter Bradley. It also helps explain why we call ourselves the Walter Bradley Center, as we seek to extend Dr. Bradley’s work. https://episodes.castos.com/mindmatters/Mind-Matters-121-William-Dembski.mp3 A partial transcript follows. This transcript begins at 02:55. Show notes and links follow. Before getting down to the main business, design theorist William Dembski, possibly the best known theorist of design in nature, told Robert Marks that he plans a second edition of his Cambridge University Press book, The…

Psychology or invent conception. Brain function model.

How Much of Neuroscience Is an Unwitting Hoax?

Philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein saw that much materialist neuroscience was neither true, nor false, just nonsense

In 1996, NYU physics professor Alan Sokal published an article in a journal of postmodern cultural studies. The article, “Transgressing the Boundaries: Towards a Transformative Hermeneutics of Quantum Gravity,” was a hoax. Sokal simply assembled more or less meaningless phrases about cultural theory and quantum physics in a grammatically correct but meaningless manuscript. He revealed the hoax a few weeks later in a magazine. The hoax ignited a storm of controversy and, in the view of many, revealed the essential sham at the core of postmodern philosophy. What Sokal (pictured) was doing, whether he knew it or not, was invoking philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein’s salient critique of philosophy and science, which is that much of our discourse is language games. By…

Newborn Alert Baby Boy on Mint Green Blanket

Do Infants Really Have a Right to Live?

Some argue that children who are not yet self-aware do not have a right to live

In last week’s podcast, “Jonathan Wells on Why a Baby Should Live,” neurosurgeon Michael Egnor interviewed molecular and cell biologist Jonathan Wells on that topic, which he discussed in articles at Evolution News and Science Today: (here and here). It’s becoming a hot topic now that a bill to protect babies born alive from abortions from being killed or left to die was recently defeated in the Senate. There is an academic debate about whether babies, post-birth, have a right to live. Meanwhile, a number of countries are also moving toward child euthanasia, with or without parental consent as well. https://episodes.castos.com/mindmatters/Mind-Matters-120-Jonathan-Wells.mp3 A partial transcript follows. This portion begins at 01:13. Show notes and links follow. Michael Egnor: Where did that…

Artificial intelligence (AI), data mining, deep learning modern computer technologies. Futuristic Cyber Technology Innovation. Brain representing artificial intelligence with printed circuit board (PC

Is the Mind Really Just “What the Brain Does”?

Many theories claim so. None of them work. Functionalism, the current survivor, is the best of the lot but deeply flawed

Over the past century there have been several paradigms or patterns of explanation by which philosophers and neuroscientists have tried to understand the mind. Behaviorism was the view that the input to and output from the nervous system was all that mattered. The ‘mind’ was deemed irrelevant to science. Behaviorism was eclipsed by reality—it was more or less demolished in the 1960’s by Noam Chomsky (1928–), who pointed out that language could not be understood in behaviorist terms. The study of the mind is indispensable to linguistics, neuroscience and philosophy. That this needed to be said is a scandal in itself. Identity theory — the view that mental states are identical to brain states — was the rage for several…

Vice grip tool squeezing a plank with the word free will

A Reader Asks: Does Neuroscience Disprove Free Will?

Materialists sometimes misrepresent the evidence for free will, especially Benjamin Libet’s work

Here’s the question: I have a question regarding free will. Sam Harris in his interview with Dan Dennett said that “If we decide to do go to somewhere we experience it later but our brain decided it much earlier than our experience to this decision. If we scan the brain at that time we will tell you before you came to know” Now it raise a question because we decide through intellect. You said that free will is due to intellect so intellect is challenged here. It’s an excellent question. The answer in brief is that we most certainly do have free will. We can see this from three perspectives: scientific, philosophical, and logical. The scientific evidence The scientific evidence…

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Bottom view of three professional doctors leaning over the patient and wearing medical masks while holding the anesthetic inhaler

What Is Your Soul Doing When You’re Under Anesthesia?

It’s an intriguing and important question and you may be surprised by some of the answers

First, no one should worry about unpleasant awareness during anesthesia. I’ve performed more than 7000 brain operations and I’ve never had a patient experience unpleasant awareness related to anesthesia. It does happen, but it’s rare, and I’ve never seen it. I’ve had general anesthesia myself four times, and as I tell my anesthesiology colleagues, I’m a big fan of anesthesia. Modern anesthesia is safe, highly effective, and indispensable. Don’t be afraid of it. But I do need to tell you that there are scientific facts about anesthesia and awareness that may surprise you. Second, when I use the word “soul,” rather than “mind” or “consciousness,” to describe mental states, I am not using the word in a spooky or New…

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Hand turning off the bulb lamp.Turning off the light.

Your Soul Has No “Off Switch”

A major modern misunderstanding of the human mind is to assume that it is like a machine with an “on” and an “off” switch

I have written, in an earlier post, about the problem of “consciousness:” — that is, the problem inherent to the word itself and to the concept it conveys. I believe that “consciousness” is a mere narrative gloss on the mind — it denotes nothing beyond the mental powers of the soul. This is not just linguistic nitpicking. The concept of “consciousness” is much worse than useless. It leads us to misunderstand the mind in a profound way, as I will explain. The point may seem subtle but I believe that, if you think deeply enough about it, you will see that it is obviously true. First, I am not saying “consciousness” is an illusion. or possibly a delusion. This witless…

light bulbs helmet.jpg
Junger Mann mit Glühbirnen-Helm

Does the Ability To Think Depend on Consciousness?

From a medical perspective, “consciousness” adds nothing to the description of mental states

The title question might seem like a strange one but it is vitally important if we are to interpret neuroscience correctly and if we are to understand the mind–brain relationship. In my view, the capacity for thought does not depend on consciousness. The term “consciousness” is at best meaningless and at worst an impediment to understanding the mind. “Consciousness” is a very vague term and, ultimately, I don’t think it has any useful meaning at all, apart from other categories such as sensation, perception, imagination, reason etc. Aristotle had no distinct term for it. Nor do I think did any of the ancient or medieval philosophers. Consciousness is a modern term that seems to subsume all of the sensate powers…

Futuristic design of an elevator cabin with mirrors with neon illumination and metal panels. Modern elevator design. Reflection to infinity.

The Infinity Mirror Trap: Part 2: The Thought Determinism Paradox

The infinity mirror experience shows that thought determinism cannot explain all human thoughts

In Part 1 of this series, we saw how the belief that “every human thought is an illusion” proves empty and powerless when trying to account for the infinity mirror experience. Part 2 here puts another view held widely by science-trained people, materialism, to the same mirror test. Materialism is the view that everything we observe results from the interplay of matter and energy. Under materialism, each human’s every thought is produced by electrochemical events in the brain. As Marvin Minsky, an artificial intelligence pioneer, wrote in Society of Mind (1988), “Everything, including that which happens in our brains, depends on these and only on these: A set of fixed, deterministic laws and a purely random set of accidents.” Philosopher…

Time concept

Why the Idea That the Human Mind Is an Illusion Doesn’t Work

There is a simple way to test whether our thoughts are all illusions

Sitting in a room with me are some smart people listening to a podcast of neuroscientist Sam Harris. They nod solemnly as Harris tells them that their thoughts are all illusions. No one has free will either, Harris says, both on the podcast and in his 2012 book, Free Will. Sir Francis Crick (1916–2004) said much the same in his 1994 work, The Astonishing Hypothesis. Harris and Crick are science-trained and Crick is a Nobelist. But popular culture influencers think the same way. The widely-read manga graphic novel artist, Masashi Kishimoto, has a character say in his 2009 work, Naruto, Every single one of us goes through life depending on and bound by our individual knowledge and awareness. And we…

Spiral Profile

Toward a Serious Scientific Theory of Consciousness

Quantum physics arises from the fact that when we do not observe a particle, it can be in two different places at once, such that it interacts with itself

Consciousness is the ultimate hard problem of philosophy of science. As of today, there is absolutely no scientific solution to the problem. The nature of consciousness seems ineffable: first person experience appears to be a completely different category of existence than objective externaldescription. This dilemma has led philosophers such as Daniel Dennett to use the ultimate solution: deny the problem exists. Unfortunately, that solution never worked for me at school. The objective reality of bad grades is quite hard to deny. Yet, we need not resort to Daniel Dennett’s ultimate solution. There are concrete things we can say about consciousness if we use the “many worlds” interpretation of quantum physics and the computer science concept of Kolmogorov complexity. Quantum physics…

Speed of Painted Dream

A Theoretical Physicist Grapples With the Math of Consciousness

Looking at the various theories, she is not very happy

She’s not very happy with what she sees: The currently most popular mathematical approach to consciousness is integrated information theory, IIT for short. It was put forward by a neurologist, Giulio Tononi, in two thousand and four. In IIT, each system is assigned a number, that’s big Phi, which is the “integrated information” and supposedly a measure of consciousness. The better a system is at distributing information while it’s processing the information, the larger Phi. A system that’s fragmented and has many parts that calculate in isolation may process lots of information, but this information is not “integrated”, so Phi is small. For example, a digital camera has millions of light receptors. It processes large amounts of information. But the…

open eye in space

Science-Based Reasons Why Materialism Is a Dead End

Bernardo Kastrup points out that there is an “impassable explanatory gap between material quantities and experiential qualities.”

Bernardo Kastrup, a Dutch computer scientist and philosopher who has published fundamental theoretical reflections on the mind matter problem, offers some useful reflections on why materialism can’t really be true. First—and we sometimes forget this—science only exists as it is perceived by the human mind. We could do it well or badly or someway in between. We could succeed or fail. But it is a world of ideas, not things. He writes, Materialism—the view that nature is fundamentally constituted by matter outside and independent of mind—is a metaphysics, in that it makes statements about what nature essentially is. As such, it is also a theoretical inference: we cannot empirically observe matter outside and independent of mind, for we are forever…

Psychology concept. Sunrise and woman silhouette.

Can Our Minds Extend Beyond Our Bodies?

It depends on how we define our “minds” — Can we disentangle our minds from our experiences?

Well, here’s a fun coffee break challenge offered by Daniel J. Siegel, M.D., the author of Mind: A Journey to the Heart of Being Human (Norton Series on Interpersonal Neurobiology) (2016): … our mind is not simply our perception of experiences, but those experiences themselves. Siegel argues that it’s impossible to completely disentangle our subjective view of the world from our interactions. “I realized if someone asked me to define the shoreline but insisted, is it the water or the sand, I would have to say the shore is both sand and sea,” says Siegel. “You can’t limit our understanding of the coastline to insist it’s one or the other. I started thinking, maybe the mind is like the coastline—some…

Aphrodisiac pill for libido and sexual drive

Can a Hormone Explain Why Humans Love Each Other?

Some researchers think they have zeroed in on an explanation, oxytocin

Some researchers have been trying to understand why mothers love their children: When it comes to biological mechanisms of empathy, scientists are particularly interested in oxytocin, the so-called “love hormone.” High oxytocin levels predict sensitive parenting, but it isn’t clear how the oxytocin-related gene might generate variation in empathy and parental behavior. One possible explanation is epigenetic changes to the gene — a way of altering gene function without changing the actual DNA sequence. Specifically, “DNA methylation” — the addition of a chemical group called the “methyl” group at specific locations — in the oxytocin gene (called OXT) has been associated with personality traits and brain structure in humans. This raises a question: can methylation of OXT influence empathy in…


How Do We Know What Is Real? Philosopher J. P. Moreland Can Help

This coming August will mark the beginning of a battle that I began with three different forms of cancer that I continue to this day to be fighting. I don’t know how long I have… When is it okay to disagree with what the majority of experts in a field believe? … I’m going to go with the majority of experts, unless something happens. If there are two conditions present, you are justified in going against the vast majority of experts. Number 1: If the majority opinion is based on non-rational factors If there is a small, educated rebel group who publish in peer-reviewed journals and high quality books who have provided an alternative paradigm. (July 9, 2018) Remember Moreland’s…

Trust Concept

#3 AI, We Are Now Told, Knows When It Shouldn’t Be Trusted!

Gödel's Second Incompleteness Theorem says that, for any system that can reliably tell you that things are true or false, it cannot tell you that it itself is reliable.

Okay, so, in #4, we learned that Elon Musk’s utterly self-driving car won’t be on the road any time soon. What about the AI that knows when it shouldn’t be trusted? (As if anyone does!) Our nerds here at the Walter Bradley Center have been discussing the top twelve AI hypes of the year. Our director Robert J. Marks, Eric Holloway and Jonathan Bartlett talk about overhyped AI ideas (from a year in which we saw major advances, along with inevitable hypes). From the AI Dirty Dozen 2020 Part III, here’s #3: AI that knows when it shouldn’t be trusted: https://episodes.castos.com/mindmatters/Mind-Matters-115-Jonathan-Bartlett-Eric-Holloway.mp3 Our story begins at 12:57. Here’s a partial transcript. Show Notes and Additional Resources follow, along with a link…

Robot with Artificial Intelligence observing human skull in Evolved Cybernetic organism world. 3d rendered image

#2 Computers Can Be As Smart As Humans If We Crowdfund Them!

Eric Holloway: Y Combinator's Sam Altman is taking a crazy movement to its logical conclusion

So, in #3, AI knows when it shouldn’t be trusted? even though no one else does? But now, what about #2?: Sam Altman’s leap of faith!, that an AI will think like people: Earlier this year, founder-investor Sam Altman left his high-profile role as the president of Y Combinator to become the CEO of OpenAI, an AI research outfit that was founded by some of the most prominent people in the tech industry in late 2015. The idea: to ensure that artificial intelligence is “developed in a way that is safe and is beneficial to humanity,” as one of those founders, Elon Musk, said back then to the New York Times. The move is intriguing for many reasons, including that…