Blog Coordinator

« Mele & Nahmias on Philosophy TV | Main | Neuro-interventions and the Law Conference »

08/21/2014

Comments

Feed You can follow this conversation by subscribing to the comment feed for this post.

I apologize if this is a repeat, but I see a later comment of mine and I don't see this one.

For a scientist commenting on philosophy, it ain't bad.

"To make their argument, the mysterians (as they are sometimes called) point to the qualia — the subtle, almost inexpressible feelings we experience about sensory input. For example, “red” we know from physics, but what are the deeper sensations of “redness”? And if we can’t answer that, then what can scientists ever hope to tell us on a larger scale about free will or about the soul?

"Neuroscientists, to their credit, have no illusions about the difficulty of the task. They agree with Darwin that the mind is a citadel that cannot be taken by frontal assault."

Instead, Wilson hopes for (my words now) modularity and hierarchy to simplify the problem. There are many billions of neurons each with around a thousand neurons connected to it, to say nothing of the impressive structure within a neuron. But by looking at simpler animal brains and the way evolution built layer upon layer, Wilson hopes science will find "emergent phenomena — entities and processes that come into existence only with the joining of preexisting entities and processes." Later, Wilson points to the sensory information channels as another functional organizing principle supporting the hypotheses (my words again) of modularity and hierarchy.

Any worker or queen ant is quite stupid. But the colony as a whole is brilliant and adaptive. Understood but not explicitly mentioned: each ant is a semi-isolated functional unit, and the ant-vs-colony level analysis is a natural way to break down the problem. The brain, like a colony, is a superorganism.

"The final reason for optimism is the human necessity for confabulation, which offers more evidence of a material basis to consciousness. Our minds consist of storytelling." Stories provide both history, and scenario-spinning for decision making and planning. The self is the central dramatic character of all these stories. "The self, despite the illusion of its independence created in the scenarios, is part of the anatomy and physiology of the body."

"So, does free will exist? Yes, if not in ultimate reality, then at least in the operational sense necessary for sanity and thereby for the perpetuation of the human species."

I'm not sure if he's conceding the term "free will" to the mysterians, or implying an ambiguity somewhat like the one Marcus began our month with. I kind of think the latter.

One more try to post this comment-

For a scientist commenting on philosophy, it ain't bad.

"To make their argument, the mysterians (as they are sometimes called) point to the qualia — the subtle, almost inexpressible feelings we experience about sensory input. For example, “red” we know from physics, but what are the deeper sensations of “redness”? And if we can’t answer that, then what can scientists ever hope to tell us on a larger scale about free will or about the soul?

"Neuroscientists, to their credit, have no illusions about the difficulty of the task. They agree with Darwin that the mind is a citadel that cannot be taken by frontal assault."

Instead, Wilson hopes for (my words now) modularity and hierarchy to simplify the problem. There are many billions of neurons each with around a thousand neurons connected to it, to say nothing of the impressive structure within a neuron. But by looking at simpler animal brains and the way evolution built layer upon layer, Wilson hopes science will find "emergent phenomena — entities and processes that come into existence only with the joining of preexisting entities and processes." Later, Wilson points to the sensory information channels as another functional organizing principle supporting the hypotheses (my words again) of modularity and hierarchy.

Any worker or queen ant is quite stupid. But the colony as a whole is brilliant and adaptive. Understood but not explicitly mentioned: each ant is a semi-isolated functional unit, and the ant-vs-colony level analysis is a natural way to break down the problem. The brain, like a colony, is a superorganism.

"The final reason for optimism is the human necessity for confabulation, which offers more evidence of a material basis to consciousness. Our minds consist of storytelling." Stories provide both history, and scenario-spinning for decision making and planning. The self is the central dramatic character of all these stories. "The self, despite the illusion of its independence created in the scenarios, is part of the anatomy and physiology of the body."

"So, does free will exist? Yes, if not in ultimate reality, then at least in the operational sense necessary for sanity and thereby for the perpetuation of the human species."

I'm not sure if he's conceding the term "free will" to the mysterians, or implying an ambiguity somewhat like the one Marcus began our month with. I kind of think the latter.

The comments to this entry are closed.

Books about Agency


3QD Prize 2014: Marcus Arvan