Total Pageviews

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Understanding Consciousness: The Distinction Between Mind and Brain

In my last article, Psychiatry, Mind-body Dualism and Sensation, I went through allot of content in a very short writing. In this one, want to be a little more concise and deal less with the whole of consciousness and thought and more with the parts. 

I said that for the relationship to exist between practitioner and client to exist in psychiatry, there are only 3 options that can exist for thought: Matter causes consciousness; matter is in lockstep with consciousness and matter and consciousness are both separate from each other; or matter and consciousness are exactly the same thing from different perspectives. I argue that it is the last option that is the truth. 

The reason for this is that matter (causal aspect of world) and consciousness (perspectival aspect of world) have nothing in common. They are two fundamentally different kinds of qualities. One is 3rd person observable and the other is necessarily first person. 

I should say something about the necessity of first person in consciousness. In order to feel as a person, you must experience as if you were that person. The only way to experience something as that other person or conscious being, you must become that person. And, obviously, you are not observing them any longer; instead you are them. The causal aspects (matter and energy) are observable in some way. They effect the world around them in way that affects us in a sensory way.

Consider the brain stripped of all its sense organs and stripped of thought only allowing it consciousness. It is obvious at this point that the only thing that the brain is conscious of is itself. And, now, remember that there is the necessary distinction between consciousness and matter, a distinction of internal perspective and external perspective, first person and third person. 

So, the first 2 options---mind and body in lockstep and body causing mind---cannot work and only the last option works: mind (consciousness) and body (Material, causal world) are the same thing from different perspectives. Because consciousness and matter are so fundamentally different, one can not cause the other. Because matter can cause a change experience, there is some relationship between consciousness and matter. Because it is not a causal relationship, and because the degree of difference is one of perspective, and because consciousness changes in the form (thought) because of changes in material,  consciousness must be the material's perspective of itself---the same things from different views.  

If as I say in the last post, that possibly everything---at least certain kinds of material---have two perspectives, material and mental, and it is the material the changes the mental, then we shouldn't be looking for consciousness in the brain. We should be looking for the memory of consciousness instead. We should be looking for a place in the brain where change and stability create the memory of consciousness. When we find that point where the changes from new associations and sensation, meet stability, we have found the place where we get the memory of consciousness. 

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Psychiatry, Mind-body Dualism and Sensation.

One of the greatest obstacles facing psychology is there isn't a single paradigm. You can't unite treatment and research into a single cohesive, exponentially building theoretical structure without a single paradigm. Too much information is lost between differing theoretical groups. This quandary stems from one major problem: There isn't an adequate distinction between mind and body.

This has been a thorn in the side of philosophy for thousands of years. It seems to have no solution. However, psychologist, psychiatrist and other mental health professionals need not struggle in the frame work and discipline of philosophy. They've worked themselves into a rut. We can apply philosophical style reasoning without burdening ourselves with a philosopher's baggage.

We can do this by stripping psychiatry down to it's core conceptual features, by narrowing our scope of inquiry to what we must assume to do valid and reliable scientific work. There is a point where even our methodological assumptions demand metaphysical assumptions. Psychiatric work demands one major assumption: the physical changes the mental.

In every case, a counselor, psychology or psychiatrist, is using the material/causal world to change the mental world. A counselor speaks to the client, and the client's ears pick up sound waves that impact chemical and neuronal brain structures; and a psychiatrist provides the obvious physical influence of chemicals in a readily tangible pill.  Though this may seem obvious, it's not insignificant.

It reveals a relationship between consciousness and matter, mind and body.  For this relationship to exist, between mind and body, there are 3 choices: Matter causes consciousness; matter is in lockstep with consciousness and matter and consciousness are both separate from each other; or matter and consciousness are exactly the same thing from different perspectives.

In order to know which of the three is the correct answer, consider what happens when we have a visual experience. When we see something, we don't see that something; instead it strikes our retinas and a cascading reaction begins. Instead we have an experience. The brain changes because of that pattern of stimulation, and it causes a patterned experience. Neurons fire, they release transmitters and the physical structures of the brain changes. That pattern of change that specific experience.

The brain's experience is of the pattern. However, consider that the consciousness qua consciousness--consciousness without pattern and simply as presence---is completely different. It is purely perspectival, receptive and necessarily first person.

Matter and Consciousness would be incapable of creating one another. They have nothing in common. However, consciousness always has shape and quality. It is either red or blue, happy or sad, square or circle---it is always something. Consciousness isn't caused matter (causal things), it is the form of consciousness that is caused by the shape of matter. So thought, the form of consciousness, has something in common with matter---namely its shape.

So the shape of matter changes the shape of consciousness. And, we are still left with the same problem. How does consciousness interact. They don't. They are two aspects of the same thing. Consciousness is matters perspective of itself. However, saying this seems to make no sense because there is allot of my body, and only a little of it is conscious. This problem can be solved by considering sleep research.

When a person shaken awake, they remember what they were dreaming about, but if they weren't, then they may consider themselves unconscious all night. The reason they think they were unconscious is because they don't remember.  Memory is inhibited in sleep states. They were feeling and thinking, but long term potentiation (memory) was suspended. Everything may be consciousness, like us during sleep, but  not everything has memory.

Memory of other states is necessary for considering one's own consciousness. You must remember consciousness in the past to consider it.

But, it's more than memory because the brain is the same shape. Its shape should be conscious of itself. However, what its not remembering is its change. Change is required for cognition and memory. There is a constant change of brain states. We're always in one state, that one moment of consciousness, but that one moment contains traces of the past. It has sensory echoes. Like an after image in the eye, we always have the past connected with our present, one vivid experience overlaying a weaker impression of the last one---but still leaving trace recognition of it. Our past experience is in our present experience.

To further this point, consider habituation. If you look at the same image for long enough, you no longer see it. Your nerves become habituated and no longer "see" that stimuli. What cognition provides that is different from other bits of matter is that it is in the right ratio of change and stability. Neurons, physical units, remain mostly the same---in the same position or shape---but have a electrical charge change it slightly. It retains a shape, only slightly changing. While, at the same time, it is rapidly changing.

This doesn't just happen on the micro aspect of the brain---where neurons change and do not change---it occurs on the macro level. Different parts of the brain change at different rates. Many parts of the brain change far faster  than others. The faster changing parts of the brain, like the hippocampus, access the slower changing parts of the brain where it indexes information.

There is a constant flux of change and stability. There is contrast. It is in this contrast between memory, fading experience and brighter fresh experience that is causes us to remember our own consciousness. Consciousness is matter's perspective of itself. Memory and change allow us to remember our previous consciousness through a delicate balance of change and stability.

It is in reconciling this change and stability with modern theory, that we will discover how to unite our psychiatric theories.  This is a start. In order to build a cohesive paradigm, you must start with a firm foundation. Psychiatric theories must build from the smallest units, piece by piece, so that the rest of a staggering large network of theoretical information can find unity. The beginning piece is reconciling Mind and Matter. Matter and Mind do not interact. They are two of the smallest aspects of our universe that are only conceptually distinct. All matter is probably "conscious," but it doesn't have the right ratio of change to stability that allows it to recognize its own consciousness. We do. It is in our highly associative, interconnected brains that this ratio is found in its perfection. Change and stability are united in some golden ratio.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

The News, Ethics and Politics: Our Futures And Their Power

Eliminate politics. It is a bad venture. It has been for thousands of years, and it will be for thousands of years to come---if we don't cure it like the disease that it is. Lets face it even the brightest of us don't understand everything, and no one truly knows even a good portion of economics, social science and world diplomacy. Each of those requires extensive, almost infinite, information about equations, human nature in groups and as individuals and about thousands of cultures. There is literally no way to know it. However, in our modern political scene, we pretend like we do. We act certain. We feel certain. We are deceiving ourselves.

Since when have you opened up an advanced text book to realize you know everything in it---even when you've been in that field for years? Any professional knows that there is literally more information in an given, single, professional field than any one hundred trained professional's can assimilate, let alone one person.  And, there our thousands of professional fields and specialities that are required to run the government for even a day. And each of those have hundreds or thousands of people diving up the understanding and responsibility of those areas. 

Yet, when we vote, we think we can decide whether or not someone had done the right or wrong thing in there field. We pretend that we know what philosophy is best for running our  nation's finances, whether it is better to lighten taxes or increase them, whether to drill or not to drill, whether to attack or not to attack. We are wrong. These are not simple problems that can be solved with a civilian's mind, or even a brilliant professional's mind. Each of those problem requires infinitely complex mathematical,  behavioral, economic and cultural calculations that requires thousands of brilliant minds to understand and act upon.

However, this is what politics tells us: "You understand it all, and you know you can trust me, so vote me because you know I am right". Meanwhile, they're spoon feeding your only information. And, you take it up eagerly because believing is far better than feeling lost in the chaos of information you can't understand. Believing that Joe the Plumber or Sarah Palin can run a nation makes you feel more equipped to handle the world.

In reality, you are busy surviving, feeding your children and working your job, and you are just one person. You can't understand. the best that you can hope for is that you play a significant piece in the puzzle. The best way to play a piece in the puzzle is to vote people in who are qualified to make those decisions. In this world of constant psychological manipulation that is an impossible choice. There is no way to make the right decision. 

And, that is how we need to exercise our power in this democracy: we need to find a way so when we make a decision we can have a real, trustworthy reason to believe that it is correct, and not just deceptive certainty. 

We need to break it down. What do we want for our nation? We want to live healthy, happy and free. We want our nation's power to protect and promote these. We want crush corruption, and optimize our government so that it serves our desire for a health and happiness in the long and short term. We can do that by effective watch-dogs, and the best candidates. 

We must fix our watch-dog and find a way to choose our candidates that eliminates political manipulation, whether wielded through a news agency or a  politician. The way to do this is to make the News a different kind of profession, held to the same standards as a doctor or lawyer. A profession that is not for entertainment value, but that genuinely seeks to uncover corruption and bring truth to the public. News agencies need to become a new legal category, where the size and influence of the agency is limited by strict rules, and where the news agencies are held accountable by other news agencies and the public. Every story that is meant to report news on politics or world happenings should have reliable and valid resources,  recorded and verifiable.  If they don't there should be serious consequences, consequences that are independent of the government, but no less binding.

The other side of this is politicians themselves can manipulate, and subtle differences between the candidates can warp the vote in wrong way. For instance, you can predict elections based on how tall the candidate is. This preference for taller people could cause us to choose the wrong person. And there are many more ways that are both intentional or not intentional that we can be influenced to vote in the wrong direction. 

In order to snip our own self-defeating mental heuristics out of the process, we need to limit the kind of information that we receive. We should do this by law. The law must say that we never see our candidates.  The only criteria that can be known---and posted and easily accessible to the public must be: IQ, Education, Grades, Languages spoken, Experience, Financials and Other criteria set by a committees of the best professionals who deem these to be important in decision making and background experience.  Political affiliations of the candidates should never be mentioned.  Specially designed tests for candidates need to be taken and posted, as well, that gage leadership skills, charisma, and cultural and economic understanding.

The only way to fix a broken system is to redesign it. Our system is broken because we don't have the kind of understanding and control we think we do. We aren't actually making choices---we're being unconsciously told what to do. We're leashed. We're leashed to other's information, other's opinions and other's persuasive charisma. Beef up the watch-dogs and eliminate the political scene by eliminating the manipulation. Eliminate politics. 

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Certainty and Sensation: Glenn Beck, Fox News and MSNBC.

Be sure. Read your books, e-mails and web pages; watch your Fox News, MSNBC and be sure. This is the subtle but brutally persuasive and destructive culture that we live in. We think we know. We are taught to grab onto something and be sure about it. I was watching Glenn Beck the other day, in a family members home, and I was struck by his smug face and general demeanor of certainty. But, not just his certainty: the entire audience looked and acted certain. Then it struck me that the words aren't the indoctrination. It's the certainty.

Most people have heard of classical and operant conditioning (If not, read the links below). Most people know that they can associate two things in their mind. However, what most people don't know is the profound and unconscious power that these principles play in their life. A clever person can use these to associate a behavioral disposition and feelings with a certain stimuli---say  colors, shapes or persons---and then cause that behavioral disposition and feeling almsot whenever they want.

Fox News, MSNBC and their ilk are do this very well. They stimulate dopamine with bright colors and high emotion to stimulate a feeling of certainty. There is a human principle called the availability heuristic. And, it is a mistake of the human brain, which sacrifices speed for accuracy, where what most quickly comes to the forefront of the mind is considered most certain. Emotion, bright colors and other things that stimulate salience---something that causes a person to notice it or feel it more keenly---places it into the human memory more firmly than other less vivid and visceral stimuli and therefore causes it to come into conscious awareness faster and brighter. It creates the feeling of certainty.

Fox News and MSNBC have created and associated this feeling with grammar, certain key words, certain color combinations,  certain intonations and anything else they please. They stimulate, grow and exacerbate the feeling of certainty to epic proportions and then associate it with their choice of political ideas, books, products and political candidates. They do all this without the audience ever know it's being done.

People like what Fox News and MSNBC want them to like; people get angry at what they want them to get angry at; and people do what they want them to do. All the while, the audience is sure that they are correct, when they are being led along like a well trained dog---believing whatever their master wants.

People like Glenn Beck and stations like Fox News and MSNBC are the master of these people. And, the behavioral principles are so powerful that they have reached inside the audiences very soul. And from there, they are shaping our nation by their clever marketing (brain washing). People are voting on spoon fed opinions and on carefully selected facts and taught to be sure about only one source---FOX or MSNBC.

Stop them. They are shaping our nation according to commercial and political interest. Not the interest of gullible nation that voted them in. They are making a sham of democracy by brilliantly wielding psychology. Stations like Fox News and MSNBC change the way voting is done and even the entire culture. We shouldn't limit free press, but we need to stop kind of wholesale manipulation of the people. Right now we have less choice than a person in China. Our restriction is just less obvious.

Politics isn't a normal institution. It wields the greatest nations. It shouldn't be treated like a normal institution or group. So, in order to stop the manipulation, we need to limit the amount of information candidates are allowed to announce. They shouldn't announce that they are running. There should be third party, highly watched, watchdog sites and sources that list the qualifications of the candidates, and keep their names private---like education, grades, experience (filtered), finances, Ratings of general charisma (for diplomatic reason), net worth (within a range), IQ and other cognitive test and any other useful and on point category 

We should eliminate dichotomous labels like democrat and republican and make it about actual qualifications and not cookie cutter categories. By doing this, we have eliminated the power of someone like Glenn beck or stations like Fox News and MSNBC. People are not voting on labels they are voting on actual qualifications without the colors and emotion.

Descartes And Cogito Ergo Sum: The Cartesian Mistake.

You think therefore you are---right? You can't deny that when you think that you exist as something, even if that is some unknowable being. Perception, even the perception of your own thoughts, is a guarantee of existence because to perceive something is the analytic a priori guarantee of being a perceiver. But, it isn't the thought, the content, that determines your existence; instead, it is sensation. Perception always starts with sensation. It is the very foundation---it is perception without form.

This is where Descarte went wrong with his idea of Clear and Distinct Ideas. He thought that if something was clear and distinct, it was  as we see it.  After all, our thoughts are clear and distinct, and what more can guarantee that something is true than similarity to what is sure. Some people think that he is caught in a form of circular reasoning with Clear and Distinct ideas---The Cartesian circle--however, he's not saying that God stamps his stamp of authority on clear and distinct ideas. Clear and Distinct Ideas are sure because the clearness and distinctness of our thoughts is what makes our existence sure. 

However, this is just a missing distinction that probably resulted as a result of lacking the right language. He failed to make the distinction between the form of feeling (thought) and feeling (qualia, presentness, pure consciousness). There can be sensation without thought; but, there cannot be thought without sensation. Sensation is a priori necessary for thought. So feeling, qualia, presentness is always first and formost, metaphysically and epistemically primary. 

He blended simple consciousness and the form of consciousness (thought) into one into a single word or concept and built the rest of his theory on that. The use of that one ambiguous word, Cogito or Thought, that one failed distinction, brought his entire theoretical structure crumbling down.

I think therefore I am should be I feel therefore I am; I think therefore I am should be about qualitativness and not form found as thought; I think therefore I am is a reflection of the form of thought on the qualia. I think therefore I am is a reflection and is the a statement about the reflexive recognition of the qualitative nature. I think therefore I am is simply the the recognition of the presentness of consciousness.

Helpful articles:

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

What Is The Meaning Of Life?

When I was a child, I danced from tree to tree, swung from tree to water, and lived with dear, beetles, snakes and birds. In the rain, in the myste and in the heat I reveled in the color of my experience. My quintessence was the shape of my experience. I was the feeling of balance and height as I looked down from the top of a tree; I was the sight of a brightly color frog, bird or flower; I was the myst after a rain and the smell of the earth. I was what I felt.

Somewhere in time, I lost the child. I forgot that I am my experience. I am the form of my experience. I gave my experience to something outside myself that I cannot know, something other: I made myself two. The external and the internal. I searched out God, and said: "Show me who I am". I searched out spiritual things and said: "Where is my essence?" I searched out knowledge in academia, and asked myself: "Does meaning exist?"

All the while, I shriveled. The cancer of my own search devoured the child, slowly, so I didn't notice. But as I searched continually, I realized God was just a fold of my mind, the spiritual was just my feeling, and the academic was just a meaningless pattern. And, I was alone. I was stripped of everything that gave me hope. But, ultimately, the end, the abyss of ambiguity that my search had led me to led me to the beginning: I am my experience. I am the love I have for my child, my brother and my lover. I am the compassion I feel. I am the color red and green, and I am the joy of falling.

In my search I was led to meaning itself. Meaning is feeling. I am the child who know that he is because he feels. I am an experience that is changing and knew. I am the child who is no longer broken and split in two by his own intellect. The meaning of life is the form of experience. Meaning is all that is left when everything else is gone.

The meaning of life is a color, the meaning of life is a sound, the meaning of life is a smell, the meaning of life is warmth, the meaning of life is the profoundness that is constitutive of experience. The meaning of life is before knowledge, the meaning fo life is the truest and most sure. The meaning of life is the experience of sensation, the qualitativeness, that  makes knowledge possible. The meaning of life is to make experience as rich as it can be in yourself and the knowledge that it is in others.

The meaning of life gives you ethics, pragmatics, knowledge and everything else because you are the guardian and creator of experience, the spontaneous expression of self. Be conscious of sensation, and you have the foundation of all knowledge and everything important.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

About the Comments: Killing a Vegan: Degrees of Subjectivity. .

  Thank you all for your comments. They were enlightening. However, I noticed an area of misunderstanding. There are some distinctions that I hoped were clear from post, that I now realize are not. They are not intuitive, and though simple, they are not easy to see.

First, Killing a Vegan: Degrees of Subjectivity is a discussion on ethics. It is a hoping to find some sort of understanding in the area of animal rights, and our ethical responsibility to them. Sometimes emotions clutter our reasoning, and while they motivate moral actions, sometimes they prevent progress in dialogue. Like the abortion debate, the animal rights debate is cluttered with allot of emotion that obscures a deeper progress in ethical and legal understanding.

Why are we worried about animals? Why do we care? Well, because we are equipped with a machinery that allows us to experience another's---including an animal's---pain as if it were our own. Our empathy allows some access to another's suffering. It does this by using external cues. We see it squirm, we hear it squeal and we watch it run in fear. However, there is a difference between a feeling, like suffering, and the behavior, like squirming. It is the case that many times these are associated in humans. But, the feeling and the behavior are not the same and they don't always correspond. Also, what we consider pain isn't always suffering. I stab myself with a pen and I feel pain, but today it is a distraction from my excessive anxiety, and distracts me from my emotional suffering. The pain at that point is not suffering. The anxiety is.

What I want to know is what causes suffering. And, in order to say anything about suffering, we need to know the difference between suffering, pain and the behavior associate with the two. If we know what causes suffering in a person (what brain region or trait), we can say when it happens in an animals or which animal it occurs in and which it does not. In this way, animal right activist can say something that has substance in the debate, something that would be very hard to fight, something that people can relate to and conveys truth.

If I am doing research on nervous system tissue in my lab, should I be concerned with the pain I am causing it? Does it suffer? If that doesn't suffer, then how much more tissue and complexity is required for it to suffer? At what point should we living tissue become a being worthy of ethical consideration? At what point does it really suffer as we as humans suffer? If my finger (which has a great deal of neural complexity) fell off and could be reattached, but was still alive, should I be concerned about how it feels? Killing a Vegan: Degrees of Subjectivity is an article that wants to know where we draw the line? We need to know where we draw the line so we can advance in our discussion, in our ethics and in our laws.

So, at what point does a piece of tissue gain moral consideration?  When is it aware of itself as a suffering beings?