Evidence of mind

March 10, 2007 at 10:21 am (general philosophy)

What is the mind?

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46 Comments

  1. monroe said,

    The evidence is your own immediate awareness of thoughts, feelings, desires, sensations, and will.

  2. paulend said,

    That is not evidence it is just assertion. I could say that my “own immediate awareness of thoughts, feelings, desires, sensations, and will” are a product of any other non-existent entity said to reside in my head and would hold as much as your statement. It is analogous to the statement that because the universe has such great complexity that it must have been created by a god

  3. monroe said,

    But the mind is identical with the set of those phenomena, by definition. To deny mind is to deny thought, sensation, etc.

  4. Buddahchuck said,

    I guess it all depends on one’s definition of ‘mind’.

  5. tehnotut said,

    paulend wrote:
    That is not evidence it is just assertion.

    What?! You’re not aware of your own thoughts?

  6. nomos said,

    Paulend – Do you mean that there is no evidence for mind apart from intentional content, and these contents cannot be some ‘thing-in-itself’ that is aware of them?

  7. paulend said,

    Monroe wrote:
    But the mind is identical with the set of those phenomena, by definition. To deny mind is to deny thought, sensation, etc.

    So if “mind” is identical to thought and sensation why bother with mind? Why not just say “he thought” or “he sensed”?

    If you say that “mind” is identical to these phenomena then I can assume that you would not say that “mind” is also responsible for them? Am I correct?

  8. paulend said,

    TecnoTut wrote:
    What?! You’re not aware of your own thoughts?

    I did not say this. I said that “awareness of thought” is not evidence of mind, it is just an assertion. Which in no way says that people are not aware of their thoughts.

  9. paulend said,

    Nomos wrote:
    Paulend – Do you mean that there is no evidence for mind apart from intentional content, and these contents cannot be some ‘thing-in-itself’ that is aware of them?

    What I am saying is that to say that the mind is “the thing that is responsible for thoughts” for example, is not evidence of the existence of a mind because what is the “thing”? It is like defining the heart as the thing that pumps blood around the body, it may be, but is a heart not a heart when it is not pumping? The “thing” can be defined as an organ of the body and the evidence of its existence can be show by opening the chest of the organism.

  10. Buddahchuck said,

    However, we never experience the mind when it is not working, whereas we can experience a heart when it is not pumping…

    Notice how everyone is using the qualifier ‘if’. What is the mind? Once that is determined we can figure out what the evidence for it must be.

  11. paulend said,

    Buddahchuck wrote:
    However, we never experience the mind when it is not working, whereas we can experience a heart when it is not pumping…

    The “however” was not required as this statement is exactly my point. We have evidence of a heart other than its pumping of blood but do we have the same evidence of the so called “mind”?
    Buddahchuck wrote:
    Notice how everyone is using the qualifier ‘if’. What is the mind? Once that is determined we can figure out what the evidence for it must be.

    Indeed

  12. tehno tut said,

    paulend wrote:

    If to say that someone “has a mind” is just to say that they can think then I do not see the point of adding this extra term, it just unnecessarily complicates the matter and leads people to look in the wrong places for explanations of our behaviour.

    I would say that our ultimate goal in this area is to find out why people do the things they do. Some people would not agree with you and say that the “mind” is something more than simply thinking, they would say that the mind is the thing that is responsible for our behaviour.

    It’s just an idiom. There is another sense of “mind” where mind a is the substance that instantiate properties such as thought (see substantive dualism), but philosophers these days usually use the word as an idiom for the mental properties themselves (see property dualism).

  13. monroe said,

    paulend wrote:
    If to say that someone “has a mind” is just to say that they can think then I do not see the point of adding this extra term, it just unnecessarily complicates the matter and leads people to look in the wrong places for explanations of our behaviour.
    So what? English is full of unnecessary synonyms. This ain’t Newspeak.
    I would say that our ultimate goal in this area is to find out why people do the things they do. Some people would not agree with you and say that the “mind” is something more than simply thinking, they would say that the mind is the thing that is responsible for our behaviour.
    It is a widely shared opinion that thoughts have some share of responsibility for behavior. I suppose this would strengthen the case that “mind” is identical with thought and sensation and such. But I don’t see why you need an argument for this; that’s just what the term means. “Mind” refers to those things just mentioned, but does not refer to hemoglobin, which is also partially responsible for behavior.

  14. Buddahchuck said,

    So like I said….it depends on your definition of mind. Some posters seem to think that the mind is synonymous with thought…..others think that mind goes beyond that. We can’t really have evidence for any of it until we determine what we actually mean by the word ‘mind’.

  15. doitintheroad said,

    Iff a desire is different from grey matter- that is, they have different properties, one being the brain and another being a feeling or a knowing of “desire” then we can know that brains and mind are different.

    Desire is different from grey matter. The evidence for mind is in knowing one’s desires.

  16. paulend said,

    Monroe wrote:
    English is full of unnecessary synonyms.

    So it would not bother you if metaphor were used in a scientific analysis?

  17. monroe said,

    Metaphors are not the same as using synonyms.

  18. jaoman said,

    paulend wrote:
    That is not evidence it is just assertion. I could say that my “own immediate awareness of thoughts, feelings, desires, sensations, and will” are a product of any other non-existent entity said to reside in my head and would hold as much as your statement. It is analogous to the statement that because the universe has such great complexity that it must have been created by a god.

    The evidence for mind is in experience. We experience the organization of thoughts, the willful organization of thoughts, and the interconnectedness of experience. The fact that it is possible to deny this experience on Humian grounds doesn’t disqualify it as evidence. I experience continuity of thought, and if you’re reading this and planning to post a rebuttal so are you. That is simply fact.

    I’ll grant you, it is conceivable that all you have is a momentary impression of interconnectedness. However, one simply has to sit still for a stretch of moments, carrying that conceivability from one to the next, to realize its falsity. You cannot rationally deny the mind.
    paulend wrote:

    What I am saying is that to say that the mind is “the thing that is responsible for thoughts” for example, is not evidence of the existence of a mind because what is the “thing”? It is like defining the heart as the thing that pumps blood around the body, it may be, but is a heart not a heart when it is not pumping? The “thing” can be defined as an organ of the body and the evidence of its existence can be show by opening the chest of the organism.

    We do not need to demonstrate a thing, only its presence to prove “an” existence of the mind.

  19. reformed nihilist said,

    I don’t think that there is any evidence for the mind in an objective, empirical sense. That said, many things that are generally considered unquestionably ‘real’ lack objective empirical evidence. Quantity is real, but there is no means to empirically justify this claim. It is an analytic claim. So are claims of the mind. ‘The mind’ describes a grouping of a particular types of observations (perceptions) that are assumed to be shared by other people (other minds). When I speak of the mind, I am referring to this grouping, assuming that you have a similar grouping of perceptions, and will identify the category similarity.

  20. paulend said,

    jaoman wrote:
    The evidence for mind is in experience. We experience the organization of thoughts, the willful organization of thoughts, and the interconnectedness of experience. The fact that it is possible to deny this experience on Humian grounds doesn’t disqualify it as evidence. I experience continuity of thought, and if you’re reading this and planning to post a rebuttal so are you. That is simply fact.

    I’ll grant you, it is conceivable that all you have is a momentary impression of interconnectedness. However, one simply has to sit still for a stretch of moments, carrying that conceivability from one to the next, to realize its falsity. You cannot rationally deny the mind.

    I am not denying that people think or even that some thoughts “trigger” other thoughts. What I am against is a made up entity called “mind”. And to say that “mind” means just that people can think is worthless and would add nothing to the analysis of behaviour.

    Would you say that the “mind” is responsible for behaviour?
    jaoman wrote:
    We do not need to demonstrate a thing, only its presence to prove “an” existence of the mind.

    If the mind is not a “thing” then “its presence” does not make sense because what is “it”? How can “it” be present if it is not a thing?

    I also do not understand the ” ‘an’ existence”?

  21. Buddahchuck said,

    I tend to agree with paulend on the subject. I believe the term ‘mind’ is a product of the western necessity for causality. So when we have thoughts, we need to describe an origin for those thoughts. The label we give for this origin is ‘mind’. Thus to say that thought is evidence of a mind is true, but it ultimately doesn’t mean anything because while we experience thought, we don’t necessarily experience mind. We could consider them to be synonyms in which case the following questions would be asking the same thing:

    1) What does it mean to have a thought?
    2) What does it mean to have a mind?

    If we are to compare the two linguistically, there seems to be a difference, but the two are so inter related that it is hard to conceptualize a mind that does not think or a thought that has no mind.

    Perhaps an even better question is to ask what it means for a thought to exist? Does it mean that the particular thought is contemplated or does it mean it could be contemplated but is not yet contemplated, or some other variation entirely?

    Naturally, if we say that a mind and a thought are essentially the same thing, then paulend’s original question becomes, “Is there evidence for anything called a thought?” In which case I really cannot prove to him that I have thoughts, but can only assert that I do, hence the solipsistic ploy. But if we think of the mind as being some wierd causal agent of which a thought is only a part, then we have an entirely new debate on our hands.

    Put simply, it all depends on what you mean when you say ‘mind’.

  22. victoria said,

    TecnoTut wrote:
    What?! You’re not aware of your own thoughts?

    Don’t confuse the existance of a thought with the existance of thinker. How do you know that the thought that you are aware of are part of the “mind”?

  23. paulend said,

    Buddahchuck wrote:
    …when we have thoughts, we need to describe an origin for those thoughts. The label we give for this origin is ‘mind’. Thus to say that thought is evidence of a mind is true, but it ultimately doesn’t mean anything because while we experience thought, we don’t necessarily experience mind.

    And also because the definition of “mind” only seems to be in terms of thought, there is no independent variable.
    As you said, we need to describe the origin of thought and if that origin is said to be from a thing called mind, the surely we have to have evidence of “mind” independent of the thought? If not then what is the point? By using the term “mind” we are simply just saying that people think which adds nothing to the advancement of our understanding.
    Buddahchuck wrote:
    Put simply, it all depends on what you mean when you say ‘mind’.

    Indeed, but nobody seems to be answering your question.

  24. jaoman said,

    paulend wrote:
    I am not denying that people think or even that some thoughts “trigger” other thoughts. What I am against is a made up entity called “mind”. And to say that “mind” means just that people can think is worthless and would add nothing to the analysis of behaviour.
    Would you say that the “mind” is responsible for behaviour?

    Not only do we think, but a unity exists to our thinking. This isn’t just a thought triggering another thought, but a complex system which supports all these thoughts and synthesizes them into an individual. Again, knowledge of this is purely a matter of experience. This entity, in turn, is the mind.

    And yes, the mind is responsible for behavior.
    paulend wrote:
    If the mind is not a “thing” then “its presence” does not make sense because what is “it”? How can “it” be present if it is not a thing?

    I didn’t say it wasn’t a thing, only that we do not need to demonstrate a thing. I cannot take out my mind and show it to you, nor can I do the same with your mind. All I can do, all I really need to do in this case, is refer you to experiential evidence which requires the presence of mind.

  25. nixnix said,

    I?d say ‘mind’ refers to the ability to use signs, which ultimately is a function of one?s interest to sense an environment and respond in ways to increase one?s fitness. Death is usually defined by its disappearance (complete and irreversible cessation of brain function).

  26. Flagrant Femme Fatale said,

    Mind is Being that is self aware. A pencil can be said to Be, as a human body can be said to Be, but only that which has self awareness is mind. A pencil and a brain dead body Are, and neither of them has mind.

    Mind is the event of perception. Even when all thoughts and senses are stilled, that perception perceives perception in action.

    Mind is identity without content, like a clear plastic bag, so clear that it’s hard to perceive the bag, generaly we only see what’s in it.

    Mind is that which persists when thinking comes to a halt (empty bag), but consciousness continues (bag percists).

    We cannot say whether mind decists when it is no longer “here”, happening in conjunction with the body… all we can say is that consciousness leaves the body.. we know not whether it travels elsewhere, or decists.

    How to find evidence of your mind:
    Mind can be dirrectly experienced when there is a sessasion of thought without loss of consciousness. In most instances this is described as a meditative state. Often musicians and artists will describe something much like – “there was no me (body & thought), no instrument, just the unfolding of the music/art”. It’s interesting to note as well that conventionaly (again) the artist fails to register that there is a perceiver of the music unfolding, even while there is no perception of body or thought..

    Mind is the tabula raza.. the canvas that paints its self, the thing which dialogues with thought AS thought.. it is both the owner of thought, and the thought, but is not thought alone.

    When the brain quits throwing thougths around.. it’s alot like when a classroom with billions of students finaly goes silent.. mind is that which is aware of the students, and the curricula, but is not any one of them.

    Mind orchestrates thought, thought orchestrates memory and senses.

    I wish more philosophers meditated… i.e. learned to turn their internal dialogue off… it’s a trully fascinating experience to find Self quietly present and perceiving, but not active, as happens when mind stops talking to itself and stops cognizing sensory inputs… it’s just there, like a boundless silent darkened stage, waiting for thoughts to leap to action like characters, and the senses to fill the scenery. It only seems that philosophers of all Westerners, would be the most interested in being in raw contact with their mind… after all, it is be work bench, their tools, and also frequently the object of their work.

  27. paulend said,

    jaoman wrote:
    Not only do we think, but a unity exists to our thinking. This isn’t just a thought triggering another thought, but a complex system which supports all these thoughts and synthesizes them into an individual. Again, knowledge of this is purely a matter of experience. This entity, in turn, is the mind.

    I didn’t say it wasn’t a thing, only that we do not need to demonstrate a thing. I cannot take out my mind and show it to you, nor can I do the same with your mind. All I can do, all I really need to do in this case, is refer you to experiential evidence which requires the presence of mind.

    But a complex system made of what?! again what you say is complete assertion. Saying that the mind is a “complex system” adds nothing as you are not defining it in terms of anything else but thoughts, give me an independent variable.

    It does not matter if it is just a thought triggering another or some more “complex system”. The fact still remains that all you are doing is saying that the mind is “something” which “supports..these thoughts” etc.. and then saying that the evidence therefore is that because people think they have a mind. Do you not see the problem with this?

    It is like saying that a god is a complex entity that creates many complex things and unites them together to form stars, planets, animals etc.. and then saying that the stars’, planets’ or animals’ existence proves the existence of a god (and I could replace ?god? with anything and it would still hold, as the supposed proof for god has no independence of the definition of god).

  28. Buddahchuck said,

    Femme fatale wrote:

    Mind is Being that is self aware. A pencil can be said to Be, as a human body can be said to Be, but only that which has self awareness is mind. A pencil and a brain dead body Are, and neither of them has mind.
    Mind is the event of perception. Even when all thoughts and senses are stilled, that perception perceives perception in action.
    Mind is identity without content, like a clear plastic bag, so clear that it’s hard to perceive the bag, generaly we only see what’s in it.
    Mind is that which persists when thinking comes to a halt (empty bag), but consciousness continues (bag percists).

    Very interesting how long it took somebody to give an answer, and you did so quite poetically. The trick is that you cannot really perceive the mind but you can experience it. That’s the irony of the problem….for it seems an odd thing to experience without perceiving something. But to each individual, one’s own mind is not some object, rather it is the constant subject. The thing this is always experiencing and always being experienced….it is experience in itself. But to lable this thing as such an object presents a sort of quandry, for when we want to talk about the mind, we want to know things about it, like its characteristics, its qualities, its capacities. We want to know if mind (the object) can do things other than think. But the mind is not the object, it is the subject, and hence, the voice of my thoughts only describes mind(the object, not the mind that we experience when that voice ceases. Hence:

  29. Buddahchuck said,

    Femme fatale wrote:
    How to find evidence of your mind:
    Mind can be dirrectly experienced when there is a sessasion of thought without loss of consciousness. In most instances this is described as a meditative state. Often musicians and artists will describe something much like – “there was no me (body & thought), no instrument, just the unfolding of the music/art”. It’s interesting to note as well that conventionaly (again) the artist fails to register that there is a perceiver of the music unfolding, even while there is no perception of body or thought..

    One thing that is important to consider, however, is that when we stop this voice from speaking (not necessarily stopping thought) and begin to experience the mind, we no longer know what mind is because the word “mind” has been stopped along with all the other words we use to describe thought. What this means in relation to the conversation we are having is that anytime we use the word mind, we are not stopping thought and therefore not experienceing the mind as it actually is, a subject. So when paulend says that the word ‘mind’ is meaningless, he is quite correct; using the word ‘mind’ only brings us further away from understanding what it is. Yet we can still have conversations about mind (the object).

    Even further, it is not the rational thought that comprises the mind, but Being in itself. If something exists, then we wind up with these very simple identity phrases. E.G. Thought is thought. The mind is. A brain is a brain. I am.

    Th only time these statements of the potentiality of being untrue is when we stray from these simple ideas. E.G. The mind is thought. The mind is a brain. I think therefore I am.

    While we can give truth values to these complex statements, we must also realize that they can be questioned; however, if someone questions the simple thoughts, they seem like a fool. How are we to know that the mind is the same thing as a thought? Or if the brain is identical with the mind? What would it mean to say, “A brain is not a brain?” or “I am not”.

  30. Buddahchuck said,

    Femme fatale wrote:
    Mind orchestrates thought, thought orchestrates memory and senses.

    This is a good example of how the non-identity statements lead into trouble. When we describe mind as an orchestrator it seems like it has intention, which is not true to your definition of mind above…according to your definition, thought as well as intention are just items in the clear plastic bag.

    So, given your definition of mind, we still cannot use the word ‘mind’ because it draws us away from the evidence of what we are talking about. Emptying our minds, or rather allowing our minds to Be, gives the evidence of the subject (the mind) that is being objectified, rather than evidence of mind (the object). Notice how the use of the word ‘I’ has an entirely different meaning as does the word ‘me’. Everytime I use the word ‘me’, I am discussing the external world; however, when I use the word ‘I’, the actor is now acting rather than just observing.

    Hopefully this didnt’ all sound too screwy. Anyone agree?

  31. jaoman said,

    paulend wrote:
    But a complex system made of what?! again what you say is complete assertion. Saying that the mind is a “complex system” adds nothing as you are not defining it in terms of anything else but thoughts, give me an independent variable.

    It does not matter if it is just a thought triggering another or some more “complex system”. The fact still remains that all you are doing is saying that the mind is “something” which “supports..these thoughts” etc.. and then saying that the evidence therefore is that because people think they have a mind. Do you not see the problem with this?

    You’re misunderstanding my point. Having thoughts is not enough to have an individual. Suppose someone says: “Jaoman has thoughts.” Well, that’s nice. But that tells us nothing about Jaoman. It is the content of his thoughts that creates Jaoman. My point, therefore, is that the bare structure of “thought” isn’t good enough to sum up the likes of you and me.

    Now, the question you’re asking, essentially, is a linguistic one. You want to know what connotations are embodied in the word “mind” that cannot be found elsewhere. Why is mind necessary to our understanding? I’m answering that in the most direct way I can: because thought, on its own, has no content. That has to come from elsewhere. Furthermore, our thoughts have specific content. We don’t experience a cacophony of blues and yellows all day long, as a random example; we experience straight forward thinking. Again, we need something a-thoughtlike for this. We call this mind. We can also call it god or bucket or fufufitoo. Doesn’t matter. As for what it’s made of – well, that should be fairly obvious: it’s made of prickly goo. I honestly can’t see why it needs to be made of anything. The term is used to define an object of experience. What it is made of is that experience. That aside, what need you?
    paulend wrote:
    It is like saying that a god is a complex entity that creates many complex things and unites them together to form stars, planets, animals etc.. and then saying that the stars’, planets’ or animals’ existence proves the existence of a god (and I could replace ?god? with anything and it would still hold, as the supposed proof for god has no independence of the definition of god).

    What’s wrong with this proof? We ask ourselves do we need such a concept to explain what we see around us – if only as X. X + stuff = universe. Thus, we know the properties of X. And as you say, it doesn’t matter at all what we call it. All we know is that we need to identify something that has these properties to explain things. It is no different from causation or gravity in this matter. Things fall down; therefore, a force must exist pulling them to the ground. Simple and straight forward as it gets.

  32. Flagrant Femme Fatale said,

    Buddahchuck wrote:
    Hopefully this didnt’ all sound too screwy. Anyone agree?

    Well, I can see your point. It reminds me of a Zen dictum:

    Two monks are together discussing the moon.
    Durring the conversation the younger monk, an apprentice, repeatedly gestures towards the moon when talking about it with the older master.
    The crux of the story comes when the Master says to the accolyte:
    “Dont confuse your finger with the moon.”

    i.e. The moon is out there, floating in orbit, far away from where any men are.
    We can getsture towards it, we can share the experience of seeing it with our naked eye, we can draw it, talk about it, etc. etc… but none of those things is the moon in itself, and none of those things has the qualities of the moon, itself… only the moon is the moon… no matter how much we think we know about it and seem to be able to discourse about it inteligently. Not confusing the finger with the moon is like saying, don’t confuse what you think you know for what is actually out there.

    I can see that point very well.
    At the same time, while I cannot experience what is is to Be the moon, I can understand, hypothesize, take measurements, and amend my understanding into new hypotheses about the moon. That is what we must commit to doing.

    I do recognize the issue you are pointing to – to use a gramatical example,
    Mind is like a verb, and every time you try to use it as a proper noun, it falls apart… Mind is subject, and cannot be experienced as object, dirrectly.
    Every time a person perceives the “raw” experience of mind, they are but seeing their own perception, and not perceiving some “still body” which is the vessel holding that perception…

    Still, I would propose that the most coherent, apt to predictive power, subject to measurement, and elegant theory of mind would hold that my experience of mind is fundamentaly equal to all other men’s experiences.. Different histories and different genetics may go a long way in making large surface alterations… but the “topography” would be the same. This is simpler than believing that there is no mind (b/c then you’d have to find other explanations for what has already been backed up by significant empirical evidence), or that I am the only mind. It is easier and more elegant to conclude that all people experience mind roughly equaly.

    One little note – I guess in making the analogy of the Mind being the bag, and the contents being our thoughts and motives, then turning around and saying- “Mind orchestrates thought” . . . I mean that mind gives thought structure… much like the bag gives it’s contents a particular shape (to a particular limit)…

    Whattya think Chuck?

  33. paulend said,

    Fatale,
    The fact that you do not think the mind can be used as a noun is a good start. But my overall point for this thread is, is there evidence of mind as a thing that is the cause of behaviour? If mind is defined as a noun then the evidence for it must be independent of thought as if mind is said to be the cause of thought the fact that people think does not prove the existence of mind, i.e. the argument is circular, which I have tried to indicate with an analogy to god. If mind is defined as a verb then my argument is that it adds nothing to an analysis, where the goal is an explanation of behaviour, because all that it is doing is labelling behaviour that already exists and does not point to an actual cause. It?s like saying that running is the cause of organisms? quick leg movement when, say, someone is competing in the 100m.

    Therefore, as I do not agree that the mind is a noun and I do not accept that it adds anything when used as a verb then there must be something else. And I would say that that something else is the brain (and the rest of the genetic endowment of the organism) and what has happened to the organism throughout its lifetime. The brain and genetic endowment are the result of a very long environmental process of evolution by natural selection which the organism who ?owns? the brain/genetic endowment cannot claim credit for. And the things that have happen throughout the organism?s lifetime are the result of other organisms? behaviour and the actions of the rest of the natural environment which the organism can also not claim credit for. The organism will also come to be aware of its own behaviour and behave differently as a result but this in turn is the result of the behaviour of other organisms?.

    So I would say that the quest to prove mind as the cause of behaviour is a pointless one and often leads people in the wrong direction (I have heard mind being called an organ). What we should really be looking at is the genetic makeup of the brain/organism as a whole and at the things that have happened to that organism throughout its lifetime if we want to find out the real reason as to why organisms behave the way they do.

  34. paulend said,

    jaoman wrote:
    You’re misunderstanding my point. Having thoughts is not enough to have an individual. Suppose someone says: “Jaoman has thoughts.” Well, that’s nice. But that tells us nothing about Jaoman. It is the content of his thoughts that creates Jaoman. My point, therefore, is that the bare structure of “thought” isn’t good enough to sum up the likes of you and me.

    I am not misunderstanding your point, I am dismissing it as irrelevant.

    You may talk of the Complexity, interconnectivity, content etc? etc? etc? of thoughts but this is not evidence of mind because it is not independent of your definition of mind, and I have tried to highlight this several times.

    If you are using mind as an initiating agent then you need to produce an independent variable. All you are doing at the moment is saying that mind is thought/complexity of thought/interconnection of thought etc? etc? which is nothing more than saying that people think/thoughts are complex/thoughts are interconnected etc? You may say this if you wish but it adds nothing to the explanation of an organism?s behaviour because it is just describing the behaviour and points in now way to a cause.

    You can either say that mind is a thing which is responsible for thought/complexity of thought/interconnection of thought etc? In which case you must produce evidence of mind that is independent of your definition of mind (which you have not done). Or you can say that mind is thought/complexity of thought/interconnection of thought etc? which I am dismissing as irrelevant because the fact that people think/thoughts are complex/thoughts are interconnected etc? does not prove the existence of mind (which I have tried to explain to you with my analogy to god). It also adds nothing to the analysis of an organism?s behaviour as it is just a label for a combination of all the things mentioned.

    Would you call the consequence (your TV coming on) to your action of pressing the power button on your remote, mind?
    jaoman wrote:
    What’s wrong with this proof?

    I am really considering not continuing this discussion with you. If you cannot see the error in this argument then there is no point in me continuing as I cannot argue with someone that does not require valid evidence. I suggest you look at the sections headed ?Fallacy? and ?Modus Tollens and Modus Ponens? in the initial post of this thread.

  35. milleniam said,

    paulend wrote:
    Can somebody tell me if there is evidence of a thing called “mind” and if so what is it?

    There is no ‘evidence’ for the existece of mind any more than there is any ‘evidence’ for the existence of matter. We postulate the existence of mind and matter as metaphysical assumptions. We can only justify these assumptions by the benfits that arise from the systems of thought we can then go on to build on them.

    All systems of thought – no matter how complex or powerful – are ultimately based on assumptions i.e. beliefs. I believe in mind, I believe in matter. I find believing in both provides for a set of conceptual structures that is far more empowering than anything that can be derived from just believing in matter.

  36. monroe said,

    Milleniam wrote:
    There is no ‘evidence’ for the existece of mind any more than there is any ‘evidence’ for the existence of matter. We postulate the existence of mind and matter as metaphysical assumptions. We can only justify these assumptions by the benfits that arise from the systems of thought we can then go on to build on them.

    All systems of thought – no matter how complex or powerful – are ultimately based on assumptions i.e. beliefs. I believe in mind, I believe in matter. I find believing in both provides for a set of conceptual structures that is far more empowering than anything that can be derived from just believing in matter.
    If you have nothing but assumptions at base, then on what grounds can you say that one set of assumptions is more empowering or useful than another? If there’s no hard evidence of anything whatsoever, then how do you “find” pragmatic conclusions?

  37. Buddahchuck said,

    Monroe wrote:
    on what grounds can you say that one set of assumptions is more empowering or useful than another?

    For example, it probably doesn’t do you much good to assume that all you see and hear and taste is an illusion, because whether they are illusions or not, you still have to deal with them in some way or another. Therefore, its more useful to assume that these things are not illusions.

  38. banno said,

    paulend wrote:
    Can somebody tell me if there is evidence of a thing called “mind” and if so what is it?

    No, there isn’t.

    It only makes sense to ask for evidence in cases in which there is a possibility of doubt or error. So one can seek evidence in a court case, or in support of or against an empirical proposition, as we commonly do. But it makes no sense to ask what evidence there is for 1+1=2, or that you have a pain in your foot, because in such cases there is no possibility of being wrong.

    It does not make sense to ask what evidence there is for mind, since there is simply no possibility of doubt in this case.

    This is to say, the language game of seeking evidence does not apply in this case.

    Thus Wittgenstein takes all the fun out of philosophy.

  39. Flagrant Femme Fatale said,

    Paulend – But my overall point for this thread is, is there evidence of mind as a thing that is the cause of behaviour?

    Well, there in lies our argument then, with your concept of MIND, and how it relates to the general constructs of CAUSE which we take to be the underlying a priori condition of our universe.

    Taking the argument head on:
    Let me assume that I know you are speaking of the mind as something that happens “in reality” and conforms to the commonly held beliefs of how our reality works. i.e. Causaly.

    Furthemore, you discard any attempt at defining mind from whithin the set {things that follow causality} because in that set, things are either causes, or consequences, and cannot be seen acting as both, simultaneously, for itself – i.e. you reject the idea that something can be both the object doing an act and the subject of the action.

    Yet, that is exactly what we experience innately when we still our thinking and FEEL what our Selves are… We experience something that seems to both be present and aware, as well as something that is aware of it’s own being aware… a doer that is the object of it’s doing… OK… you don’t agree that one “thing” can do that.. can be the object of it’s own doing… that there can be something that creates itself.. sustains itself …. it breaks the “laws” of causality… something causes something else… not something causes itself to cause itself to cause …

    OK.. BUT…

    would you be willing to consider that the MIND, and thus Self are not under the same kinds of restraints as the “causal” universe?

    What if Mind is of the same kind of “thing” that can be both a field and a particle at the same time…

    What if Mind is the kind of thing that causes an electron to appear to go through two slits and interfere with itseld in an elecrton diffraction experiment… what if MIND is something that obeys the governances of the laws of energy, but at a deeper level than simple Causality….

    I propose this “re-classification” of the kind of thing that mind is, because it seems clear (from historical studies, from anectdotal evidence, and generaly by concensus) that we experience our “selves” as both the cause and the consequence of our “Being”.. .

    With this topic of exploration, what is the self, and where is there evidence for it, the hypothesis must fit the experimental data, and that data, our own feelings, intuitions, and abstractions, points in a dirrection that is seemingly in contradiction with our observation of other phisical phenomena…
    Hey, if it’s where the evidence points, we must be willing to follow it there, or question the validity of our evidence.
    To me, the evidence points to something that is operating in what appears to be a paradox, as seen from our point of view… But as with all paradoxes, if you change the place from which you are defining the situation, the paradox vanishes..
    At one time we thought it was impossible for one thing to act both as particle and wave…. and now we know that that apparent paradox is not one after all… things CAN act as two completely different things, material/potential, definite/infinite, non-local/discreete… and they do so every day…. all day long.

    Likewise, I propose, so do our Selves, so too does our Mind, which seems to be aprehension happening, as well as the object of it’s own aprehension… Mind as both field and particle… as both the potential for aprehension, AND as a discreete example of aprehension happening in one place and one time…

    Mind as both verb AND noun… even though it makes no sense when we put the content of that meeaning into that “syntax”.

  40. Buddahchuck said,

    Presumption only goes so far. What reasons do we have to doubt our own intuitions, feelings, abstraction or even the idea that we think?

    Banno has a good point in that evidence doesn’t really apply to this case.

    I do like paulend’s point that there is no real evidence for a thing called ‘mind’, but I would go further in saying that this criticism is limited to the use of the word ‘mind’ is such discussions. That being said, is there alternative to describe something that is non-physical yet is the supposed place where thoughts occur? Granted, this place may not be the best object of conversation, but there is always the point that in spite of language, there is a non-spacial locality for our thoughts and we call this the mind. In fact, I am beginning to wonder what the conlcusion to this discussion will amount to because it seems that as with the explication of illusions that I gave above….whether or not we are justified in using the word ‘mind’ is irrelevant if (1) we actually do have a mind and (2) ‘mind’ is a word we use to facilitate the discussion of metaphysics.

  41. milleniam said,

    Monroe wrote:
    If you have nothing but assumptions at base, then on what grounds can you say that one set of assumptions is more empowering or useful than another? If there’s no hard evidence of anything whatsoever, then how do you “find” pragmatic conclusions?

    Hi Monroe.

    If I understand you correctly then what you are asking is: how can mere assumptions lead to pragmatic solutions that actually work in the real world? IOW if we are free to pluck assumptions from the sky, then how can such assumptions lead to a conceptual model of reality that works in practice? I think there are two possibilities that will fulfil this need. The second is the one I favour ? although it presents a difficult web to untangle.

    1. Mind and matter are ontologically distinct
    If mind and matter are ontologically distinct and you correctly assume that they are (even though you can never prove that this assumption is true) then it is likely that these assumptions will lead to real world pragmatism.

    2. Mind and matter are not ontologically distinct and neither has ontological status
    If neither mind nor matter has ontological status and you correctly assume that the distinction between them is epistemological, then this may or may not lead to real world pragmatism. As I see it, the conceptual structures you build on these assumptions will only give rise to practical solutions if mind and matter in some way constrain each other.

    If mind and matter do not have ontological status but there is something else that does – IOW something actually is – then I see two options within this scenario:

    either: this ontological other ? which must transcend the perceived difference between mind and matter – must have within it (despite it?s transcendental status!?) some seed, inclination or proclivity such that the perceived distinction between mind and matter proves to be a pragmatic one.

    or: the mind / matter distinction is just one of many possible primary distinctions that can be made within this transcendental other and it just happens to be the one with the best practical outcome that we have so far come up with.

    That’s about as far as I can take it at the moment – any thoughts?

  42. Flagrant Femme Fatale said,

    Hello Milleniam,
    May I?
    2. Mind and matter are not ontologically distinct and neither has ontological status

    I’m with you for the first part, but think that it needs to end in “individually”
    The way it’s worded now I’d think you might suggest that there can Be no self.

    That is a conclusion I have a really hard time following, after all, I do believe that we agree that selves exist, right?

    If neither mind nor matter has ontological status {pardon: Individually } and you correctly assume that the distinction between them is epistemological, then this may or may not lead to real world pragmatism.

    To say that the mind & body are only different in epistomology is beautiful shorthand for saying that the ideas of mind and body are distinct, but do not correlate (and this is where I incist on the incertion of the concept – individually) to anything in the objective world. That’s a big bold accertion, and one that I believe is borne up by experience, we indeed never find mind and body separately, right. (we can discuss the brain dead separately, elsewhere)

    I’d add that there is a Self that is ontologicaly real, as mind+body. And whose substance is the total of what’s meant when we use those terms singly.

    As I see it, the conceptual structures you build on these assumptions will only give rise to practical solutions if mind and matter in some way constrain each other.

    Whatever “educated guesses” you might make, they’d better lead up to a testable hypothesis, or it won’t muster what it takes to make it in the ontological word.

    either: this ontological other ? which must transcend the perceived difference between mind and matter 1- must have within it (despite it?s transcendental status!?) some seed, inclination or proclivity such that the perceived distinction between mind and matter proves to be a pragmatic one. 2 –

    1 -I’d move to amend “mind and matter” to “mind and body”, keeping whithin the vein of the thread, and for precision of speech. Whether “body” and “matter” boil down to the same substance/object, would be yet another discussion.

    ……… Interesting to speculate what that argument would follow like…. but : If we say that body and matter DO equate, then I’d ask… but we just said that mind and body are not ontological y separate items… so then mind and matter would not be distinct either…. We would then be “mind body and matter as self”, or read – matter interacting with matter, dirt on dirt…. just how consciousness as matter, or matter as consciousness, or something else yet, comes to “Be” … is a well traveled road.

    2 -could you help me with understanding the term: pragmatic?
    I’ve take that to mean useful, meaningful, pertinent to specifics of our shared experience – do I mistake it?

    Then, about the “seed” concept – what if the perceived difference between mind and body is but the product of that one holy grail of humanity – our ability to intelectually abstract. i.e. the mind body problem is non existent, but follows from the way our brains chew down experience into “like” categories and catalogues relations?
    I’d take the position that humans evolved from the soil at their feet, and so if there is a statisticaly significant number of people that report they believe they are “both” mind and body, then that mode of perception is somehow valuable to the fitness of the species. So, as you said, the notion and experience of mind and body IS pragmatic, and sown into our ontology, that which ultimately must describe our Self.
    In my opinion, if a link between the notion that perceiving a mind and body as separate entities is the default mode of self perception, and self perception is the result of evolution’s action, then I’d say it puts conceiving a mind as separate from body on a strong footing (highly pragmatic, highly relevant) but nonetheless, does not make mind and body ontologicaly distinct.

    Lets recap –
    – Mind and Body are ontologicaly the same – they really are one “thing” which we seem to “think” are two.
    – The way we think is the result of our very nature, of evolution and what works best for preservation of the hereditary line.
    – That as a species we “think” and that thinking defaults to representing itself as a two faceted thing must then be a useful traight. i.e. what our brain “does” is make epistemological distinctions about the environment it is in…

    This last item above equates to epistemological constructs you reffer to in your second clause-
    or: the mind / matter distinction is just one of many possible primary distinctions that can be made .. ..

    It would be important , I believe to give what evidence we can that mind and body are really one thing.

    To that aim, I’d say

    1- we never find a body withour a mind in it, which behaves in the ways we expect “people” to behave in.

    2- while much of our mental awareness is dirrected “outwards” and focused on our environment (evolution) but we never “forget” or not know many intimate facts about our physical state – whether we are cold or hot, full or hungry, thirsty etc. etc. etc… so undeniably there is not a moment in which you can say that you are yourself, and not simultaneously be able to report about your self’s internal states….

    3- to say that you can be mind without body, seems to me to say that you can find water that is not wet. By definition of what it means to be “human” a body and mind must be found to be inextricably entwined, you either have both together, or you are not a “self”.

    That’s all of the proof I’m held by at this moment.. but that does not mean that I might not think differently latter.

    I will state that I do not believe that mind and body are separate entities, in-as-much as we can know these things, but I do not feel that that entails that mind must be finite, just that it is always found with and as body in every intstance we can point to.

    So, Millemiam, how well do you think I follow?

  43. milleniam said,

    fatale wrote:

    To say that the mind & body are only different in epistomology is beautiful shorthand for saying that the ideas of mind and body are distinct, but do not correlate (and this is where I incist on the incertion of the concept – individually) to anything in the objective world. That’s a big bold accertion, and one that I believe is borne up by experience, we indeed never find mind and body separately, right. (we can discuss the brain dead separately, elsewhere)

    I’d add that there is a Self that is ontologicaly real, as mind+body. And whose substance is the total of what’s meant when we use those terms singly. body ontologicaly distinct.

    Lets recap –
    – Mind and Body are ontologicaly the same – they really are one “thing” which we seem to “think” are two.
    – The way we think is the result of our very nature, of evolution and what works best for preservation of the hereditary line.
    – That as a species we “think” and that thinking defaults to representing itself as a two faceted thing must then be a useful traight. i.e. what our brain “does” is make epistemological distinctions about the environment it is in…

    I totally agree with your conviction that there is a thing called the self, within which there is a perceived difference between mind and body and that neither of these have (individual) ontological status. I can see it is reasonable to want to confer ontological status on the self, since it transcends the difference between mind and body but whether or not you do this, depends on the assumptions you make as to what is epistemological and what is ontological.

    It seems we also agree that it is the nature of thinking to make differentials and define the relationships between them. The question is: are all differences epistemological or is it acceptable to confer ontological status on some of the components differentiated by thinking?

    My belief ? my assumption ? is that all differences are epistemological and none are ontological – to put it simply, all differences are purely perceived differences and none of the differentiated components that thinking identifies, actually exist as such. I believe that there is but one, single, ontological ultimate which transcends all differentials, not just that between mind and body, but that between you and me and between mind and matter.

    I think the assumptions we make depend on our personal experience. If you have experienced a oneness of mind and body then you are likely to consider your personal self as ontologically justified. If you have gone further and sensed a union between your own self and that of other selves (as e.g. when we fall in love), then you are likely to consider some form of supra-personal Self as ontologically justified. Finally, if you have experienced the loss of all difference between the personal and the impersonal, then you are likely to consider that the only thing which is ontologically justified is a single, non-differentiated, ontological absolute, which alone has ontological status to the exclusion of everything else.

    In theory we are all free to make our own assumptions but Monroe was making the point that our assumptions must be pragmatic, or as you put it, for a theory to be acceptable it must yield practical results that are useful and make sense to all of us. I agree with this (in theory ) but in our current pluralist world even this assumption may be too much to hope for in practice! But if there are small groups of us who see eye-to-eye than that is a very good start.

  44. discovery said,

    Banno wrote:

    No, there isn’t.

    It only makes sense to ask for evidence in cases in which there is a possibility of doubt or error. So one can seek evidence in a court case, or in support of or against an empirical proposition, as we commonly do. But it makes no sense to ask what evidence there is for 1+1=2, or that you have a pain in your foot, because in such cases there is no possibility of being wrong.

    It does not make sense to ask what evidence there is for mind, since there is simply no possibility of doubt in this case.

    This is to say, the language game of seeking evidence does not apply in this case.

    Thus Wittgenstein takes all the fun out of philosophy.

    Yes, it does seems Wittgenstein is taking all the fun out of philosophy

  45. banno said,

    discovery wrote:
    Yes, it does seems Wittgenstein is taking all the fun out of philosophy

    But Millenium and Femme Fatale seem content to continue with their game.

  46. Flagrant Femme Fatale said,

    Milleniam wrote:

    I can see it is reasonable to want to confer ontological status on the self, since it transcends the difference between mind and body but whether or not you do this, depends on the assumptions you make as to what is epistemological and what is ontological.
    Just for clarity, may I distill the proposition as:
    What is epistemological, and what is ontological, and how do we support our views, i.e. what are the characteristics that (X) must have in order to be classified in either way?

    I cannot answer that. I’ll try and learn somethng of the matter and I’ll get back to you when I have something inteligent to say.

    … are all differences epistemological or is it acceptable to confer ontological status on some of the components differentiated by thinking?
    I guess, after we settle the prior unanswered question this one would just go away… It leads me to ask the a priori question: “do things exist independent of the self?”, and how do we uphold our claims? (we’ve already decided the self exists, so we are not going to ask, “does anything exist?”) Again, a thoroughly torn-up battleground… and a question I do not think we can adequately answer whithin the framework of this thread… right? Here, we are still trying to show that there is such a thing as a Self, and that it does create (cause) that which we call “mind”.

    My belief ? my assumption ? is that all differences are epistemological and none are ontological – to put it simply, all differences are purely perceived differences and none of the differentiated components that thinking identifies, actually exist as such. I believe that there is but one, single, ontological ultimate which transcends all differentials, not just that between mind and body, but that between you and me and between mind and matter.
    Pantheism. I’m good with that. I’m a pantheist myself… although no one who’d talk to me would walk away with the idea that I believe in any “god”…. I believe in Science, and believe that Science will eventually find “god” as the whole.. and not as some ethnocentric projection of our selves onto the cosmos…

    I think the assumptions we make depend on our personal experience. If you have experienced a oneness of mind and body then you are likely to consider your personal self as ontologically justified. If you have gone further and sensed a union between your own self and that of other selves (as e.g. when we fall in love), then you are likely to consider some form of supra-personal Self as ontologically justified. Finally, if you have experienced the loss of all difference between the personal and the impersonal, then you are likely to consider that the only thing which is ontologically justified is a single, non-differentiated, ontological absolute, which alone has ontological status to the exclusion of everything else.
    Well said. How are we to understand those who have traveled that road and declared that there is trully only one ontological absolute? How are we to grasp their reports of what appears to be mysticism?

    Rather, I’d ask – if the decision, the impulse, the root, of the statement “There is an ontological self” is based on my subjective experience (no matter the compeling immediacy and logic of our experiece), how am I to objectively evaluate these reports of an ontological absolute?

    In theory we are all free to make our own assumptions … But if there are small groups of us who see eye-to-eye than that is a very good start.

    And hopefully those who do agree on a stance, will be able, communaly, to show WHY they believe so. In this particular instance, if there is no objective “thing” to be pointed to, then we are left with offering others the subjective experiences which we have found support our views…

    I guess this is how one philosophical question comes to an end….
    It births several other harry philosophical questions…
    Which reminds me of Goedel’s incompleteness theorem .

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