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Posted by: Human ( )
Date: August 27, 2014 07:18PM

What exactly is wrong with the idea of the brain as a "reducing valve" set out by Henri Bergson, William James, Aldous Huxley, among others?

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Posted by: greengobbleyguck ( )
Date: August 27, 2014 07:20PM

Got a link?

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Posted by: steve benson ( )
Date: August 28, 2014 12:57AM

" . . . Aldous Huxley [argued] in his classic, 'The Doors of Perception,' that the primary function of the brain may be eliminative: Its purpose may be to prevent a trans-personal dimension of mind from flooding consciousness, thereby allowing apes like ourselves to make their way in the world without being dazzled at every step by visionary phenomena that are irrelevant to their physical survival. Huxley thought of the brain as a kind of “reducing valve” for “Mind at Large.” In fact, the idea that the brain is a filter rather than the origin of mind goes back at least as far as Henri Bergson and William James. In Huxley’s view, this would explain the efficacy of psychedelics: They may simply be a material means of opening the tap.

"Huxley was operating under the assumption that psychedelics decrease brain activity. Some recent data have lent support to this view; for instance, a neuro-imaging study of psilocybin suggests that the drug primarily reduces activity in the anterior cingulate cortex, a region involved in a wide variety of tasks related to self-monitoring. However, other studies have found that psychedelics increase activity throughout the brain. Whatever the case, the action of these drugs does not rule out dualism, or the existence of realms of mind beyond the brain—but then, nothing does. That is one of the problems with views of this kind: They appear to be unfalsifiable.

"We have reason to be skeptical of the brain-as-barrier thesis. If the brain were merely a filter on the mind, damaging it should increase cognition. In fact, strategically damaging the brain should be the most reliable method of spiritual practice available to anyone. In almost every case, loss of brain should yield more mind. But that is not how the mind works.

"Some people try to get around this by suggesting that the brain may function more like a radio, a receiver of conscious states rather than a barrier to them. At first glance, this would appear to account for the deleterious effects of neurological injury and disease, for if one smashes a radio with a hammer, it will no longer function properly. There is a problem with this metaphor, however. Those who employ it invariably forget that we are the music, not the radio. If the brain were nothing more than a receiver of conscious states, it should be impossible to diminish a person’s experience of the cosmos by damaging her brain. She might seem unconscious from the outside—like a broken radio—but, subjectively speaking, the music would play on.

"Specific reductions in brain activity might benefit people in certain ways, unmasking memories or abilities that are being actively inhibited by the regions in question. But there is no reason to think that the pervasive destruction of the central nervous system would leave the mind unaffected (much less improved). Medications that reduce anxiety generally work by increasing the effect of the inhibitory neurotransmitter GABA, thereby diminishing neuronal activity in various parts of the brain. But the fact that dampening arousal in this way can make people feel better does not suggest that they would feel better still if they were drugged into a coma. Similarly, it would be unsurprising if psilocybin reduced brain activity in areas responsible for self-monitoring, because that might, in part, account for the experiences that are often associated with the drug. This does not give us any reason to believe that turning off the brain entirely would yield an increased awareness of spiritual realities."

("Drugs and the Meaning of Life," by Richard Dawkins, from essay originally published in 2011, updated 6 June 2014, at: https://richarddawkins.net/2014/06/drugs-and-the-meaning-of-life/)



Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 08/28/2014 12:57AM by steve benson.

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Posted by: Henry Bemis ( )
Date: August 28, 2014 10:16AM

Steve:

Thanks for this. It provides a good explanation of the so-called "filter" or "transmission" theory of mind-brain duality, along with the standard materialist response. Here are a few comments:

"Huxley was operating under the assumption that psychedelics decrease brain activity. Some recent data have lent support to this view; for instance, a neuro-imaging study of psilocybin suggests that the drug primarily reduces activity in the anterior cingulate cortex, a region involved in a wide variety of tasks related to self-monitoring. However, other studies have found that psychedelics increase activity throughout the brain. Whatever the case, the action of these drugs does not rule out dualism, or the existence of realms of mind beyond the brain—but then, nothing does. That is one of the problems with views of this kind: They appear to be unfalsifiable.

COMMENT: I think it is a mistake to point to psychedelic drugs as evidence for the filter theory. In the first place, such drugs generally do not enhance cognitive capacities, they just enhance phenomenal experience, providing mostly "pseudo insight" based upon "enhanced consciousness." I am reminded of a statement by Paul McCartney to the effect that when high he would have all of these great musical ideas, write them down, only to find the next morning that they were nonesense.

____________________________________________


"We have reason to be skeptical of the brain-as-barrier thesis. If the brain were merely a filter on the mind, damaging it should increase cognition. In fact, strategically damaging the brain should be the most reliable method of spiritual practice available to anyone. In almost every case, loss of brain should yield more mind. But that is not how the mind works."

COMMENT: As I said in the other post, what you might expect is not a one-to-one correspondence between brain trauma and enhanced cognitive capacities. But, if you were to find instances where brain trauma did in fact enhance cognitive function, particularly if such enhancement was dramatic, that data would support the filter theory. And indeed, that is what we find in acquired savant syndrome. (See Scientific American, August 2014 "Accidental Genius.") So, once such data services, a new theory is required that deviates from classical materialist neuroscience. A "filter" type theory may be one possibility, but it has its own problems.

________________________________________

"Some people try to get around this by suggesting that the brain may function more like a radio, a receiver of conscious states rather than a barrier to them. At first glance, this would appear to account for the deleterious effects of neurological injury and disease, for if one smashes a radio with a hammer, it will no longer function properly. There is a problem with this metaphor, however. Those who employ it invariably forget that we are the music, not the radio. If the brain were nothing more than a receiver of conscious states, it should be impossible to diminish a person’s experience of the cosmos by damaging her brain. She might seem unconscious from the outside—like a broken radio—but, subjectively speaking, the music would play on.

COMMENT: The brain is the radio in this metaphor; it is the physical instrument which receives and processes radio waves. The music may be viewed as our conscious experience of radio waves. On the transmission theory, one assumes that a defective radio, for example a radio that was delivering static, might interfer with an otherwise more perfect conscious experience of music if the mind could be freed up to process the radio waves directly, without having to go through the radio. Thus, if the radio were utterly destroyed, there would be no interference at all, and the experience would be "perfect." Moreover, even if the radio were functioning normally, there would be frequencies that it would not be able to process, and it would have other inherent limitations that would interfer with an otherise "perfect" transmission. That is how this metaphor should be understood.

______________________________________________

"Specific reductions in brain activity might benefit people in certain ways, unmasking memories or abilities that are being actively inhibited by the regions in question. But there is no reason to think that the pervasive destruction of the central nervous system would leave the mind unaffected (much less improved).

COMMENT: I grant the fact that the vast majority of evidence suggests that brain trauma negatively affects cognitive capacities, and that mind-brain correlations strongly suggest that interference with the brain reduces cognitive capacities rather than enhancing them. But having said that, classical neuroscience must deal with the anomalies, and acquired savant syndrome is a real anomaly. (And, of course, there are others) Moreover, a single instance of an anomaly that is inconsistent with a theory renders the theory false. So, classical materialist neuroscience is false! This is the motivation for alternative theories, like the filter theory, even if such theories are themselves not totally satisfactory.

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Posted by: Human ( )
Date: August 28, 2014 10:50AM

Henry Bemis Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------

> COMMENT: I think it is a mistake to point to
> psychedelic drugs as evidence for the filter
> theory. In the first place, such drugs generally
> do not enhance cognitive capacities, they just
> enhance phenomenal experience, providing mostly
> "pseudo insight" based upon "enhanced
> consciousness." I am reminded of a statement by
> Paul McCartney to the effect that when high he
> would have all of these great musical ideas, write
> them down, only to find the next morning that they
> were nonesense.
>
> ____________________________________________


On what basis do we prejudice "cognitive capacities" over "phenomenal experience"? For example, as to McCartney's quip, language is of our diminished consciousness, let's call it, and seems utter superfluous while our consciousness is enhanced. When people return from enhanced consciousness they universally respond with words to the effect that "there are no words to describe..." In other words, "cognitive capacities" in an enhanced state are entirely irrelevant and are experienced as beside the point. In fact, trying to find the words while high often causes anxiety.


> COMMENT: As I said in the other post, what you
> might expect is not a one-to-one correspondence
> between brain trauma and enhanced cognitive
> capacities. But, if you were to find instances
> where brain trauma did in fact enhance cognitive
> function, particularly if such enhancement was
> dramatic, that data would support the filter
> theory. And indeed, that is what we find in
> acquired savant syndrome. (See Scientific
> American, August 2014 "Accidental Genius.") So,
> once such data services, a new theory is required
> that deviates from classical materialist
> neuroscience. A "filter" type theory may be one
> possibility, but it has its own problems.
>
> ________________________________________

Re-opening scientific work with hallucinogens seems promising to me. It's been forty years, and in those years the ability to "peer into" and measure the brain has dramatically increased.

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Posted by: Henry Bemis ( )
Date: August 28, 2014 11:33AM

"On what basis do we prejudice "cognitive capacities" over "phenomenal experience"? For example, as to McCartney's quip, language is of our diminished consciousness, let's call it, and seems utter superfluous while our consciousness is enhanced. When people return from enhanced consciousness they universally respond with words to the effect that "there are no words to describe..." In other words, "cognitive capacities" in an enhanced state are entirely irrelevant and are experienced as beside the point. In fact, trying to find the words while high often causes anxiety."

COMMENT: We started this discussion with the "filter theory" of mind-body dualism, which means that the brain is an inhibiter of cognitive function, such that in its absense "normal" cognitive function could proceed. This represents a major challenge well beyond the idea of "enhanced consciousness" whatever that might subjectively mean.

The best test for the filter theory is in isolating such cognitive functions (not just mental states) from their correlated brain states. Now, granted "enhanced consciousness" may in some sense make cognitive capacities "beside the point," as you suggest, but only for the subject of the psychedelic experience. For mind-body dualism, the subjective "enhanced" experience is beside the point, because that can most likely be explained neurologically. But even if it can't, there is very little mileage to be gained from mere "enhancement" when the filter theory (or any meaningful mind-body dualism) requires a disjunction between the brain and cognition.

_____________________________________

Re-opening scientific work with hallucinogens seems promising to me. It's been forty years, and in those years the ability to "peer into" and measure the brain has dramatically increased.

COMMENT: I do not dispute this. But what would you say if the subjects in the PNAS article were subjected to psychological testing of cognitive capacites and it turned out that their functioning was well below normal. (The McCartney syndrome) What would such a finding mean to the filter theory? or any mind-brain dualistic theory. I think it would undermine it. Because the whole point of mind-body dualism, and indirectly survival, is normal cognitive function absent brain interaction, e.g. the NDE.

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Posted by: Human ( )
Date: August 28, 2014 01:14PM

I see it differently (I think):

First, we agree that we are discussing an idea and not a theory. There is precious little science here, but there is an opportunity for more science to be done. Of course a materialist bias would have to be laid aside if only for a moment, a kind of “for the sake of inquiry.”

Second, I do not equate “the ‘filter theory’ of mind-body dualism” with “the brain is an inhibiter of cognitive function.” Stated like that and we begin with absurdity. The brain *is* cognitive function. “Brain” is the noun, “cognition” is the verb (I realized that I’m going beyond the dictionary here). In other words, we process all our experiences of thought and feeling and everything in between via our brain. The brain is the hub, so that if mind were something other than the brain it still “filters through” via the brain. The “filter idea”, if it can mean anything, must mean that the brain is an inhibiter not of “cognitive function” but of the mind. So in an NDE we might say that the brain has been diminished and so diminishing its filtering ability, allowing more mind to come through. We can also say the same about psychedelics, and perhaps certain kinds of yoga/meditation practices, which is about stilling the “monkey brain” thus allowing more mind through. There’s a major problem here of course, what is it that experiences less brain and more mind?

Finally, the absence of the brain obviously does not allow “‘normal’ cognitive function to proceed but allows cognitive function to cease (in an NDE we’ll say “nearly cease”). In this cessation the mind comes through. When the brain returns it tries to make sense of what of mind was experienced, but cannot because it’s not properly equipped to do so, since “normal” functioning means “normal filtering,” and what was experienced was more mind than is normally the case. So the brain translates as best it can, which is usually not very well (NDEers remarkably are just as much at a loss for words and resort to cliches as are LSDers.)


I’m probably misunderstanding somewhere. We are not talking about a “disjunction between brain and cognition” since that is the same thing. We are talking about a disjunction between the brain’s cognition and the mind, if such a thing as mind exists outside the brain.

Where’s Richard Foxe!

Human



Henry Bemis Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------

> COMMENT: I do not dispute this. But what would you
> say if the subjects in the PNAS article were
> subjected to psychological testing of cognitive
> capacites and it turned out that their functioning
> was well below normal. (The McCartney syndrome)
> What would such a finding mean to the filter
> theory? or any mind-brain dualistic theory. I
> think it would undermine it. Because the whole
> point of mind-body dualism, and indirectly
> survival, is normal cognitive function absent
> brain interaction, e.g. the NDE.


I have no doubt that the McCartney syndrome is so universal that it wouldn't require testing to demonstrate, but for the sake of data I would add it into such an experiment. Do you mean tests like simple math and word problems, sorting/sequencing problems, memory tests, etc? Sure, why not; but what would it reveal?

I don't think I understand your last sentence, but let me say this about survival. The filter exists so that the body can survive. Less filter means less awareness of physical reality, which isn't so good for the body while hunting buffalo eons ago or crossing the street today. More filter equals 'normal cognition', which equals less mortality. However, note that what NDEs bring to the subject is a sense that mortality isn't as mortal as it seems. LSDers sometimes say the same, and often say that what seems so significant to 'normal cognition' isn't so significant at all. Think of it this way, less filter and one may believe that life is all about hitting black & white "keys" on a piano all day, making sounds that seem significant and perhaps hold the meaning of life. More filter and one believes one ought to get a real job.

If mind/body dualism exists it must mean the mind is other than the body.

As a statement of belief: I believe Mind exists and is where the Muse lives. Those things that suddenly pop into the head with a lightbulb inside a thought bubble? Those are gifts from the Muse delivered to the brain, but which have existence elsewhere. uh-no...Universals....yikes! Disperse Plato!!

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Posted by: Human ( )
Date: August 28, 2014 01:34PM

(By the way, full disclosure: I think Penrose and Hameroff have been dismissed much too readily and early.)

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Posted by: Henry Bemis ( )
Date: August 28, 2014 02:34PM

Well, That's another post. It is interesting to contrast the QM approach of Penrose and Hameroff with that of Stapp.

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Posted by: Henry Bemis ( )
Date: August 28, 2014 02:32PM

"Second, I do not equate “the ‘filter theory’ of mind-body dualism” with “the brain is an inhibiter of cognitive function.” Stated like that and we begin with absurdity. The brain *is* cognitive function. “Brain” is the noun, “cognition” is the verb (I realized that I’m going beyond the dictionary here). In other words, we process all our experiences of thought and feeling and everything in between via our brain. The brain is the hub, so that if mind were something other than the brain it still “filters through” via the brain. The “filter idea”, if it can mean anything, must mean that the brain is an inhibiter not of “cognitive function” but of the mind. So in an NDE we might say that the brain has been diminished and so diminishing its filtering ability, allowing more mind to come through. We can also say the same about psychedelics, and perhaps certain kinds of yoga/meditation practices, which is about stilling the “monkey brain” thus allowing more mind through. There’s a major problem here of course, what is it that experiences less brain and more mind?"

COMMENT: But, what does it mean for the brain to be an inhibiter only of mind, and not cognitive function? What does it mean to allow "more mind to come through?" The NDE experience is not just about enhanced mental states (perceptions), they include substantial cognitive functioning as well. More to the point, if NDEs are supposed to reflect survival, the surviving soul must surely include the capacity for cognitive functioning at a high level without the need of a brain. The "absurdity" of this is what must be overcome. I would suggest that your limited version of the filter theory is impotent to do any real work in explaining what is significant about the NDE experience from the standpoint of survival. Now, if you deny survival, and deny that the NDE represents cognitive capacities other than brain function, then, of course, the filter idea might retain some explanatory significance.

_________________________________________


Finally, the absence of the brain obviously does not allow “‘normal’ cognitive function to proceed but allows cognitive function to cease (in an NDE we’ll say “nearly cease”). In this cessation the mind comes through. When the brain returns it tries to make sense of what of mind was experienced, but cannot because it’s not properly equipped to do so, since “normal” functioning means “normal filtering,” and what was experienced was more mind than is normally the case. So the brain translates as best it can, which is usually not very well (NDEers remarkably are just as much at a loss for words and resort to cliches as are LSDers.)

COMMENT: (See comments above) Cognitive function does not cease with an NDE experience. The psychological "Self" the mind, and all (or most) of its capacties continue. The subject can process perceptual experiences which are deemed real; he or she can interact with other "personages," which are deemed real; the subject can contemplate a life's review, etc. This is the point. The question is whether all this can all be explained by some surviving brain function, or it can't.

__________________________________


I’m probably misunderstanding somewhere. We are not talking about a “disjunction between brain and cognition” since that is the same thing. We are talking about a disjunction between the brain’s cognition and the mind, if such a thing as mind exists outside the brain.

COMMENT: Cognition and brain are not the same thing. That is the confusion. "Cognition" is a psychological or mental capacity that is arguably dependent upon brain function. (Or so the materialists insist) Cognitive psychology and cognitive neuroscience are easily confused. Cognitive psychology, as I understand it, refers to psychological mental processing; while cognitive neuroscience refers to the neurological basis for psychological processing (cognition). Thus, my Cognition textbook defines "Cognition" as follows:

"Cognition, or mental activity, involves the acquisition, storage, transformation, and use of knowledge."

______________________________________

"I have no doubt that the McCartney syndrome is so universal that it wouldn't require testing to demonstrate, but for the sake of data I would add it into such an experiment. Do you mean tests like simple math and word problems, sorting/sequencing problems, memory tests, etc? Sure, why not; but what would it reveal?"

COMMENT: Yes, that is the kind of thing I have in mind. And, I agree that the PM syndrome undoubtedly applies across the board to drug induced states. So, whatever drugs do for us, it is not inhancement of cognition; which is what we need if we want to make the filter theory meaningful in arguments related to survival--which is the context when it is usually invoked.

_________________________________________

"However, note that what NDEs bring to the subject is a sense that mortality isn't as mortal as it seems. LSDers sometimes say the same, and often say that what seems so significant to 'normal cognition' isn't so significant at all. Think of it this way, less filter and one may believe that life is all about hitting black & white "keys" on a piano all day, making sounds that seem significant and perhaps hold the meaning of life. More filter and one believes one ought to get a real job."

COMMENT: No. I cannot accept this. You seem to be putting "normal cognition" into a context of social norms. which is not what I mean. Normal cognition is normal cognitive capacity, however one cashes that out in personal outlook. As such, you cannot say that "normal cognition" is insignificant in any context, even in a context that idealizes the "meaning of life." There is no such thing as any concept of the "meaning" without the cognitive capacity to assess it.

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Posted by: Human ( )
Date: August 28, 2014 03:17PM

Unfortunately I have to work. So here's ol' Dock Ellis describing pitchin' his famous LDS no-no:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_vUhSYLRw14&feature=youtu.be

(The bennies are probably what enabled him to pitch at all that day.)

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Posted by: Human ( )
Date: August 30, 2014 03:40PM

We’re tripping on word meanings again. At least I am. Allow me another chance.


Bemis, what are we talking about? By “reducing valve” we are talking about Henri Bergson’s (Creative Evolution) idea that contra Darwin, who posited mind as an adaptation for successfully dealing with the environment (physical survival), mind is something like a life force (élan vital) that pushes evolution to higher, freer and more creative forms. The brain, then, is an organ that *narrows* consciousness of reality (and the élan vital) so as to focus the organism onto that which best allows for survival. Darwin sees mind as something that evolved from organic life; Bergson, fully accepting that organic life evolved from earlier organic life, saw mind as perhaps preceding or behind or let’s say *other than* organic life, not an evolution from it.

So: The brain *reduces* the awareness of reality by limiting consciousness, not only of physical reality but of the élan vital itself (allow me to use that for “mind”). Because of our brain, we are conscious of a much reduced version of reality, thus our mistake is to take what our brain tells us is reality as reality itself. The brain is a natural reductionist, that is its function.

Right? No? Have I misread Bergson (it’s been a while, and my copy is buried in a box somewhere)?

Therefore, if the study I cited about hallucinogens can be replicated a dozen times, say, then we may speculate that psychedelics *reduce* brain function thus *reducing* its ability to filter; thus allowing for more reality to come forward to consciousness. The NDE corollary: a compromised brain near death loses its ability to properly function as a “reducing valve”, which is it’s evolutionary purpose; thus flooding consciousness with a larger slice of reality, let’s call it; at the very least a different slice that is left out of awareness when the brain is functioning normally, “normally” being the 66.5% of the other time the brain is doing what it does (the other third is reserved for dreaming, which has interesting implications vis-a-vis Bergson’s brain as reduction valve idea).



This is all just conversation, speculation, wondering out loud. My recommendation for actual science is to continue trying to make the case for consciousness emerging from the brain, and/or trying to falsify the prevailing assumptions. Right now we have various hand-waving versions of ‘lots and lots of brain activity grew over lots and lots of years and then we got these illusions of self and free will and stuff like that’. It’s actually a lot like abiogenesis. Well, make the case, or better yet falsify it.

As I said, we’re in a very nascent place when it comes to neuroscience and the problem of consciousness. It is not the time for Science and its writers to be declaring anything ex cathedra. We’re just not there yet. The anomalies are adding up, yes, but a few stacks more, if they prove available, will go a long way toward shifting the paradigm. In the mean-time, I’m happy enough admitting that Henri Bergson was an entertaining speculator who influenced Proust and others but nothing more of note than that.

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Posted by: Henry Bemis ( )
Date: August 31, 2014 10:21AM

"Bemis, what are we talking about? By “reducing valve” we are talking about Henri Bergson’s (Creative Evolution) idea that contra Darwin, who posited mind as an adaptation for successfully dealing with the environment (physical survival), mind is something like a life force (élan vital) that pushes evolution to higher, freer and more creative forms."

COMMENT: But, this is very vague; not only as to what in general this "life force," or mind "stuff" is that affects evolutionary change, but more particularly how this is translated into individual consciousness, and the relationship between conscious, mental "selves" and brains. The filter idea is intended to address the mind-brain relationship (mind-body dualism) on the individual level in such a way as to explain paranoramal phenomena, and in particular the possible survival of death.

"The brain, then, is an organ that *narrows* consciousness of reality (and the élan vital) so as to focus the organism onto that which best allows for survival."

COMMENT: But, again, what exactly is being "narrowed?" and for whom? And, what happens at death? Does the narrowing effect of the brain continue to influence a surviving individual consciousness? Or does an individual consciousness "re-expand" back to an enhanced, but individual, state? Or, at death does consciousness expand beyond any further individualistic considerations; ala Eastern philosophy? If individual survival is what is at stake, then we must further ask what the mechanism is that remains after death and allows the conscious self to function cognitively and individually, after the brain is dead?

"So: The brain *reduces* the awareness of reality by limiting consciousness, not only of physical reality but of the élan vital itself (allow me to use that for “mind”). Because of our brain, we are conscious of a much reduced version of reality, thus our mistake is to take what our brain tells us is reality as reality itself. The brain is a natural reductionist, that is its function."

COMMENT: Whose awareness of reality is being reduced by the brain? Here, you have to postulate not just consciousness in the abstract, but consciousness at the individual level. THat is the whole point of the filter theory, mind-body dualism, and survival. You have somehow got to get the discussion on the individual level. Now, of course, the brain limits our understanding of reality. But, that is a different question. Again, it is the "tells us" component of your explanation that needs to be addressed. Who is "us?" Answer: all of us, each as individual consciousness subjects. But, then, what are we?

"Therefore, if the study I cited about hallucinogens can be replicated a dozen times, say, then we may speculate that psychedelics *reduce* brain function thus *reducing* its ability to filter; thus allowing for more reality to come forward to consciousness."

COMMENT: Well, I dispute this, because I do not think there is any reason to believe that psychedelics allow "more reality to come forward to consciousness." At best, the experience offers a unique perspective of reality; for me its elusive nature. Any "enlightenment" that the phenomenological experience of LSD might offer is so vague and mystical, that its scientific value is non-existent. I mean at the end of the day, what does it offer beyond, "Wow?" (Again, I say this with personal experience)

"The NDE corollary: a compromised brain near death loses its ability to properly function as a “reducing valve”, which is it’s evolutionary purpose; thus flooding consciousness with a larger slice of reality, let’s call it; at the very least a different slice that is left out of awareness when the brain is functioning normally, “normally” being the 66.5% of the other time the brain is doing what it does (the other third is reserved for dreaming, which has interesting implications vis-a-vis Bergson’s brain as reduction valve idea).

COMMENT: But, again "who is having this experience?" Moreover, the enhancement in this context includes continued individual cognitive capacities. Where do these come from, if not the brain? In short, you are left with explaining how the indivudal psyche can survive the death of the brain. The "reducing value" theory does not explain that, and therefore has no value as an explanation for survival. Thus, there must be a pre-existent "soul" that carries with it all of the mechanisms necessary for cognitive function (enhanced or otherwise) absent the physical brain. THere is evidence for such a "soul," but how do you explain its cognitive functioning. This is the main problem with mind-body dualism. And the answer must reside in some kind of information processing (and associative mechanisms) at the quantum level. But this is also problematic.

"This is all just conversation, speculation, wondering out loud. My recommendation for actual science is to continue trying to make the case for consciousness emerging from the brain, and/or trying to falsify the prevailing assumptions. Right now we have various hand-waving versions of ‘lots and lots of brain activity grew over lots and lots of years and then we got these illusions of self and free will and stuff like that’. It’s actually a lot like abiogenesis. Well, make the case, or better yet falsify it."

COMMENT: Well, as I have said many times, science is in the business of explaining data with theories. If the data provided by human experience is inconsistent with materialist assumptions, then materialism is false. Period. If NDE's, past lives of children, ESP phenomena, etc. are credible, and cannot be explained within the materialist paradigm, then materialist neuroscience is false. The fact that we do not have a better explanation does not change this fundamental fact.

"As I said, we’re in a very nascent place when it comes to neuroscience and the problem of consciousness. It is not the time for Science and its writers to be declaring anything ex cathedra. We’re just not there yet. The anomalies are adding up, yes, but a few stacks more, if they prove available, will go a long way toward shifting the paradigm. In the mean-time, I’m happy enough admitting that Henri Bergson was an entertaining speculator who influenced Proust and others but nothing more of note than that."

COMMENT: The paradigm needs to shift now. The anomalies are just too great. The problem, as I see it, is where does it go? Is there any scientific research program that is sufficiently "scientific" and robust--even in principle--to provide hope that the problem of consciousness can be solved? Not in the short term. This is why materialism is so tenacious. What else is there?

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Posted by: Human ( )
Date: September 03, 2014 02:37PM

I'm a little confused, but that's all right. It's on me.

I was always talking about the individual, on the individual level, etc.


Here's a mescaline experiment administered upon a British MP by a psychiatrist in 1955.

http://youtu.be/Hd4rgyZzseY

That's an example of the "narrowing" I'm talking about. Particularly, at 5:15-6:16 mark Christopher Meyhew describes what he experienced 30 years later. *That* is narrowed out by our brain, for example, along with so much else. The premise here is assuming that the reality he describes exists even when not experienced. It's there, but we're not aware of it. Rather like the gnostic Jesus: when ask when and where heaven is, answers, "it is here and now, but you don't see it (paraphrase)."

Anyway, always glad to read your replies. Thank you.

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Posted by: White Cliffs ( )
Date: August 28, 2014 09:57AM

I think the claim of greater enlightenment due to lower brain function brains can't be either falsified or verified. Most of the existing science would look at the brain or at physical behavior for clues, and the claim is that there is a mind or soul that exists independent of the brain and body. No one can describe it but the person who had the experience, which makes it subjective.

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Posted by: Henry Bemis ( )
Date: August 28, 2014 10:30AM

The filter theory is really not much more than an idea expressed as a mind-brain metaphor. I know of no articulation of this idea that provides any mechanistic detail. As such, calling it a "theory" is charitable. It is basically a very loose idea that supports mind-body dualism and is useful in accounting for the anomalies of classic neuroscience.

Thomas Kuhn, the eminent philosopher of science, and one of the few that addressed anomalies in any serious detail, famously discussed scientific theories within what he called the commitment of scientists to scientific “paradigms” (Kuhn, “The Structure of Scientific Revolutions”) In discussing Kuhn, philosopher Peter Godfrey-Smith stated:

“An anomaly for Kuhn is a puzzle that has resisted solution. Kuhn holds that all paradigms face some anomalies at any given time. As long as there are not too many of them, normal science proceeds as usual and scientists regard them as a challenge. But the anomalies tend to accumulate. Sometimes a single one becomes particularly prominent, by resisting the efforts of the best workers in the field. Eventually, according to Kuhn, the scientists start to lose faith in their paradigm. The result is a crisis.” (Godfrey-Smith, “Theory and Reality: In Introduction Into the Philosophy of Science,” page 82)

The anomalies in the classical, materialist theory of mind are accumulating, and they are manifestly inconsistent with the classical theory. That means that the classical theory is false! As such, the scientific emphasis should be directed towards addressing consciousness, and related paranormal phenomena, to develop a theory that accomodates mind-brain correlations, while providing a plausible explanation of the classical anomalies. The filter "theory" is nothing more than an idea in that direction. As stated above, its status as a theory is weak, if not non-existence, without some proposed theory of consciousness, and a proposed mechanism that explains the mind-brain relationship.

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Posted by: Human ( )
Date: August 28, 2014 10:58AM

I agree that the idea isn't a theory, that is why I used the word idea. It was put forward by philosophers in a time when science hadn't the abilities/tools to know what we know today about the brain.

I also agree that the anomalies seem to be stacking up, which suggests Science should take a look at the filtering idea now that it can.

Everyone on all sides of any position about the brain/mind or brain & mind must realize that all of this is extremely nascent. We have barely begun. Hard conclusions of any kind at this point seem premature, to say the least, and may be part of an agenda, to say a bit more.

Human

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Posted by: Human ( )
Date: August 28, 2014 10:33AM

If you will allow us to equate "greater enlightenment" with the effects of psychedelic drugs, here's one way to falsify/verify:

http://www.pnas.org/content/109/6/2138.abstract

The Abstract's concluding sentence:

"These results strongly imply that the subjective effects of psychedelic drugs are caused by decreased activity and connectivity in the brain's key connector hubs, enabling a state of unconstrained cognition."

The taboo on hallucinogens in scientific research, which has hindered research for forty years, is increasingly being challenged, so we my find this study repeated. We'll see.

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Posted by: Human ( )
Date: August 28, 2014 10:34AM


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Posted by: Henry Bemis ( )
Date: August 28, 2014 10:52AM


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Posted by: Henry Bemis ( )
Date: August 28, 2014 11:43AM

By the way, Human, compare the conclusion stated in the abstract, as quoted:

"These results strongly imply that the subjective effects of psychedelic drugs are caused by decreased activity and connectivity in the brain's key connector hubs, enabling a state of unconstrained cognition."

with the conclusion as stated in the essay body:

"The results suggest decreased activity and connectivity in the brain's connector hubs, permitting an unconstrained style of cognition."

The difference between "unconstrained cognition," and "unconstrained style of cognition" is huge! The first implies cognitive function, while the second does not. This may be an editor's mistake, but here the only meaning to be placed on "style of cognition" is a cognition that occurs in an enhanced state of psychedelic consciousness, regardless of its functional implications, since the essay does not address functional comparisons.

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Posted by: Human ( )
Date: August 28, 2014 11:58AM

Henry Bemis wrote:

"The difference between "unconstrained cognition," and "unconstrained style of cognition"..."

Parsing like you like poetry, I like it!

I agree though, it's an odd difference, which to me indicates two different writers. And the two things do not mean the same thing.

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Posted by: Human ( )
Date: August 28, 2014 11:00AM

Thank you Steve Benson for the Richard Dawkins take.

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Posted by: steve benson ( )
Date: August 28, 2014 04:23PM

"Specific reductions in brain activity might benefit people in certain ways, unmasking memories or abilities that are being actively inhibited by the regions in question. But there is no reason to think that the pervasive destruction of the central nervous system would leave the mind unaffected (much less improved). Medications that reduce anxiety generally work by increasing the effect of the inhibitory neurotransmitter GABA, thereby diminishing neuronal activity in various parts of the brain. But the fact that dampening arousal in this way can make people feel better does not suggest that they would feel better still if they were drugged into a coma. Similarly, it would be unsurprising if psilocybin reduced brain activity in areas responsible for self-monitoring, because that might, in part, account for the experiences that are often associated with the drug. This does not give us any reason to believe that turning off the brain entirely would yield an increased awareness of spiritual realities."

("Drugs and the Meaning of Life," by Richard Dawkins, from essay originally published in 2011, updated 6 June 2014, at: https://richarddawkins.net/2014/06/drugs-and-the-meaning-of-life/)
_____


You can philosophize 'til the cows come home but the nutty notion that a filtering brain somehow serves as the physical activator/enhancer for what represents supposedly stand-alone-and-apart-from-the-brain "spiritual" consciousness is--as a matter of testable and demonstrable fact--completely decimated by empirical scientific evidence.

Jesus, save us from your brain-dead believers. :)



Edited 7 time(s). Last edit at 08/28/2014 04:29PM by steve benson.

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Posted by: thingsithink ( )
Date: August 28, 2014 04:55PM

thank you.

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Posted by: White Cliffs ( )
Date: August 28, 2014 09:25PM

This discussion is getting interesting, and I offer thanks to Mr. Benson for bringing in so many outside quotes. Really guys, there are people out there who know more than us because they think more than us, and we need to learn a thing or two.

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Posted by: steve benson ( )
Date: September 03, 2014 02:52PM

. . . logically be maximally reduced. That, however, results in very serious cognitive and nervous system dysfunction, disorder and destruction, not increased "spiritual" consciousness.

This woo-woo effort to fantasize a "filtering brain" as a key to unlocking and activating inner consciousness borders on the absurd.

No, it IS absurd.



Edited 3 time(s). Last edit at 09/03/2014 02:58PM by steve benson.

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