Excellent comments, Henry. And I love how it all tends to a concluding problem, that the lay-man essentially doesn't quite properly grasp that the metaphors neuroscience writing employ to describe the groping into this 'hard problem' are not meant to be literal. In other words, just as you have it, 60 Minutes and Elon Musk are propagating ideas to the masses that are not in the least demonstrated and aren't actually held all that hardly by the scientists themselves. It's the usual problem with actual science versus popular science writing, but in this case the mistake on the part of the populace too easily sets them up for a false consciousness about themselves, the world and how the two fit together. Many, including some who were once quite prominent and vociferous on RfM, would like to forget just how many people were walking around believing that their volition wasn't their own just because Sam Harris said so, accompanied by a hand-wavey Hard-Science-Libet-something-or-another attempt at authority. The ease that this was accomplished, convincing people that their will isn't actually their own, is frightening, so much so that I remember a lecture by Dennett where he showed studies demonstrating how students who were told they hadn't free will did more poorly on a test than students who weren't told such a thing. He was alarmed and voicing caution. So, to the embarrassment you point out:
Henry Bemis Wrote:
> Also, there is always one other component that is
> never addressed. Clearly what is happening here is
> that the mind is controlling the brain by
> dictating the brain response to the thought; i.e.
> by thinking the thought, the subject is dictating
> a brain response that can be read-off by the
> computer program. So, I ask, isn't this a
> fundamental example of mental causation in its
> purest form? So, where does the volitional
> thought come from that starts this whole process?
> (Embarrassing!) If it is just the brain, why not
> have the computer read-off the pre-thought
> deterministic neurological cause (action
> potential) of the thought, eliminating the
> middle-man (the Self, the Mind, the conscious
That is very well said!
> COMMENT: Remember, we are not talking about just
> neuroscience; i.e. the science of the brain or
> nervous system. We are talking about *cognitive
> neuroscience*; i.e. how the brain brings about all
> of the capacities of human cognition, including
> behavior, complex thought, rationality, and
> creativity. That creates a responsibility to
> honestly consider the mind-brain correlation,
> including mental causation. So, it is never *just*
> about the brain. Moreover, cognitive psychology
> encompasses mind-mind correlations; e.g. how one
> thought leads to another, for example in the
> reasoning process. This process does not mirror
> computational processes in the brain, but rather
> encompasses a volitional agent with unique
> thought-thought processes. Neuroscience has no
> idea how this complex process is done by the
It seems to me that the way neuroscientists, even cognitive neuroscientists, get around your point about "mind-brain correlation" is to assume at the outset that "mind" is merely a stand-in word for the problem at hand, and to refuse to grant it any ontological status. It's all just the brain, but we use "mind" to stand in for that special thing which the brain does, they seem to say with way too many words.
Here's a good example of an intelligent lay-person trying to come to grips with what the neuroscientists are trying to find out and tell us about, specifically RICCARDO MANZOTTI and MICHAEL GRAZIANO:https://www.bookforum.com/print/2604/the-unending-quest-to-explain-consciousness-23772
He wraps up his exploration rather well:
"Thus, it seems to me, the proliferation of ever wilder positions. You are the apple. Consciousness is an illusion. And, hell, maybe you are the apple. Crazier things have turned out to be true. But if you simply rule in advance that the mind must be physical and assume that an understanding of consciousness must be a materialist understanding, because scientific materialism is obviously correct, you end up looking for your keys under the streetlamp because that’s where the light is."
That last clause perfectly embodies my suspicions about the entire neuroscientific project. But that is how science proceeds, one mistake after another, eliminating mistakes as we go, hundreds of millions of dollars at a time...
...and Flint's water is still poisonous.