Consciousness

Let us begin at the beginning. Not at the creation of the universe, though, but with a study written in 1925 by C. D. Broad entitled The Mind and its Place in Nature. I’m following here a paper by David J. Chalmers entitled Consciousness and its Place in Nature which explains the former study.

What is the problem? The problem is that it’s not easy to see how consciousness is part of the physical world, like a chair, say, or even a brain. After all the latter is a squishy substance about three pounds in weight which, we think, makes us conscious, but how? Even though we may feel that our consciousness is associated with or probably caused by our brain, it’s not at all clear where in the brain it is, or even if it is there at all!

to be continued …

9/18/07: So, the problem to be solved according to both Broad and Chalmers is to locate the mind with respect to the physical world. Broad came up with seventeen different ways of handling the mental-physical relation. This certainly seems weird at first glance. Why seventeen?

OK, he breaks the mental and the physical down into four attributes each with an extra one thrown in at the end! This would give sixteen if we consider that each mental attribute could have one of four physical attributes and there are four mental attributes. Throwing the extra one in gives the total of seventeen. But what are these attributes, and what is the one thrown in at the end?

to be continued …

9/20/07: The C. D. Broad study is nothing if not wordy. I’ve been reading and re-reading certain paragraphs and am still confused about what he means. But here’s the best I could come up with for definitions of the four attributes of both the Mental and the Material:

Differentiating Attribute: There is something specific that defines this substance. [BTW: A substance he defines as any thing from a slight itch to a bolt of lightning to a chair, in other words, a substance can be anything. :]

Emergent Attribute: An attribute which has emerged out of the complexity of a substance and not predictable.

Reductive Attribute: An attribute that falls naturally or logically in place as a consequence of something reasonable.

Delusive Attribute: An attribute that really doesn’t exist.

I’m sure if old Broad [sorry…] were alive today he would scream if he saw what I’ve done above with his definitions, but as I say, it’s the best I can do without re-reading his stuff even more.

OK, how about an example of a “matrix element”? Let’s take (4,1). That would be a Delusive Mental Attribute combined with a Differentiating Material Attribute, in other words, pure materialism. OTOH, (1,4) would be a Delusive Material Attribute combined with a Differentiating Mental Attribute, in other words, pure mentalism, i.e., everything is mental.

Wild, huh?

to be continued …

  1. barbara’s avatar

    Hi Mardé,
    OK; I’am game to toss around a few ideas soon on this subject.
    Go ahead and get our neurons blasting 😆

    See you soon.

  2. Mardé’s avatar

    Get our neurons blasting! That’s a good one, Barbara. But I’ve got to get on the ball and follow up on the “to be continued….” on this post. Also, I’ll be looking forward to your ideas!

    Cheers,
    /Mardé

  3. barbara’s avatar

    Hi Mardé,
    I was trying to find other examples for your definitions.
    Emergeant attribute…a seizure or attack. That’s something very specific that you can’t predict.

    Reductive attribute…. a “knee jerk” ( like when the dr tests you). A certain muscle behind the leg attomatically makes a movement when hit.And unless you have a serious problem with the nerves of your legs, it always works.

    Delusive attribute… Hmmm… An empty attribute ??
    Like when a volunteer takes a pill which is in fact just a sugar pill (placebo). An attribute that is supposed to help stop certain symptoms ( like a migraine).
    That’s the only one I could think of for the moment…

    I hope that I have the correct idea, Mard.
    See you soon.

  4. Mardé’s avatar

    Hi Barbara, thanks for trying! Yes, I’d say your example of a seizure or attack could be an example of an Emergent Attribute. But of what? Perhaps of the body’s nervous system? But that’s kind of ill-defined. Maybe that’s why the seizure could be called Emergent.

    Yes, the knee jerk might be Reductive: We can deduce that the knee will jerk, knowing the positions of the nerves in the knee, etc.

    A placebo might indeed be Delusive: the intended pill doesn’t exist, so this would be a Delusive Material Attribute. But of what? Perhaps of the concept of placebo, or the general category of placebo substances.

    So, I’d give you a grade of between 90 and 100, Barbara. That’s an A. 😀

    Of course, again, the old Broad might be cringing over what we’re doing to his Attribute definitions. But then he shouldn’t have gone on and on and on so much about them to the extent that unless you’re a licensed philosopher you can’t make heads or tails out of what he’s saying! 😆 :roll:

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