Brief outline of the Eppicurean mind concept

Is the mind the same as the body? What is consciousness? Can machines have it?

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David Swift
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Brief outline of the Eppicurean mind concept

Post by David Swift » Sun Mar 19, 2017 2:22 pm

As briefly as possible, I want to outline three concepts of mind.
First, the concept that mind magically and inexplicably produces thought and behavior. Plato started this idea by connecting Anaxagoras’s nous or thought idea with the Egyptian ka or soul idea. Plotinus, the Roman, Christian Platonist, refined the idea by positioning the nonphysical mind within the nonphysical soul within the physical body where the mind could be jettisoned, using the soul as some kind of escape pod, on the death of that body. Christians adopted this idea as orthodoxy and taught it in all Christian universities until relatively recently. The upsides are freewill and total confidence about how it works because there is no chance of finding out how it works. The downsides are the lack of evidence and the complete inability to predict or fix anything that goes wrong.
Second, the brain centered concept that casts king brain as mind, sense organs as spies and muscles as minions. Hippocrates of Cos and Galen both agreed that this arrangement controlled behavior by responding to sensory input with muscle action and thought as the output. The upsides are its agreement with our conscious experience and the partial success we’ve had at duplicating the process with programing. The downside is that despite billions of dollars and years of research, we’re no closer to understanding the leap of autonomy and flexibility a five year old has over the world’s best computer.
Thirdly, the sense organ centered concept that casts conscious sense organs, emotion producing organs, and muscles as independent organs that both write their experience in the unconscious brain and read what they have written. Epicurus started this idea with his observation that, “The eye itself sees. If the brain was looking through the eye, as through a window, then it would see better without the eye.” Brett tells us in his History of Psychology that it was taken up and championed by Scottish psychologist Alexander Bain and that Kant admitted it was as likely as the Hippocratic concept. The downsides are its complicated appearance and apparent failure to agree with our conscious experience. The upside is, with a huge lift from American philosopher, Robert Pirsig, I have expanded the conscious sense organ idea to provide a simple explanation consistent with our current understanding of biology for the three necessary mind processes of recognition, evaluation, and action.
We cannot act intelligently without first recognizing the objects of our actions. Mr. Pirsig demonstrated the role of evaluation in comprehension and action: thought must necessarily be evaluated because we couldn’t choose between punching ourselves in the eye and eating ice-cream without a way to evaluate the effects of those actions. Thirdly, there is no point in recognition or evaluation, if we cannot act to improve the outcome. Recognition, evaluation, and action are the three necessary processes of mind.
The explanations starts with the work of, Giacomo Rizzolatti and Laila Craighero, who using an MRI identified what they called mirror neurons, "that fire both when an animal acts and when the animal observes the same action performed by another. Thus, the neuron "mirrors" the behavior of the other, as though the observer were itself acting.” This neural behavior could explain monkey see, monkey do imitation. Taken with Hebbian theory could also explain our fundamental ability to react to our environment. Carla Shatz explained D. O. Hebb’s theory with her catchy phrase "Cells that fire together, wire together" which, if true, would explain why learning links recognition, evaluation and action, and how we react to specific sensations with appropriate coordinated actions.
Using this concept, we can say that recognition is the result of conscious double experience in any sense organ. The conscious eye, for example, sees both light reflected from outside and the memory of previously seen light recorded in the brain. When the eye sees that the memory matches the outside pattern, we have recognition. An uncounted number of nutritive (nose, tongue, stomach, bladder and intestines - examples: hunger, sweetness), defensive (skin - ex: itching, burning) and reproductive (nipples and genitalia - ex: arousal) evaluative sense organs that reflexively produce sensations of either pain or pleasure form the bases of the emotions that evaluate what we sense and our actions on them. Muscles then, act in the same way as sense and evaluative organs by both writing their actions in the brain and reading them as instructions to repeat those actions. Linking these three processes, “wiring them together” by their coincidence in time produces the appropriate action at recognition with evaluation acting as a feedback loop to control start, stop, and speed.
We feel consciousness of all three kinds of sensations in their generating organs. Transducing all kinds of sensation energy to electricity simplifies the mind’s biology in that all sense and muscle organs connect to the brain by the same double-wired system of afferent and efferent nerves. As Santiago Ramon y Cajal (1886) observed nerves only conduct electrical currents across synapses in one direction. A Hippocratic controlling brain would only need afferent nerves to carry information from identifying and evaluative sense organs to the brain and only efferent nerves to carry instructions from the brain to the muscles. However, every sense organ and muscle is double wired to the brain (Ivan Pavlov, Lectures on Conditioned Reflexes, 1928). As explained, neurons, identified as mirror neurons, were discovered using magnetic resonance imaging (Giacomo Rizzolatti and Laila Craighero, 2004). According to Rizzolatti et al, the sight of a ball would excite mirror neurons that stored the previous perception of a ball. Their assumption (based on Hippocrates) being that the brain uses this information in some yet unexplained way to recognize the ball. Given that the reports of identifying, evaluative and muscle organs are conducted in an electrical form on nerves, it would be logical to hypothesize that mirror neurons store all three kinds, regurgitating them in the same way. We can consciously see both ends of sight experience and it helps to close our eyes when trying to remember what a ball looks like because that is where we see the memory. It seems that our double-wired system carries perceptions both ways allowing us to experience both current perceptions and memories in all the three kinds of sense organs at the same time. At least it would be challenging to explain how they differentiate between the electrical sensations arriving on the same kinds of afferent nerves. Our ability to re-experience learned sensations in sense organs suggests a connection between memories and their source organ. In the absence of any other explanation, it is reasonable to believe that memories are the result of returning efferent electricity stimulating the receptors in each kind of original source organ. This transduces electricity back into the original energy type of the afferent experience: the eye films and also screens recorded images, the ear acts as both microphone and ear buds, the stomach produces pain at the memory of hunger and once a muscle action has been rehearsed we can replay it. Sense and evaluative organs are, unexpectedly, also action organs. While we had mistakenly deduced that the match between the perception and the mirror neurons had only identified the ball in the brain, the more complete explanation holds that those excited perceptions travel from the neurons back along the efferent nerves to the eye’s rods and cones from behind. Front and back, current and remembered light sensations, compared, photo over negative, in the rods and cones. Seeing the similarities identifies the ball confirming the correct match. The same principle would also postulate that muscle and evaluative perceptions returning to their originating organs as instructions would consciously re-create their previous states. No changes are required. What you see is what you get. What you put in is what you get back. While we are not conscious of sensations in our brains, every kind of sense organ is capable of consciousness.
That is the short explanation abbreviated for use in this format. Many questions remain unanswered. Some are answered in the longer version, but I am only one man and this took forty years. I would be grateful for your rebukes, questions, criticism, and comments.

uwot
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Re: Brief outline of the Eppicurean mind concept

Post by uwot » Sun Mar 19, 2017 2:44 pm

I had a look at your book on Amazon the other day, the bits it lets you read, but couldn't quite work out from that what it is you are claiming. So thank you for that precis, it's beginning to sink in and seems like a really interesting and plausible hypothesis. There was some hoo-hah recently about the intestines being in some sense 'conscious' or at least 'brain-like'. I forget the details, as philosophy of mind isn't my field. I think I get the sense and action thing, but I'll have to let it sink in and read through a couple more times in order for some pattern to be established in the requisite organs, so that I gain some conscious idea of your thesis.

ForCruxSake
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Re: Brief outline of the Eppicurean mind concept

Post by ForCruxSake » Sun Mar 19, 2017 5:19 pm

uwot wrote:There was some hoo-hah recently about the intestines being in some sense 'conscious' or at least 'brain-like'. I forget the details, as philosophy of mind isn't my field.
I think what you are referring to is the work of Michael Gershon, who wrote the book "The Second Brain", in 1998, and refers to the network of neurons and neurotransmitters, the enteric nervous system lining our guts, which is so extensive that is goes beyond the mere handling of digestion. This "little brain" working in tandem with the bigger one 'upstairs' partly determines our mental state and plays key roles in determining and fighting certain diseases throughout the body. It is NOT the seat of any conscious thoughts or decision-making, connected to philosophy or religion (other than it might only have to deal with kosher or halal food), or likewise.

It is, however, equipped with its own reflexes and senses and can control gut behavior independently of the brain. It's been found that the vagus nerve, a cranial nerve that interfaces with parasympathetic control of the heart, lungs and digestive tract, carries signals only one way, from the gut to the brain and not the other way round, further evidence that the gut is to some degree independent of the brain, informing the brain rather than the other way round.

Hope this helps.

uwot
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Joined: Mon Jul 23, 2012 7:21 am

Re: Brief outline of the Eppicurean mind concept

Post by uwot » Sun Mar 19, 2017 5:44 pm

ForCruxSake wrote:Hope this helps.
Sounds about right, thanks. Yes, I realise I was massively overstating it by ascribing consciousness to my guts. It reminds me of a joke. Bloke goes to the Dr and says 'Dr, I've eaten something that disagrees with me.' And a voice from his belly goes 'No you haven't.'

Impenitent
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Re: Brief outline of the Eppicurean mind concept

Post by Impenitent » Sun Mar 19, 2017 6:15 pm

leaps of autonomy within the same vat...

nice presentation

-Imp

ForCruxSake
Posts: 496
Joined: Fri Feb 10, 2017 1:48 am

Re: Brief outline of the Eppicurean mind concept

Post by ForCruxSake » Sun Mar 19, 2017 6:19 pm

uwot wrote:
ForCruxSake wrote:Hope this helps.
Sounds about right, thanks. Yes, I realise I was massively overstating it by ascribing consciousness to my guts. It reminds me of a joke. Bloke goes to the Dr and says 'Dr, I've eaten something that disagrees with me.' And a voice from his belly goes 'No you haven't.'
Which makes me think of a joke:

Man goes to a Doctor about a gut infection.

The Doctor says: "I hate to have to tell you this but you've been diagnosed with a highly contagious, possibly fatal, disease. It may not be too late for you. We're going to have to quarantine you and put you on a 'cheese and ham slice' diet, for at least a month!"

"That’s terrible!" says the Man," 'Cheese and ham slice' diet?!! A whole month?!!"

The Doctor replies, "It's all we can give you, that will slide under the door..."

David Swift
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Joined: Tue Mar 14, 2017 11:47 pm

Re: Brief outline of the Eppicurean mind concept

Post by David Swift » Mon Mar 20, 2017 12:55 pm

Thanks for the kind comments. I can supply a copy of my 2008 book as well as my current work in progress, which I keep online for easy access for interested parties. mindexamined@gmail.com

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