Brain in a vat

Discussion in 'General Philosophy' started by James R, Nov 22, 2016.

  1. Syne Sine qua non Valued Senior Member

    Can you equally tell me how external stimuli produce changes in the brain that can account for choices that, due to neural plasticity, produce further, self-directed changes in the brain? Can you predict what stimuli will spur what endogenous changes, or even exogenous changes? Until you can, the reductionist view may be lacking in explanatory power. We can only "cut the soul out" if the reductionist view offers equal explanatory power. Now I assume you think it does, but without evidence that is as much "science-of-the-gaps" as belief in a soul may be "dualism-of-the-gaps". The difference is that the reductionist view implies there may be evidence to support it, while the dualist view does not. The stronger claim requires stronger evidence. Dualism does not make evidentiary claims.

    Any thoughts on the causal connection to reference argument for knowledge that we are not brains in vats? Or just sticking to what you feel are easy arguments?
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  3. Syne Sine qua non Valued Senior Member

    You seem to have missed the part where I didn't make that fallacy...because I didn't assert any physical infinite regress. But if you want to dismiss my argument with that strawman...
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  5. Syne Sine qua non Valued Senior Member

    Prude? Are you equating the rape and abuse of involuntary sex slavery with sex? Rape is sex? Really?! Seems an aversion to forced sex is just moral. Do you really consider an aversion to rape to be a "prudish aversion to all things sexual"? That grotesquely implies that only rapists are sexually liberated.

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    I really hope you're not that sick.

    If you're talking about a hypothetical character, why use my user name? Trolling? Fantasizing about raping me? Stop sexually harassing me.

    Again, causal connection to reference is the only causal connection that speaks to knowledge. Physical connection is trivial. If this is the real world, my reference to my brain has causal connection.

    Who said anything about someone else's brain? Only you. I didn't expect to have to repeat the simple distinction between a physical causal connection and a causal connection to reference as it applies to knowledge. Until you can manage to quit equivocating the two, we're not likely to get any further. Sadly, your surface appearance doesn't fair as well.

    And? Repeating that a simulation is a really real-like simulation does nothing to establish a causative connection to reference.

    I agree. It only hides knowledge of where the brain resides. And that is more than sufficient to allow no causal connection to reference of such brain. Since the envatted will always refer to his brain being the one behind his eyes, it is trivial that he does not reference his real brain elsewhere.

    You cannot justify any such assumption as knowledge...unless you had a hand in the duplication.
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  7. Tiassa Let us not launch the boat ... Staff Member

    I find it striking how many people who say that find it important to tell other people.
  8. James R Just this guy, you know? Staff Member

    Moderator note:

    Harrassing another member of sciforums is completely unacceptable and will rapidly lead to the exclusion of any member who engages in it. No member of sciforums should have to put up with this.

    Casting another member as a sex slave or cannibal in some fantasy, and then claiming that it's not harrassment because it is "hypothetical" shows a limited understand of what harrassing behaviour is. Moreover, persisting in such behaviour after being asked to cease and desist twice merely compounds the offence.
    Magical Realist likes this.
  9. DaveC426913 Valued Senior Member

    All right. A physical regression would have been a better argument then a non-physical one, but since you want to go with the non-physical one, you're now going to have to demonstrate that there's any evidence for it in the first place. So let's have it.
  10. karenmansker HSIRI Banned

    " . . . . . . Frankly, my dear ( (sic, Tiassa) . . . . I don't give a damn" [Source: Clark Gable, as Rhett Butler, in 'GONE WITH THE WIND']
  11. Syne Sine qua non Valued Senior Member

    Wow, are you claiming to know how "all the processes of the mind, or self, are already facilitated by the brain"?! That's amazing! Please do tell...or at least point us to the paper certainly eligible for a Nobel.
    Dualism avoids regression altogether, but at the expense of compelling evidentiary claims, whereas reductionism makes compelling evidentiary claims, at the expense of being able to demonstrate them. You could flip a coin for all science currently has to definitive say about it.
  12. billvon Valued Senior Member

    That rationale can be used for any such external agency. We could have a soul directing our every thought, or we could all be puppets of Cthulhu, or our mental processes could be the result of subspace EMI interference from a giant blender in Alpha Centauri. All the above are equally likely.

    In general, Occam's Razor applies. Since, thus far, every single mental function we have been able to break down has broken down into activity by neurons (as modulated/propagated by neurotransmitters) that is the most likely explanation for synaptic plasticity (and the higher functions we call learning, morality, intention, awareness etc.)

  13. Tiassa Let us not launch the boat ... Staff Member

    Thank you for giving enough of a damn to let me know.
  14. Tiassa Let us not launch the boat ... Staff Member


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    Just to catch up on the general discussion:

    (1) Cogito ergo sum ― It is established in this context that if one is having an experience, then one is having an experience. While this seems redundant, the implication is to remind that whatever "reality" might be, the experience one is engaged in is the experience one is engaged in.

    (2) The Cave ― Philosopher Stephen Buckle↱ argued in 2007 the "broadly Platonic nature of Cartesian dualism", and that Descartes,

    provides clues sufficient for―and designed to encourage―reading the Meditations on First Philosophy in the light of distinctively Platonic doctrines, and in particular as a rewriting of the Platonic allegory of the cave for modern times.

    (3) Turing test ― A Turing test is designed to measure a perceived lack; to a certain degree this seems strange, because we humans have a hard time describing accurately the components, devices, and ways of what we believe computer systems and networks lack. That is to say, it seems more straightforward than defining art, but still, it's worth noting that the heritage running through history to Alan Turing includes René Descartes (Discourse on the Method), Denis Diderot (Pensées philosophiques), and Alfred Ayler, (Language, Truth and Logic). Each inquiry attends what the inhuman other (e.g., automata, parrot, unconscious machine) lacks. Here is a question, though: Could a human being pass a "Turing test" designed to measure a perceived lack about humans? That is, if the proverbial gods and angels, or extraterrestrial species, in assessing humanity, design a test intended to identify humanity according to its failure to pass the test, could we pass the test? In this context, the Turing test presumes, functionally speaking, that the computer system or network is incapable of escaping the Cave.​

    In the first place, asking the brain in the vat to pass its Turing test would be one of the first things we would want it to do; this is one of the great riddles of humankind.

    And then there is also the simple fact that you simply cannot prove ultimate conditions ultimately and thoroughly; at some point, the Cave is the Cave is the Cave. It's funny, actually; a lot of religious people remember this point when arguing against evolution, and try to call science a religion. See, the thing is that scientific "faith" is essentially that the Universe won't spontaneously cease to exist, without any warning whatsoever, right before teatime Tuesday next. Quite frankly, if the scientists are wrong, nobody's going to give a damn.

    Meanwhile, the thing about faith and science is that if, say, the science of carbon dating, for instance, was as wrong as Creationists need it to be, there would be no satellite communications. The difference between the mountaintop antenna and your mobile phone at sea level might even be problematic. No, seriously, it's like the game Booby Trap, or the proverbial, "What's this screw for?" If the existential reality of carbon was so different from our understanding, pretty much none of that math would work, because it's all intertwined.

    So here's the thing: It's true, our existential condition is actually beyond our comprehension, and whether or not we're all brains in vats, or holographic resolutions, or merely the mathematical accidents of physical and metaphysical glitch―how or why does anything exist at all? and what requires that differentiation?―the experiences we have are the experiences we have.

    I'm pretty certain I'm not lying in a coma somewhere, imagining myself typing these words, but, you know, it's possible. I am as sure as I can be that this body I perceive myself living in, or would imagine lying in a coma, is actually real. But I can't promise you. I can't prove it beyond all existence. The best we can do is get together and agree that, yes, it would appear that both of us exist.

    But we could still be brains in vats. I actually have a thesis about one of my favorite authors, that his magical fantasy world is actually a computer system or network, and that's originally based on a joke about how something in the story actually lights up and flashes like a hard drive indicator. But it's also a strikingly convenient analogy, with a potential file permissions hierarchy enabling different system pathways, and the possible presence of actual system users in some of the stories.

    If you like adventure stories, I might recommend the forty-some episodes comprising Darker Than Black―twenty-five in the first series, twelve in the Gemini of the Meteor sequel, and four interlinking episodes presented as interlinking OVA―which does, in fact, include alternate-reality philosophy apparently descended through Russian speculative fiction, though I can't remember the name. But you can certainly address brains in vats within that framework; Gemini is the prize, but, yes, it helps to watch the other stuff, too.

    And there is also Ergo Proxy, which includes an episode showing an entire population subject to imposed alternate reality as an alleged act of mercy. Then again, Ergo Proxy presents a twist on Descartes worth exploring: Cogito ergo es: "I think, therefore you are."

    It's a pretty good way of dealing with the Cave. As long as we can agree we're stuck in this experience together, we can experience this experience together.


    Buckle, Stephen. "Descartes, Plato and the Cave". Philosophy 82. 2007. 28 December 2016.
  15. Syne Sine qua non Valued Senior Member

    That rationale certainly could be used for any external agency, except only one has independently arisen from many different cultures throughout history. So not so equally likely.
    It is certainly reasonable to believe that the successes of science could go on to achieve a full explanation, but based on a whole history of culturally diverse belief, it may also be reasonable to believe that the native intuitions of the mind may hold some credibility. There is no definitive evidence to currently adjudicate the two. Just faith in one criteria or another.
    One assumes some as yet unknown evidence, while the other is basically evidentially agnostic. Until we find such evidence, the more agnostic view is more pragmatic.
  16. Capracus Registered Senior Member

    No need to equate, by definition it’s exactly that, unwanted sex by force.

    2: unlawful sexual activity and usually sexual intercourse carried out forcibly or under threat of injury against the will usually of a female or with a person who is beneath a certain age or incapable of valid consent

    It would be if it were contextually appropriate. Fictional violence, sexual or otherwise is a mainstay of literature and entertainment. Some people have an aversion to sexual content no matter how it’s presented.

    The inability to appropriately address fictional sexual violence in media, literature and discussion could be considered prudish.

    It’s a common argumentative device to include the opponent in a descriptive example, and you were the opponent. Are you going to claim you’ve never practice this yourself?

    As for fantasizing about raping you, I don’t recall slave master Capracus being part of the simulation. Though implied in the character identity, there is no presentation of sexual violence in the described simulation, but you seem to be going to great lengths to insert it.

    Any sense you have about your brain in the real world is available to an envatted brain.

    You apparently don’t understand the concept of causal reference you’re trying to employ. A causal physical connection can be an element in any causal reference. When you have a sufficient set of causal links and attributes, it is possible to reference one own brain, envatted or not.

    If the knowledge generated in the simulation is able to establish a sufficient set of causal links and attributes it does.

    The simulated subject’s eyes are the envatted brain’s visual interface with the simulation, all visual data is experience from the POV of those eyes. The envatted refers to the brain that sees through its eyes.

    That’s the whole point in establishing givens in a proposition, e.g., like assume x or y.

    Hypothetically inserting a person or fictional variation thereof into a circumstance involving violence of any sort for the purpose of argument or discussion does not necessarily constitute harassment.

    If while engaged in a discussion about Islamic extremism, I proposed a scenario where you were an aid worker in Syria, and during the course of your duties you were captured by ISIS and made a sex slave, as they have done to many. Would that and any further discussion it generated necessarily constitute sexual harassment?Would an irrational perception by you qualify it as such?
  17. Jan Ardena Valued Senior Member

    We don't have a soul, we are the spirit soul. That's what is being proposed.

    It takes consciousness to have mental activity, in order to make any mental diagnosis. It's like saying that the cause of the Christmas lights are due the electricity.

    “I regard consciousness as fundamental. I regard matter as derivative from consciousness. We cannot get behind consciousness. Everything that we talk about, everything that we regard as existing, postulates consciousness.” – Max Planck.

  18. Tiassa Let us not launch the boat ... Staff Member

    How Cartesian.

    Descartes preceded Newton, but his limitation was that he could only describe what he was observing, not resolve the actual workings the way Newton did. Thus, for instance, Descartes offers a very wordy description of what we will eventually come to know as inertia and lays groundwork for Newton's Laws of Motion.

    Cartesian conservation, though, is pretty straightforward. Historian Mark Steel summarized that the cake should not be hotter than the oven, which serves well enough.

    Everything that participates in consciousness depends on consciousness.

    Differentiation is relevant to us. As near as we can tell according to science, the Universe doesn't care either way; as near as we can tell according to philosophy, theology, and metaphysics, differentiation doesn't really make any logical sense from the perspective of a monotheistic godhead, as it indicates extraneity, or, more directly, instability of perfection―i.e., imperfection―about the nature of God.

    Planck is correct. I haven't figured a way to get a six hundred degree pizza out of a five hundred fifty degree oven. And Grimaldi's, as I understand it, tops eight hundred degrees Fahrenheit for their coal-fired pizzas. My oven won't hit eight hundred degrees Fahrenheit. And the difference between this, that, and the other is only relevant to me insofar as I am conscious enough to recognize that I exist in such a manner that these diverse aspects might be relevant to me. Our consciousness cannot transcend the fact of its own existence.
  19. billvon Valued Senior Member

    The flat-Earth theory arose from many different cultures throughout history, as are the basics of the creation story (land arising out of waters.) Several cultures believed that human sperm carried the essence of the child, and that the maternal contribution was just a place for the fetus to grow. The fact that all of those memes rose in several cultures independently has not lent them veracity.
    Or that humans have similar biases everywhere, and in the lack of any good information, make up similar-sounding stories.
    Agreed there. And in the agnostic view, galactic subspace EMI is just as likely as the soul as depicted in the various religions out there.
  20. Syne Sine qua non Valued Senior Member

    Where did I fail to address ANY of your fictional scenario? Show me, or admit this is just a useless justification for your behavior. Addressing and objecting are not mutually exclusive. How are people who object to being made the target of fictionalized sexual abuse prudes? The fact that you claim acceptance of rape scenarios is necessary to healthy sexuality is extremely disturbing. Do you also think an objection to fictionalized pedophilia is prude?

    That you cannot seem to distinguish "sex by force" from "sex" is sick.

    Please, do show me where I've cast my opponent in a fictitious scenario...and make sure it's one that includes a violation of forum rules.

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    The fact that you persisted in your fantasy scenario, after being told to stop multiple times, demonstrates your disregard for consent and seems to be congruent with your normalization of rape. The abuse implied by the label "sex slave" is more than sufficient grounds for sexual harassment. If you doubt it, I invite you to start casting your female coworkers as fictional sex slaves and see what happens.

    That's a proclamation, not an argument. An argument entails supporting your claim, which you haven't done.

    I agree. Physical causal connection is necessary, but not sufficient, to establish causal connection to reference. Again, you have yet to establish sufficient causal links to reference. You just keep making the bare assertion fallacy. Repetition does not establish validity.
    It's funny that you think you can school me on a subject I introduced you to.

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    Sure, but I'm still waiting for you to support your claim that it does.

    Maybe you're too obtuse (or more likely, dug in) to understand. What don't you understand about, "Since the envatted will always refer to his brain being the one behind his eyes, it is trivial that he does not reference his real brain elsewhere." He cannot know that the simulated space behind his simulated eyes is not his brain. Do you at least understand that much?

    The arm waving ain't helpin' ya. Assuming an a priori causal reference link to the original violates the gedanken.


    It does when you persist after being told to stop. After that, it becomes a form of dominance display, where you think you can disregard your target's wishes with impunity.

    If he objected, yes, that would constitute sexual harassment. Again, if you persisted in casting a female coworker in such a role, even when she objected, you would be harassing her. (As always, when in doubt, switch the gender or ethnicity.) Even aside from casting any specific person in such a scenario, there would have to be a pressing reason to make an argument, that has nothing to do with sex, sexual. And while your cherry-picked example may have such reason, your actual behavior here did not.

    And a woman would likely find all this justification just a way to continue expressing your disregard for her boundaries.
  21. Syne Sine qua non Valued Senior Member

    That is a false equivalence. It presumes that all intuited knowledge is necessarily false, when the cherry-picked examples do not establish that.
    Between a soul, Cthulhu, EMI, etc., the only one with anything at all to tip the scale is a soul. I didn't even imply it lent veracity, only Bayesian probability.

    Or that our thinking about the mind may tell us more, considering we cannot even properly define the qualia of conscious experience.

    Not according to Bayesian probability.
  22. billvon Valued Senior Member

    Not at all. It presumes that intuited knowledge is less accurate than knowledge arrived at through the various processes of science. I gave three examples where intuited knowledge is incorrect. There are other examples of where it is correct (usually partially.)
    If you are saying that the concept of the soul has no more veracity than any other imagined mechanism not based on science, I agree.
    Last edited: Dec 30, 2016
  23. Syne Sine qua non Valued Senior Member

    "Accurate"? Now, you can say intuited knowledge is less evidentially supported than scientific knowledge, but science cannot "accurately" define qualia, much less account for it. We have no reason to believe that science will crack the hard problem of consciousness, because qualia are outside the domain of science.

    Veracity is a conformity to facts. It is trivial that anything without evidence has less veracity than things that do. If you recognize the hubris in denying the limits of science, I agree.

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