Brain in a vat

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

  1. billvon Valued Senior Member

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    But we can. We can explain what wavelength of light we see as red, and explain to them (in terms from very basic physics) what other colors we see as red. They could then correlate that claim to apples, strawberries, red roses etc. And the aliens could then show US lots of red objects, and we would both agree on the color.

    Likewise, if you could say "thoughts emit weak EM at 3.75GHz" and could then track that emission both during life and after death, you'd have a strong argument that thoughts persist. But every indication we have of thought (action potentials, dynamic neurotransmitter gradients, firing rates etc) ceases after death - so the straightforward conclusion is thoughts cease as well.

    Let's take another example. Let's say you have an LED light bulb. You turn it on. It goes on. You turn it off. It turns off. You conclude it is a device for turning electrical power into light.

    "No," I say. "The light persists after you turn it off, so it's not converting electricity to light; it's converting manna to light."
    "What's manna?" you ask.
    "No one knows," I say.
    "But the light is off!" you state, pointing to the now-dark bulb.
    "It's really still on; you just can't see it," I say.

    Is that a reasonable argument?
     
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  3. Syne Sine qua non Valued Senior Member

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    You seem to have missed the bolded bit, which is what distinguishes qualia and makes its causative definition problematic. The wavelengths are only correlates to the experience. Depending on the quality of the optic receptors, those wavelengths do not even necessarily equate to the received signals, much less the subjective experience. Unless of course, you can explain why one person prefers blue and another red, based on the wavelengths alone.

    And? Without the wavelength of "red" are you completely incapable of experiencing the memory of "red"? Does the memory somehow reconstitute the wavelength? Does shutting down your computer mean you no longer exist, or just that your means to interact with the world of the web has stopped?

    That's a straw man argument. It assumes we know how the brain causes thought, self-reflection, self-direction, etc.. We do know how a light bulb works.

    Brain activity is a sufficient correlate to assume that thought is occurring, but it is not necessarily causative to thought unless we can establish how.




    But this is illustrative of the brain in a vat gedanken. Within a simulated world, you would be just as certain, as you seem to be here, that the simulated brain is necessarily causative of the subjective thoughts and identity. But if the you are a brain in a vat, the simulated brain and its simulated electrical emission have zero to do with your actual brain (which very well could be the total repository of all your thoughts and identity). IOW, correlated data is not knowledge to the extent of causative data. You can correlated your mind to that simulated brain all you like, but this simply does not constitute causative knowledge.

    Correlation does not imply causation.
     
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  5. billvon Valued Senior Member

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    We're not talking about subjective experience. We're talking about relatable objective experiences - to use your language, "we can only say what happens objectively, as an external observer." Those can serve as the basis of subjective experiences, but no two subjective experiences need be anything like each other.
    Nope. You remember the electrical activity of the cells in your eye that respond to red.
    If you are separate from your computer, then you continue to exist. However, you may no longer be able to sense that #FF0000 is red.
    In the case I mentioned you do NOT know how the light bulb works. (And I'd be willing to bet that you do not know the details of how a semiconductor material generates light, how phosphors are used to adjust CRI and how power factor correction is accomplished by the driver circuit.)

    So in this (quite real) case, you are claiming that simply having a general sense of how lights work (i.e. they turn electricity into light) is sufficient to discard claims like the "manna creates invisible light" claim.

    Likewise, having a general sense of how the brain works is sufficient to discard claims like "thoughts are independent of the brain."

    Agreed. And we can establish that. We can trace any given specific output (i.e. any expression of our thoughts) to neural activity.
     
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  7. Syne Sine qua non Valued Senior Member

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    How are we NOT talking about subjective experience when we're addressing things like thought, inherent to the mind? It is an artificial and a priori stipulation to grant only external observation credence. You seem to be asserting the primacy of science in a domain science cannot address.
    Since differing receptor quality in the eyes ensures that even the electrical activity may not be the same, how can the memory be said to be equivalent to the wavelength? Are you denying qualia?

    Exactly. Does your experience of red rely on the hexadecimal encoding outside of a computer? Isn't your experience the same, whether on a computer or in nature?

    Wait. Are you claiming we really don't know how a light bulb works, or have you moved the goalpost to a stipulation you didn't originally make? If the former, we certainly can trace each step of causation, so that would be nonsense. And even if an individual doesn't know the details, they can easily find out, since we've thoroughly tested and verified how light bulbs work. If the latter, we could certainly find out how light bulbs work through the scientific method.

    That (bolded) is a straw man and nonsense. Was the "general sense" that the earth was flat sufficient to discard claims that it was a sphere, before evidence for it's roundness was shown? Of course not, because the prior claim obviously had no real evidence as well...only naive appearance.

    So this straw man isn't my claim, but actually what you are arguing. So you do think flat-earth claims were sufficient to discard, as yet, unproven competing claims. That is a rather contemporaneous definition of knowledge that violates Gettier, since it could only be coincidentally true.

    We can correlate the two, but you seem to be making the claim that we can "trace" the causes, like we can a light bulb. Again, please tell us how, or point us to the certainly Nobel worthy paper.
     
  8. Kittamaru Now nearly 40 pounds lighter. Staff Member

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    You are trying to equate someone knowingly and willingly faking a smile (deception) to death... hardly an apples to apples comparison.

    We have technology that is quite adept at reading brain wave patterns, et al... when we say someone is "brain dead", it is fairly safe to assume they aren't conscious or thinking any longer...
     
  9. Beer w/Straw Transcendental Ignorance! Valued Senior Member

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  10. DaveC426913 Valued Senior Member

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    Unless you have some evidence and mechanism for consciousness after brain-death; we can safely accept that consciousness ends with brain-death.

    The onus lies with you on that one. And that'll be its own thread. Let us kow when it's posted.

    Until then, consciousness is seated in the brain - begins with it and ends with it.
     
    Last edited: Jan 6, 2017
  11. Magical Realist Valued Senior Member

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    You don't have to prove a mechanism. You have only to prove the survival of consciousness after dying:

    http://www.express.co.uk/news/scien...veal-shock-findings-from-groundbreaking-study
     
  12. Beer w/Straw Transcendental Ignorance! Valued Senior Member

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    I think not believing we are mortal makes us less human: empathy.
     
  13. Magical Realist Valued Senior Member

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    Sounds like an big old ad hom against believers in an afterlife. Who's goin to listen to a bunch of less human people who can't empathize with not existing after death.
     
    Last edited: Jan 6, 2017
  14. Beer w/Straw Transcendental Ignorance! Valued Senior Member

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    Cherish the life we have?

    I gather posting a video is frowned upon, but did you look at it?
     
  15. DaveC426913 Valued Senior Member

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    I've heard of Jill Bolte Taylor's experience.
     
  16. Magical Realist Valued Senior Member

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    What video? And who doesn't cherish the life they have?
     
    Last edited: Jan 7, 2017
  17. Syne Sine qua non Valued Senior Member

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    I didn't even imply "knowingly and willingly faking". People often smile out of unconscious social conditioning. Nor did was I intending to make a one-for-one comparison...only that your belief that you know someone's subjective experience based solely on the objective appearance is trivially false. You must assume the person is nothing but a physical body for cessation of brain function to necessitate cessation of thought, but that is an a priori assumption.

    Didn't you claim to be a Christian at one point?

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    So if it's outside of the domain of science, it's safe to assume it doesn't exist?

    The onus lies with the one making the evidentiary claim. I have not claimed anything of the sort. I've expressed agnostic skepticism that science can find overwhelming and compelling evidence that our minds and identities are solely derived from our brain. Since you seem to think that is the case, the onus is on you to prove it. I'll accept whatever the evidence says, so long as the evidence shows clear cause instead of just correlation.

    Until then, an agnostic view is completely justified.
     
  18. Beer w/Straw Transcendental Ignorance! Valued Senior Member

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    A link to a TED Talk.

    I did use the word we not 'they'.
     
    Last edited: Jan 7, 2017
  19. paddoboy Valued Senior Member

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    If its outside the domain of science it is by definition unscientific, and as yet, we have no evidence of any life beyond this.
    I have a spaceship in my backyard. Prove to me that is wrong.
    From my observation Kit appears to be a "believer" and yet still adheres quite correctly to the scientific methodology in general, with a good general knowledge of science.
    He certainly as a believer does not let his personal beliefs interfere with his application of science and the scientific method...for that I believe he has the respect and recognition of the forum administrators who have made him a mod, and the sciforum community in general, for the fair handed administrating of his mod duties.
    And no I'm not pissing in his pocket, and have also felt his moderating wrath directed at me at least twice. But then, no one is perfect

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    Remember the Father of the BB? It was a Belgian Priest named George LaMaitre.
     
  20. Syne Sine qua non Valued Senior Member

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    Are you claiming that science can know everything? That is as much science-of-the gaps as the overly religious claim god-of-the-gaps. Otherwise, where's your brilliant explanation for the hard problem of consciousness? When do you accept your Nobel prize?
    You cannot prove a negative. I'm not making any evidentiary claim, but since those who claim the brain causes consciousness, identity, etc. are making evidentiary claims, I'm waiting to see if they can ever support those claims. Do you understand the difference between correlation and causation?
     
  21. DaveC426913 Valued Senior Member

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  22. paddoboy Valued Senior Member

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    Of course not.

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    How do you work that out?
    We also have no direct answer to abiogenisis, but it still is the only scientific answer as to how life came to be.

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    No, they are in effect making the only scientific claim that is open.
    ID or any hint of it, is not a scientific explanation.
     
  23. Syne Sine qua non Valued Senior Member

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    Only scientific claim available? Oh, like flat-earth theory prior to, you know, what actually is? So something must be true because it's the only scientific theory? That's a false dilemma, proven time and again to be fallacious.
    Who said anything about ID?
     

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