Nature of Consciousness

Greg Goode goode at DPW.COM
Tue Jul 20 10:18:23 CDT 1999

Greg wrote:
>>In metaphysics, we question and investigate the concepts of brain, person,
>>states and consciousness themselves.  We don't take these concepts or their
>>definitions for granted.

Robert wrote:
>Excuse me, but you're making this too complicated. I simply asked how a
>living human being can have any mental (or other) state in the absence of
>brain physiology. Living, conscious people have functioning brains, and
>these brains cannot be arbitrarily excluded from our understanding of people
>and their mental states. Brain physiology is _always_ a key element in any
>mental state of a living person.

Greg writes:
If questioning the concepts of person, brain, states, etc. is too
complicated, then the result is that you are restricting the question to
the realm of psychobiology, physiology, biology, etc.  In these fields, the
person, brain physiology are assumed.  The questions proper to these
disciplines then pertain to the interactions between brain and functioning
of the organism.  In that I can agree: according to the terms and
assumptions of these disciplines, the brain physiology IS a key condition
in the mental state of the person.

Greg wrote (about brain states and behavior in psychology/science, etc.):
>>Yes, these phenomena can be observed, but they can't count against the
>>non-dual view.  (How could anything?)

Robert wrote:
>The "How could anything" is part of the problem. When a position becomes
>true by definition, so that its inevitable truth is entailed by the way it
>is framed, then we have a right to wonder whether anything of substance is
>actually being said. "All bachelors are unmarried."

Greg writes:
Because we seem to be talking just about science, there is no problem.
With the possible exception of the newer quantum physics, scientific
evidence doesn't usually can count against one metaphysical view or another
- nor is it asked to.  That's not its job.  Your questions in the first
section above are like that.  Neither the non-dual view nor a dualistic
view is implicated.  This is what I meant about "How could anything?"  This
approach is something that can never adjudicate for or against a
metaphysical view, non-dualistic, dualistic, or any other.  When the
questions become metaphysical, THEN the views of reality are in play.


Greg wrote:
>>Causation as a forceful power or phenomenon is NEVER observed.
>> See David Hume's Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding.  So there can be
>>statistical generalities laid out as theorems.  But to say that A causes B
>>is unscientific.

Robert wrote:
>We can observe not only succession, but dependence.

We *infer* dependence.  We observe actions, movements, meter readings, etc.

>We know without doubt
>that massive injury to the brain results in loss of consciousness,
>awareness, and personality. Does it not seem reasonable and realistic to
>infer some dependence, and thus causality, in this case?

Dependence is another thing assumed by science, a relation between
observable actions.   The inference to causality is unnecessary, and
science does away with it largely by a kind of statistical instrumentalism.
 Such as "In X percentage of cases when Y is done, Z is observed to occur.
Similar future cases will probably yield like results."

[Greg said mother is like the brain, both necessary for waking-state

>It's not quite the same. If my mother dies tomorrow, my consciousness,
>personality, self image, sense of 'I-am,' and so on will continue
>unimpinged, even if I have been plunged into grief.

Yes, in this way they are different, and science treats of brain states.
Psychotherapy deals with mother-states.


>>But if all our states and the brain itself occur only as perceptions,
>>sensations and thoughts, then whatever we hypothesize as being Out There is
>>again occurs only as perceptions, sensations and thoughts.  Nothing ever
>>breaks out of the loop, for it is "in" consciousness whenever we say it is
>>not.  For the very "it" itself is something cognized in consciousness.

>Again my point: the argument you are making is true by definition, and so
>supports nothing. Human consciousness _is_ the medium of all human
>experience, whether or not it is produced and sustained by the nervous
>system. In other words, the same considerations remain inevitable even under
>a totally materialistic set of assumptions. Therefore how can they be used
>to support one position over the other.

Not true or valid by definition, but uttered when I thought we were talking
about metaphysics.  Within experimental psychology, psychobilogy, etc.,
non-dualism is a non-issue.

One position over another... Yes, this is exactly what I said above about
science and metaphysics.  With the possible exception of the new quantum
physics (Amit Goswami, etc.), science doesn't ask or purport to answer
metaphysical questions.  But then your statements immediately above are not
metaphysical either, they are scientific generalizations.  No problem.



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