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» Hatrack River Forum » Active Forums » Books, Films, Food and Culture » Magnetic Field Applied to the Brain Can Alter People's Sense of Morality (Page 2)

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Author Topic: Magnetic Field Applied to the Brain Can Alter People's Sense of Morality
Strider
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quote:
Are you suggesting that someone might express a different morality for their own actions than for the actions of others?
I didn't specifically answer your question Matt. Yes, I do think that. And I think that because I am able to take my own intentions into account when judging my own behavior, without using my RTPJ, that is not true for judging other people. The disruption of that brain region would keep my judgments of my own actions the same, while changing my judgments of others' actions. And in general, without knowledge of someone else's intentions I might judge them differently than I judge myself.
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Itsame
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quote:
Originally posted by natural_mystic:
quote:
Originally posted by JonHecht:
quote:
Originally posted by scifibum:
"I think, therefore I am" resonates with everybody, and we all experience ourselves making choices and feeling things.

I'm going to get yelled at now... I deny that there is any good reason to believe in the self or "I".
Please elaborate.
Well, there are a lot of good arguments, such as those presented by Hume.

My reason for denying the self is something completely different, though, that I doubt anyone (aside from Hartry Field) would agree with. I'm a mereological nihilist. Yay. Fun stuff.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mereological_nihilism

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scifibum
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quote:
Originally posted by JonHecht:
quote:
Originally posted by scifibum:
"I think, therefore I am" resonates with everybody, and we all experience ourselves making choices and feeling things.

I'm going to get yelled at now... I deny that there is any good reason to believe in the self or "I".
I'm also interested in elaboration, but I'm not going to yell at you in any case.

I note that you're still using the word "I" the same way that it's used in the sentence you quoted, even as you deny the existence of its referent. [Wink]

Edit: Oops, I posted before I saw the elaboration. I'll see if I have any chance to understand what that mereoleic nibblism thing is.

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Strider
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natural_mystic, much of the data coming from psychology and neuroscience tells us that our everyday conception of the self is far from true. When we begin to understand that there is no real "I" that makes decisions and acts, but rather that there are a whole load of competing processes and subsystems, all processing data and producing some output, the idea of a self falls by the wayside.
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scifibum
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quote:
Originally posted by Strider:
natural_mystic, much of the data coming from psychology and neuroscience tells us that our everyday conception of the self is far from true. When we begin to understand that there is no real "I" that makes decisions and acts, but rather that there are a whole load of competing processes and subsystems, all processing data and producing some output, the idea of a self falls by the wayside.

What I was getting at - badly - is that even if we begin to understand the everyday conception of a self isn't accurate, it's still experientially essential. I don't think the idea can fall by the wayside, because it's central to our conscious perception. Perhaps we'll find other modes of consciousness, but until we do, it's not a concept we can abandon, even if we want to.
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MightyCow
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quote:
Originally posted by JonHecht:
I'm going deny that there is any good reason to believe in the self or "I".

I guess you fail to see the irony of this claim.

Who is denying the claim?

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Strider
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scifibum, there are different ways to abandon a concept. Intellectually I think the idea of a self is an illusion. But I agree with the meat of your post.

Just like intellectually I understand that water is hydrogen and oxygen, but that doesn't help me drink it.

I also think free will is an illusion and it doesn't stop me from treating other people as if they do have it. Though it certainly helps inform the way I think about certain things.

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Tresopax
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quote:
I don't have to see the roller coaster as anything more than bolts and steel for it to produce a pleasurable or frightening experience. I don't have to view a movie as more than a projection of light through film in order to experience all that a film can produce in me.
This illustrates that you can take benefits from something without understanding why it has the benefits it has. You can take medicine without knowing anything about chemicals or biology. You can live in a house without knowing what it is constructed with. And you can experience life without ever believing it consists of anything more than protons and electrons. So, no, simply believing in strict materialism does not prevent you from experiencing all aspects of human life - although I think it may make it difficult or impossible to explain some of those aspects within your worldview.
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MattP
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quote:
This illustrates that you can take benefits from something without understanding why it has the benefits it has.
That was pretty much my whole point. That the experience of humanity is not tied very much to our opinions about the fundamental nature of existence.

quote:
So, no, believing in strict materialism does not take away any of your humanity - although I think it may make it difficult or impossible to explain aspects of that humanity within your worldview.
Well, no. It just makes me think that "I don't know [at this time]" is a more honest answer to some of those issues. Having an explanation is not the same thing as having a correct explanation, after all.
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Xavier
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quote:
So, no, simply believing in strict materialism does not prevent you from experiencing all aspects of human life - although I think it may make it difficult or impossible to explain some of those aspects within your worldview.
Like what?
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Xavier
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Also, the wiki on Mereological nihilism is interesting, but it seems to me that if nothing composed of parts exists, than pretty much nothing exists at all. Even atomic particles are made out of quarks, and even those quarks may be made out of something else.
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Tresopax
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quote:
Like what?
Like the experience of joy or pain (I don't think these can be explained by the sort of world Daniel Dennett proposes).
Or perhaps more importantly, why things matter (which becomes very had to explain without things like joy and pain to give worth to elements of life).

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Juxtapose
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quote:
natural_mystic, much of the data coming from psychology and neuroscience tells us that our everyday conception of the self is far from true. When we begin to understand that there is no real "I" that makes decisions and acts, but rather that there are a whole load of competing processes and subsystems, all processing data and producing some output, the idea of a self falls by the wayside.
I sort of suspect that the thing we think of as "self" refers to a single type of brain process, of the many we may be running. I further suspect that that process is the one that allows us to anticipate things.

EDITED to add quotes.

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Strider
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Matt, before the thread goes completely off track, does what I said on the previous page about morality and this experiment make sense?
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Itsame
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quote:
Originally posted by MightyCow:
quote:
Originally posted by JonHecht:
I'm going deny that there is any good reason to believe in the self or "I".

I guess you fail to see the irony of this claim.

Who is denying the claim?

No, I see the irony (teehee, there it is again). "I" is merely shorthand for "those parts aligned me-wise" or some other like thing.

And concerning mereological nihilism entailing the denial of everything, what about strings? That seems satisfactory.

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Strider
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Juxtapose, but my point is exactly the opposite. That what we think of as the self is made up of LOTS of brain processes. Would you say that the self is mainly what we consider as consciousness? If it's more than just what we're conscious of, you already have a division in processes. But even consciousness, which we're far from understanding, depends on the functioning, and communications between, many different brain systems. There is no central hub that all these systems feed into which can be called the seat of your "I". Your sense of self comes about from the interplay of all these things simultaneously.
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Itsame
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My real issue is how to account for mutability over time, even if we take the conscious state as a "whole", do we deny that it is subject to time? That, combined with my mereological nihilism, is a problem. Not to mention all those fun little thought experiments that appear to be so damaging, such as Parfit's (I think he comes to the wrong conclusions based on his experiments, and the proper conclusion is not only to deny identity but to deny the survival of the self as well, for what is the self without identity?)
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Xavier
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quote:
Like the experience of joy or pain...
I know you believe that experience is somehow distinct from the physical, electrical, and chemical goings on of your brain. However, I don't believe I've ever seen you present a rational for this besides "my brain tells me my experience isn't from my brain". Declaring that you know them to be separate doesn't mean it is hard to explain with a materialistic view.

quote:

Or perhaps more importantly, why things matter (which becomes very had to explain without things like joy and pain to give worth to elements of life).

"Why things matter" is not an aspect of human life, so I don't see how that's relevant to the discussion at hand. My personal answer is: nothing "matters" unless you think it does, in which case it matters to you only. When many people in a society have things that matter to them then I suppose matters to the society as a whole. Starting from a premise that "things matter" doesn't mean much to those who don't accept your premise.
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Juxtapose
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I'm probably using "process" incorrectly here. I mean, something in our brain allows us to perform a kind of calculus. We track trajectories. We do it when we're trying to catch a ball, or anticipate someone's behavior (including, I think, our own). Whatever that thing is, it's what I'm calling a process. If you're using process in a strictly neurological sense, well, I just won't really be able to keep up with that conversation for very long. [Smile] If you're saying that our predictive behavior is known to be made up of many different neurological processes, consider me to be in agreement with you.

I think there are other processes we're conscious of, but which we are traditionally less likely to think of as self. Speculating even further, I think that would explain a portion of religious behavior.

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natural_mystic
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quote:
Originally posted by JonHecht:
Well, there are a lot of good arguments, such as those presented by Hume.

My reason for denying the self is something completely different, though, that I doubt anyone (aside from Hartry Field) would agree with. I'm a mereological nihilist. Yay. Fun stuff.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mereological_nihilism

quote:
Originally posted by Strider:
natural_mystic, much of the data coming from psychology and neuroscience tells us that our everyday conception of the self is far from true. When we begin to understand that there is no real "I" that makes decisions and acts, but rather that there are a whole load of competing processes and subsystems, all processing data and producing some output, the idea of a self falls by the wayside.

Interesting stuff. Thanks.
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Strider
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natural mystic, It's sort of like the humunculus fallacy. You open your eyes and you see the world. But "who" is actually seeing? It's not like there's a little man inside your head watching the input from your eyes like a picture on a screen(it would just beg the question who is watching from inside their head). Light falls on your retina, which sends signals back to your primary visual cortex, where different pathways are carrying information about color or contrast or area of the visual field, etc...none of this is available to your conscious self(damage to the signal leaving your visual cortex will leave you blind even if the signal makes it all the way there unaffected). After these signals leave the visual cortex they are actually broken up into two main pathways, one which determines "what" you're looking at, and a separate one which determines "where" it is(certain types of brain damage will allow someone to identify what they're looking at but not be able to tell you where it is, and visa versa). There is no one area where the picture you see of the outside world "comes together".*

I imagine consciousness, and thus the self, is similar.

*this was a necessary vague account of vision...

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Tresopax
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quote:
I know you believe that experience is somehow distinct from the physical, electrical, and chemical goings on of your brain. However, I don't believe I've ever seen you present a rational for this besides "my brain tells me my experience isn't from my brain". Declaring that you know them to be separate doesn't mean it is hard to explain with a materialistic view.
It'd be more along the lines of "my mind tells me that my experience is not consistent with the properties of a thing that could be part of my brain". And given that my personal experience is a subjective thing only observable by my mind, I'm not sure how there could be any rationale other than one based on what my mind tells me.

quote:
"Why things matter" is not an aspect of human life, so I don't see how that's relevant to the discussion at hand. My personal answer is: nothing "matters" unless you think it does, in which case it matters to you only. When many people in a society have things that matter to them then I suppose matters to the society as a whole. Starting from a premise that "things matter" doesn't mean much to those who don't accept your premise.
Why do you believe that thinking something matters makes it matter, even if just to you? I don't think there's an answer to that under materialism. If you build a purely material robot that takes in inputs and outputs "these inputs matter to me", I don't think those inputs actually matter to the robot, no matter how much the robot is programmed to "think" it matters.
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Itsame
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I think what is intended is that if something is genuinely valuable, then its value is intrinsic, and thus our recognition of it as such is irrelevant. This applies to materialism and anything else.
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Xavier
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quote:
It'd be more along the lines of "my mind tells me that my experience is not consistent with the properties of a thing that could be part of my brain". And given that my personal experience is a subjective thing only observable by my mind, I'm not sure how there could be any rationale other than one based on what my mind tells me.
I fail to see how that makes it something that materialism has to explain, except perhaps to you and anyone else that has been convinced in a similar fashion as you have. My own mind has come to no such conclusion, so its not something I need to explain to myself.

quote:
Why do you believe that thinking something matters makes it matter, even if just to you? I don't think there's an answer to that under materialism. If you build a purely material robot that takes in inputs and outputs "these inputs matter to me", I don't think those inputs actually matter to the robot, no matter how much the robot is programmed to "think" it matters.
I think you didn't pick up on why I was using the scare quotes. I do not believe that anything objectively matters. Whether something matters or not is entirely subjective to a person. I don't think the way humans view something to matter is much different from your hypothetical robot.
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Strider
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not entirely subjective...what matters to us is in large part due to our particular evolutionary history and physiology. though it manifests itself differently in people based on their genetics and experience.
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Itsame
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Psst, that means subjective, but to a larger group.
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Xavier
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quote:
not entirely subjective...what matters to us is in large part due to our particular evolutionary history and physiology. though it manifests itself differently in people based on their genetics and experience.
I don't disagree with any of this. I would include evolution as be a factor in what led to your brain being the way it is, and the brain is the entity that derives what matters to a person.
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Strider
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fair enough, but I do think it's worth noting. There are objective facts you can state about what humans value GIVEN evolution/physiology.
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Itsame
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But what humans value has nothing to do with what is actually valuable. Merely what we value. If what we value happens to lock on to what is actually valuable (if there is any such thing), then that would merely be a happy accident. Now I have no idea what the conversation is about, anyway. Whatever.
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Strider
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define "value" and "valuable". My point isn't there are objective truths of the universe, but that there are objective human truths. The conversation was about "why things matter"...I think! [Smile] And while what particular things matter to each individual might be relatively subjective, they are all based on fundamental truths regarding the human condition. Because natural selection and evolution led to brains that control bodies that avoid pain and seek pleasure, etc...
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swbarnes2
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quote:
Originally posted by Tresopax:
It'd be more along the lines of "my mind tells me

Can you explain the practical method one uses to distinguish between "what your mind tells you" and "what you wish to be true"?

Because I suggest that if you have no answer, you substitute my phrasing for yours (since they are practically indistinguishable, even to you), and see how convincing it sounds then.

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King of Men
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quote:
Originally posted by JonHecht:
But what humans value has nothing to do with what is actually valuable.

By what other yardstick do you propose to measure value? Do you intend to go around looking at atoms for the little XML tag that says 'valuable = yes'? Even if there were an obelisk on Mars stating that coffee is valuable and tea is not, why should you care, if it happened that you like tea better? You can't very well say to yourself "My perception of which tastes better has been wrong, and I should work on getting my rebellious neurons to recognise true value". The only possible response to an outside force telling you what's "actually" valuable is to say "I disagree", and continue as before. There is nothing you can substitute for your own judgement, even if you are religious; for a religious person must decide that the words of his god are correct, before he can follow their guidance as to value.
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Itsame
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Kom: I don't think you read the third sentence in that post. "If what we value happens to lock on to what is actually valuable (if there is any such thing)" That is to say, there might be things that have intrinsic value. For example, some people claim that knowledge is intrinsically valuable. What does that mean? I don't really know, but some people claim it. I'm not even sure what the term "valuable" as such mean, even if it is intended to be solely in relation to human value. If a human values short life, then life extending things are not valuable. The term "valuable" is problematic.

I am simply trying to use the terms that have been used. And my way of using it does not appear any more problematic than any other. So if you want to give a strict definition of value that avoids these issues, please feel free to do so and I would very much appreciate it, though I doubt it would match with what someone else's conception of value is.

Strider: See the above on value.

"My point isn't there are objective truths of the universe, but that there are objective human truths." I have no idea what the hell objective means at this point, or objective human truths. Objective truths about humans or objective within humanity or what? And I think we're using the word objective in different ways. Do you mean universal, as in it applies to all humans? If so, then that is clearly not the case, as there are exceptions (though you might want to say that they are aberrations and thus not really human, but this is not entirely satisfactory). The best that you can say is that, (probably) because of evolution, humans tend to do X. That is all you can say. This has nothing to do with anything being objective or universal. This is an empirical diagnosis.

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sinflower
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quote:
What I was getting at - badly - is that even if we begin to understand the everyday conception of a self isn't accurate, it's still experientially essential. I don't think the idea can fall by the wayside, because it's central to our conscious perception. Perhaps we'll find other modes of consciousness, but until we do, it's not a concept we can abandon, even if we want to.
What about "out of body experiences"? When experiencing one, people find that their sense of self becomes separate from their body. Often they will say things like "My body down there is in pain" but not experience the emotional repercussions of that pain themselves. And that's simple-- a good dose of ketamine can create the sense of separation from certain of our bodily and mental processes, in which the person doesn't identify them with "I" anymore--but they're still having conscious perception, aren't they? They just don't associate some of the things they perceive as part of "themselves" anymore. And then there's the phenomenon where we can induce people, via a complex arrangement of mirrors/lighting, to think that a mask is part of their "self" and respond accordingly. We can also induce people to think that they're personally experiencing sensations they are actually only seeing other people experience. So the conception of self is pretty easily altered, and we'll no doubt discover more methods of doing that in the future. Maybe methods of picking and choosing what we consider part of our conscious selves.

Of course we're nowhere near the point where we can fiddle with our conscious perception of self in any sort of useful or even non-detrimental ways... I think we agree that a constant state of "out of body" isn't a very safe way to live. But I think the day when we CAN manipulate our everyday conception of self, and our conscious perception, safely and positively, isn't as far off as we may think.

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MightyCow
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Sinflower: I would file all those experiences under "delusion", or at least "confusion." Imagining that one doesn't have a body does not make that true any more than seeing a magic trick makes the Statue of Liberty disappear.

Out of body experiences are illusionary. We are easily fooled. There still must be someone who is being fooled. Do "I" stop being myself when I'm drunk?

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sinflower
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quote:
Imagining that one doesn't have a body does not make that true any more than seeing a magic trick makes the Statue of Liberty disappear.
I think you're misunderstanding the situation. It is not imagining that one does not HAVE a body--it is receiving and perceiving input from certain bodily processes but no longer associating this information with the subjectively created entity we call our "conscious self." It's quite extraordinary that this can be consistently induced by physical changes in the brain. The effect is illusory only in the sense that "the self" in itself is illusory. It may be, depending on what your definition of illusory is--but what matters is that it shows we can reliably alter, through physical and inducible changes, such an integral thing as our sense of self. It shows that there isn't one immutable set of physical processes and inputs that we can associate with "the self," but that this set is alterable, and that what we currently categorize as "consciousness" can come in different modes. This is quite, if you think about it, awe-inspiring.

[ April 01, 2010, 01:14 AM: Message edited by: sinflower ]

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Tresopax
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quote:
I fail to see how that makes it something that materialism has to explain, except perhaps to you and anyone else that has been convinced in a similar fashion as you have.
Yes - it is something that materialism has to explain to me. When it comes to me deciding what *I* should believe, that's what matters.

For you, it you truly don't have nonphysical subjective experiences, then I agree that there's no reason that'd be a problem with materialism for you. But, given that originally I believed subjective experience was simply neuron firings until a great deal of analysis and introspection convinced me otherwise, I think its possible that you also could be convinced.

quote:
I think you didn't pick up on why I was using the scare quotes. I do not believe that anything objectively matters. Whether something matters or not is entirely subjective to a person. I don't think the way humans view something to matter is much different from your hypothetical robot.
But again, I don't see why things would even subjectively matter under materialism. I wouldn't say that anything really subjectively matters to that robot. The robot just acts as if it does.

To value something is a nonphysical function of the mind - without it, you can't even subjectively care. The best you could do is act as if you were something that cared. If "I act as if I care about it" is all that you mean by saying something is subjectively valuable to you, then okay. But that's now what I think of when I say something is valuable to me. I think that it actually means that thing is valuable to me in my mind, regardless of how I act.

quote:
Can you explain the practical method one uses to distinguish between "what your mind tells you" and "what you wish to be true"?
If it wouldn't cease to appear true if you started wishing it is false, then you'd know it is not just what you wish to be true.
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Xavier
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quote:
Yes - it is something that materialism has to explain to me. When it comes to me deciding what *I* should believe, that's what matters.
Why should a materialist care what you believe?

The quote was this:
quote:
So, no, simply believing in strict materialism does not prevent you from experiencing all aspects of human life - although I think it may make it difficult or impossible to explain some of those aspects within your worldview.
But this is dishonest, because materialists can explain the things you've come up with as examples quite easily. It is just that the answers don't satisfy you, who has already decided that materialism is false.

quote:
To value something is a nonphysical function of the mind..
You keep claiming things like this as if saying them makes it true.
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Tresopax
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quote:
Why should a materialist care what you believe?
Because chemicals in their brain make them act that way? [Wink]

But really.... people should care what other people believe because sometimes what one believes is wrong, and by exchanging beliefs one can sometimes improve or check one's own. In the case of materialists, I think they should care about what I believe, because I have faith that their consciousness operates the same way mine does, and thus we can better understand the ways our minds work by comparing the way we think about it.

But beyond that.... KoM asked why I believe what I do. If people don't care, or don't want to know, don't ask!

quote:
But this is dishonest, because materialists can explain the things you've come up with as examples quite easily. It is just that the answers don't satisfy you, who has already decided that materialism is false.
If you see your car with a broken windshield and your neighbor is standing next to it with a baseball bat, and if you ask your neighbor to explain how the window suddenly was broken, and if your neighbor responds by saying "Oh no, your car window is not broken", that isn't really explaining it.
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rollainm
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sinflower, I agree with MC that the out of body experience is just a delusion. More specifically, it's a delusion influenced or brought about by the numbing or confusion of certain processes in the brain. The person has a limited awareness of, say, pain or physical contact and the mind simply fills in the gaps in much the same way it would with an optical illusion or, as a better example, when being physically disturbed while dreaming. In other words, it's nothing extraordinary.
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naledge
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So does this mean that HAARP could be used as a mind control device? [Dont Know]

-nal

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Strider
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quote:
Originally posted by rollainm:
sinflower, I agree with MC that the out of body experience is just a delusion. More specifically, it's a delusion influenced or brought about by the numbing or confusion of certain processes in the brain. The person has a limited awareness of, say, pain or physical contact and the mind simply fills in the gaps in much the same way it would with an optical illusion or, as a better example, when being physically disturbed while dreaming. In other words, it's nothing extraordinary.

actually, I agree with sinflower's interpretation of this. Sure, it's nothing mystical, but it is amazing that it can happen. And we know how it can happen, and how to induce it. Which tells us that it's a very real physical phenomena, and it also tells us something very important about the nature of the self and consciousness.
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aspectre
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http://news.cincinnati.com/article/20100331/NEWS01/4010346/She+had++monster+tumor+
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Strider
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MattP and KoM, did you guys see my responses to you on the previous page? Does what I said make sense?
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King of Men
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Nu, the point seems to be open to experiment: Have people play the ultimatum game or some other measure of altruism while under the magnet, and see what happens.
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Mike
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quote:
Originally posted by Tresopax:
But, given that originally I believed subjective experience was simply neuron firings until a great deal of analysis and introspection convinced me otherwise, I think its possible that you also could be convinced.

I, for one, would love to hear more details about the analysis and introspection that so convinced you. Indeed, if it was so convincing, you should be able to explain why it changed your mind.
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