Consciousness & the Brain

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Re: Consciousness & the Brain

Postby Dexing » Tue May 22, 2012 6:14 pm

That is a Buddhist species of non sequitur reasoning, akin to the divine fallacy of "I can't figure this out, therefore god did it", but instead "this is amazing, therefore past lives".

Where is the justification for jumping to that conclusion, as opposed to any another, because someone has an extraordinary talent? Human beings have amazingly wonderful brains with incredible capacities. Why is a "natural" explanation ruled out? Because of the odds? If I roll 25 dice on the table there is an astronomically slim chance that I can roll them a second time and have them not only be the same numbers, but land in exactly the same place on the table. Shall I attribute that first roll to a supernatural cause?

You see, I understand what you believe, and perhaps why, but I don't see how your why justifies the what.
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Re: Consciousness & the Brain

Postby Jnana » Tue May 22, 2012 6:29 pm

Dexing wrote:As I said, no one has ever come back from being brain-dead to tell a NDE story. So there is no example of consciousness outside the brain to have "memory" of a time when they were brain-dead. Hence, "near" death experience... When all electrical activity in the brain ceases, it doesn't start up again.

One of the compelling aspects of NDE and similar phenomena is that, in some cases at least, there isn't sufficient brain activity occurring to account for the awareness of the patient at that time. This calls into question the correlation between consciousness and the brain. However, one of the remaining difficulties is that it's not easy to objectively ascertain precisely when the NDE occurred in such cases.
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Re: Consciousness & the Brain

Postby Jnana » Tue May 22, 2012 6:44 pm

Dexing wrote:That is a Buddhist species of non sequitur reasoning, akin to the divine fallacy of "I can't figure this out, therefore god did it", but instead "this is amazing, therefore past lives".

Where is the justification for jumping to that conclusion, as opposed to any another, because someone has an extraordinary talent?

The sūtras are quite explicit that with sufficient training one can recall past existences, etc. It's part of the content of the Buddha's awakening via the three knowledges (trividyā; also one of the five higher knowledges: pañcābhijñā).
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Re: Consciousness & the Brain

Postby Acchantika » Tue May 22, 2012 6:48 pm

Dexing wrote:The emergence hypothesis is not put forth as fact, hence "hypothesis". If it were based on "specific metaphysical predilections" you would likely see it pushed as fact and not theory.


Hi Dexing,

The emergence theory of consciousness is not a hypothesis, because it isn't testable; it is a theory in the philosophy of mind, not science. A scientific hypothesis needs to be falsifiable, a philosophical theory doesn't. People often confuse these two, but it is nevertheless essential to understand the difference if one wishes to engage the debate.

What science has shown is that all indications suggest at least a brain is necessary for consciousness.


Actually, it is precisely because science has given no indication that a brain is necessary for consciousness to exist that the philosophical theory of emergence was invented. Emergence is, by their own admission, an attempt by Physicalists to explain why no empirical evidence, whatsoever, for consciousness exists. Furthermore, this is a proposition of Physicalism, a school of metaphysics. It is not the "view of science"; science has no view, it is a method.
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Re: Consciousness & the Brain

Postby Acchantika » Tue May 22, 2012 7:03 pm

Dexing wrote:You see, I understand what you believe, and perhaps why, but I don't see how your why justifies the what.


Perhaps then, you can tell us how much consciousness weighs, what density it is, how much spatial extension it has etc. or in fact any details about any of it's physical attributes. If you cannot, however, then what basis do you have to criticise "unjustified beliefs"?
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Re: Consciousness & the Brain

Postby steveb1 » Tue May 22, 2012 9:12 pm

Yes, that's part of the category problem: the simple fact that consciousness and selfhood are not material and do not comply with material parameters and evade material quantification. As has been mentioned before, the brain is some thing; I am some one. How is it that consciousness and the subjective self share virtually nothing with material functions and attributes, but some people insist on a purely materialistic view of life? Why is is that so many folks make a simple, uncritical identification of the subjective self with a piece of matter, i.e., with a three-pound skull organ?

The controversial but very bright neuroscientist/author Raymond Tallis partially addresses these questions, if anyone is interested, at:

http://wissen.dradio.de/neurowissenscha ... le_id=7498

... and ...

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wx9-k51TF9c

... and ...

http://www.spectator.co.uk/essays/all/7 ... rain.thtml

There do seem to be a number of very cogent reasons why "the hard problem" is still hard :)
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Re: Consciousness & the Brain

Postby Sherlock » Wed May 23, 2012 4:59 am

Old post by Malcolm:

Malcolm wrote:
mzaur wrote:
Namdrol wrote:"If ChNN says the brain is like an office then I don't have to accept it as a definitive truth. I can see it as a relative truth. If ChNN says the brain is appearance/emptiness inseparable then I would accept that as a definitive truth and proceed accordingly."

That reason why Norbu Rinpoche says this is because Dzogchen is predicated on an understanding of the human body that founded on medical ideas current in Tibet and India at that time.

In Dzogchen,the rtsal or energy of wisdom, ye shes, is specifically stated to be located in the brain. And the brain is specifically stated to be the organ that coordinates input from the five material sense organs. This is symbolized by the presence of the mandala of the 58 herukas in the brain, just as the eight consciousness are symbolized by the presence of the 42 peaceful deities in the heart.


I am curious...if this is so, then maybe Dzogchen needs a reboot given current medical ideas? There have been several advances since then


No, not at all. For example, the visual cortext located in the brain is responsible for sight on a coarse level. If it is destroyed, you cannot see, even if you have perfectly healthy eyes. If your eyes are destroyed, you cannot see, even if your visual cortex is undamaged. But if even if your sight is impaired, or you have brain damage that blinds you, you will still have dreams in which you have sight. This proves that visual consciousness is not located in the brain, necessarily.
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Re: Consciousness & the Brain

Postby Dexing » Wed May 23, 2012 5:35 am

Jnana wrote:
Dexing wrote:That is a Buddhist species of non sequitur reasoning, akin to the divine fallacy of "I can't figure this out, therefore god did it", but instead "this is amazing, therefore past lives".

Where is the justification for jumping to that conclusion, as opposed to any another, because someone has an extraordinary talent?

The sūtras are quite explicit that with sufficient training one can recall past existences, etc. It's part of the content of the Buddha's awakening via the three knowledges (trividyā; also one of the five higher knowledges: pañcābhijñā).


Yes, I'm familiar with what the sūtras say. I've studied mainly in the Yogācāra school and the Chinese equivalent school of Weishi for years. I have all of the obscure sūtras and śāstras associated with this school in my home collection, in English, Sanskrit, and Chinese.

I used to watch videos of people's critiques of Buddhism, because I was searching for a challenge and wanted to see what they had to say, but found each critique to be based on a misinterpretation or misrepresentation, or just a simple lack of familiarity on the subject.

Yogācāra, to me, makes perfect theoretical sense and is internally consistent. Other religions, like Christianity, are too easy to debunk inside and out. However, I really see no reason to be convinced that the Yogācāra model of consciousness is nothing more than a very well-structured theory. Especially when exploring neuroscience and gaining insights into how the organ of the eye works, for example. I'm not certain that they are compatible. In view of all the intricacies of the human brain and our universe, Yogācāra just seems too simplistic and reductional. It is internally consistent, but objectively...?
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Re: Consciousness & the Brain

Postby Dexing » Wed May 23, 2012 5:54 am

Acchantika wrote:
Dexing wrote:You see, I understand what you believe, and perhaps why, but I don't see how your why justifies the what.


Perhaps then, you can tell us how much consciousness weighs, what density it is, how much spatial extension it has etc. or in fact any details about any of it's physical attributes. If you cannot, however, then what basis do you have to criticise "unjustified beliefs"?


Never said I believe consciousness to be material. In fact, I never said I necessarily agree with the whole emergent property theory. But a property of something material need not be material itself.

Actually, it is precisely because science has given no indication that a brain is necessary for consciousness to exist that the philosophical theory of emergence was invented. Emergence is, by their own admission, an attempt by Physicalists to explain why no empirical evidence, whatsoever, for consciousness exists.


The fact that consciousness is only found when a living brain is present, and the lack of evidence of consciousness absent a brain, is a pretty strong indicator of the necessity of brain for consciousness. The emergence of consciousness is a theory of how they are related based on possible indications happening inside the brain, not just an idea made up with no reason.
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Re: Consciousness & the Brain

Postby Dexing » Wed May 23, 2012 6:03 am

Sherlock wrote:Old post by Malcolm:

Malcolm wrote:No, not at all. For example, the visual cortext located in the brain is responsible for sight on a coarse level. If it is destroyed, you cannot see, even if you have perfectly healthy eyes. If your eyes are destroyed, you cannot see, even if your visual cortex is undamaged. But if even if your sight is impaired, or you have brain damage that blinds you, you will still have dreams in which you have sight. This proves that visual consciousness is not located in the brain, necessarily.


That makes no sense. You're blind and have sight at the same time? No. You may form mental images during dreams, but that does not mean you can see. All you are "seeing" are imaginary images. It's not true sight. Even so, how would it prove visual consciousness is not located in the brain? Dreams are brain states.
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Re: Consciousness & the Brain

Postby Sherlock » Wed May 23, 2012 6:19 am

I don't know enough to have an opinion about this but another post from Malcolm:

Malcolm wrote:
yadave wrote:
Namdrol wrote:This is the point of view of physicalism ala Dennet, etc. And I do not think it is accurate at all. MRI, PET scans, etc., don't measure the mind. They measure the brain's bloodflow, etc., but they do not measure minds.

You seem to hold a substantialist view. There is no mind to measure. There is bloodflow and electrical patterns and nerve impulses that "seem" like a mind. The illusion is strong but there is really no independent mind.



Consciousness is classfied as a dravya [lit 'flow'], in classical Buddhist texts. So, conventionally, it is a substance, like water, or fire, it is not a material substance; it is a substance of a different order than material substances.

Namdrol wrote:But the cause and condition of a mind is not a brain, from a Buddhist perspective.

Judging from your disagreements with Gelugs and so on, I'm not sure a single Buddhist perspective exists. For example, HHDL seems pretty open to all this, MIT invites Buddhists to help with this work, there is even a new branch of "contemplative science." I find it fascinating rather than threatening and believe it will help us better understand ourselves and so be better able to relieve suffering.


The perspective on this in Tibetan Buddhism comes from the second chapter of Dharmakirti's Pramanasiddhi, where he systematically excludes physicalism. This text is shared by all schools of Tibetan Buddhism, and no one disagrees with its points. The reason why people disagree with Tsongkhapa is that his explanations of things are not discernable in Indian Madhyamaka literature, which he himself admits, combined with his and his disciples assertion that Tsongkhapa's Madhyamaka view came about largely as a result of a series of spiritual encounters he had with the bodhisattva Mañjuśrī, and not out of his personal intellectual investigations.

I don't feel threatened by research into cogntion and the brain. You might think that knowledge about the relationship between the brain and sense organs is modern, not know to Tibetan Buddhists before the 20th centruy -- but in point of fact Tibetan Medicine was aware of the connection between the brain, sense organs and internal organs from at least the 11th century and understood the function of the brain was to act as a central processsor for sense data, as well as the organ that goverend motor impulses, internal organ function, so on and so forth. All of this information is pretty clearly described in Tibetan Medical literature on nerve damage and head injuries.

...the onus is on you to show us a "mind" without an associated brain or person.


Such a demonstration is cognitively closed to anyone who has not developed the yogic capacity to know other minds directly. If one had that ability, then there are all kinds of phenomena in the universe one could experience but never prove to someone else who had not developed the same skills.


These recent scientific studies confirm ancient Buddhist truths. Anatta. Emptiness in spades. I would think this fascinating to anyone studying Buddhism.


Hume rejected a self too. Not too interesting, from my point of view. He also rejected necessary connection -- Nagarjuna beat him to the punch by 1500 years.

The fact that there is no identity, or self, is the natural conclusion of the logic of dependent origination. Scientic studies only confirm what some Buddhists have already known for millenia -- entities in causal relationships have no intrinsic nature or essence. If entities did, they would not need to be in causal relationships.

The primary difference between Buddhist schools was in how far down they were willing to extend that analysis. The non-Mahāyāna schools stopped at paramanus i.e. "atoms"; the Mahāyāna Yogacara school stopped at consciousness. Madhyamaka extended its analysis all the way and came up with emptiness as the basis of reality i.e. that in the end, reality has no objective basis whatsoever.

My teachers encouraged an attitude of curiosity. Hope I don't lose this.


The unwillingness to entertain the idea that yogis may possess knowledge that cannot be tested for in a lab is a form of lacking of curiosity. Thinking that PET scans, etc., prove that the mind is merely an epiphenomenal illusion is simply fundamentalist physicalism. The only thing these experiments prove is what Buddhists have been saying all along, mind and matter can interact, conventionally speaking. Pet scans don't work on formless realm beings. You would assert it is because they don't exist. Buddhists would assert that it is because they do not have physical bodies. As I said, you can only verify their existence yogically. You cannot share that perception directly in an empirical or testable fashion, because not everyone has the same capacity to do develop the necessary skills to perceive devas in the form and formless realms.

N

N
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Re: Consciousness & the Brain

Postby Jnana » Wed May 23, 2012 6:46 am

Dexing wrote:Yes, I'm familiar with what the sūtras say. I've studied mainly in the Yogācāra school and the Chinese equivalent school of Weishi for years. I have all of the obscure sūtras and śāstras associated with this school in my home collection, in English, Sanskrit, and Chinese.

I didn't mean to imply that you were ignorant of these sources. I remember from a previous thread a couple of years ago that you are quite knowledgeable of dharma materials. Here, the point was to acknowledge that we so choose we can use these textual sources and the verbal testimony of noble persons as sources of inferential cognition.

Dexing wrote:Yogācāra, to me, makes perfect theoretical sense and is internally consistent. Other religions, like Christianity, are too easy to debunk inside and out. However, I really see no reason to be convinced that the Yogācāra model of consciousness is nothing more than a very well-structured theory. Especially when exploring neuroscience and gaining insights into how the organ of the eye works, for example. I'm not certain that they are compatible. In view of all the intricacies of the human brain and our universe, Yogācāra just seems too simplistic and reductional. It is internally consistent, but objectively...?

There's nothing wrong with asking difficult questions....

IMO the developed Yogācāra model of consciousness is primarily theoretical. That theory is the result of various lines of inquiry, which might very well include some remnants of knowledge gained from yogic perception (yogipratyakṣa).
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Re: Consciousness & the Brain

Postby Dexing » Wed May 23, 2012 6:50 am

..the onus is on you to show us a "mind" without an associated brain or person.


Such a demonstration is cognitively closed to anyone who has not developed the yogic capacity to know other minds directly.


The James Randi Educational Foundation will offer a $1,000,000 prize to anyone who can demonstrate, under proper observing conditions, such "yogic capacity to know other minds directly". I imagine it would also bring along of people toward Dharma practice.

http://www.randi.org/site/index.php/1m-challenge.html
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Re: Consciousness & the Brain

Postby Sherlock » Wed May 23, 2012 7:15 am

Dexing wrote:
..the onus is on you to show us a "mind" without an associated brain or person.


Such a demonstration is cognitively closed to anyone who has not developed the yogic capacity to know other minds directly.


The James Randi Educational Foundation will offer a $1,000,000 prize to anyone who can demonstrate, under proper observing conditions, such "yogic capacity to know other minds directly". I imagine it would also bring along of people toward Dharma practice.

http://www.randi.org/site/index.php/1m-challenge.html


I think his point was that it's impossible to prove something like to someone else who doesn't have that ability.
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Re: Consciousness & the Brain

Postby Dexing » Wed May 23, 2012 7:28 am

I know, but even if it is cognitively closed to others it should still be a demonstrable skill. Śākyamuni Buddha apparently did it all the time.
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Re: Consciousness & the Brain

Postby Acchantika » Wed May 23, 2012 9:21 am

Dexing wrote:
Actually, it is precisely because science has given no indication that a brain is necessary for consciousness to exist that the philosophical theory of emergence was invented. Emergence is, by their own admission, an attempt by Physicalists to explain why no empirical evidence, whatsoever, for consciousness exists.


The fact that consciousness is only found when a living brain is present, and the lack of evidence of consciousness absent a brain, is a pretty strong indicator of the necessity of brain for consciousness.


Phenomenal consciousness isn't "found" empirically, ever - no testable qualities or quantities for it have been discovered. No test to prove that you are conscious to yourself or others exists, nor distinguish a conscious being from a non-conscious one. Having not discovered any quantifiable properties of it, there is no empirical way to ascertain that you yourself are conscious and that the apparently insentient is not, let alone that a brain is a necessary.

The emergence of consciousness is a theory of how they are related based on possible indications happening inside the brain, not just an idea made up with no reason.


The emergence theory of mind is a product of philosophers, not neuroscientists. As I mentioned, it is a response to a lack of evidence. It is not based on possible indications of a relationship, but the fact that after mapping the brain in full we were unable to find any. This is why most materialists now are eliminative, concluding that phenomenal consciousness simply doesn't exist because it wasn't where they thought it would be. I.e. even many materialists find emergence untenable and meaningless.
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Re: Consciousness & the Brain

Postby Dexing » Wed May 23, 2012 9:44 am

Acchantika wrote:Phenomenal consciousness isn't "found" empirically, ever - no testable qualities or quantities for it have been discovered. No test to prove that you are conscious to yourself or others exists, nor distinguish a conscious being from a non-conscious one. Having not discovered any quantifiable properties of it, there is no empirical way to ascertain that you yourself are conscious and that the apparently insentient is not, let alone that a brain is a necessary.


Have you been living under a rock?

The emergence theory of mind is a product of philosophers, not neuroscientists.


I would beg to differ, but can't be expected to do all your homework for you.

This information is easily found through internet searches.
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Re: Consciousness & the Brain

Postby Dechen Norbu » Wed May 23, 2012 11:18 am

Dexing wrote:
..the onus is on you to show us a "mind" without an associated brain or person.


Such a demonstration is cognitively closed to anyone who has not developed the yogic capacity to know other minds directly.


The James Randi Educational Foundation will offer a $1,000,000 prize to anyone who can demonstrate, under proper observing conditions, such "yogic capacity to know other minds directly". I imagine it would also bring along of people toward Dharma practice.

http://www.randi.org/site/index.php/1m-challenge.html

What a joke.
As Randi says, he will always have a way out. Randi is not a serious person. He is a loudmouth jerk that never did science any favor.
I could describe all that is wrong with this shebang but I'll just ask that you don't bring this kind of filth to this forum, please.
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Re: Consciousness & the Brain

Postby Dechen Norbu » Wed May 23, 2012 11:25 am

Dexing wrote:
Acchantika wrote:Phenomenal consciousness isn't "found" empirically, ever - no testable qualities or quantities for it have been discovered. No test to prove that you are conscious to yourself or others exists, nor distinguish a conscious being from a non-conscious one. Having not discovered any quantifiable properties of it, there is no empirical way to ascertain that you yourself are conscious and that the apparently insentient is not, let alone that a brain is a necessary.


Have you been living under a rock?

The emergence theory of mind is a product of philosophers, not neuroscientists.


I would beg to differ, but can't be expected to do all your homework for you.

This information is easily found through internet searches.

Please address other's arguments properly. Acchantika is well informed. Rechecking your sources, Dexing, could be a good idea. You seem to be reading the arguments of fundamentalists and trusting them as being unbiased. What you've been doing is parroting new atheists movement propaganda, instead of addressing the fair criticism other members have been posting. I ask you not to answer with sentences like the above. Acchantika is indeed informed and shows no signs of living under any rock; please tell me where does it say that the emergence theory of mind is a product of neuroscientists, not philosophers.

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Re: Consciousness & the Brain

Postby Dexing » Wed May 23, 2012 12:14 pm

Dechen Norbu wrote:What a joke.
As Randi says, he will always have a way out. Randi is not a serious person. He is a loudmouth jerk that never did science any favor.
I could describe all that is wrong with this shebang but I'll just ask that you don't bring this kind of filth to this forum, please.


I've seen the tests he has conducted. Didn't see anything wrong with the methods. But my post was more to the point that the capacity to know others' minds directly should be a demonstrable skill, even if cognitively closed to others. But I have yet to see anyone demonstrate it. The door stands open...

Dechen Norbu wrote:What you've been doing is parroting new atheists movement propaganda, instead of addressing the fair criticism other members have been posting.


This is the second time you've accused me of parroting new atheists movement propaganda. What such propaganda exactly have I been parroting? This topic has nothing to do with theism/atheism or even materialism, and I have quoted no one part of the new atheist movement.

Once again, I've merely stated what science has been able to indicate at this point and asked a question of Buddhists here. Criticizing materialists or science is not an attempt to form an argument in your favor. If you don't wish to offer an answer, please discontinue insulting my intelligence here.

I ask you not to answer with sentences like the above. Acchantika is indeed informed and shows no signs of living under any rock; please tell me where does it say that the emergence theory of mind is a product of neuroscientists, not philosophers.


If you must, this video for example was very easy to find upon a simple search on youtube.

The lecturer, Jay Gunkelman, is not a philosopher but is one of the worlds top neuroscientists and has specialized in qEEG and EEG neurofeedback for over 20 years. A pioneer in many areas of research related to the brain and its function.

In this video, Gunkelman describes how consciousness can be identified by emergent properties between the DC field potentials "glial"
and neural system "eeg rhythms" and how they interact to form consciousness.

It's a scientific theory based on indications happening inside the brain, not just a philosophical opinion without base.

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