What is a mind?

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Reply Sun 17 Jan, 2010 09:51 am
Just seems like a fundamental question for the study of Epistemology but is annoying skipped over. This leads people to assume a precise, correct definition of 'a mind' which they use in their reasoning but they haven't rigorously evaluated that definition - besides which people often disagree on defintions.

A few assertions that I currently think I subscribe to but which could be criticised:

All knowledge derives from sense-data

knowlegde is essentially subjective (knowledge only exists in the subject's mind, not in the 'external' world) - though it could refer to an objective world.

a mind collects and evaluates sense data (uses it in reasoning out propostions)


we don't need to sort this question out in one go, but lets make some intelligent groudwork Smile

also I define a 'subject' as 'a thing with a mind' and an 'object' as 'a thing without a mind' (the terms subjective and objective should be read respectively as refering to 'things of the mind' and 'things outside the mind')
 
prothero
 
Reply Sun 17 Jan, 2010 02:28 pm
@Greg phil,
Greg;120653 wrote:
also I define a 'subject' as 'a thing with a mind' and an 'object' as 'a thing without a mind' (the terms subjective and objective should be read respectively as refering to 'things of the mind' and 'things outside the mind')
Just what "things" have minds and which "things" dont in your view? Do dogs have minds? cats, bats, fish? Where in the chain of being does mind stop? How do you know? How did mind emege from no-mind?
What are the properties of mind? perception, memory, interiority, choice?
What makes you think the distinction between subjects and objects can be made? What if "all things" are both subjects and objects?
 
Greg phil
 
Reply Sun 17 Jan, 2010 03:01 pm
@Greg phil,
Umm well the exact boundaries between things with minds and without wasn't really the point of the topic but i'll throw in a couple of flimsy guesses: I think all animals with senses like sight for example have a mind that can recieve at least some sense data and then form judgements from that. so all mammals have minds at some sort but bacterium do not.
plants are tricky because they do have senses and do behave in respect to this data (ie form judgements) but their are probably not conscious of it. So I guess I would also assert that some things have minds but are not conscious (e.g. plants and maybe some computers) but nothing can be conscious without a mind (since consciousness is phenemonal reference to sense data).

How did mind emerge from no mind: Darwinism is fine. A thing naturally replicates and then survival of the fittest comes into these things. More evoloved things pick up sense data to judge but this data is so simple that an unconscious behaviourist psycholgy is suffience (mind but not conscious). Later organisms developed such complex sensory perception that consciousness was required to mentally 'describe' this data so that judgements can be made easier.

Questions of perception and memory are for psychology really but I dont see any real philosophical problems.

Choice is a very tricky thing and I'd rather wait until we've come to understand the mind better before asking whether it has 'freewill' or whatever.


Whether all things are subjects/objects is too hard a question for me to even guess right now - sorry. What I will say though is that I AM a subject (cognito...) and that OTHER things are objects from my viewpoint.
 
prothero
 
Reply Sun 17 Jan, 2010 05:48 pm
@Greg phil,






[QUOTE=Greg;120694] Questions of perception and memory are for psychology really but I don't see any real philosophical problems. [/QUOTE] Can you have a mind without perception? Without memory? What is "mind" anyway? What are the properties or functionalities that constitute mind? How can we decide what things have mind or primitive minds if we do not know what the properties of mind are?


[QUOTE=Greg;120694] Choice is a very tricky thing and I'd rather wait until we've come to understand the mind better before asking whether it has 'freewill' or whatever. [/QUOTE]Replace choice with some degree of freedom of response (non determinism) based on interiority or perception (non sensory)if you prefer.



[QUOTE=Greg;120694] Whether all things are subjects/objects is too hard a question for me to even guess right now - sorry. What I will say though is that I AM a subject (cognito...) and that OTHER things are objects from my viewpoint. [/QUOTE] Is your wife or you girlfriend an object or a subject? You probably attribute some degree of interiority similar to your own to that person? But on what basis do you do that? Measurment? Science? More I think analogy and communication? Do you have a pet a dog, a cat, do you view them as an object? It is not so simple to decide which "things" have mind and what you mean when you say something has a "mind".

Just to save time, I am a panexperientialist, also known as a panpsychist; meaning I think mind in its most primitive properties and form is pervasive in nature. Mind all the way down, all the way to the core of reality.
 
Greg phil
 
Reply Mon 18 Jan, 2010 01:44 am
@prothero,
Quote:

I am not sure how we can talk about "what is a mind" unless we have some notion of what properties constitute "mind" and what "things" might possess it but then it is not so easy to decide what mind is or when and where mind exists? Is it?

I do think i have some notion of mind-properties: it collects information about the world which it receives through some kind of sense; and then it thinks about this data - judges how to behave, invents ideas and forms attidudes to these ideas, forms beliefs about the way the world is etc.

I can only guess that mind exists in any thing that collects sense-data and has the ability to think about it. So on this basic, abstract, definition any 'living' organism has a mind (bar maybe viruses?). Rocks do not have minds because they cannot perceive anything at all.


Quote:
Does not the concept of evolution of mind require that it come about gradually and over long periods of time? So when and where did the earliest and most primitive forms or properties of mind emerge in nature?

Yes to your first question but I don't quite see why that is a challenge to any of my assertions. To your second, I'm not a biologist but I thought I gave an abstract guess in my previous post.


Quote:
Can you have a mind without perception? Without memory? What is "mind" anyway? What are the properties or functionalities that constitute mind? How can we decide what things have mind or primitive minds if we do not know what the properties of mind are?

No mind without perception; perception is the ability to recieve sense-data - and without sense-data a 'mind' would be empty; that is to say, it would be null: equilivent to the empty set (= 0, of thoughts in this case) and so is absolutely nothing.
Memory is not required to fulfill my definition of mind that I'm kind of assuming now. Memory is required to think about the past, but a mind which only thinks about the present is still a mind.
As to what is mind and it's properties... I don't really know, that's the point of this thread - to investigate that very question.
And it's not necessary for one to explain precisely how to decide which things that he perceives have minds and which do not in order to define a mind. By a weak but relevent analogy: I have my own beliefs about what a moral person is and the way a moral person thinks etc, but for the most part I cannot judge whether or not another person is moral or immoral. This is because I'd need to know a lot about their reaction to various events and of their attitudes toward the world and themselves and others; and of course any moral judgement from a third-person viewpoint can only ever be intelligent guesswork. That does not, however, entail that I do not have such and such believe about moral properties (whether my beliefs are true or false).


Quote:
Replace choice with some degree of freedom of response (non determinism) based on interiority or perception (non sensory)if you prefer.

I believe that all events can be explained in respect to previous physical states (i.e. in terms of structure, form and logic) and that includes my choices and willpower; so I am a determinist of sorts (modulo some quantum indeterminancy but even that 'indeterminany' can be explained physically - using the uncertainty principle - and modeled mathematically with complex numbers, so its not really an exception to my rule).
But I neither deny that conscious subjects like us can chose how to behave (and posit our own ends etc). Humans have more conscious choice than, say dogs and much more than pigeons (behave we can form much more precise judgements and use our language to carry ideas), bacterium probably have no consciousness and hence zero 'choice'.
I don't believe that there exists any non-sensory perception (you can challenge me there if you want but I don't know how...).


Quote:
Is your wife or you girlfriend an object or a subject? You probably attribute some degree of interiority similar to your own to that person? But on what basis do you do that? Measurment? Science? More I think analogy and communication? Do you have a pet a dog, a cat, do you view them as an object? It is not so simple to decide which "things" have mind and what you mean when you say something has a "mind".

I'm single (and age 18 but that's irrelevant), but I do have friends.
Yes I do attribute my currently believed properties of a subject to other people - that is precised why I call them people and not things (though they are things strictly speaking, the term person is more respectable).
Yes I guess I do use analogy, but how do I know that that is valid? Analogies are an example of mere educated guesswork.

Quote:
Just to save time, I am a panexperientialist, also known as a panpsychist; meaning I think mind in its most primitive properties and form is pervasive in nature. Mind all the way down, all the way to the core of reality.

I came across panpsychicism while reading David Chalmer's 'The Conscious Mind' (1996).
Just a question, do you agree you have a mind? Then does your brain, arm, foot and liver all have their own mind or is it united into your body, or further than your body? Does a table feel warn when I set my coffee on it?

I have to go school now. bye
 
prothero
 
Reply Mon 18 Jan, 2010 06:33 pm
@Greg phil,
[QUOTE=Greg;120758] I came across panpsychicism while reading David Chalmer's 'The Conscious Mind' (1996). [/QUOTE] Full blown panpsychism (Mind or fundamental properties of mind all the way down, to the core of reality) is a lot to consider, it seems I admit "a silly notion" at first glance. It is however a serious philosophical position and was probably the dominant world view for most of human history.

Anyway, accepting some form of panpsychism begins with the question "What is mind" what are the properties, the most fundamental or primitive properties of which "mind" consists? Together with the question "What actualities do or might possess some or all of those properties? Serious reflection on these matters expands your notion of what mind is and how extensive or pervasive various forms of mind are in nature. From there you are off and running.

[QUOTE=Greg;120758] Just a question, do you agree you have a mind? Then does your brain, arm, foot and liver all have their own mind or is it united into your body, or further than your body? [/QUOTE]
I am a complex organized society, and this results in an "actuality" in which more complex, combined and centralized mental properties may emerge from the combination of more primitive mental properties. Much like compounds may have physical properties which are different from the elements of which they are composed.

[QUOTE=Greg;120758] Does a table feel warn when I set my coffee on it? [/QUOTE] A table is not a complex organized society, although a tree is moderately complex society while living. The table has no overall mental organization. The table is similar to a rock and no "rocks are not conscious and do not have minds". Rocks are aggregates and simple aggregates have no organized or central mental organization. The individual constituents of the table, may in fact prehend (prehension) (a form of non sensory perception) the heat and change their behavior accordingly. The problem for materialism is the emergence of mind from no mind. The problem for a panpsychist is the combination of primitive mental properties into a complex structured society with organized centralized mental experience.

I should say, I am clearly not a materialist and not a hard determinist. I object to the mechanistic deterministic view of the world which arises from classical Newtonian mechanics. I am a process philosophy advocate (A.N.Whitehead) Harvard philosopher and mathematician. I do not view nature as composed primarily of inert, dead, insensate matter but more as a perceptive interrelated whole in the process of "becoming" not "being".

For right now though concentrate om the "what are the most fundamental or primitive properties of mind?" and "what "things (actualities)" might possess them?"

Just as an aside, even the lowly amoeba seems to have a form of memory about ingesting glass beads and other non food items.



 
prothero
 
Reply Mon 18 Jan, 2010 11:42 pm
@prothero,
Just another thought try mind as an information processing neural network somewhat akin to computer artificial intelligence. There would be inputs, memory, processing and outputs. Now put those into biological terms. Just a thought. Lots of biological systems would possess all those properties.
 
Greg phil
 
Reply Tue 19 Jan, 2010 11:32 am
@Greg phil,
Though I devoutly believe it is irrelevent, I have to ask out of curiousity whether you meant Whitehead was a harvard philosopher/mathematician or that you are?


Ok I feel slightly more enlightened about what panpsychicism is now Smile

But I'm not all that sure as to why you favour panpsychic to materialistic explantions of mind.
Or, if some consisitutions of mental properties create a mind, e.g. human brain, while others do not, rocks, then what causes the necessary rearrangement of whatever these mental properties exist in?
Let me rephrase my query: material things behave according to physical laws, and the behaviour of one set of material things can cause other behaviour for other material things (I appologise for my rather pathetic understanding of causation) - so how does one arrangement of mental properties because caused to be another arrangement?
[Going the other way, how does your mental state cause your bodily behaviour? If you think 'I want to listen to the radio' then how does your body know to get up and turn it on?]


And I do have some very flimsy ideas about how mind could emerge from no-mind in a materialist/physicalist worldview. A thing behaves according to its physiological state, if a certain state x in the brain causes a thing A to behave y then A could judge and describe x using its other knowledge to examine x.

---------- Post added 01-19-2010 at 05:34 PM ----------

prothero;120968 wrote:
Just another thought try mind as an information processing neural network somewhat akin to computer artificial intelligence. There would be inputs, memory, processing and outputs. Now put those into biological terms. Just a thought. Lots of biological systems would possess all those properties.

Umm I don't see your point - surly that would support a physicalist understanding of mind? Unless you think consciousness cannot be reduced to physical states in which case I've written a lovely essay defending that very claim....
 
 

 
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