## Do Venn diagrams work to give a birds eye view of philosophy?

• 2.2k
The pairing of neurons and content seems intuitive enough to me

Consider these two statements:

* A neuron contains axons and dendrites.

* A neuron contains mental states.

Now the word contains is being used in two very different ways here. Perhaps this needs clarification. Earlier I suggested that neurons implement mental states. People who believe in emergence (I don't) would say that mental states emerge from neurons, or rather networks of neurons.

That's another issue. Even if mental states do emerge from the brain by way of its neural network; that's not the same as saying a mental state emerges from an individual neuron. For example a fist emerges from five fingers (this is a favorite example of the emergentists). But a single finger doesn't contain fistness or have the potential to become a fist. It takes all five.

A computer may perform a calculation, but just the memory or just the cpu or just the keyboard or just the printer can't perform a calculation. You need the whole team.

I can imagine the brain's network of neurons implementing consciousness; or consciousness emerging from the network of neurons. But I can't imagine consciousness emerging from a single neuron.

And "contains" is not the right word. Tables come from carpenters, but tables aren't contained in carpenters.

Just my thoughts. The product of my neurons, but not the product of any one individual neuron.
• 28
Yes, words sometimes fail. I'm trying to think of analogies that fit the relation. I could say my hand holds or grasps a physical object but how do I say my neurons 'fill in the blank' a non-physical? Would the word 'pair' or 'paired with' be more neutral? The important thing is to start thinking about the relation. Neurons have the capability to manipulate non-physicals and non-physicals cannot exist without being 'fill in the blank' by neurons.
I would think of a hydrogen atom as fundamental and the DNA molecule as emergent. Anything following the DNA molecule would also be emergent such as brains and the ability to process information (using the neuron contained non-physical definition).
I did get looking at neuron tables for various species and that's interesting if you want to correlate number of total neurons to capabilities. Interesting, a honey bee has 960,000 neurons and can do things like find food and get back to it's hive without direct visual input.

So without using the word contained, let's just show it this way,
[neurons,(a non-physical)] as an irreducible unit
and do something useful with it - model time perception:
[neurons,(the past)]; physically exists in the present
[neurons,(the present)]; physically exists in the present
[neurons,(the future)]; physically exists in the present

This model shows how time perception is always in the physical present but lets us perceive a past, present and future.
• 3.2k
I dunno what you mean.
• 2.2k
Yes, words sometimes fail. I'm trying to think of analogies that fit the relation. I could say my hand holds or grasps a physical object but how do I say my neurons 'fill in the blank' a non-physical?[/url]

I've suggested "implements." Or perhaps even instantiates. Five apples instantiate an instance of the abstract number 5. And as I said, emergentists would say that consciousness is an emergent property of the brain. I don't know what the reverse-direction verb is. The brain emergentizes consciousness.

Would the word 'pair' or 'paired with' be more neutral?

It wouldn't make much sense. Laurel is paired with Hardy, vanilla ice cream is paired with fresh hot apple pie, and Ricky is paired with Lucy (am I showing my age, or what?). But pairing does not suggest the instantiation or implementation relationship.

The important thing is to start thinking about the relation. Neurons have the capability to manipulate non-physicals

Again you are imputing to the part what can only be done by an assemblage of parts. You say a neuron implements consciousness but you are wrong. It takes the entire brain/body system to implement consciousness. As an example, you would say a water molecule quenches your thirst. Thirstiness is a non-physical because it's a subjective sensation, even if it's caused by biochemical processes. So it's a good analogy. But a water molecule can't quench your thirst. It takes about $8 \times 10^{24}$ water molecules to quench your thirst. That's how many water molecules are in a glass of water.

You keep repeating that a neuron implements consciousness but that is simply false. You have your neurons but you also have all the other brain goo, plus your body and your senses and your living experience in the world. All that together somehow implements consciousness, and I can't figure out why you don't see this.

and non-physicals cannot exist without being 'fill in the blank' by neurons.

Implemented. But FWIW. this is a supposition. The proponents of strong AI (of which I am not one) claim that non-physicals can be instantiated in suitably complex arrangements of electrical circuits. I don't believe that, but I had to start paying attention when Deep Blue beat Garry Kasparov. Now weak AI systems can drive cars. It's impressive. You can't dismiss the claims of strong AI out of hand.

I would think of a hydrogen atom as fundamental and the DNA molecule as emergent. Anything following the DNA molecule would also be emergent such as brains and the ability to process information (using the neuron contained non-physical definition).

Ok. Where's this going?

I did get looking at neuron tables for various species and that's interesting if you want to correlate number of total neurons to capabilities. Interesting, a honey bee has 960,000 neurons and can do things like find food and get back to it's hive without direct visual input.

At least you're now admitting that it's large assemblages of neurons and not individual neurons. But yes, evidently brain size is correlated with intelligence. Not for nothing is "pea brain" a way to insult someone's intelligence.

So without using the word contained, let's just show it this way,
[neurons,(a non-physical)] as an irreducible unit

Here you seem to be contradicting yourself. I'm willing to believe (for sake of argument) that large assemblages of neurons in the proper configuration (ie in a functioning brain, not sitting in jar of pickling solution on a shelf in a lab) may implement consciousness.

But you just wrote that "neurons, (a non-physical) ..." But I thought we were agreed that neurons are physical.

And you said a neuron is irreducible, but a single neuron has axons and dendrites and various other parts, and is made of proteins and other organic molecules and bio-goo. A neuron is hardly irreducible.

and do something useful with it - model time perception:
[neurons,(the past)]; physically exists in the present
[neurons,(the present)]; physically exists in the present
[neurons,(the future)]; physically exists in the present

This is a little woo-woo for me. Are you saying that in the present we have memories of the past? Yes, we have portions of the brain that store memories, in ways we don't fully understand.

And the future physically exists in the present? You'd better justify that claim or retract it.

This model shows how time perception is always in the physical present but lets us perceive a past, present and future.

Of course, this is well known. I sit here today and think about the past and imagine the future. All part of my brain process, little neurochemicals swimming around in my brain goo.

What of it? If you don't mind my saying, you're going a long way to state the obvious. We're physical bodies in a physical universe, and we don't understand why we have consciousness, dreams, hopes, fears, thoughts, qualia, and so forth. Everybody knows this.
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As far as the time perception model goes I could restate it in sentence form.
The past is an idea held by present neurons.
The present is an idea held by present neurons.
The future is an idea held by present neurons.

My use of the semi colon was to add clarification. And in common terms a normal average Joe would understand it and there wouldn't be an issue.

So I'm getting you don't like models that use anything non-physical.
That's just fine. I like any model and often going deeper has surprises.
So would your Venn diagram of reality be a big circle with all the matter in the universe and small circles as brains being a special class of matter?
And do you have a model or definition of information in any form you wish?
• 2.2k
As far as the time perception model goes I could restate it in sentence form.
The past is an idea held by present neurons.
The present is an idea held by present neurons.
The future is an idea held by present neurons.

Perfectly agreed, perfectly obvious, perfectly well known to everyone. Don't you think? Also FWIW numerous studies show that memory is very unreliable. Something happens and you form a memory. Then you think about the memory and embellish it a little. After a while, your memory of an event can be quite different from the original event.

We don't store memories the way a video stores a scene. We store approximate memories which are also linked to emotional states. I think of that bad meal or long-lost friend and have an emotional experience that often induces a physical sensation in my body. So memories are extremely subtle and by no means a "record of what happened."

But why do you keep saying neurons? There's much more involved than neurons. I don't understand why you keep saying neurons. There are a lot of mechanisms in the brain and body besides neurons that are involved in experience.

My use of the semi colon was to add clarification. And in common terms a normal average Joe would understand it and there wouldn't be an issue.

I apologize that I misunderstood. But as it happens I'm much pickier and anal-retentive than the average Joe so a lot of things jump out at me that most other people ignore. I heard once someone describe this as "sharpeners" and "levelers." Sharpeners, like me, take a small discrepancy and make a mountain out of it; levelers just smooth it out. Levelers have a much easier time in society, needless to say.

So I'm getting you don't like models that use anything non-physical.

You couldn't be further from the truth. I am saying that your some of your terminology seems imprecise or a little off from the ideas you're trying to convey. I'm having to work hard to understand you. It could just be me of course.

That's just fine. I like any model and often going deeper has surprises.
So would your Venn diagram of reality be a big circle with all the matter in the universe and small circles as brains being a special class of matter?[/quote]

Brains are certainly matter. What minds are, nobody knows. If I had to make a diagram I'd have a circle for all the matter in the universe, and an other circle for mind, and a dotted line between them with a big question mark over it. That's my ontology right there! Thanks for helping me to clarify it.

And do you have a model or definition of information in any form you wish?

Well information, that's a different concept than consciousness. Information was defined by a guy named Kolmogorov and studied by Shannon et. al. Here are a couple of links.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Information_theory

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kolmogorov_complexity

The idea is that a bitstring, a string (finite or infinite) of 1's and 0's, is either information or random depending on whether there's a short rule to describe it. For example

11111111 is 8 1's, so this is information rather than randomness. It can be "compressed" as they say.

11001010 is more random, there's not an obvious rule that generates the bits.

So when you say information, I am afraid I immediately think about the technical meaning of the term. If you turn on the radio and hear music, that's information. If you hear static, that's noise, or non-information.

This goes back to something you said earlier about the physical versus the non-physical. A bitstring is abstract, it's just a pattern without physical existence. But if you program that bitstring into a computer, you are performing a computation that takes time and energy and space and generates heat. It's a physical implementation of the abstract bistring. Which is why I like the word implementation. If you have a physical process that makes an abstract thing real, that's implementation. The analogy's not entirely good, but in my semantics I would say that brain implements mind. And then the question is, could there be anything else (a computer perhaps) that could also implement mind.
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I like the word instantiated but it's not a joe schmoe word. The subject of strong AI is possibly an exact analogy in containing non-physicals.
The form would be [computational electronics,(an instantiated non-physical)],
compared with [neurons, (an instantiated non-physical)].

I will try to write neurons instead of neuron; I meant neuron plural and you read neuron singular. It could be I have my own grammar on some of this and need to clean it up a bit. So if something seems off keep after me.
A guess, for humans, performing simple tasks, could involve tens of millions of neurons.
Something about Claude Shannon you may not know is he did not like the father of information (theory) title. His work was with signals, transmission rates, error rates and high level math for sure but the result was to implement on physical systems. Looking it up would be better than from my memory.
So my version of information is basically the mind stores and processes information and everything external is just physical matter. Communication works by coding (or encoding) and decoding matter in various forms
• 2.2k
I like the word instantiated but it's not a joe schmoe word. p/quote]

It's a computer programming buzzword. You create a specific instance out of an abstract thing. But I use it more generally, as in saying for example that five apples instantiate the number 5. The number 5 is a mathematical abstraction, and 5 apples is an instantiation of the concept in the physical world.

So mind or non-physical is an abstraction, and neurons instantiate it in the physical world. That's my chain of thinking, for what it's worth.

The subject of strong AI is possibly an exact analogy in containing non-physicals.
The form would be [computational electronics,(an instantiated non-physical)],
compared with [neurons, (an instantiated non-physical)].

Yes I completely agree. If somebody succeeds in implementing or instantiating actual self-awareness or consciousness or subjective experience in a circuit board, or any pile of circuit boards, that would show that the physical can instantiate the non-physical.

I don't happen to believe that myself, but plenty of people are working on it from many angles. And after all -- this is the counterargument to my disbelief -- my brain is a pile of atoms, and I have self-awareness. So why couldn't some other pile of atoms have self awareness? Why only people, why only living things? It's a darn good question, one I can't answer.

I will try to write neurons instead of neuron; I meant neuron plural and you read neuron singular. It could be I have my own grammar on some of this and need to clean it up a bit.

Yes I see that now. I apologize that I've been going off into perpectual paragraphs of pedantic pickiness on this point.

So if something seems off keep after me.

You don't want to encourage me to be even more pedantic and picky!! LOL. I'm pedantic and picky enough on my own.

A guess, for humans, performing simple tasks, could involve tens of millions of neurons.
Something about Claude Shannon you may not know is he did not like the father of information (theory) title.

That's interesting!

His work was with signals, transmission rates, error rates and high level math for sure but the result was to implement on physical systems. Looking it up would be better than from my memory.

I see exactly what you mean. He worked on sending "information," streams of bits, through wires. Not on human-to-human communication or "information" as in the contents of our minds. Makes perfect sense.

So my version of information is basically the mind stores and processes information and everything external is just physical matter. Communication works by coding (or encoding) and decoding matter in various forms

Well I thought you were making the point that Shannon distinguished between information as strings of 1's and 0's traveling through a wire; versus information as what the mind stores. They are totally different things. The mind doesn't work on bitstrings. So I'm confused by your now equating bitstrings in wires with the mysterious processes of our minds.
• 714
Also brains and the ability to process non physicals would have been emergent at some point in history and evolved from simple to complex.

Would it indeed? Hmph! If you manage to make the venn diagram no one is going to agree with it! Interesting idea though. It's making your philosophical views fairly clear in a way.

EDIT: one way to know you've made a good diagram is if people use it to clearly understand you view and start criticising your views, rather than focusing on the diagram.
• 28
You see that number under my name? It might read 16 or 17, not too much so maybe that's my one time excuse. With models you might not always know the end from the beginning or maybe a snafu would lead to a second attempt and a better model.
If you or anyone else feels up to it there is an image icon above the comment box. Maybe draw your best Venn diagram or picture model and post it. I did some Venn diagrams on a drawing program but haven't worked out how to post it here.
There's a basic question here that I haven't stated which is have some of our neurons (probably in the cerebral cortex) developed the ability to contain (or instantiate) non- physicals? Think of it as a yes or no question with big implications.
• 28
I actually did draw the Venn diagram you described on a cheap graphics program. The basic question I would ask is have some of our neurons evolved the ability to instantiate non-physicals. I would answer yes in the extreme but others might say not at all-a physical impossibility.
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[img]http://blob:https://drawisland.com/e150538f-5a00-4e6a-8046-c813abc5928a[/img]
Sorry I don't think this link works. Something about posting an image to the web that I'm missing and have never needed to do it before and it takes time to figure out.
• 2.2k
I actually did draw the Venn diagram you described on a cheap graphics program. The basic question I would ask is have some of our neurons evolved the ability to instantiate non-physicals. I would answer yes in the extreme but others might say not at all-a physical impossibility.

If one is a physicalist, then mind is ultimately explainable in terms of physics. I'm a pile of atoms and I have plenty of qualia and a rich internal life, so atoms must be capable of doing that. If one denies that, then one is forced to accept some kind of dualism. I think both alternatives are equally untenable.

Sorry I don't think this link works. Something about posting an image to the web that I'm missing and have never needed to do it before and it takes time to figure out.

I copied your link but got 404. No matter, it's just circles. I don't think the diagram is the point, not sure why it's important to you. I thought that the real question is how a pile of atoms such as me has subjective experience; and if so, why couldn't some other non-living pile of atoms have the same? Perhaps there's something special about life.
• 1.2k
I did some Venn diagrams on a drawing program but haven't worked out how to post it here.

If you become a subscriber (\$/month) you can upload images. Otherwise to link them it seems you need a source that is secure.
• 28
If one is a physicalist, then mind is ultimately explainable in terms of physics. I'm a pile of atoms and I have plenty of qualia and a rich internal life, so atoms must be capable of doing that. If one denies that, then one is forced to accept some kind of dualism. I think both alternatives are equally untenable.

Here are my thoughts on this: Maybe, like in physics, philosophy should be looking for a theory of everything. So my opinion is that neurons, mostly cerebral cortex, possibly some more, do have the capability to instantiate non-physicals. If this is the case then you have an entirely physical process that supports non-physicals. Not sure if this would satisfy a duelist or a physicalist ( I would guess neither).
I'm kind of getting over Venn diagrams for just now.
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Thank you so much! Very good to know.
• 2.2k
neurons, mostly cerebral cortex, possibly some more, do have the capability to instantiate non-physicals.

That is exactly the physicalist position. The dualist believes there is "something else" beyond the physical.
• 28
Physicalism doesn't go far enough in exploring what non-physicals are or in what form they exist. I could be wrong, maybe you know some references. I'm always looking and I don't find much on it.
• 1.4k
The dualist believes there is "something else" beyond the physical.

Then of course there is the argument that physicalism is itself a form of dualism.
• 2.2k
Then of course there is the argument that physicalism is itself a form of dualism.

How so? I thought physicalism is the belief that everything, including mind and all non-physical phenomena such as qualia, can be explained via physical phenomena and without recourse to any non-physical mechanisms. Maybe I don't know what physicalism means in a technical sense, I claim no philosophical knowledge in this regard.

Physicalism doesn't go far enough in exploring what non-physicals are or in what form they exist. I could be wrong, maybe you know some references. I'm always looking and I don't find much on it.

I'm afraid I don't know any of the official literature on the subject nor am I familiar with any of the standard arguments. I think of physicalism as "Mind is a byproduct or output or emergent property of atoms," and dualism as, "Mind is some kind of non-physical thing that's independent of or separate from atoms." I'm sure those aren't the official definitions.

There's Cartesian dualism.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mind%E2%80%93body_dualism
• 703
The part I'd most like to discuss is treating information in this two part form which is the only way I can see to give information a physical existence. And the problem with treating information as a singular, non physical form would be that it's physically non existent, an impossibility.

That is a really interesting idea. You have set it out as per your paradigm, and as you say yourself it does not work. I would set out the Venn diagram idealistically:

Information is everything, and everything only makes sense as integrated information ( consciousness ), so the large circle would contain all information and it would represent mind. Within would be a circle for the physical - we can not walk through brick walls, so this circle contains absolute truths / facts. The next circle would contain concepts describing the physical facts - theory ( physics, science, etc ). Then all that is left would be beliefs - beliefs are not part of the set of truths, they have a probabilistic validity. So circles for beliefs of high, medium, and low probability would seem in order. Along these lines you would have mind, and then within it would be sets containing conceptions from high to low confidence value, and this way the Venn diagram would seem to work, without conceptual conflict. Why is that? :chin:
• 28
That gave me hiccups.
An idea is a neuron contained (or instantiated) non-physical.
A paradigm is a neuron contained non-physical.
Information is a neuron contained non-physical.
Consciousness is back burner for me.
A concept is a neuron contained non-physical.
A belief is a neuron contained non-physical.
Mind is a neuron contained non-physical.
A conception is a neuron contained non-physical.

Actually I had a similar list made up but yours was more complete.
• 1.4k

Then of course there is the argument that physicalism is itself a form of dualism.
— Joshs

How so? I thought physicalism is the belief that everything, including mind and all non-physical phenomena such as qualia, can be explained via physical phenomena and without recourse to any non-physical mechanisms.

Physicalism thinks it leaves dualism behind, when in fact it simply ignores the subjective dimension of experience that is built into , but hidden within, the very assumptions of physicalism.

You may find this from philosopher Evan Thompson interesting. He adheres to the Enactivist approach in psychology.

“...we can see historically how the concept of nature as physical being got constructed in an objectivist way, while at the same time we can begin to conceive of the possibility of a different kind of construction that would be post-physicalist and post-dualist–that is, beyond the divide between the “mental” (understood as not conceptually involving the physical) and the “physical” (understood as not conceptually involving the mental)."

“Many philosophers have argued that there seems to be a gap between the objective, naturalistic facts of the world and the subjective facts of conscious experience. The hard problem is the conceptual and metaphysical problem of how to bridge this apparent gap. There are many critical things that can be said about the hard problem (see Thompson&Varela, forthcoming), but what I wish to point out here is that it depends for its very formulation on the premise that the embodied mind as a natural entity exists ‘out there' independently of how we configure or constitute it as an object of knowledge through our reciprocal empathic understanding of one other as experiencing subjects. One way of formulating the hard problem is to ask: if we had a complete, canonical, objective, physicalist account of the natural world, including all the physical facts of the brain and the organism, would it conceptually or logically entail the subjective facts of consciousness? If this account would not entail these facts, then consciousness must be an additional, non-natural property of the world.

One problem with this whole way of setting up the issue, however, is that it presupposes we can make sense of the very notion of a single, canonical, physicalist description of the world, which is highly doubtful, and that in arriving (or at any rate approaching) such a description, we are attaining a viewpoint that does not in any way presuppose our own cognition and lived experience. In other words, the hard problem seems to depend for its very formulation on the philosophical position known as transcendental or metaphysical realism. From the phenomenological perspective explored here, however — but also from the perspective of pragmatism à la Charles Saunders Peirce, William James, and John Dewey, as well as its contemporary inheritors such as Hilary Putnam (1999) — this transcendental or metaphysical realist position is the paradigm of a nonsensical or incoherent metaphysical viewpoint, for (among other problems) it fails to acknowledge its own reflexive dependence on the intersubjectivity and reciprocal empathy of the human life-world.

Another way to make this point, one which is phenomenological, but also resonates with William James's thought (see Taylor, 1996), is to assert the primacy of the personalistic perspective over the naturalistic perspective. By this I mean that our relating to the world, including when we do science, always takes place within a matrix whose fundamental structure is I-You-It (this is reflected in linguistic communication: I am speaking to You about It) (Patocka, 1998, pp. 9–10). The hard problem gives epistemological and ontological precedence to the impersonal, seeing it as the foundation, but this puts an excessive emphasis on the third-person in the primordial structure of I–You–It in human understanding. What this extreme emphasis fails to take into account is that the mind as a scientific object has to be constituted as such from the personalistic perspective in the empathic co-determination of self and other. The upshot of this line of thought with respect to the hard problem is that this problem should not be made the foundational problem for consciousness studies. The problem cannot be ‘How do we go from mind-independent nature to subjectivity and consciousness?' because, to use the language of yet another philosophical tradition, that of Madhyamika Buddhism (Wallace, this volume), natural objects and properties are not intrinsically identifiable (svalaksana); they are identifiable only in relation to the ‘conceptual imputations' of intersubjective experience.“
• 703

I don't think we are on the same page at all, I think we are miles apart - too far to bridge today.

Anyway good luck with it. :smile:
• 28
Sorry, didn't mean to chase you away.
I could be the the only one here who sees it this way and it must not be a common view by the reactions I'm getting. One reason I'm posting is to stress test it. Fishfry is good at it and I don't mind at all.
And I don't see philosophy as something where you take a position and defend it forever but more iterative where you try something and if it's not right you go back and try it again.
Edit: I should have said try something else. You shouldn't repeat if it's not working.
• 703
There is quite a gulf to be bridged. You posit a mind independent world ( "First start with a large circle that contains all physical matter existing in the present"). Please read this thread, and explain to me how such a world could exist. If you come to understand that it cannot, as I do, then you will also understand that according to your list, the world is a "non physical", so, from my perspective, there is quite a conundrum to unravel and put back together before we can reach an understanding.
• 28
You are right, a bit of a gulf.
The point of the list was to show a universal principal or mechanism at work.
• 703
The point of the list was to show a universal principal or mechanism at work.

Perhaps another time. :up: What strikes me about your Venn diagram idea is that the outer circle must always be mind dependent - it has no other way of materializing - both literally, and figuratively, both in the diagram and in the real world, from an idealistic perspective.
• 28
I could set this up differently. If I set the big circle as the universe, a second circle as a brain, and a third inner circle as the cerebral-cortex (or other region) and stopped the Venn diagram there I think you would be satisfied. And it has some of the elements I want to examine.
Then looking at that Venn diagram I would ask if information defined as a neuron(s) instantiated non-physical is a viable theory
• 12k
...information defined as a neuron(s) instantiated non-physical is a viable theory

What are non-physical neurones? OR is it the information you think non-physical?
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