• LibnizMakesMeThrowMyBookAway
    Alright, so recently I came upon this theory of mind-brain supervenience. Essentially this theory means that for there cannot be any change in mental state without a change in physical state (or brain state if you would like). In other words, if I clone Ben 2 from Ben 1, Ben 2 should have the same psychological qualia/mindset/thinking as Ben 1, given that their brain states are similar.

    Is there a way to disprove this though? I thought about philosophical zombies and angels but both arguments seems to have it's own drawbacks as well...

    Some help here people!!! Thanks!!

  • bert1
    I can't think of a philosophical way to disprove this, and creating an experimental conditions whereby we could even tell if mental states change without brain states relevantly changing seems mind-buggeringly hard.

    Mind you, as supervenience is compatible with all theories for the mind except perhaps the most extreme of substance dualisms, then this is not a problem that worries me.
  • KittyAccepted Answer
    Is there a way to disprove this though?LibnizMakesMeThrowMyBookAway

    Yes. Supervenience assumes (or logically relies) on two assertions, (1) Reductionism and (2) determinism. Disprove either and the concept of supervenience falls.
  • Kitty
    I can't think of a philosophical way to disprove this, and creating an experimental conditions whereby we could even tell if mental states change without brain states relevantly changing seems mind-buggeringly hard.bert1

    Make a distinction between the philosophically way (abstraction) and scientific way (empirical or practical).

    OP asks the former.
  • fdrake
    It's not just philosophy any more, supervenience of mindstates upon brainstates and neural correlates are essentially the same concepts. Whether this implies that consciousness is just something the brain does or whether it's enabled by the nervous system and sensorimotor constraints too is a different question; I think it's pretty incontestable that there are neural correlates of consciousness in a loose sense at this point.
  • Wayfarer
    This might be a bit left-field, but there have been some cases of patients who have had massive brain abnormalities due to some congenital condition or disease, who have nevertheless been able to function normally. One was reported yesterday Doctors find air pocket where part of man's brain should be. There was also a much stranger case reported a couple of years ago about a subject who was apparently missing more than 80% of brain mass. Such anomalies certainly challenge the conventional understanding of the brain: mind relationship.

    A related point is the phenomenon of neuroplasticity. This is something that has only been discovered in the last 20 years or so; previously there was a firm belief that the brain had as many cells as it was going to have at the time of birth, and that thereafter brain mass was always lost. However I believe it’s now been found that the brain can re-wire itself so as to activate totally new kinds of abilities. And also it can re-wire itself so as to compensate for loss or damage. All of which seems to suggest a ‘top-down’ causal chain whereby the mind, thought, or intentional action actually produces physical re-configuration of the organ itself; ‘mind over matter’, to use the hackneyed old phrase.

    Finally, the idea that a brain state ‘means’ or ‘repreents’ anything at all, is highly questionable. What ‘means’ or ‘represents’ are signs, images and words. And the way we understand what they mean is through interpreting meaning via language and rational inference. Whatever else can be said of brains. I don’t feel that neural activity operates according to the rules of syntax. Instead language and abstract thought are used to infer how the brain (or anything else) does its work. So I think understanding neural functions to ‘represent or mean’ anything is a kind of deep category error.
  • LibnizMakesMeThrowMyBookAway
    How would you go about disproving reductionism then, in relation to mind-brain supervenience.?
  • LibnizMakesMeThrowMyBookAway
    Trigger Warning:
    This doesnt seem like a good enough argument to disprove mind brain supervenience...because the fact is, if say i clone the man with pockets in his brain, it would seem unlikely that his clone wouldnt possess the same mental state or qualia as the original.
  • andrewk
    To disprove supervenience we would need to observe a change in mind state over a time interval in which the brain state did not change. Since brain states are always changing - think of all the subconscious processing necessary to keep our heart pumping and physiology regulated - there is no time interval in which brain states do not change. So it looks like the theory cannot be tested.

    Even if we could somehow determine with certainty which parts of the brain were related to consciousness (neural correlates) and focus on only changes in those parts (and I doubt that a perfect separation of that type will ever be possible in practice), I don't think a test would be possible. Neural activity occurs at levels so tiny that any attempt to observe it in complete detail will change it. So it would not be possible to ascertain whether the neural correlates had changed.
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