• LibnizMakesMeThrowMyBookAway
    3
    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
    119
    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
    34
    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
    34
    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
    1k
    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
    6k
    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
    3
    How would you go about disproving reductionism then, in relation to mind-brain supervenience.?
  • LibnizMakesMeThrowMyBookAway
    3
    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
    1.2k
    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.
  • Kitty
    34
    Sorry, I am a bit late, forgot to reply.

    Proving that the conceptual understanding of the whole can't be sensibly reduced to its (underlying) parts without fundamentally shifting our conceptual understanding (or approach). Reductionism in other words: the whole is simply the sum of its parts -- nothing more. If you prove that the whole is more than just the sum of its parts, then you basically proved, emergentism (a form of non-reductionism).

    The Mereological fallacy surrounding neuroscience is a great example.

    Now-- this is by no means a rebuttal of supervenience. It is an ongoing philosophical debate, with a high level of abstractions that goes beyond the purpose of this thread.

    Note that I am merely providing some insights and giving some examples -- by no means do I intend to argue either side.


    edit: also see mereological nihilism.
  • Janus
    5.1k
    It's not just philosophy any more, supervenience of mindstates upon brainstates and neural correlates are essentially the same concepts.fdrake

    I don't think that's right. Supervenience is an asymmetrical relationship: a dependence relation. To say that the mind supervenes on the brain is to say the mind depends on the brain. Conversely it could be said that the brain supervenes on the mind. Correlation would obtain in either case.
  • fdrake
    1k


    Do you think correlation is sufficient for both directions?
  • SophistiCat
    376
    Yes. Supervenience assumes (or logically relies) on two assertions, (1) Reductionism and (2) determinism.Kitty

    No, it does not.

    Well, the reductionism part may or may not be true, depending on how reductionism is defined. The loosest definition simply equates reductionism with supervenience, although most often something like Nigelian reduction is meant (i.e. deduction of the laws of the reduced system from the laws of the reducing system). If that is the sense of reductionism, then supervenience certainly does not logically depend on it.

    And determinism is not relevant either. You can have a deterministic system supervene on a non-deterministic one (e.g. thermodynamics and statistical mechanics), and the other way around (statistical mechanics and molecular dynamics).
  • Count Radetzky von Radetz
    28
    Rationally speaking, if it looked at from an analytical perspective instead of an objective perspective, Hume's theory comes into mind when speaking about the validity of mind-brain supervenience.
  • SophistiCat
    376
    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.andrewk

    I think your criterion is too strict - it would apply to any dynamical systems. We don't necessarily need to test supervenience in such direct, literal way. First of all, in order to even talk about supervenience, we need to have two commensurate theories, i.e. we need to have a theory of brain and a theory of mind, and we need to be able to relate these theories to each other, e.g. by relating mental states to neurophysiological states. If we could do that, then it might be possible, through theoretical analysis, to find an instance where the same neurophysiological state can correspond to two different mental states. How do we test that theoretical analysis? Not necessarily directly, as you suggest, but by validating each of the two theories against observations.
  • Kitty
    34
    Yes, it all depends on how you define supervenience -- no one holds dominion over its meaning. But if you define supervenience without the concepts of reductionism and determinism, one may ask whether the purpose of the term is not lost, and how it contrasts with emergentism.
  • Janus
    5.1k
    I'm not sure what you're asking here. Are you asking whether correlation is sufficient to constitute a a dependence relation? If that's the question, then I would say 'no', regardless of the "direction". It might be necessary, though.
  • fdrake
    1k


    On second thoughts numerical correlation doesn't mean anything like A supervening on B.

    Two sequences A,B.

    A = (1,3)
    B=(-1,2)
    Cov(A,B)=(-1,1)(0.5,0.5)=-0.5+0.5=0

    No A changes without B changes, no B changes without A changes, correlation 0. Odd.
  • Cavacava
    2.4k


    "Nigelian reduction" you mean Nagelian reduction? I kept on thinking about Nigella Lawson cooking :rofl:
  • Janus
    5.1k


    Sorry, man, you lost me there. My brain is soft when it comes to that kinda stuff. :cry:
  • SophistiCat
    376
    Yeah, sorry :blush: E. Nagel.
bold
italic
underline
strike
code
quote
ulist
image
url
mention
reveal
youtube
tweet
Add a Comment

Welcome to The Philosophy Forum!

Get involved in philosophical discussions about knowledge, truth, language, consciousness, science, politics, religion, logic and mathematics, art, history, and lots more. No ads, no clutter, and very little agreement — just fascinating conversations.