• RogueAI
    191
    1. Brain states are mental states.
    2. Brain state vocabulary is scientific.
    3. If brain states are mental states, then meaningful communication about mental states is meaningful communication about brain states.
    4. Meaningful communication about brain states is impossible if two speakers do not have brain state vocabulary.
    5. Bob and Sheila do not have brain state vocabulary.
    6. Bob and Sheila can meaningfully communicate about mental states.
    7. From (3), Bob and Sheila can meaningfully communicate about brain states.
    8. (7) is false (because Bob and Sheila do not have brain state vocabulary).
    9. Therefore, meaningful communication about mental states is not meaningful communication about brain states.
    10. Therefore, (1) is false.

    All right, have at me.
  • Pfhorrest
    2.8k
    You've just got the relation backward: mental states are a kind of brain state, and talking about brain states can tell you things about mental states, but not necessarily vice-versa.

    Like how a description of subatomic particles can tell you what's going on in chemistry, but you don't have to know anything about that deep physics to talk about chemistry.
  • RogueAI
    191
    You've just got the relation backward: mental states are a kind of brain state, and talking about brain states can tell you things about mental states, but not necessarily vice-versa.

    I'm arguing against the position that equates the two (identity theory). My argument doesn't work against dualists.

    Like how a description of subatomic particles can tell you what's going on in chemistry, but you don't have to know anything about that deep physics to talk about chemistry.

    Except no one thinks chemistry is identical to physics or subatomic particles. I'm arguing strictly against people who claim mental states are identical to brain states. If that's the case, then two people who know nothing about brains shouldn't be able to meaningfully communicate about their own mental states. But of course we know they can.
  • Mww
    1.7k
    My argument doesn't work against dualists.RogueAI

    Cool. If mental states merely represent brains states, it isn’t contradictory for mental states to have a logic vocabulary while still allowing brain states their scientific vocabulary. Besides, nobody, not even scientists, think in brain state vocabulary terms, so either what we consider thinking isn’t real, or another vocabulary is justified because it is.
  • RogueAI
    191
    Cool. If mental states merely represent brains states, it isn’t contradictory for mental states to have a logic vocabulary while still allowing brain states their scientific vocabulary.

    Again, my argument is strictly against brain state=mental state.

    If mental states are representations of brain states A), what does that mean, exactly, and B) don't you run into the same problem? if mental states represent brain states, then two people who know nothing about brains shouldn't be able to meaningfully talk about representations of brain states. But they can, because even if they don't know anything about brains, they certainly know about their own mental states. So, if they can talk about their mental states without knowing anything about brains, and mental states are representations of brain states, they're talking about representations of brain states without knowing anything about brain states. How is that possible? Can you give me an example of two people not knowing anything about X able to meaningfully talk about representations of X?

    Besides, nobody, not even scientists, think in brain state vocabulary terms, so either what we consider thinking isn’t real, or another vocabulary is justified because it is.

    There is a definite scientific vocabulary when it comes to brains: neurons, synapses, receptors, potential, etc.
  • Mww
    1.7k
    How is that possible?RogueAI

    Ok, how about we say mental states are conditioned by brain states. That way, we can talk all day about the one, without having to know anything at all about the other.

    There is a definite scientific vocabulary when it comes to brainsRogueAI

    Of course. But I said we don’t think in brain state terms. When I tell you all about what I had for supper, not once do I need to mention how many neurotransmitters I used. Test equipment may tell you, but if I come to your house with one attached to my head, I doubt you’ll care much about what I wanted to tell you anyway.
  • RogueAI
    191
    I emailed this to a famous philosopher of mind on the off chance she was bored and didn't have anything better to do. Apparently, she didn't. She said people would take issue with (3). She said:

    "i think most people would deny 3. you can communicate about clark kent without communicating about superman"

    And I replied that Clark Kent is not identical to Superman. They're the same person, but there are obvious differences between the two.
  • Gnomon
    814
    Ok, how about we say mental states are conditioned by brain states. That way, we can talk all day about the one, without having to know anything at all about the other.Mww
    Yes. I like to say that "Mind is what the Brain does" --- its function. Just as the function of your computer is to process input information, so you can talk about that meaningful information in plain English, without using the technical computer code that does the actual processing.

    A similar analogy is used by cognitive psychologist Don Hoffman in his book, The Case Against Reality. He doesn't deny the underlying coded reality, but says that we evolved to think in terms of metaphorical symbols (concepts that he calls "Icons"), rather than in terms of Neurology. That helps me to clarify the old Brain/Mind conundrum. :smile:

    Underlying Reality : http://bothandblog6.enformationism.info/page21.html

    PS__In response to the OP, you could say that MInd states are analogous to Brain states.
  • DingoJones
    1.9k
    1. Brain states are mental states.
    2. Brain state vocabulary is scientific.
    3. If brain states are mental states, then meaningful communication about mental states is meaningful communication about brain states.4. Meaningful communication about brain states is impossible if two speakers do not have brain state vocabulary.
    5. Bob and Sheila do not have brain state vocabulary.
    6. Bob and Sheila can meaningfully communicate about mental states.
    7. From (3), Bob and Sheila can meaningfully communicate about brain states.
    8. (7) is false (because Bob and Sheila do not have brain state vocabulary).
    9. Therefore, meaningful communication about mental states is not meaningful communication about brain states.
    10. Therefore, (1) is false.
    RogueAI

    Nobody can communicate about anything without shared vocabulary, this is a red herring and your whole argument depends upon it. Further, it is false to claim that brainstate vocabulary must be scientific, we are talking about it and neither of us are using strictly scientific vocabulary. Lastly, even if scientific vocabulary was the only vocabulary for brainstates it doesnt prevent communication, one would simply have to relay the meaning of the vocabulary being used.
    Im afraid your argument is only clever semantics and structure and falls short of its goal.
  • Pfhorrest
    2.8k
    Except no one thinks chemistry is identical to physics or subatomic particlesRogueAI

    No one except basically everyone. If you model the physics of a system of particles that bind together into atoms and molecules that then interact with each other, you end up modelling chemical reactions for free. But, you could also just talk about the chemical reactions, without having to talk about that physics stuff at all. One reduces to the other, but not vice versa.
  • RogueAI
    191

    Nobody can communicate about anything without shared vocabulary, this is a red herring and your whole argument depends upon it. Further, it is false to claim that brainstate vocabulary must be scientific, we are talking about it and neither of us are using strictly scientific vocabulary. Lastly, even if scientific vocabulary was the only vocabulary for brainstates it doesnt prevent communication, one would simply have to relay the meaning of the vocabulary being used.
    Im afraid your argument is only clever semantics and structure and falls short of its goal.

    You think the best move is to deny (2)? Brain state vocabulary isn't scientific? What is it then?
  • RogueAI
    191
    No one except basically everyone. If you model the physics of a system of particles that bind together into atoms and molecules that then interact with each other, you end up modelling chemical reactions for free. But, you could also just talk about the chemical reactions, without having to talk about that physics stuff at all. One reduces to the other, but not vice versa.

    Chemistry is not identical to physics, that's absurd.

    i·den·ti·cal
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    adjective
    1.
    similar in every detail; exactly alike.
    "four girls in identical green outfits"

    2.
    LOGIC•MATHEMATICS
    expressing an identity.
    "an identical proposition"
  • DingoJones
    1.9k


    Its just normal vocabulary, nothing about the vocabulary used for brain states is special. Its just words, with meanings, that some people know and some people do not and you communicate by using the shared vocabulary in order to clarify the meaning of the vocabulary that is not shared.

    ...Ive officially used the word “vocabulary” more times in a single day than ive ever used it....
  • RogueAI
    191
    Its just normal vocabulary, nothing about the vocabulary used for brain states is special. Its just words, with meanings, that some people know and some people do not and you communicate by using the shared vocabulary in order to clarify the meaning of the vocabulary that is not shared.

    ...Ive officially used the word “vocabulary” more times in a single day than ive ever used it....

    Not really:

    Global CNS correction in a large brain model of human alpha-mannosidosis by intravascular gene therapy

    Intravascular injection of certain adeno-associated virus vector serotypes can cross the blood–brain barrier to deliver a gene into the CNS. However, gene distribution has been much more limited within the brains of large animals compared to rodents, rendering this approach suboptimal for treatment of the global brain lesions present in most human neurogenetic diseases. The most commonly used serotype in animal and human studies is, which also has the property of being transported via axonal pathways to distal neurons.


    I know it's not exactly neural correlate stuff, but that stuff is just as dense. That is obviously very scientific language by any standard use of the word "scientific".
  • RogueAI
    191
    Can we agree, as a general rule, that if X and Y are identical (similar in every detail; exactly alike), then talk of X is the same as talk of Y? Any counterexamples?
  • Pfhorrest
    2.8k
    Chemistry is not identical to physicsRogueAI

    No, but every chemical state is identical to some physical state. But not the other way around: not every physical state is identical to some chemical state.
  • Pfhorrest
    2.8k
    So, if you can completely describe all physical states, you can also completely describe all chemical states; but you don’t have to understand the physics talk to do chemistry talk.
  • RogueAI
    191
    If chemical state ABC = physical state XYZ, then physical state XYZ = chemical state ABC.

    If a=b, then b=a
  • apokrisis
    4.7k
    2. Brain state vocabulary is scientific.
    ...
    6. Bob and Sheila can meaningfully communicate about mental states.
    RogueAI

    The flaw in the argument would be the suppressed premise of what kind of communication the second kind is?

    If brain state vocabulary is "scientific", it needs to said what class of vocabulary is instead employed to talk about mental states. Is it merely "unscientific" (a vague contrary claim)? The argument needs to clarify in what way such communication could be meaningful.

    Scientific vocabulary is meaningful in its pragmatic application. If we talk about the world generally as a machine, and thus the brain as a specific kind of mechanism, then the pragmatic effect of this form of language is that - implicitly - we should be able to build this damn thing.

    We are viewing the conscious brain as an example of technology - natural technology - that we can thus hope to replicate once we put what it is and what it does into the appropriate engineering language.

    So "scientific" vocabulary isn't neutral. It has meaning in terms of what it allows us to build. It is all about learning to see reality as a machine (a closed system of material and efficient causes).

    Of course, science is a broad enough church that it doesn't have to reduce absolutely everything to mechanism. And the aim can be also to regulate flows in the world as a substitute to making a machine. Engineering covers that gamut.

    But you see the issue. Brain states language is itself a reflection of a particular reason for describing nature. It aims to extract a blueprint of a machine.

    Then where does mental state vocabulary fit in to the picture? In what sense is it meaningful to someone or some community of thinkers? What is the larger goal in play?

    To be commensurate, the two linguistic communities would have to share the same goal. And they are going to be talking at cross-purposes to the degree that they don't. And in both cases, they may be talking meaningfully (ie: pragmatically), but also, they are both just "talking". They are both modelling the noumenal from within their own systems of phenomenology.

    10. Therefore, (1) is false.RogueAI

    The conclusion can't be so definite as "mental state vocabulary" is too ill-defined here. What makes it meaningful?

    [Note that a social constructionist - as a scientist - would have plenty to say about how humans do use "mental state" language as a pragmatic means of regulating their (social) environment. We talk about our emotions all the time - love, jealousy, boredom, happiness. But are these "feelings" or "culturally meaningful rationalisations"? Even a phenomenologist would examine "feelings of love" and find a whole lot of unreferenced physiological responses that seem fairly aligned with a counter view of the brain and body as "a machine".]
  • DingoJones
    1.9k


    Its still just words. Its not restrictive (which is what you need it to be for your argument to work) because anyone can use shared vocabulary to add those “Scientific” words to the shared vocabulary.
    There is nothing about scientific vocabulary that isnt also true about basball vocabulary, or music vocabulary, or texting vocabulary (“lol”, “lmao” etc) as far as communication goes.
    Does not sharing baseball vocabulary with someone restrict anyone communicating about it? No, the person just goes “whats a homerun?”, gets a description and moves on with the discussion/communication.
  • apokrisis
    4.7k
    No, but every chemical state is identical to some physical state. But not the other way around: not every physical state is identical to some chemical state.Pfhorrest

    That's just restating supervenience as a claim. The claim only holds if "states" actually exist in the world rather than in the scientific imagination.

    The language of states - as part of the language of machines - is certainly a pragmatically useful way of looking at reality. If we frame the facts that way, we have an engineering blueprint we can deal with.

    But "states" is a pragmatic construct. And the reality we encounter often doesn't fit that construct so well. The map ain't the territory. And so claims of supervenience must be regarded as having a logical force only within a particular reality-modelling paradigm.
  • RogueAI
    191
    let me try try this:

    Imagine there are two people from 20,000 years ago who know nothing about brains. One of them stubs his toe and complains about the pain. The other expresses sympathy. Meaningful communication about mental states was exchanged. Information about those mental states was exchanged. Now, if mental states are identical to brain states (alike in every way), doesn't that entail that those two ancient people were talking about their brains? And isn't that an absurdity?
  • Pfhorrest
    2.8k
    Sure, but physical state PQR doesn’t equal any chemical state. “Every F is identical to some G” doesn’t entail “Every G is identical to some F”.
  • InPitzotl
    310
    10. Therefore, (1) is false.RogueAI
    That 1 is false does not follow. E.g., 5 could be false, or 6 could be false.
  • RogueAI
    191
    OK, let me defend (5) then.

    Bob and Sheila are two cavepeople from 20,000 years ago. I have no problem claiming that Bob and Sheila from 20,000 can talk about their mental states. But does a physicalist want to claim that anyone 20,000 years ago used "brain state vocabulary"? Isn't that prima fascia absurd? In fact, I can just make Bob and Sheila two people from the Blue Lagoon who don't even know they have brains.

    I don't think (6) can be false. What would prevent Bob and Sheila from talking about their mental states in a meaningful way? Humans have been doing that since long before anything about brains was known.
  • DingoJones
    1.9k


    Ok ignoring the fact you havent refuted my counter points, Why would that be absurd? When they talk about what they see they are talking about the colour spectrum, retinae, light particles...any number of things they have no knowledge about yet are still talking about. They just dont know that they are talking about those things cuz they lack the words/concepts. Same with mental and brain states. They do t even need to know they have brains to talk about mental or brain states.
  • RogueAI
    191
    Ok ignoring the fact you havent refuted my counter points, Why would that be absurd? When they talk about what they see they are talking about the colour spectrum, retinae, light particles...any number of things they have no knowledge about yet are still talking about. They just dont know that they are talking about those things cuz they lack the words/concepts. Same with mental and brain states. They do t even need to know they have brains to talk about mental or brain states.

    ???
  • InPitzotl
    310
    But does a physicalist want to claim that anyone 20,000 years ago used "brain state vocabulary"? Isn't that prima fascia absurd?RogueAI
    I don't know, let's find out how absurd this is. Can Bob and Shiela communicate their mental states? Donning my physicalist hat, if you say yes, then it's not absurd to say 5 is false. If you say no, you're ipso facto saying 6 is false.
  • RogueAI
    191
    I don't know, let's find out how absurd this is. Can Bob and Shiela communicate their mental states? Donning my physicalist hat, if you say yes, then it's not absurd to say 5 is false. If you say no, you're ipso facto saying 6 is false.

    Don't don any hat then. Pretend you're agnostic. Doesn't it sound absurd to claim that two people who don't even know what a brain is or that they even have one are capable of talking about brain states? Hasn't the term "brain state" at that point lost all meaning?
  • InPitzotl
    310
    Don't don any hat then. Pretend you're agnostic. Doesn't it sound absurd to claim that two people who don't even know what a brain is or that they even have one are talking about brain states?RogueAI
    Nope. People may have no idea that sound is vibration of a medium such as air (i.e., that sound is an "air state"), but still be able to talk about sounds. People may have no idea that mental states are brain states but still be able to talk about brain states in the same fashion.
    ETA:
    To meaningfully talk about states, all that's required is that you be able to know there are states, and be able to distinguish states somehow. You don't need knowledge of what the substrate or manifestation of the state is; just some sort of identity of the states would do.
  • Daniel
    192


    Meaningful communication about mental states was exchanged.RogueAI

    Their communication was not about mental states; it was not about sympathy or pain. Their communication reflects their mental states; the words used in their communication express the mental state that cause them, but are not about the mental states that cause them. I can use words to express a mental state without talking about the mental state.
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