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  #31  
Unread January 31st, 2006, 09:27 AM
Fred H. Fred H. is offline
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Thumbs up Re: intellect in charge?

Quote:
Margaret: My current view is that our conscious mind can only deal with cognitive images - while our actual motivation and decision-making occur at the emotional level largely unnoticed. We therefore "think" that our intellect is in charge. I think it's just along for the ride.
Yeah, there doesn’t currently seem to be much science or evidence supporting our belief that intellect is in charge, that we have “free will.” But I doubt anyone truly believes that it’s all just an illusion. Best I can tell, we all assume and are convinced, at least viscerally, that we do have at least some conscious free will.

I think there’s a lot more science & evidence to support a belief in objective truth and first cause than free will. And I suppose that’s kind of how I get to it—convinced there is some sort of “spirit vastly superior to that of man,” and convinced there’s objective truth, the leap to at least some, perhaps limited, human free will is fairly easy.

I’ve also read several of Damasio’s books—Feeling of What Happen and Looking for Spinoza—I really like his books and think that he and LeDoux probably see many things similarly, although LeDoux’s Synaptic Self seems to have more substance as I recall. Hope you enjoy it.

Last edited by Fred H.; January 31st, 2006 at 09:37 AM.
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  #32  
Unread January 31st, 2006, 02:40 PM
Margaret McGhee Margaret McGhee is offline
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Default Re: Intelligent Design and Why Not

Hi Fred, From your last post I think I should clarify some things lest you take some things from my posts that I don't intend to convey.

My demotion of intellect has more to do with my peculiar model of how the brain might work - than with any acceptance I have of cosmic or spiritual forces at work in its stead.

However, I don't at all mean to be dismissive of your notions of such things as "first cause" or a “spirit vastly superior to that of man”. The whole topic of spirituality as it appears in so many similar forms and in different cultures through time is fascinating and important to any view of human nature.

I also find that everyone holds beliefs that are not logically grounded. We may not always consider those to be spritual but I'm sure they serve some of the same mental purposes.

Re: Free will. That's a tough one to hit head on. I suspect as time goes by we'll get a better picture of how we each see it.

Just for the record I am a fallen Catholic who turned her back on the church at fifteen.

Last edited by Margaret McGhee; January 31st, 2006 at 03:45 PM. Reason: Clarification
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  #33  
Unread February 1st, 2006, 01:54 AM
alexandra_k alexandra_k is offline
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Default Re: Intelligent Design and Why Not

Hmm. Is the thought that...

The comparatively primative brain structures (which have a lot to do with emotion processing) cause behaviour before it gets a chance to be processed by the comparatively recent brain structures (which have a lot to do with cognition / thought processing)?

So... Our behaviour is caused by things that we aren't really consciously aware of?

If you are thinking something along these lines... I am very much interested in that notion too. In the seperation / relation between thought and emotion.

Also... The importance of past experience (rft history) in the production of behaviour and to what extent that can be modified by cognition / imaginings etc.

Regarding free will... It all depends on what you mean by 'free will' (hate to do that - but must be done).

Libertarian Free will is incoherant and thus cannot possibly be the case.
Dennett (and others) are compatabilists which means that they think that we need to revise out concept of freedom so that it is in line with determinism. That isn't to say that determinism IS true - just that IF determinism is true THEN it is still possible for us to have free will. There is fairly much a consensus that compatabilism is the way to go (in philosophy circles). All thats left to be done... Is to work out the details...
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  #34  
Unread February 1st, 2006, 01:57 PM
Margaret McGhee Margaret McGhee is offline
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Default Re: Intelligent Design and Why Not

Hi Alexandra, Those are really interesting questions. I think about that stuff a lot. Here' my uneducated two-cents-worth.

Re: Thought, emotion, experience, etc.

Aside from maintaining body-state in the background the main purpose of a CNS is to make decisions and excute them. I have come to the provisional view that our basic decision-making calculator is an analog device in our limbic system that can only process emotional inputs, just as it does for all mammals.

I suspect that our intellect participates in our decisions by sending the emotional weight of our logical conclusion to that calculator (that would be the confidence that our intellect has in its results) - while it holds those results provisionally in working memory for execution should the decision require it. But first those emotions get summed along with other emotions from instincts, past experience, the social emotions from our pre-frontal cortex, etc. to actually make the decision.

In some cases, like when we have great fear, the strong emotions of the urgency of the situation will cause us to execute a limbic decision before our slower intellect has a chance to provide its input. Or, the strong emotions from the situation prevents our intellect from functioning at all. Or, if it does come up with a logical solution it's results could get completely swamped by our stronger instinctual emotions. In those cases we're operating just like our non-thinking mammalian relatives.

I suspect that our intellect has a somewhat more limited role in our decision-making than we imagine and that our more basic emotions often over-ride the emotions we attach to our intellectual conclusions - like every time someone buys a lottery ticket.

Re: Free will.

I think that's a concept that could only be considered by an intellect that thinks it is in sole control of our lives and isn't aware of how our decisions are actually made (see above). Our conscious mind is largely unaware of our emotions. That's good because it allows it to act in a complementary way to our limbic system to provide conceptual rather than emotional solutions to problems (and come up with far-fetched explanations for things like this post). But that also allows it to "think" that it is in charge of things.

I'm sure my notions of the brain will seem naive to the real scientists around here. Please just think of them as the wild-assed-guesses of a non-scientist who is totally captivated by the neat stuff you folks are researching and writing about.

BTW - What's (rft history)?

Margaret

Last edited by Margaret McGhee; February 1st, 2006 at 02:40 PM. Reason: Clarification
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  #35  
Unread February 2nd, 2006, 12:46 PM
Fred H. Fred H. is offline
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Default Re: Free will

“Free will” is probably impossible to clearly define. I suppose we all have some intuitive sense of what it is—essentially choice. I suspect that everyone believes they have at least some, even atheists who assert that we’re merely products of a directionless evolution in a pitiless and indifferent universe of blind (deterministic and/or random) physical forces and genetic replication.

Assuming it’s more than just an illusion, then I’d say it’s Ledoux’s cognitive “downward causation.” But then of course there’s always the question as to whether our subcortical bottom-up motivation is really all that’s driving us to strive for “downward causation.” It’s all so circular.
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  #36  
Unread February 2nd, 2006, 01:53 PM
TomJrzk TomJrzk is offline
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Default Re: Free will

Quote:
Originally Posted by Fred H.
I suspect that everyone believes they have at least some
Hi Fred,

At the risk of having you call my post a joke again, I happen to be one of those true determinists. Any idea of free will that goes beyond physics is not something that I'm convinced of, yet. The illusion of free will is a good thing in most respects but I have seen no evidence that it is any more than the result of the current chemistry in our brains reacting with our imprinted memories and instincts. I don't think the uncertainty principle even has any effect when so many molecules are involved.

Keep up the interesting posts!
Tom (not Jones)
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  #37  
Unread February 2nd, 2006, 07:59 PM
Margaret McGhee Margaret McGhee is offline
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Default Re: Intelligent Design and Why Not

Hi Fred, Tom, Alexandra,

Just to add some grist to the free-will mill,

. . when someone talks of free-will, I think they often use that term to mean a spiritual-self, some self beyond the chemicals and neurons, that has the ability to observe our life as we live it and make judgements if not decisions on our body's behalf. Free-will is considered a noble concept in philosophical discussions. Speaking of God and spirituality often doesn't command the same respect. (It does from me.)

For some, the idea that consciousness could just happen from some arrangement of those chemicals and neurons, is uncomfortable because their life feels so powerfully immediate and significant (and spiritual) to them that relegating its destiny and direction to those chemicals and neurons is degrading.

However, if I accept that that may be the case, I can still see free-will as the freedom for my particular arrangement of neurons to express their selfish will. On a more experiential level that means that I am free to make decisions that optimize my emotional outcome. Every decision I make is made to follow my best guess as to what will make me the happiest, from all the alternatives I'm aware of. (This could get tautological now.)

But that sounds like enough free-will to make any organism happy. I can't imagine that evolution would design an organism any other way.

I guess I am one of those " . . who assert that we’re merely products of a directionless evolution in a pitiless and indifferent universe of blind (deterministic and/or random) physical forces and genetic replication . . " but so far I'm enjoying that ride.

Others may prefer to take off on what they see as a more spiritual wave and ride that. More power to them - but when I tried that in the past, no doubt because of my particular arrangement of chemicals and neurons I found that wave to be mostly backwash.

I figure we each get to ride the wave that most appeals to us - as long as we don't run over anybody else. If that's not free-will I don't know what is.

PS - I think it's very cool that the internet allows us to share the output of our neurons and chemicals like this. I find it difficult to express these ideas in person or to find others who like to think and talk about these topics.

Margaret
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  #38  
Unread February 2nd, 2006, 08:28 PM
alexandra_k alexandra_k is offline
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Default Re: Intelligent Design and Why Not

genes + environment -> beliefs + desires (and other mental states though the traditional focus has been on these two) -> behavior

the -> is supposed to signify a causal relationship (where genes and environment together determine beliefs and desires in a determined world, or where they determine the probability of various beliefs and desires in an irreducibly indeterministic world).

so our beliefs and desires are caused by our genes and our environment, and our beliefs and desires go on to cause our behaviour.

now the problem is just where 'free will' is supposed to fit into this picture...

(ps. 'rft history' is short for 'reinforcement history'. behaviourists consider that our present responses are determined by our past reinforcement history. we do not have to be consciously aware of our reinforcement history in order for it to play a causal role in determining our behaviour and just how much conscious awareness is able to modify the causal process from rft history to behaviour is interesting to me...)

i guess... this is fairly much what i am into.

the relationship between neurological (physical) explanation; cognitive (design) explanation; psychological (intentional) explanation (where we talk of 'beliefs' 'desires' 'hopes' 'fears' 'memories' 'emotions' and 'preferences' etc; and... the thought that the mind is modular (Jerry Fodor started this idea off...) and that the different cognitive modules have evolved for various reasons / functions...

and applying all that to explain things like... belief formation / maintenence.
and emotions etc. fairly wide area. i guess i see the role of philosophy as being integrative (to integrate the findings from the various areas) and also to come up with a general coherant theory of the nature / structure / function of mind...
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  #39  
Unread February 2nd, 2006, 09:10 PM
alexandra_k alexandra_k is offline
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Default Re: Intelligent Design and Why Not

Hmm. We have a nervous system. The lowest kinds of responses are reflexes. The information travels up the peripheral nerves and gets to the spinal chord and then a message is relayed back to the peripheral nerves (this is the knee kick reflex). Then there are higher kinds of responses which are still fairly relexive. Information can make it to some of the lower brain structures (but not conscious awareness) and a response is produced. Some emotional responses are like that (they can be produced from subliminally presented stimuli). Other information... Gets to go round and round the cortex a bit (put fairly crudely). This seems to be... Conscious thought. Conscious thought... I think that is more integrative so that we can take various factors into account and come to a 'all things rationally considered' kind of decision. Instead of 'reacting' to the situation (perhaps in a very short sighted hedonistic manner) we can think about the consequences and the options etc with a view to the long term and respond from there. I guess... That is how I see it.

Emotions are more significant for 'rational' decisions than was previously thought.

> In some cases, like when we have great fear, the strong emotions of the urgency of the situation will cause us to execute a limbic decision before our slower intellect has a chance to provide its input.

Yeah. There is stuff on a 'high road' and a 'low road' to emotional responses. The low road only makes it to the lower brain structures before a response is sent to the motor production areas... the high road gets to go round and round the cortex a bit...

some people are more controlled by their emotional responses than others... some people have very reactive nervous systems. Linehan talks about borderline personality disorder where she considers that people with this disorder have very reactive nervous systems, very intense emotional responses, and a slow return to emotional baseline. I'm fairly interested in that and in our ability / or possibly inability to overcome a reactive nervous system via conscious thought and via imagining and via alteration of rft contingencies...

> Our conscious mind is largely unaware of our emotions.

there are unconscious emotions?

> I'm sure my notions of the brain will seem naive to the real scientists around here.

Hmm. I'm not a scientist either. I don't want to run experiments and I can't tolerate much experiment reading... I'm more interested in the bigger picture. Regarding that... I sometimes think it is a case of 'he who bullshits best wins'

;-)
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  #40  
Unread February 2nd, 2006, 11:42 PM
Margaret McGhee Margaret McGhee is offline
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Default Re: Intelligent Design and Why Not

Alexandra, Take a look at this:

http://www.psycheducation.org/emotion/hippocampus.htm

About 2/3 of the way down the page there are two photos of synapses in the hippocampus. The assertion is that exposure to estrogen increases the synapse density in the hippocampus (limbic system). Does that impact your interest area at all?

******************************

You said: Emotions are more significant for 'rational' decisions than was previously thought.

Yes. That's what I've been saying. Not only is it more significant, I have proposed a model where emotions are the currency in the decision-making process in (all) mammals. I'm suggesting that the actual decision mechanism is an emotional summing device. Since other mammals can't think much if at all that has to be what they use.

I'm suggesting that we use the same thing. Our intellect gets to participate by adding its emotional vote - an emotion proportional to the confidence it has in the solution it has created.

If that emotion is stronger than those opposing emotions from instincts, dispositions, beliefs, etc. - then it gets to have its solution executed.

If it doesn't have much confidence or if those other emotions are stronger, they could take precedence.

Example: We're sitting at a red light that hasn't changed for 5 minutes. There's no traffic. Should we go?

Emotional scale: Absolute No = -10 Absolute Yes = +10 0 = undecided (No)

Emotional balance:

Instinct/disposition: We're late, screw it. (+3)
Belief: It's wrong to run a red light and I'll probabaly get a ticket. (-6)
Intellect: I can't see anybody for miles. It's probably OK to go. But I'm not sure. There could be one of those intersection cameras around here. (+2)

Result (-1) We wait.

Three more minutes go by:

New emotional balance:

Instinct/disposition: Now we're really late, I hate this and feel stupid sitting here at this intersection with no-one near waiting for a light that's probably broken. (+5) I can visualize Elaine Benis saying this to herself.)
Belief: It's wrong to run a red light.(-6)
Intellect: I still can't see anybody for miles. It's probably OK to go but where did they hide that camera? (+2)

Result (+1)

We take one more look for traffic and cautiously proceed.

See how according to this model intellect participates using the strength of it's conviction, which in this case was not too high? I'm not saying that I believe for sure this is how it works (she says showing low confidence in her intellectual solution). Just that it makes an interesting straw-man.


Margaret
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