Big brain evolution: mind/brain philosophy (Evolution)

by David Turell @, Monday, October 15, 2018, 15:08 (830 days ago) @ dhw

DAVID: Dr. Egnor again:

QUOTE: "Seth asks: “How does consciousness happen?”. He answers: “…somehow, within each of our brains, the combined activity of many billions of neurons—each one a tiny biological machine—is generating our conscious experience…”
"There are three fallacies in this one sentence. In my earlier post, I pointed out the fallacy of Seth’s assumption that rational thought is a material power of the brain, which it is not. In this post, I’ll discuss Seth’s mereological fallacy, a fundamental fallacy which is endemic in neuroscience.
"The mereological fallacy is the confusion of the part for the whole. It is the nonsensical attribution of abilities to the part that can only be abilities of the whole. It is the mereological fallacy to say that my mouth speaks. Actually, I speak, using my mouth. It is the mereological fallacy to say that my feet walk. Actually, I walk, using my feet.”

dhw: We have discussed this subject over and over again. What Egnor calls the “mereological fallacy” is his repudiation of “emergence”, though he doesn’t use the term. I remain neutral on the subject of materialism versus dualism, but I cannot accept his dismissal or his complete distortion of the argument as a “fallacy”. I don’t know of any materialist who attributes the abilities of the whole to the part. The argument is that the parts combine to make the whole, which is greater than the sum of its parts. (I like to use the ant colony as an analogy.) Of course I speak using my mouth. But what am “I”? The dualist says “I” am a mixture of immaterial mind and material body. The materialist says that “mind” is what emerges from interaction between billions of neurons, and “I” am therefore the product of my interacting materials. Calling it a “fallacy”, and manufacturing silly examples, does not make it a fallacy.

'Emergence' is as fuzzy a concept as anything we have discussed. Emergence means somehow or other mind appears from the use of the brain. By naming the concept as emergence, what have we done?: given something we cannot explain a grand name that does not advance our knowledge in any way. Note my bold of your comment about materialists: I would note, as for neurological studies of the brain, Egnor is exactly pointing out that those scientists are dividing the brain into parts and implying exact use of the part as if separate modules. It is Egnor who says look at the whole. Egnor's article says we cannot explain mind from brain studies , and never will.

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