Consciousness: reviewing Descartes on mind and body (General)

by dhw, Thursday, August 15, 2019, 10:08 (113 days ago) @ David Turell

dhw: This whole argument is based on the assumption that the cause of consciousness is non-physical! I remain neutral on the subject of dualism versus materialism, but the article and your comment require a restoration of balance. Nobody knows the source of consciousness. You cite evidence that it is non-physical, and I accept that much of this does indeed favour dualism. But on the other hand, we see example after example to illustrate how damage to the brain can totally change the nature of the mind.

DAVID: You fail to note that a damaged receiver may well produce a distorted image of consciousness.

dhw: You are assuming that the brain is only a receiver! That is the essence of dualism. Materialists claim that a damaged brain changes the nature of an individual’s consciousness because it is the brain that produces consciousness! I leave both options open.

DAVID: Of course materialism points to consciousness changes with a damaged brain. A damaged receiver of course will produce distortion.

And so we have two “of courses” providing evidence for two different interpretations of the brain: transmitter versus receiver. Or maybe parts of the brain transmit and others receive.

dhw: I find it difficult to believe the argument that despite loss of memory, changes in character, and all the other changes that accompany brain damage, the mind remains exactly as it was before the accident, disease, drug-taking etc. but simply can’t express its immaterial self properly. These changes provide evidence that the mind emerges from the brain and the brain is not merely the receiver.

DAVID: Same failed conclusion because it ignores the evidence from NDE's.

dhw: It is not a conclusion. You have ignored the beginning of my post, which I have now bolded. NDEs are part of the evidence that I accept.

DAVID: How do you accept NDE's? They fully support dualism.

And character change as a result of brain damage fully supports materialism! You do not seem to have grasped the fact that there is evidence for both –isms, which is why I remain uncommitted.

dhw: There is little point in hammering home the logic that if the mind is immaterial, it follows that it can be separated from the body. The same logic applies to the argument that if it is material, it cannot be separated from the body. And the fact is that there is evidence for both premises, but no conclusive evidence for either, and so nobody knows which one is true.

DAVID: My thoughts are never material, but this comment of yours implies they are.

dhw: Of course it doesn’t! I don’t know of anyone who claims that thought is material! I have simply put both sides of the case. Immaterial thought is produced either by an immaterial mind (dualism) or by the material brain (materialism).

DAVID: I'll stick with the NDE evidence.

That is your right. I’ll stay on the fence, although in my THEORY OF INTELLIGENCE I did try to find a compromise.


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