Consciousness, Intentionality, and Causality

27 Feb

Does Consciousness Cause Behavior?“ı okurken beni epey gülümseten ve aynı zamanda kafamı en çok karıştıran, Walter J. Freeman tarafından yazılmış “Consciousness, Intentionality, and Causality” makalesinden dikkatimi çeken kısımları not düşeyim günlüğüme (bu arada makalenin kaynakçasında Popper’in “The Open Universe: An Argument for Indeterminism“i de var ki Cumartesi günü Memduh ile aramızdaki bir tartışmada ismi geçmiş bir eserdi, tesadüf mü desek yoksa Freeman’ın deyişi ile dairesel nedenselliğin kaotik salınımlardan sıyrılıp karşıma çıkışı mı?):

The materials I use to answer the question, what is causality?, come from several disciplines, including heavy reliance on neurobiology and nonlinear dynamics. In the words of computer technologists these two disciplines make up God’s own firewall, which keeps hackers from burning in to access and crack the brain codes. For reviews on neuroflaming I recommend introductory texts by Bloom and Lazerson (1988) on “Brain, Mind and Behavior”, and by Abraham et al. (1990) on “Visual Introduction to Dynamical Systems Theory for Psychology.”


Pain is intentional in that it directs behavior toward facilitation of healing, and that it mediates learning when actions have gone wrong with deleterious, unintended consequences. Pain serves to exemplify the differences between volition, desire and intent; it is willed by sadists, desired by masochists, and essential for normal living.


A case was made by Davidson (1980) for “anomalous monism” to resolve the apparent contradiction between the deterministic laws of physics, the necessity for embodiment of mental processes in materials governed by those fixed laws, and the weakness of the “laws” governing psychophysical events as distinct from statistical classes of events: “Why on earth should a cause turn an action into a mere happening and a person into a helpless victim? Is it because we tend to assume, at least in the arena of action, that a cause demands a causer, agency and agent? So we press the question; if my action is caused, what caused it? If I did, then there is the absurdity of an infinite regress; if I did not, I am a victim. But of course the alternatives are not exhaustive. Some causes have no agents. Among these agentless causes are the states and changes of state in persons which, because they are reasons as well as causes, constitute certain events free and intentional actions.” [p. 19]

His premisses have been superceded in two respects. First, he postulated that brains are material systems, for which the laws of physics support accurate prediction. He described brains as “closed systems”. In the past three decades numerous investigators have realized that brains are open systems, as are all organs and living systems, with an infinite sink in the venous return for waste heat and entropy, so that the 1st and 2nd laws of thermodynamics do not hold for brains, thus negating one of his two main premisses. Second, he postulated that, with respect to meaning, minds are “open” systems, on the basis that they are continually acting into the world and learning about it. The analyses of electrophysiological data taken during the operations of sensory cortices during acts of perception indicate that meaning in each mind is a closed system, and that meaning is based in chaotic constructions, not in information processing, thus negating the other of his two main premisses. In my view, neurons engage in complex biochemical operations that have no meaning or information in themselves, but inspire meaning in researchers who measure them. The degree of unpredictability of mental and behavioral events is in full accord with the extent of variations in the space-time patterns of the activity of chaotic systems, thus removing the requirement for the adjective, “anomalous”, because it applies to both sets of laws for the material and mental aspects of living systems. Moreover, the adoption of the concept “circular causality” from physics and psychology removes agency. That which remains is “dynamical monism”.

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Posted by on February 27, 2007 in CogSci, General


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