Confabulation

An interesting essay in Aeon by neurologist Jules Montague:

Why is the brain prone to florid forms of confabulation?

She had visited Madonna’s mansion the week before, Maggie told me during my ward round. Helped her choose outfits for the tour. The only problem was that Maggie was a seamstress in Dublin. She had never met Madonna; she had never provided her with sartorial advice on cone brassieres. Instead, an MRI scan conducted a few days earlier – when Maggie arrived at the ER febrile and agitated – revealed encephalitis, a swelling of the brain.

Now she was confabulating, conveying false memories induced by injury to her brain. Not once did Maggie doubt that she was a seamstress to the stars, no matter how incongruous those stories seemed. And that’s the essence of confabulation: the critical faculty of doubt is compromised. These honest lies were Maggie’s truth…

104 thoughts on “Confabulation”

  1. Robert Byers

    keiths:
    Erik:

    That’s completely confused. Remember, this “container” business is your crutch for trying to understand physicalism.People who are up to speed on neuroscience don’t need to rely on such hopelessly simplistic metaphors.

    The brain is not a container.Memories are not objects that are placed in the container.And even in your clunky metaphor, the container is not the same as the stuff contained in it.

    Indeed. memories are not placed but rather the ‘brain’ is just a giant memory machine. So great its not noticed everything we do/think is based on memory.
    If so then only the triggering mechanism would be in the way of great memory or little memory.
    Exactualy. all mind problems of people are just triggering problems for the memory.
    ‘idiot savants” prove this, strongly suggest it by having super memory skills(relative to others) but no memory for other skills. the abberation is the evidence of the actual problem.
    savants do not have brain problems but greater memory ability BUT INSTEAD its just one equation.
    they have no brain problems but only memory problems.
    to heal one only needs to fix the triggering mechanism for the memory.

  2. keithskeiths Post author

    The antiphysicalist reaction from Erik has been amusing, but my main motivation in posting this OP was its relevance to skepticism.

    In the Aeon article, Montague writes:

    But for those without brain damage, the brain tends to inspect information and perceptions that simply couldn’t be true. Could I really have seen a kangaroo on the road to Edinburgh? We set such information aside unconsciously for further fact-checking using ‘doubt tags’ traced by neuroscientists to the orbitofrontal cortex and ventromedial prefrontal cortex towards the front of the brain. Such tags tell us: ‘There might be something fishy here.’ These regions are disrupted in confabulators with brain injury who have trouble applying doubt tags even in the face of outrageous ideas and thoughts.

    It’s not just those with brain injury who are susceptible to confabulation. Younger children often confabulate, likely because of a developing prefrontal cortex. And recently, researchers from the University of Bedfordshire in the United Kingdom and the University of British Columbia in Canada persuaded a group of healthy undergraduate students that they had a criminal history.

    The faculty of rational doubt is obviously key to skepticism, so understanding the ways in which this faculty can fail may suggest ways of immunizing ourselves against these failures.

  3. keithskeiths Post author

    Erik,

    Looks like I am again the only one with an actual model to expound and defend while you defend nothing. The upshot is that I actually have a position and you don’t.

    Silly Erik.

    I am defending physicalism generally, and more specifically the thesis that mental processes, including those related to memory, are physical processes. I’m criticizing the absurd and unsupported notion that such processes are somehow nonphysical, or that they depend on an immaterial entity of some kind.

    The experience of petrushka’s uncle makes perfect sense in terms of physicalism. If the encoding and recording of memories is a physical process, and so is their retrieval, then brain damage that disrupts the former but not the latter would be expected to produce exactly the symptoms that petrushka’s uncle suffered: an inability to form new memories, but a continued ability to retrieve old ones.

    You, meanwhile, have proposed a goofy hypothesis in which petrushka’s uncle did form new memories, and actually knew that his kids had grown up and gotten married, but was simply unable to express that knowledge. It’s ludicrous.

    As I wrote earlier:

    Seriously? You think petrushka’s uncle actually remembered that his kids had grown up and married, but that he couldn’t “express” that memory, instead expressing the thought that they were 8 and 10 years old, day after day, month after month, year after year?

    He remembered it, but just couldn’t get his mouth to form the words?

    That’s ridiculous, Erik.

  4. Robert Byers

    petrushka:
    Based on things I’ve read about rehabilitation of stroke victims, I’m thinking that intensive training and shaping therapies may bring many victims of brain damage back to self sufficiency. The damaged part may never recover, but there may be alternate paths.

    The most interesting case I know of is the artist who lost the ability to see color. It was not a visual impairment. He lost the ability to conceive of color. Could not remember color, could not dream of color.

    Amen. Amen.
    It was a memory problem. Remember the memory is a organ in the head. or several.
    So if this is the problem why invoke a brain problem ALSO.
    instead this case shows the stroke affected the memory clearly.
    I think all stroke examples can be shown to merely affect the memory and so its connection to all parts of the body.
    i think healing could progress better aiming at fixing the triggering mechanism for the memory and not giving up over a “brain’ complexity.

  5. Erik

    keiths: The experience of petrushka’s uncle makes perfect sense in terms of physicalism.

    I have not denied that it makes sense for physicalism in some cases. It’s far from perfect though. There are contrary cases. Physicalism makes sense by cherry-picking.

  6. keithskeiths Post author

    Let me get this straight, Robert. You actually believe that memory is a physical organ in the head, separate from the brain?

  7. keithskeiths Post author

    Erik,

    Do you finally agree that the experience of petrushka’s uncle makes perfect sense in terms of physicalism, but not at all in terms of your goofy “he knew it but couldn’t express it” hypothesis?

  8. Erik

    keiths: Do you finally agree that the experience of petrushka’s uncle makes perfect sense in terms of physicalism, but not at all in terms of your goofy “he knew it but couldn’t express it” hypothesis?

    If you cared to pay attention, I have never disagreed that the case makes some sense in terms of physicalism. But “perfect” should mean physicalism explains also contrary cases. It doesn’t.

    Ultimately, the problem is that you are not paying attention. And you don’t have a position to defend and to stand on. You have never defined “physical processes”. The first time “physical” and “physicalism” were used in this thread was by me, when I laid out their supposed position. You have not laid out any position.

  9. keithskeiths Post author

    Erik,

    You only half-answered my question. Here it is again:

    Do you finally agree that the experience of petrushka’s uncle makes perfect sense in terms of physicalism, but not at all in terms of your goofy “he knew it but couldn’t express it” hypothesis?

    It’s blindingly obvious that your hypothesis failed (and failed badly) at explaining the predicament of petrushka’s uncle, while physicalism succeeded.

  10. Erik

    keiths: It’s blindingly obvious that your hypothesis failed (and failed badly) at explaining the predicament of petrushka’s uncle, while physicalism succeeded.

    False.

    Form a question that actually addresses my position. It’s blindingly obvious that you are boneheadedly talking past the issue.

  11. keithskeiths Post author

    Erik,

    Your foolish pride is getting in the way of a learning opportunity.

    Your goofy hypothesis doesn’t fit the evidence. If you nevertheless insist on clinging to it, then I’m afraid we are at an impasse.

  12. Erik

    keiths: I’m afraid we are at an impasse.

    We never got into any sort of meaningful discussion in the first place, because you haven’t formulated a position. You only criticize mine, and you criticize it by means of strawmanning. I pointed it out to you, but you are not listening.

    Once you get over these problems, things can start moving somewhere.

    ETA: For example, you never answered what the brain is according to you. So you don’t have a position. Also, you keep assuming that my model is as mechanical as yours, even though you haven’t even laid out a relevant model in the first place so we could compare. So you are content with strawmanning my position while having no position yourself.

  13. waltowalto

    Erik: The silliest posts are those that simply say “No” or “You’re wrong/silly/confused” leaving out what, in your opinion, is the right alternative. It’s as good as posting nothing at all. Actually, posting nothing at all is better because it keeps the thread cleaner and helps find actual content in it, if any.

    I disagree. I think it would be good for you understand quite clearly that your description of the brain as a container of memories is nothing but a caricature of most physicalists’ views of the matter. (Keep in mind, that many of them don’t think ANY “ideas are in the head.”) It seems to me that you understanding that simple point might be a start toward a productive discussion, and that when you fling nonsensical mischaracterizations around, it is likely to be difficult to ever make any progress in mutual understanding.

    However, I do know that caricaturing views you don’t like is your accustomed method here. That seems to me to have been an utter failure to date, but let me ask you: how do YOU think your approach has worked so far in achieving meetings of minds on issues to date? Do you think your method has borne fruit?

  14. Erik

    walto: It seems to me that you understanding that simple point might be a start toward a productive discussion, and that when you fling nonsensical mischaracterizations around, it is likely to be difficult to ever make any progress in mutual understanding.

    Are you saying physicalists have no model based on which the brain operates? If there’s a model, then tell what it is and we’ll see if I’m wrong or not. Until then you are not saying anything constructive.

  15. dazzdazz

    Erik: Are you saying physicalists have no model based on which the brain operates? If there’s a model, then tell what it is and we’ll see if I’m wrong or not. Until then you are not saying anything constructive.

    neuroscience?

  16. Erik

    dazz: neuroscience?

    Can you tell the difference between science and metaphysics? If yes, hopefully you can also tell why this difference is relevant.

    Neuroscience was supposed to be proving the physicalist theory of mind (≈brain). As long as there is no positive account of the physicalist theory of mind (besides mine, which is a mischaracterization, so I’m being told, without being told what the true characterization would look like, and thus the actual teaching moment fails to materialize), nobody here can reasonably say that the cited neuroscience proves physicalism.

    Facts without context and organization are just meaningless noise.

  17. Kantian NaturalistKantian Naturalist

    For those interested in cognitive science and its philosophical implications (just in case anyone here is), here’s a nice place to start:

    Clark on predictive processing is here and here, plus here’s a lot of excellent essays and interviews at The Brains Blog. I’m also following “Expecting Ourselves” on Twitter.

    But bear in mind that predictive processing is a theory of cognitive science, not (yet?) a theory of neuroscience.

  18. dazzdazz

    Erik: Can you tell the difference between science and metaphysics? If yes, hopefully you can also tell why this difference is relevant.

    Neuroscience was supposed to be proving the physicalist theory of mind (≈brain). As long as there is no positive account of the physicalist theory of mind (besides mine, which is a mischaracterization, so I’m being told, without being told what the true characterization would look like, and thus the actual teaching moment fails to materialize), nobody here can reasonably say that the cited neuroscience proves physicalism.

    Facts without context and organization are just meaningless noise.

    I think it was Walto who once said here at TSZ that the mind is what the brain does (apologies if that’s a mischaracterization). Neuroscience studies all that stuff.

  19. Erik

    dazz: I think it was Walto who once said here at TSZ that the mind is what the brain does (apologies if that’s a mischaracterization).

    Up to him to explain how this formulation (and my exposition) of physicalism is a mischaracterization, if at all. For now we have nothing but an allegation of mischaracterization, no proof or clarification.

    Physicalists don’t like to be open about their positive views. Happens all the time.

  20. dazzdazz

    Kantian Naturalist,

    Just for the record, I bookmark all your read suggestions. Problem is I’m far too dumb for most of them and ended up looking for introductory reads on history of philosophy, the basic stuff. I’ll catch up though. Might take me a couple reincarnations but I know I will, LOL

    fifthmonarchyman:
    How do you know this?

    j/k

  21. dazzdazz

    Erik: Physicalists don’t like to be open about their positive views

    Nice projection.

    If the mind is described as the neurological processes going on in the nervous system, then the extensive work *published* in the field of neuroscience is what you’re looking for. OTOH you refuse to answer questions about how your model explains simple facts. Meh

  22. Erik

    dazz: Nice projection…. you refuse to answer questions about how your model explains simple facts.

    The simple fact here remains that I am the only one in this thread who has provided a positive account of physicalism, because no physicalist has stepped forward to do it and relate it to the theory how brain/mind works on their view. In addition to this, I have provided an alternative non-physicalist account. This is more than any physicalist has done.

    Probably there simply aren’t any physicalists here, except a few falsely self-professing ones. I’ll go with that.

  23. Erik

    dazz: If the mind is described as the neurological processes going on in the nervous system, then the extensive work *published* in the field of neuroscience is what you’re looking for.

    As if I had not read enough of those and put them into perspective. What you are clearly communicating though is that you have no willingness to comprehend the distinction of science and metaphysics and why it’s relevant.

    FYI, the relevance is this: Neuroscience says what the brain does. It doesn’t tell what the brain is and and it doesn’t tell if there is a mind.

    Now see walto’s thesis: The mind is what the brain does. Neuroscience cannot give you the proof of this thesis. You need metaphysics for this, metaphysical premises to guide your research, a theoretical framework based on which you can tell whether your research is proving or disproving the thesis.

    If you, a la KN, subject your metaphysics to science, you will never get there. You may be on your way, but you will positively block all sense of direction and purpose from yourself.

  24. Kantian NaturalistKantian Naturalist

    dazz: I think it was Walto who once said here at TSZ that the mind is what the brain does (apologies if that’s a mischaracterization). Neuroscience studies all that stuff.

    That was a slogan of early-stage cognitive science, especially when functionalism was all the rage. I think it’s insightful, and useful when teaching philosophy of mind, but it’s too simplistic to be true.

    For one thing, as Chalmers pointed out, functionalism cannot explain consciousness. If there is a scientific theory of consciousness (which I doubt), it wouldn’t be functionalist.

    The enactive approach to cognition is far more promising, but I’ve come to think that it’s more about giving us a precise description of the problem to be solved than it is a solution. One reason why I’m really excited about the predictive processing paradigm is that it promises to bridge the gap between our personal-level descriptions of mental states together with subpersonal descriptions of neural processes. But there remains a lot of work to do there, building the bridge in both directions.

    For my part, not knowing any neuroscience, I’m more interested in building the bridge between predictive processing and phenomenology. In particular I’m interested in figuring out how rationality works.

    I think there’s a really interesting story to be told about the details of what happens when two or more differently situated predictive processing systems are able to communicate the similarities and differences between their predictions and prediction errors, and at least sometimes be motivated to minimize or explain those discrepancies without using violence or other forms of coercion.

    The next book I’m tackling is The Enigma of Reason by Mercier and Sperber. It looks really interesting and could add a lot to the story I want to tell.

    And in case anyone is wondering how I have all this time to read — it’s because reading this stuff is in fact what I am paid to do.

  25. keithskeiths Post author

    KN:

    And in case anyone is wondering how I have all this time to read — it’s because reading this stuff is in fact what I am paid to do.

    Judging by your misconstruals of Dennett, I would suggest placing more emphasis on understanding versus mere reading.

  26. keithskeiths Post author

    Erik:

    We never got into any sort of meaningful discussion in the first place, because you haven’t formulated a position.

    Your tightly closed eyelids are not evidence that I haven’t formulated a position.

    Again, I claim that the whole shebang is physical. That includes the processes involved in memory:

    I am defending physicalism generally, and more specifically the thesis that mental processes, including those related to memory, are physical processes. I’m criticizing the absurd and unsupported notion that such processes are somehow nonphysical, or that they depend on an immaterial entity of some kind.

    The experience of petrushka’s uncle makes perfect sense in terms of physicalism. If the encoding and recording of memories is a physical process, and so is their retrieval, then brain damage that disrupts the former but not the latter would be expected to produce exactly the symptoms that petrushka’s uncle suffered: an inability to form new memories, but a continued ability to retrieve old ones.

    You already agreed that the experience of petrushka’s uncle makes sense in terms of physicalism. Yet it doesn’t make sense in terms of the caricature of physicalism that you provided:

    You are missing an important point. A damaged container is bad at containing stuff. Even worse, on reductionist assumptions (i.e. thoroughly consistent physicalism), the container itself is the stuff and damage to it equals damage to the stuff.

    It does make sense in terms of my physicalist position, outlined above.

  27. keithskeiths Post author

    KN,

    The fact that you do not understand my criticisms of Dennett does not mean that I do not understand Dennett.

    I linked to five comments explaining your mistakes regarding Dennett. Can you rebut them?

  28. Erik

    keiths: You already agreed that the experience of petrushka’s uncle makes sense in terms of physicalism.

    Limited sense. Just one case doesn’t say much. And you still have not given the relevant model and definitions.

    What is a physical process? Is a neural process a physical process? What kind of physical process is it? Is it (a) distinguished from e.g. waves of the ocean or sand moving in the wind or (b) can it be likened to those? Do these processes (a) manifest, involve or prompt memory and perception or (b) are memory and perception identical to those processes?

    You have not even begun to formulate a position.

  29. keithskeiths Post author

    keiths:

    You already agreed that the experience of petrushka’s uncle makes sense in terms of physicalism.

    Erik:

    Limited sense.

    What’s limited about it? What aspect of his situation does not make sense in terms of physicalism? You haven’t identified any.

    Meanwhile, your own immaterialist explanations are hopeless. They don’t fit the evidence, as I’ve already explained.

    What is a physical process? Is a neural process a physical process? What kind of physical process is it? Is it (a) distinguished from e.g. waves of the ocean or sand moving in the wind or (b) can it be likened to those? Do these processes (a) manifest, involve or prompt memory and perception or (b) are memory and perception identical to those processes?

    I’m not in the business of remedial education. Why not go off and spend some time learning about neuroscience and the philosophy of mind?

    Then see if you can come up with a viable argument against physicalism. Your current position is ridiculous. It doesn’t hold up to even a moment’s scrutiny.

    You have not even begun to formulate a position.

    Keep those eyelids squeezed shut. I’ve formulated a position, and petrushka’s uncle’s predicament is explained by it. Your own “container” caricature of physicalism doesn’t work at all. It clashes with the evidence.

  30. Erik

    keiths: Keep those eyelids squeezed shut

    You mean you answered somewhere what the brain is? Nah, you only told what it’s not. So you didn’t tell anything relevant to a physicalist position or otherwise.

  31. keithskeiths Post author

    Erik:

    You mean you answered somewhere what the brain is?

    Typical crank/crackpot response.

    If I don’t teach Erik what the brain is, then I haven’t “formulated a position.”

    Crack a book, Sherlock.

  32. Erik

    keiths: Typical crank/crackpot response.

    You said that the brain is not like a container. That’s it, nothing else. From this answer one can derive that you take the brain to be non-physical or whatever. Now that’s crackpot. And we haven’t even gotten into the mind stuff, which is actually relevant to the question at hand.

  33. keithskeiths Post author

    Erik,

    You said that the brain is not like a container. That’s it, nothing else. From this answer one can derive that you take the brain to be non-physical or whatever.

    For our entertainment, please show us that derivation.

  34. Kantian NaturalistKantian Naturalist

    The big question of philosophy of mind is, “what the relation between what minds do and what brains do?” The quandary for physicalists is to explain why the same thing admits of such different forms of description. The quandary for dualists is to explain how two distinct things seem to be so intimately related.

    As I see it, the most important step in resolving the mind-brain problem was taken by Sellars, because he understood — following and improving on Kant — that the basic problem lies in understanding the relation between two different ways of understanding the world, not between two different kinds of thing.

    Once the problem is posed correctly, then it’s a question of understanding how “the manifest image” — what Strawson calls “descriptive metaphysics” or what could be called (in the Continental tradition) “fundamental ontology” or “phenomenological ontology” — the ordinary-language framework in which we are persons governed by norms, as capable of judging and willing, of perceiving and acting — is related to “the scientific image”, with its own distinct ontological commitments.

    [NB: by my lights, scientific theories contain metaphysical commitments because they make claims about what exists and what doesn’t. And I don’t distinguish between “ontological” and “metaphysical”, unless when commenting on a philosopher who does make that distinction.]

    It has been suggested that I neglect the distinction between science and metaphysics. This is, in a way, true: I certainly do not think that the distinction can be drawn as Aristotle, Berkeley, or Leibniz had drawn it. But there is a related distinction that I do think is important — that between the descriptive metaphysics of everyday life and the revisionary metaphysics of empirical science.

    On these lines, the question of mind-body becomes, “how similar and divergent are our best phenomenological descriptions of lived mindedness and our best causal explanations of neurophysiological processes?”

    And I think that although there is (and perhaps will always be?) some divergence, we can also see that self-understanding of lived mindedness informed by good solid work in the phenomenology of embodiment and of sociality is remarkably close to what the cognitive sciences, cognitive neuroscience, and affective neuroscience are coming up with it.

    It was suggested that “the mind is what the brain does.” Here’s another slogan: “neuroscience is to phenomenology as acoustics is to music.”

  35. dazzdazz

    Kantian Naturalist: Once the problem is posed correctly, then it’s a question of understanding how “the manifest image” — what Strawson calls “descriptive metaphysics” or what could be called (in the Continental tradition) “fundamental ontology” or “phenomenological ontology” — the ordinary-language framework in which we are persons governed by norms, as capable of judging and willing, of perceiving and acting — is related to “the scientific image”, with its own distinct ontological commitments.

    Kantian Naturalist: It was suggested that “the mind is what the brain does.” Here’s another slogan: “neuroscience is to phenomenology as acoustics is to music.”

    Something like two different levels of abstraction of the same process?

  36. Kantian NaturalistKantian Naturalist

    dazz:
    Something like two different levels of abstraction of the same process?

    Yes, that’s the tempting thing to say.

    The worry, though, is this: what justifies the claim that these are abstractions of the same process?

    We would need to have criteria for establishing identity, and those criteria would have to be independent of the descriptions being offered.

    I don’t think that dooms some sort of relaxed naturalism which tries to minimize the discrepancies between the manifest image and the scientific image, or that tries to explain the manifest image in terms of the scientific image (as Dennett does in From Bacteria to Bach and Back), but it does doom any simplistic version of mind-brain identity theory.

    This isn’t so much a point about minds or brains, but a point about what we’re saying when we say that two (or more) things are identical or the same.

  37. Neil Rickert

    Kantian Naturalist: The big question of philosophy of mind is, “what the relation between what minds do and what brains do?”

    A most unfortunate question. No good will come from studying that question.

    We really should abolish “the mind”. Most of what is attributed to the mind should really be attributed to the person.

    The brain is mostly an implementation detail in the implementation of the person. The brain carries out some of the small details needed to implement the information story of the person. But what needs to be understood is the big picture, not the small details.

    Once the problem is posed correctly, then it’s a question of understanding how “the manifest image” — what Strawson calls “descriptive metaphysics” or what could be called (in the Continental tradition) “fundamental ontology” or “phenomenological ontology” — the ordinary-language framework in which we are persons governed by norms, as capable of judging and willing, of perceiving and acting — is related to “the scientific image”, with its own distinct ontological commitments.

    I never thought there was anything to understand there. I never thought there was a mystery. I would guess that most scientists would have a similar view.

    Science is dealing with the same sort of information story as the person. The emphasis is different, because the person needs information for intimate interactions with the world, while science needs information that can be shared broadly with the community. But the core problem is the same. The implementation details are very different.

  38. Robert Byers

    keiths:
    Let me get this straight, Robert.You actually believe that memory is a physical organ in the head, separate from the brain?

    They have the names for memory. So I’m saying these are the only important organs in the brain. The rest is just hooking up the memory with the body.
    There is no other ‘brain” in the skull.
    Memories are encoded on the organ(s) in the skull .
    So a stroke only interferes with the memory(triggering mechanism) and its relation to the body.
    Our soul is always reading the memory and interatcting with it. Awake or asleep.

  39. Erik

    Neil Rickert: We really should abolish “the mind”. Most of what is attributed to the mind should really be attributed to the person.

    Do you think it’s doable? What is the person? Is it the body? If something else, then what else?

    And you said “Most… should really be attributed to the person.” What about the leftover? What in particular should not or cannot be attributed to the person and, if not to the person, then where should it be attributed?

    If there’s such a thing as the person justifiably distinct from the body, then why not such a thing as the mind justifiably distinct from the brain? What’s the reason why one of these should be abolished and not the other?

  40. Kantian NaturalistKantian Naturalist

    Neil Rickert: A most unfortunate question. No good will come from studying that question.

    We really should abolish “the mind”. Most of what is attributed to the mind should really be attributed to the person.

    I can sort of see the point here, though it’s not really clear me that talking about persons is less obscure than talking about minds. The concept of a person is just as seeped in theology as the concept of a soul, and it’s not really clear how well it has been or can be secularized — despite the best efforts of Locke and Kant et al.

    And I think there’s also a question here about “animal minds”. Rather few would say that nonhuman animals are persons (though they may be granted personhood as a political tactic to protect them from abuse or extinction). But it’s no longer controversial to say that animals have minds or are minded.

    So I have no problems talking about minds. I’m probably a bit happier talking about mindedness as a dimension or aspect of animal life, than talking about minds as a weird sort of thing that animals have. And I’d say that the most important aspects of mindedness are consciousness, intentionality, and care. (Lately I’ve gotten very interested in the importance of caring for philosophy of mind, and I’m reading Giving a Damn, a collection of essays about Haugeland.) What human minds add to the mix is reasoning.

    The brain is mostly an implementation detail in the implementation of the person. The brain carries out some of the small details needed to implement the information story of the person. But what needs to be understood is the big picture, not the small details.

    I’d agree with that, if the point is that brains can’t be explained in isolation but only as components of a temporally dynamic brain-body-environment system.

  41. Neil Rickert

    Erik: Do you think it’s doable? What is the person? Is it the body? If something else, then what else?

    No, it’s not the body. However, you cannot omit the body.

    The “person” takes a more holistic view. And you have said you are a holist. So why do you ask to identify which part?

    To a first approximation, it is the behavior that is most important. But it is not just the large-scale behavior. You have to include cognitive behavior or perceptual behavior – small scale interactions with the world that are not apparent to onlookers.

    If there’s such a thing as the person justifiably distinct from the body, then why not such a thing as the mind justifiably distinct from the brain?

    Mainly because most “mind” talk seems misleading.

  42. Neil Rickert

    Kantian Naturalist: And I think there’s also a question here about “animal minds”.

    I guess in that case we should use “organism” rather than “person”. The point is to use an inclusive holistic term, instead of talking as if there is a mind as a special component.

  43. Erik

    Neil Rickert: The “person” takes a more holistic view. And you have said you are a holist. So why do you ask to identify which part?

    I’m not asking which part. I’m asking what thing we are talking about. When you say “person” you evidently mean a particular thing distinct from other things and this delimitation must be clarified because not everybody is a physicalist or dualist or immaterialist or whatever other ists we have here who understand such things according to their own predilections.

    Neil Rickert: Mainly because most “mind” talk seems misleading.

    All undefined talk is misleading.

    Neil Rickert: I guess in that case we should use “organism” rather than “person”.

    So you don’t really know what you are talking about. You are just guessing. Okay.

    “I’ve made up my mind.” versus “I’ve made up my person.” versus “I’ve made up my organism.” Not quite the same thing, is it? Are there good reasons for the differences or not?

  44. Neil Rickert

    Erik: “I’ve made up my mind.” versus “I’ve made up my person.” versus “I’ve made up my organism.” Not quite the same thing, is it?

    I don’t have a problem with “I’ve made up my mind” as colloquial speech. It is attempts to investigate “the mind” that I question.

  45. waltowalto

    Erik: So you don’t really know what you are talking about. You are just guessing. Okay.

    Always a pleasure, Erik.

    As I’ve already asked, have you found that being obnoxious has led to fruitful discussions, or–as I believe more likely–can you just not help being a prick?

  46. Erik

    walto: As I’ve already asked, have you found that being obnoxious has led to fruitful discussions, or–as I believe more likely–can you just not help being a prick?

    And you think that in discussions like these, where clarity at every step is very much needed, it’s okay to abolish a focal concept and replace it with a random word that immediately proves itself unworkable? And that’s not being a prick?

    Will there ever be a first time when you step in to suggest something positive?

  47. waltowalto

    Erik: And you think that in discussions like these, where clarity at every step is very much needed, it’s okay to abolish a focal concept and replace it with a random word that immediately proves itself unworkable? And that’s not being a prick?

    Will there ever be a first time when you step in to suggest something positive?

    I think it ought to be obvious that It is possible to make a point without being a prick about it. Did Neil deserve that sort of response, in your opinion? And really. Have you yourself been crystal clear about what “physical” means, do you think? What the hell is so marvelous about your own posts?

    For Christ’s sake. Next you’ll be joining the chorus explaining to me that I should learn that “This is the Skeptical Zone.”

  48. Erik

    walto: I think it ought to be obvious that It is possible to make a point without being a prick about it. Did Neil deserve that sort of response, in your opinion?

    “I don’t like mind. Let’s replace it with person. Oops, that doesn’t work. Let’s try organism.”

    When people change words like this as they please, without giving it any thought, then are they in the business of furthering fruitful discussions or is it more likely that they are deliberately insulting intelligence? And this is the behavior of the admins here. Well, mere participants until they get pissed and begin distributing justice.

    walto: And really. Have you yourself been crystal clear about what “physical” means, do you think? What the hell is so marvelous about your own posts?

    Now, let’s be fair. My definitions are worse than….. whose? If mine are bad, I will acknowledge it, but “good” and “bad” are relative here, so who is your point of comparison? Yourself?

  49. waltowalto

    Erik: “I don’t like mind. Let’s replace it with person. Oops, that doesn’t work. Let’s try organism.”

    When people change words like this as they please, without giving it any thought, then are they in the business of furthering fruitful discussions or is it more likely that they are deliberately insulting intelligence? And this is the behavior of the admins here. Well, mere participants until they get pissed and begin distributing justice.

    Now, let’s be fair. My definitions are worse than….. whose? If mine are bad, I will acknowledge it, but “good” and “bad” are relative here, so who is your point of comparison? Yourself?

    I don’t know that you’ve given ANY definitions of “mental” or “physical”.
    And, in fact, it’s not clear that they ARE definable. So your chastisements are, well, ridiculous.

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