wave to the soul farmer

There are things that are and things that do. Though at Planck-unit scales the distinction vanishes in the splish, splash, splosh of the quantum foam. This post highlights the parallels between items in column 3 (things that do) with their respective counterparts in column 2 (things that are). To illustrate: Flesh is to spirit as matter is to energy as brain is to mind, etc. With a stretch, most of the items in column 3 "run on" the respective items in column 2. Software runs on hardware. Agency runs on consciousness. Processes run on substrates: material, virtual or otherwise. Verbs need nouns to run. Does the soul run on the body? The mind on the brain? Energy on matter? Mmmm: good questions. Let me know when you find out.




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mgeorge said...

Is intention action/reality? This is what the positive-thinking crowd would have said, at least up to the crash of 2008. Is this also what we see in poltergeists around adolescents, even when they are not very positive? And what happened to substrate if it is?

The line separating hardware and software is drawn according to practical considerations (with BIOS or microcode in between). If we want a heavily-used routine to run much faster (or it is the only routine on a special device), we turn it into part of the specialised chip running the device (e.g. car, aircon).

As the iconic Einstein told us, energy comes from matter, though reversing the process is another story.

The current thinking of much of the artifical-intelligence and "singularity" crowd is that brain is mind. What they believe is that the interlinking, expanding and speeding up our computers will somehow cause a senient and knowledgeable mind to pop up.

masterymistery said...

Hi mgeorge, thanks for your comments. As a so-called "hard " problem, consciousness doesn't seem ready to relinquish its secrets anytime soon. I still don't quite understand or buy into so called advaita "non-duality" in which there is only mind/consciousness, and matter is the illusion. I think that whatever consciousness is, and wherever it lives, there's no getting round the fact that there are at least two very different things (types of thing?)in the universe. I recommend Daniel Dennett's "consciousness Explained" as a lucid exposition of the issues, even though I disagree with most of his conclusions.


masterymistery said...

Currently I'm of the consciousness-as-a-process school, in which consciousness is thought to be able theoretically to run on any substrate, including itself. The neurologists talk about "re-entrant" neuronal patterns, and I think they may have something there, though (as usual) I don't understand it all that well. Anyway, one of the conclusions I draw is that in theory anyway the process can run on any suitable substrate, doesn't have to be grey pr white matter. So in theory a unverse that is alive and aware need not search outside itself for any substrate other than itself on which to run.

mgeorge said...

My last para could have left the impression that I am a "hard problem" proponent. I simply don't know, and in fact have very little knowledge of (or interest in) philosophy. I am however amazed at those who spew verbiage on such matters in deliberately obtuse language. I will indulge in 2 quotes:
- Making itself intelligible is suicide for philosophy. - Martin Heidegger (1889-1976)
- Every garbage-removal system such as Zen, skepticism or existentialism generates its own garbage. The best you can hope for is the removal of more garbage than is gener-ated. - John Horgan (sc. writer), essay, Edge website, 2004, adapted

This is a postulate for consciousness by Dr. Nicholas Humphrey that I noted in New Scientist, 1994-01-08:
a. Sensations began as overt bodily behaviours. For a primitive organism, the activity of sensing red, for example, may have involved responding to red light on one part of its surface with a particular behaviour. The subjective proto-experience corresponded to the form of response: to sense red was to issue the commands for the response. The “sensory” activities occurred in the public domain, and were shaped by natural selection. For each stimuli, a behaviour got selected as the biologically adaptive response.
b. Some responses became less important. To identify the stimuli, however, the organism required the “resulting” sensory representations. For that, it had to monitor its own response by issuing the customary commands. Such commands [related to now irrelevant behaviours] got “short-circuited”, resulting in no behaviour. Sensory activity became an internal loop within the brain.
c. This had the dramatic consequence of becoming self-sustaining and partly self-creating [possessing feedback?]. Sensory experience moved into the subjective present.

Best wishes.

Shubhajit said...

Okay. It's a very very interesting read.

The intelligent factor (verb) is omnipresent and beyond the relative measurement. Suppose a cow were philosophical and had its consciousness, it would have a cow universe and a cow solution of the problem. Suppose a cat were philosophical and had its cat universe and cat solution and in that cat ruling it. So does with human being, so that with individual being. So, we see that every existence require its own time, space and cause and relative to each other. Therefore, the universe has a relative existence. In short, it has no real existence. Though what we see the existence we can't deny. It's a mixture of non-existence and existence and we have to work through it. The intelligence factor is beyond the time, space and cause and that's the soul on which every impression imprints and the resultant of all imprint forces lead us to the destination.

masterymistery said...


your comments take us into the metaphysical/philosophical region inhabited by such weird and wonderful creatures as "qualia" and zombies, which feature extensively in thought experiments aimed at testing hypotheses about the interaction between mind and brain, zombies being an example albeit hypothetical of brain without mind, of organism without volition.
Your points (a) and (b) touch upon the so-called "binding problem" concerning how we knit together or bind multiple sensory inputs and modalities into the unity of conscious experience.

However, IMHO even if the Binding Problem were to be solved and to become crystal clear, we would still not have advanced any further in understanding the nature of consciousness.

masterymistery said...

Shubhajit, thanks for your insightful comments. The "anthropic principle" beloved of some physicists and cosmologists boils down to the proposition that "we are here because we are here", that humans are in their human universe because it could not have been otherwise, and in fact was purpose built for us. I don't agree with the preceding proposition. I agree with the German philosopher Leibniz that the existence of existence is the strangest thing in existence. After all, it's much more demanding and difficult for something to exist than it is for nothing to (not) exist, if that makes any sense, which seems dubious! Anyway, thanks for stopping by.


Brian Miller said...

i got no clue how to say anything remotely intelligent...though i am facinated.

masterymistery said...

Hi Brian, thanks for stopping by. It's all just words -- signs and labels -- which mean whatever we say they mean.

Jen said...

I want to say that the body runs on the soul, but when the body dies the soul leaves so that can't be right. Or can it? Interesting...but now my brain hurts...

budh.aaah said...

Its something that has interested me for a long time now, though really dont know how to comment on it or write about it. But enjoyed reading about it here and the comments too.

masterymistery said...

Hi budh.aaah
order within / disguised by chaos is one of the great themes/mysteries. Anyone who says s/he understands it, doesn't. Thanks for stopping by.

masterymistery said...

Hi Jen, thanks for your comments. You raise a good question. My personal take on this is that a process can run on multiple substrates, in series, so that in principle there is nothing to prevent the soul/ "running again" on a new fleshly substrate, nor even from running on a silicone or even virtual substrate.