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Thread: Are Thoughts Causal?

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    tWebber Chrawnus's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by JimL View Post
    The fact that we are conscious is evidence that we are conscious, not evidence that we are a distinct mind. Besides, if the mind was distinct from the physical body, then why should it feel, or experience, anything related to the physical body? As you acknowledge yourself, a distinct mind isn't physical, it's immaterial. To assume that a distinct and immaterial mind can feel or experience physical things such as pain simply doesn't make any sense.
    Pain isn't physical, it's mental. Pain doesn't exist anywhere in the physical world, it's a purely mental phenomena.

    Quote Originally Posted by JimL View Post
    Well, you would need some logical reason in order to take it seriously. The immaterial experiencing material sensations isn't logical. If you broke your leg, you didn't break an immaterial leg, you broke your physical leg. To then say that the subjective eperience of your pain is the experience of your distinct and immaterial mind/soul just isn't logical.
    Again, any sensation you feel is mental, not physical. There is no such thing as material sensations. Sensations are per definition mental. If you break your leg you break your physical leg, but the pain you feel is not physical.

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    tWebber
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    Quote Originally Posted by seer View Post
    They would say that the subconscious thing was just a physical interaction not really a thought as we think of it.
    The thought would be just an effect of physical goings on in the brain/nervous system where the real causal work is happening. Physicalists would say that thoughts as such don't do any real causal work. I don't think anyone knows enough about causation to be able to say this confidently.

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    tWebber
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    Quote Originally Posted by Sparko View Post
    or how physical processes produces deep philosophical theses like "Thoughts are like the whistle on a steam engine" - maybe they have to eat the right combination of foods to produce the correct amount of gas to power the brain and cause the thoughts.

    Of course Huxley lived at a time when they had no clue how the body or the brain worked so there's that.
    Yes, or how physical processes could fully account for the pressing of these keys right now. If these keys are not being pressed for the reasons I think they're being pressed, then everything we're doing here is meaningless. But then again we'd have no way of knowing that fact so may as well continue in blissful ignorance ...But this does pose a problem for strict materialists. If materialism is true, how could we ever know it ?

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    tWebber
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    Quote Originally Posted by Chrawnus View Post
    The only thing the evidence shows is that there is relation of dependence (of some sort) between the mind and the brain. Your supposed evidence that the mind is a product of the brain is just as absent as the evidence for any other theory.
    I agree. Even Dennett admits that our knowledge of the dependence-relation is "laughably inadequate." There is a dependence-relation between my tv set and the tv program I'm watching. That doesn't mean my tv set is producing the program, or at least we have to specify how we mean the word "produce."

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    tWebber Anomaly's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by seer View Post
    Many materialists do not believe that thoughts have a causal role in any sense, they are in effect epiphenomenal. To quote T.H. Huxley:

    "Consciousness would appear to be related to the mechanism of the body simply as a collateral product of its working, and to be as completely without any power of modifying that working as the steam-whistle which accompanies the work of a locomotive engine is without influence upon its machinery..."

    What he refereed to as "conscious automata."

    In other words our thoughts have no real effect on behavior. This seems like a way to counter any form of dualism. But it seems to be that immaterial thoughts do play a causal role in behavior, this I believe is obvious in everyday experience.
    Just a late thought...I think asking if a thought has causal power might be missing the mark a bit. Single thoughts seem to be just part of the inner workings of intellectual operation with no actual causal efficacy. My theory is that thoughts are combined in intellectual processing with other thoughts to form sets, and one or more sets of thoughts, "glued" together by truth affiliation form a belief. Truth affiliation is the power of truth-attraction by which an agent accepts each set of thoughts, which individually constitute sufficient truth content to warrant a true belief worth holding.

    It's then beliefs of a specific topic or category, like a particular moral belief or the belief 'I need a haircut' which have causal power. The former usually pulls in related thoughts and beliefs (do I have enough money to pay barber, what time does barber shop close and will I have time to drive there after work, is there enough gas in my Prius, etc.) to form the sort of belief that has causal power. In this case, all things considered and affirmed, I'm going for a haircut after work today. My belief that I need a haircut will cause this.

    As an aside, there is no clear path from the theist side to the mind-body connection because imo this path can only be found in a reduction of the soul similar to a materialistic reduction to demonstrate how such a transfer could come about. I've been working on just this reduction for many years now from the standpoint of soul and body as informational constructs. I can present what I believe is a coherent hypothetical reciprocal path of causal activity between matter and soul which is affected by value, not forms of energy transfer (exchanges of diverse substances from a Cartesian substance dualism perspective), which I don't think can work. The connections are only available in a bottom-up [micro to macro] reduction.

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    tWebber
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    Quote Originally Posted by Chrawnus View Post
    Pain isn't physical, it's mental. Pain doesn't exist anywhere in the physical world, it's a purely mental phenomena.
    The brain is a physical organ, so no matter in what sense the pain is experienced, it's physical.


    Again, any sensation you feel is mental, not physical. There is no such thing as material sensations. Sensations are per definition mental. If you break your leg you break your physical leg, but the pain you feel is not physical.
    There is if you have a physical nervous system, a physical brain.

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    tWebber Chrawnus's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by JimL View Post
    The brain is a physical organ, so no matter in what sense the pain is experienced, it's physical.



    There is if you have a physical nervous system, a physical brain.
    The mental sensation of pain (or any kind of sensation in general) is correlated with specific electro-chemical activity in the brain, but it is not the same thing as the aforementioned brain activity.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Chrawnus View Post
    The mental sensation of pain (or any kind of sensation in general) is correlated with specific electro-chemical activity in the brain, but it is not the same thing as the aforementioned brain activity.
    So, you think that the immaterial soul is that which somehow experiences the pain of a broken leg? Any explanation as to how that works?

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    tWebber Chrawnus's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by JimL View Post
    So, you think that the immaterial soul is that which somehow experiences the pain of a broken leg? Any explanation as to how that works?
    Well, yes, personally I believe it's the soul that experiences the pain, but the fact that the sensation of pain is not the same thing as the brain activity in the brain associated with that pain doesn't hinge on the existence of a supernatural immaterial soul. You could also be an emergentist and believe that the mind emerges from, but is not identical to, and cannot be reduced to, the electro-chemical activity in the brain.

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    tWebber Anomaly's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Chrawnus View Post
    Well, yes, personally I believe it's the soul that experiences the pain, but the fact that the sensation of pain is not the same thing as the brain activity in the brain associated with that pain doesn't hinge on the existence of a supernatural immaterial soul. You could also be an emergentist and believe that the mind emerges from, but is not identical to, and cannot be reduced to, the electro-chemical activity in the brain.
    I think Chrawnus and Jim are both on the right track. To call into question how the immaterial soul experiences the body's pain is just part of the same inquiry as to how can an immaterial mind communicates/interacts with matter. They just do. The medical profession can stop pain in some cases from the material side with anesthetics and on the other by anesthesiology. This seems to me to highlight a necessary interaction, what I term the affiliation or fusion of the non-empirical soul with the empirical body. Both--in union or affiliation--are required to produce conscious experience.

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