Talk:Mind-body problem: New approaches

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    Latest response of author (07/12/08)to be read with the latest submittted version of the article: 1) The author has completely revised the article on the above date, removing much of the material not acceptable to the reviewers. 2) The author has restricted his discussion to the traditional mind-body problem, both explaining it as clearly as possible as well as presenting the traditional list of solutions. 3) The author has given a brief summary of the difficulties of each of the proposed range of solutions. 4) The author has concluded that no solution presently exists for the problem which has been universally accepted, although the problem is crucial for solution in order to understand man's place in the universe.

    The author has answered each of the points made by the reviewer in the latest version of the article: the modifications are in the body of the text, but are also outline below next to each point of the reviewer (in brackets [ ] ).

    The author refers to the ‘mind-body’ problem in ways that in his other writing he sees as the problem of modelling consciousness. While there is not all that much agreement about the distinction between the two, the author should be clear about the position on this that he is recommending to the reader. As read at present, the article seems to blur the two. AUTHOR'S RESPONSE: This important deifinitional point has been corrected and in several places (sepcifcially the introduction and the conclusions sections)the 'mind-body problem' specified as being about the 'conscious mind' and brain (for reasons stated int eintroduction).

    [It has been made clear that 'mind' reduces to 'consciousness' for the hard 'mind-body problem', but this is carefully argued for in the text]

    The mind-body problem has been existence for much longer than “several hundred years, if not much longer”. Here too there is confusion with the term ‘consciousness’ which can be said to be traced back to the end of the 17th Century, while ‘mind-body’ is as old as philosophy. There is 600 BC evidence (Thales and ‘motion’) and then the range of the classics, particularly Aristotle. There is no need to review any of this, merely to show that it is not the same as discussions about consciousness. AUTHOR'S RESPONSE: Agreed and this earlier ancestry of the mind-body problem mentioned in the introduction

    [The text has been expanded to give a survey of the range of answers to the mind-body problem] On specifics:

    The 40Hz arguments are about binding. Crick and Koch have abandoned this line of discourse and replaced it by ‘neural coalitions’ in their ‘A framework for consciousness’ paper in Nature Neuroscience 2003 vol 6.

    AUTHOR'S RESPONSE: The section on 40Hz has been expanded to take account of the recanting by Crick & Koch as well as with an expansion on their 'competitive coalition' thesis of 2003.

    The mention of recurrence is somewhat shallow (‘surely will play an important role’). The concept does play a vastly important role in some contributions, viz Edelman (stated as ‘reentrance’ in many publications – quoted by the author but not in this context). Recurrence is part of extensive studies on the emergence of mind from the dynamics of the brain - see Spivey and Dale (On the continuity of mind: Towards a dynamical account of cognition. In Ross (ed) The psychology of learning and motivation, Vol 45 Elsevier 2004). AUTHOR'S RESPONSE: This section has been expanded to take account of these helpful comments, and references inserted accordingly.

    [This has been expanded as well as further references given]

    In discussing Global Workspace ideas it should be made clear that Baars believes that consciousness occurs as a result of the broadcast activity by the ‘global workspace’ neural area which is a little more active than to say that this is like a passive blackboard architecture ‘for all to see’ (implying ‘to use if required’ as in computer blackboard architectures). The global workspace forces changes in the content of mechanisms competing for entry into the GW itself in the next period of time.

    [AUTHOR'S RESPONSE: This section has been expanded to explain GW more fully and in particular to relatred it to the 'adaptive coding' model of Duncan, as well as by inclusion of comments on attention involvement in GW theory.]

    The last paragraph makes me return to the point I made earlier. Is this an article on explanations of consciousness or the Mind-Body problem? If the author believes that the former does away with the latter he should clearly say this giving his reasons. AUTHOR'S RESPSONSE: This has already been answered in the author's first response above.

    [This was already answered above]


    I have structured this review in terms of some specific points that may be amended and a couple of observations on its more global focus at the end. There are also a few suggestions for further referencing which would be very helpful

    1. The notion of "Non-spatial aspects of conscious thought" in the paragraph which starts to expand on the question of what mind is could do with some clarification. The implication is that some aspects of thought (or experience?) are non-spatial in a way that emotions are not. Perhaps a little more could be said about this or some references given to where this thought is developed more fully.

    [The phrase 'Non...' has been removed form the text as baing unecessary]

    2. Re the paragraph "I also propose to take an approach to the mind-body problem that does not list all of the various philosophical solutions (dualism, monism, idealism, interactionism, etc, etc - there are many places to find the standard list trotted out and expounded) and explore them in toto, but instead to attempt to relate the problem to the most recent developments in science." - This seems to leave out most of what is traditionally referred to as the mind-body problem. Some account would seem to be needed of these various positions or at least a few specific references to where they are developed in more detail. (In fact if the author prefers to leave this out perhaps it would be better to consider re-titling this scholarpedia entry in line with the first suggestion at the end of this review to note that it focuses on a particular branch of solutions to the mind-body problem.)

    [I have added a survery of the traditional approaches, as noted above]

    3. Block's distinctions of access and phenomenal consciousness do not seem to map onto the ownership / content distinctions that the author makes. In fact these seem to be orthogonal dimensions: both phenomenal and access consciousness can be said to have contents and, I as an agent can 'own' any number of contents, or, as in Schizophrenic voices or alien limbs, experience contents I do not own. The concept of ownership could perhaps be developed independently with reference to the notion of agency (see Gallagher, 2000) in order to deepen the discussion. (i.e. these are important dimensions of conscious experience and could be used to develop more fully what the mind is).

    [This point has been taken account of in an additional discussion of the comparison between Block and the phenomenological approaches]

    4. The concept of "inner self" should be more fully defined and referenced as once again this is does not seem to map onto Block's phenomenal consciousness or the concept of ownership.

    [This concept has been expanded on in the section on Global Principles of the Mind in Action]

    5. Damasio in The Feeling of What Happens has argued that losing body-image at a very basic level *does* involve the loss of phenomenal consciousness (the inner self?) of the subject and advances quite a bit of empirical evidence to this effect. Potentially contrary empirical evidence on this the author maybe thinking of are the case histories involving Cotard's syndrome (see Metzinger 2004a, 2004b).

    [This has been carefully addressed in the same section as the previous point]

    6. Some attempts to link work in the meditative tradition with neuroscience have been attempted (i.e. neurophenomenology and the work begun by Francisco Varela 1996) and this work could perhaps be mentioned in the context of empirical adequacy of the meditative tradition (see Thompson 2003).

    [This has been added in the same section as above]

    7. In general, more detailed referencing would definitely help. My understanding is that a major role of Scholarpedia is to serve as a jumping-off point to further literature and currently there is too much which appears controversial and is unreferenced. In particular:

    [These have now been added]

    a. References for the hard-problem and the explanatory gap. (i.e Chalmers and perhaps pre-cursors) b. References to discussion of the philosophical tradition that analyses the mind-body problem c. Where the author outlines the three major global principles of organisation, i.e. attention, emotion and long-term memory, some references to the relevent neuroscience would be welcome. d. Reference to the concept of "inner self" as noted above. e. References on the concept of ownership.

    The article does not do enough work to set up the problem as such and ignores too much of the literature and history (as is) to be in itself considered an introduction to the mind-body problem. It suffers from not giving a very detailed account of the mind part of the mind-body dyad. As it mainly concentrates on physicalist and specifically neuroscientifically oriented solutions to the problem, I would suggest it either be refocused or slightly retargeted (see below). The section on "global principles of the mind in action" in particular needs clarification and revision of the discussion of access and phenomenal consciousness.

    Suggestions, either:

    1 - Re-title the piece as something like "Physicalist solutions to the Mind-Body problem" or "Neuroscientific responses to the Mind-Body problem" or even the title of the last section "Prospects for a Brain-based solution to the Mind-Body problem". 2 - Expand the opening section and deal with setting up the problem much more with at least some reference

    [The second possibility has been followed in the revised text. This has led to an increase in length of the article but that seems difficult to prevent if all the helpful comments of the referee are to be answered]

    Note to the editor:

    There appears to be a few problems with the automatic tagging system used by scholarpedia system. In the first paragraph the term "chaotic" is used in an informal non-mathematical sense, and yet there is a link through to a - yet to be a written - article on chaos. I feel that this link should , if possible, be cut as this does not seem to have much to do with what the author intends by this term.

    [Most references added]

    Damasio, A. R. (2000) The Feeling of What Happens: body, emotion and the making of consciousness, Vintage.

    Gallagher, S. (2000) Philosophical conceptions of the self: Implications for cognitive science. Trends in Cognitive Sciences 4(1): 14-21.

    Metzinger, T. (2004) Why are identity disorders interesting for philosophers? Philosophy and Psychiatry: 311–325.

    Metzinger, T. (2004) Being No One: The Self-Model Theory of Subjectivity, Bradford Book.

    Thompson, E. (2003) Neurophenomenology: Integrating Subjective Experience and Brain Dynamics in the science of Consciousness.

    Varela, F. J. (1996) Neurophenomenology: a methodological remedy to the hard problem. Journal of Consciousness Studies 3: 330-350.

    User 4:

    I have a few non-specific suggests/comments about this article:

    1) The author did not seem to focus too much on what the mind-body problem actually is. There was very limited discussion about why there is a problem in the first place. There was also a tremendously limited account of the various positions often taken in order to solve the problem.

    2) The focus of this article seemed to be more on a physicalist or neuroscientific approach to solving the problem. Throughout the article, reference was made to other positions, but these positions were more or less immediately dismissed while physicalist positions were discussed thoroughly. It seems important, in presenting the mind-body problem as such, that there is no bias towards anyone position in particular. However, this whole article was more or less a discussion about physicalist approaches to solving the problem. Equal weight should be given to other positions. The author is clearly an advocate of physicalist-like approaches to the problem. However, if the intent of the author is to discuss the mind-body problem, then the article should be about all aspects of and approaches to the problem instead of briefly presenting the problem and then thoroughly discussing physicalist/neuroscientific approaches.

    3) In the section titled "The new knowledge base", the author makes the following comment: "Mind does not enter into any of the detailed physical models (such as Einstein's Theory of General Relativity, or the Standard Model of elementary particles based on quantum field theory). The problem is as to how to derive such well-established theories from a mental approach to the universe. As far as this author knows, there is not even a framework available to attempt to solve this problem." This seems to be more of an opinion of the author's than a real fact. Although one may interpret the findings of quantum mechanics as one in which mind plays no part, there are still other interpretations, just as plausible, that incorporate mind (e.g consciousness causes collapse, many-minds interpretation, many-worlds interpretation, etc). Furthermore, Einstein's theories of relativity all rely on the idea of an observer, which implies a mind that can do the observing.

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