Nederlog

 

 March 30, 2011

 

Body AND mind?

Spiegeloog-columns


It seems I am in a philosophical mood the last days, so I do some more.

In fact, I wanted to quote a number of things from the interview with John Searle I linked to yesterday, but then I realized that to put this in proper context - at least so far as I am concerned - I should first translate the last of the columns I wrote and published in 1988-1989 in Spiegeloog, then the printed monthly of the faculty of psychology of the university of Amsterdam, that in 1988 had removed me briefly before I could take my M.A. in philosophy. because I protested what is best called postmodernism, that was then rampant.

I translated the majority of these small essays last year, because they show quite well what I think about quite a few things, and also why I was removed from the faculty of philosophy in the University of Amsterdam, for speaking my mind rationally and honestly:

The present essay was the last in the series, that lasted an academic year, and it extended an invitation to my readers to come and see and hear me speak about the mind-body problem, a problem which John Searle also has been occupied with for a long time, with similar ideas and conclusions.

Here is the essay, with a number of notes, that follow under it, and are linked in the text between square brackets:


Body AND mind? [1]

My me
Is someone I never see
It hides itself
In the dream
I dream
Of me.

Maarten Maartensz [2]

I want to speak about philosophy[3] - here by way of introduction, and more seriously on November 8, at 16.00 hours, in room 0.46. The subject is "Body and Mind?". I will try to make clear to you on this page what, among other things, is related to this question.

Look upon it like this: Here is your head wth brains, there lies a kilo of mincemeat. Why do you think that you think with your brains, and not with the mincemeat? No, this is not really a joke. It is logically possible that you are a poor experiment by a jealous god; the dream of a computer turned wild; a soul that gets reborn each generation in another body; a program that your TV is watching; or an arbitrary combination from these. It is also logically possible that what you are pleased to call yourself, is the compound effect of the tremendously fast dancing of trillions of atoms between your ears, some of which were mincemeat yesterday, and tomorrow will be your shit or food for worms. There are infinitely many mutually contradictory logically tenable explanatons of what you and I really are. [3] On what grounds do you choose from these? And what motivates such choices you to do? [4]

Mark well: Ideas about body and mind have effects - ideas rule the human world. [5] For example: Some of our Islamic fellow human beings are prepared to blow you up if you ask some ironical questions about what you are supposed to be and therefore should and should not do (e.g. in the fields of buying books and wearing veils) [6]. And the Catholic Inquisition reasoned more or less thus: 'It is a fact that everybody possesses and immortal soul. Also it is a fact that heathens go to hell, where they will be tortured infinitely long ("and therefore Christ died for our sins on the cross et credo quia absurdum et gloria in excelsis Deo"). Ergo, it is a deed inspired by christian neighbourly love to torture heathens until they embrace the truths of the Catholic faith and die redeemed, with at least a small chance to get to heaven or into limbo. For after all, the inquisition can merely torture for some finite duration.' [7]

Why did our loving Christrian brethern think so, and act accordingly? Because they believed they knew the answer to a question that concerns everybody: 'What is a human being?' and believed that this gave them the right - the loving Christian duty - to enforce their beliefs on others, supposedly in their own interests. [8]

In the end, it is all about a fundamental problem: What are the causes of human experience? Is what we call ourselves, our experiences, our memories, our ideas and our ideals the effect of nothing but a tiny chance event in an enormous completely unconcerned universe? A conception, birth and education that happened then and there, that produced the body, the mind, the person and the personality that comprise a tiny fraction of the history of the universe and that, comparatively speaking, very rapidly fall apart into the parts that composed it? Or is there - so satisfyingly for our selflove - more to human experience, or something different, than a physical/biochemical process? Perhaps an immortal soul, that will be divinely rewarded or horribly punished in a hereafter that can only be accessed by bundles of experiences without any material carrier? Or maybe both are true and you are a mortal soul that has to survive many bodies before it finally dissolves into the All that is One? Or are all experiences, and therefore all theories, in the end illusions and is there no real explanation for our experiences - is the deepest wisdom to know that you do not know: Das Sein soll immer Mysterium sein? Or do you simply get away with "cogito ergo sum"? (I think ergo I am, ergo you stink therefore you are?) [9]

The in many ways most humble hypothesis [10] implies logically that it is not true that there are a mind AND a body (like a driver and a car): If the hypothesis is true, then both are the product of one natural process that causes them. This has the advantage of simplicity, but it introduces several problems, such as the following one: The body exists because parts of the body exist - so much flesh and bones, that can be analysed into so many organs and parts thereof, that can be analysed into atoms and molecules, with such and such properties and relations; the mind exists because - and here we see the first problem with the humble hypothesis: Where and how does the mincemeat you ate yesterday, or whatever your guts made from this, turn into desire, feeling, idea, ideal? [11]

What spinning of atoms is at the foundation of - no: = identically the same as, if the humble hypothesis is true [12] - the whirligig of your feelings and thoughts? How does a combination of what was mincemeat and the processes of your brain produce a poem from dots of ink or a face from a pattern of stimuli on your corneas? Where and how are the potatoes, vegetables and fatty sauce your ate yesterday transformed into your dreams, ideas, sexual lusts and headaches of today? [13]

In a sense, this is a problem of the psychophysiology of the future [14] - but only because we did accept the humble hypothesis. But then: On what grounds can we attribute the rights to ourselves to conclude that any arbitrary hypothesis about anything whatsoever makes sense? What makes a hypothesis credible, probable, rational, acceptable, or the opposites of these? [15] Other hypotheses? OK, but then on what grounds are these credible, probable, etcetera? And if we may reason backward like that without limit ("We suppose that A is true because we assume that B is true; we assume that B is true because... etctera ad infinitum") does it not follow that every assumption is reduced to an act of faith, in the manner of "It is so, because I think so?" [16]

It are these and similar backgrounds of the mind-body problen that I will address on November 8 at 16.00 hours, in a seminar in room 0.46. The initiative for this event came from dr. Peter Molenaar [17], who seems to believe that I can speak well and think well. I can promise you three things: It will be interesting; it wll be difficult: To deal with fundamental philosophical problems, such as the mind-body problem, one needs logical and probabilistic methods; and that what I will say will be mostly original, namely part of a book provisionally called "Foundations of Natural Philosophy", that solves the problem "How do we learn from experience?" (among other things that our self is a part of the activities of our brain [18]) in a logical way. [19]

I'll try to my thoughts in terms that are as clear as possible, to say sensible things, and not to bore you. [20] And you are herewith invited.


Notes to "Body AND mind?"
of 2011

Most non-bold links - all underlined - in the notes that follow are to my Philosophical Dictionary, that explains my understandings and usage of terms, and most bold links to other material on my site.

[1] The title was meant to stress that there are usually taken to be two entities: the body and the mind, and that one of these seems redundant. Also, it should be noted that I wrote for, and later lectured to, students of psychology, not philosophy, and that this and other philosophical problems that do and should matter to students of psychology were not raised nor dealt with in courses of psychology, in any systematic and rational fashion.

[2] The poem is also by me, and dates back to 1970, when I wrote it after reading Descartes. (Under the link you find my edition of his Meditations plus my comments, most of which date back to that time.) 

The poem has nothing to do with the disease ME, the existence of which I did not know before 1988, and everything with the problems of knowledge and of self-knowledge, as in "Learn to know thyself!"

[3] For those who are somewhat confused by "infinitely many explanations": In principle, since we may extend any system of assumptions by more assumptions. In empirical fact there are fewer, of course, and most explanations of the mind-body problem are either of a materialistic, an idealistic or a religious kind, where the latter usually, if also obscurely, combines aspects of both materialism (humans have a body) and idealism (everything that is, is in the way of experience).

[4] These are very fundamental human questions, and humans are the only animals that murder and torture their kinds - or kick them from universities, or lock them in concentration camps - because they happen to have different hypotheses about the ways things are.

As the Voltaire-quote that opens my sites since 1996 has it:

   "If we believe absurdities,         
    we shall commit atrocities."    
                                          Voltaire        

[5] That ideas rule the human world, in the shapes of fashions, religions, political ideologies, and common cant in the media, very much rather than other things, varying from economy to the interests of some ruling class, is something few see clearly. One of the consequences is that a ruling idea may found a dictatorship that exists for decades or may destroy civilization or may create a religion that exists for millenia.

[6] The fields of buying books and wearing veils had become prominent in the 1980ies mostly because of what happened around Salman Rushdie's "The Satanic Verses": A fatwah was declared against him, and he lived for years in hiding, to avoid being murdered for writing a book of literature. If you read Dutch, my own enlightened views on the topic are here: Een enigszins verlicht standpunt.

As to Rushdie and me and postmodern Holland ... see

Meer juffrouw Ali = More on Ms Ali = The hollow men (English)
Vervolg = reprise: Rushdie, Ali en ik (Dutch)
me : Laudatio Neerlandica (English, relating to current Dutch pomo)

[7] This, of course, is the general practical form of religions and ideology: Persons and groups who attribute to themselves the rights to interfere with your life, your ideas, your feelings and your interests, because they claim some God-given or genius-given insight into the reality of things - that often in practice covers their rights to lock you up or kill you in what they call "your best real interests".

Apart from malevolent manipulation, of which there is more than average people tend to think, this is mostly made possible by the lacks of intelligence, of knowledge, and of character that marks most men. For more on these lines see my Mencius on human qualities aka On a fundamental problem in ethics and morals.

[8] Indeed, in general human practice the worst deeds tend to have the most beautiful, most resounding moral justifications, as witnessed by the mottos that were to be seen in Hitler's concentration-camps, that were either destruction-camps meant to kill inmates on arrival, or work-camps meant to kill inmates within a few months by forced labour, leaving an average profit of over 1600 Reichsmark per prisoner. These mottos were namely "Jedem das Seine" and "Arbeit macht frei": "Everyone to his merits" and "Labour sets you free", the former a German version of the Latin description of justice: "Suum cuique" = "To each his own".

[9] All points of view indicated occur in the literature, and indeed the problem - What are we, really?! - is a fundamental human problem.

[10]  One of the things my paragraph seeks to suggest is that the common religious answers, that tend to stress their humility, is far from that: It assumes far more than needs to be assumed, and it attributes to human beings - primates with the gift of language - properties, such as existence for an infinity of time in a blessed paradisical hereafter, for those of correct beliefs, and an infinity of time in hell for the rest, that are very hard to swallow for rational minds, or indeed for moral minds. (Why torture an opponent infinitely long?)

[11] This is dealt with in more detail in my Notes to Leibniz's Mondadology, and at greater length in my Notes to Leibniz's New Essays. The problem is that molecules and atoms do not have interests, feelings or beliefs, but that humans, who are composed from interacting atoms and molecules (on the humble hypothesis) do.

A kind of rational answer-in-principle is that interests, feelings and beliefs indeed are not properties of molecules and atoms, but of systematically interacting and coordinated sets or systems of them, as in a human brain, on the analogy of the properties of water and of chemicals in general, that do not derive from their component parts - no molecule of water is wet: masses of molecules of water are wet - but from the interactions of their parts.

This was, I think, first clearly argued by C.D. Broad, in his excellent "The Mind and Its Place in Nature", that anyone interested in the problem should read, for it is admirably clear and sensible. The idea goes ever since by the somewhat misleading term "emergence", where e.g. "systematic interaction" or some such phrase would have been better, also since a building is related to the stones and beams that it is composed of in a similar way as a thought is related to events in the brain.

[12] Indeed "= identically the same as" is a correct way of writing the thesis that is involved: There is no soul whatsoever, for all human experience is the same as processes in the brain. Incidentally, for those inclined to think so: This does not decrease the greatness and creativity of the human mind in any way, and to my mind increases it. (An animal produced by evolution that has a - gifted - human's gifts, surely is more awesome, is I suppose the right word, in this day and age, than a mere created thing, put together by some superior species.)

[13] The manner of putting it as I did in this paragraph owes something to McCulloch's "What's in the brain that may ink my characters?"

[14] At the time what seems currently mostly functioning under the name "neuroscience" was termed "psychophysiology" - but in the University of Amsterdam this was effectively mostly destroyed at the time, and the professor of it, W. van der Grinten, was also pestered away from the faculty for reason of not kowtowing enough to the pseudo-marxists and bureaucrats who then had the power in the faculty and in the university.

[15] These again, that is "On what grounds can we attribute the rights to ourselves to conclude that any arbitrary hypothesis about anything whatsoever makes sense? What makes a hypothesis credible, probable, rational, acceptable, or the opposites of these?" are in fact fundamental questions of logic and philosophy of science, that is, fundamental questions of human reasoning.

It was in fact this that I intended to lecture about and did lecture about, and most of my background for that is given here: On natural philosophy, philosophy of science, and psychiatry

[16] There are answers to this, the sources for which are in the last link in [15], but it is a difficult question, that most who do believe themselves to have ideological or religious answers that they may impose on others, either do not see at all, or carefully avoid studying or answering, on the basis of their own prejudice that they do not need more or other knowledge than they have, because they "know":

"It ain't what a man don't know that makes him a fool, but what he does know that ain't so."
   (Josh Billings)

But then such fools have killed millions, often of better moral, intellectual or artistic gifts than their killers, for what the killers held to be the most moral and best of reasons.

[17]  Dr. Peter Molenaar is, I think it is fair to say, the only member of the staff of the University of Amsterdam, that I met, where he thought mathematical statistics to psychologists, who combined the qualities of intelligence, honesty and kindness. He since left the UvA, and is at an American university.

Nearly all of the staff of the UvA, and especially in the faculties of philosophy, psychology, sociology, political sciences, Dutch, pedagogy, and andrology (a quasi-science invented at the UvA, since perished) were frauds, whores of reason, parasites of the Dutch taxpayers, and totally worthless pseudoscientists. The socalled scientific staff in the faculty of psychology for the most part took great pride in NOT publishing, though they were paid as scientific researchers, mostly because (1) this would have involved work they rather avoided, and (2) they felt proud to call scientific publishing "vain" and themselves "humble" and mostly (3) having tenure at a  Dutch university they had gained the position of state bureaucrat for life, for the staff of Dutch universities are state bureaucrats, and it is a virtual impossibility in Holland to fire a state bureaucrat.

Most of the staff of the UvA that was there in the 1980ies still is there, and no doubt they have taken excellent care that those who follow them are of the same moral and intellectual qualities as they are and were themselves: Liars, frauds, whores of reason, destroyers of academia and of the Dutch university system.

[18] "Foundations of Natural Philosophy" never got written, though I have most of the materials to do so, but I lack the help, and have asked for over 30 years for some form of help, e.g. to clean my house.

I do not get it, for I criticized those with power in Amsterdam, and in Holland.
See e.g.

ME + me : Why my family was in The Dutch Resistance  in WW II a.k.a.
                                                  Dutch Norms And Values                       a.k.a.
                                     If you ain't Dutch, you ain't much
                a.k.a.
                                        
A Real Dutch Treat

and

ME + me: Three documents: My father's story + my story + my Human Rights

for the reasons why, and also the explanations why I did as I did: I have the genes and the pride and character of my family, and also a very high intelligence; most Dutchmen do not, and come from families that survived WW II by collaborating with the Nazis.

I fear it really is as simple as that, because it was not only thus for me, but because anyone with a fine mind and moral courage who dared to speak up against Hitler, Stalin or Mao got into similar troubles for having a fine mind and honestly using it, as I did in Amsterdam since 1977, and as my parents and grandparents did between 1940 and 1945.

It also is a good explanation why I, with my communist and marxist background that I had given up in 1970, was so often called "a fascist" in the Universtity of Amsterdam by radical leftist students there, who made a career by collaborating with the then leading marxist, communist and socialist leaderships in the "democratized" universities of Holland: In fact they came from families of Nazi-collaborators, knew themselves to be hardly any better than that, believed everybody is equal or equivalent, and therefore decried me as being a fascist and a terrorist: Projection of their own ideals, mindsets and personalities.

And it is also a good explanation why I was the only person since the Nazis were defeated in 1945 to be removed from a Dutch university, as a student of philosophy also, "because of your publicly outspoken ideas" and "in spite of your serious illness" (an addition meant to convey sadistic intent, in which the Board of Directors succeeded).

Finally, this is why I often quote Jung Chang (apart from the fact that "Wild Swans" is a very fine book, that explains much about totalitarianism):

    "It was from this time that I developed my way of judging the Chinese by dividing them into two kinds: one humane and one not. "
     - (Jung Chang)

This is what I believe about Dutchmen, and indeed men in general, and the only solution I know, if mankind lives long enough, is here:

[19] I still think this can be done, and even that I can do it, if only I could get some of the help anybody in Amsterdam who is medically an invalid, as I am, does get: Persons in the street where I live with half my IQ get free cars and daily help, because they are said to be ill, while they evidently are far healthier than I am, judged by what they can do and I can't do.

I get no help, for I criticized the mayors of Amsterdam for helping the drugsmafia deal in heroin and cocaine "in the name of the ideals of the February Strike", as all these mayors daily intoned for over 20 years, while protecting the mafia, knowing full well from my letters and mails that my father and grandfather were arrested for co-organizing that strike, and convicted to concentration-camps, indeed by collaborating Dutch judges, who indeed were not punished after WW II: Hardly anyone was punished for that in Holland, because almost everyone did collaborate.

Finally, this also may be exonerated: Only very brave men and women dare to resist tyranny. What I cannot exonerate is lying about it after it happened - as of May 1945, every Dutchman had been "a member of the Resistance" - and what I also cannot exonerate is the lie that everybody is and ought to be equal and equivalent, which every Dutchman but Queen Beatrix and myself has been daily repeating since 1970 or so: No, they are not, and those who repeat this lie do repeat this lie because they know they themselves are and have nothing special to be proud of:

[20] Here I am also quite serious, since I have always believed that real science can be and should be presented far better than it is, by the majority of scientists, both pseudo and real: Real science, if possible, should be written about as e.g. Henri Poincaré and D'Arcy Thompson and William Clifford and William James could and would and did.


Sofar for what I wrote in 1989, with my notes of today. If I can find the energy, I will continue this in the next Nederlog with a consideration of some of the views of John Searle, as mentioned above and yesterday.


P.S. Corrections, if any are necessary, have to be made later.
-- Mar 31, 2011: I did correct a few typos and added some more links.


As to ME/CFS (that I prefer to call ME):

1. Anthony Komaroff

Ten discoveries about the biology of CFS (pdf)

2. Malcolm Hooper THE MENTAL HEALTH MOVEMENT:  
PERSECUTION OF PATIENTS?
3. Hillary Johnson

The Why

4. Consensus (many M.D.s) Canadian Consensus Government Report on ME (pdf)
5. Eleanor Stein

Clinical Guidelines for Psychiatrists (pdf)

6. William Clifford The Ethics of Belief
7. Paul Lutus

Is Psychology a Science?

8. Malcolm Hooper Magical Medicine (pdf)

Short descriptions:

1. Ten reasons why ME/CFS is a real disease by a professor of medicine of Harvard.
2. Long essay by a professor emeritus of medical chemistry about maltreatment of ME.
3. Explanation of what's happening around ME by an investigative journalist.
4. Report to Canadian Government on ME, by many medical experts.
5. Advice to psychiatrist by a psychiatrist who understands ME is an organic disease
6. English mathematical genius on one's responsibilities in the matter of one's beliefs:
   "it is wrong always, everywhere, and for anyone, to believe anything upon insufficient evidence".
7. A space- and computer-scientist takes a look at psychology.
8. Malcolm Hooper puts things together status 2010.
 


    "Ah me! alas, pain, pain ever, forever!

No change, no pause, no hope! Yet I endure.
I ask the Earth, have not the mountains felt?
I ask yon Heaven, the all-beholding Sun,
Has it not seen? The Sea, in storm or calm,
Heaven's ever-changing Shadow, spread below,
Have its deaf waves not heard my agony?
Ah me! alas, pain, pain ever, forever!
"
     - (Shelley, "Prometheus Unbound") 


    "It was from this time that I developed my way of judging the Chinese by dividing them into two kinds: one humane and one not. "
     - (Jung Chang)

 


See also: ME -Documentation and ME - Resources


Maarten Maartensz (M.A. psy, B.A. phi)

        home - index - top - mail