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[Xmca-l] Re: units of analysis? LSV versus ANL



Greg,

There are many phenomena that can be looked at from more than one perspective. Indeed, to understand a complex system (and a computer is a complex mechanical system) one really needs to look at it from several perspectives. Think of LSV looking at consciousness from the perspective of the relation between thinking and speaking, but emphasizing that other viewpoints are possible.

However, the dualism that LSV was concerned to avoid is *ontological* dualism: the assumption that there two fundamental *kinds* of entity: mental entities, and material entities. There are many entities in a computer - hard drives, integrated circuits, processes with threads, users with privileges. But they are all have a material basis. 

Let me drivel on a little, since I know that you and others have been reading Latour's book "modes of existence."  Latour explores the distinct modes of existence in different social institutions - science, religion, law... It might seem that he is even worse than dualist, because he recognizes not only 2 kinds of entity but multiple kinds. To figure out why this is not the case one needs to go back into the history of this a bit, as Latour does. The Moderns (enlightenment philosophers and scientists, and their many followers, including most of psychology) rejected a religious view of the world that saw it as full with meaning and value. They "disenchanted" the world, insisting that the physical universe is simply matter in motion. Value, meaning, were all in the mind. In short, they had a very shriveled view of the material, a very 'strict materialism.'  A very 'idealized' view of matter, one might say. To 'preserve' value and meaning - and even causation, which many of them considered a judgment not a real process - they tried to situate these in another place, as another *kind* of entity. This brought them into all sorts of problems (some of which LSV catalogs in Crisis).

But as Andy asked, what can "material" mean when mind is material? Latour describes the problem: 

"It would not be wrong to define the Moderns as those who believe they are materialists and are driven to despair by this belief. To reassure them, it would not make much sense to turn toward the mind, that is, toward all the efforts they have deployed as a last resort, all the lost causes (and causes are indeed at issue here!) in order to situate their values in 'other dimensions,' as they say—dimensions other than that of 'strict materialism' since matter, as we are beginning to understand, is the most idealist of the products of the mind"  (p. 105)

,,,and then sketches the solution:

"To become materialists for real, we are going to have to instill in materialism a bit of ontological *realism*, counting on *many* beings, well-nourished, fattened up, plump-cheeked" (p. 177)

We need, Latour says, to learn how to become "authentic materialists." For Latour this means getting rid of the notions of 'mind' and of 'mental representations.' LSV's approach is a little different, it is to redefine mind as itself a material entity...

Martin


On Oct 18, 2014, at 10:14 PM, greg.a.thompson@gmail.com wrote:

> Yes, I'm with you on 1) the fact that we don't want to suggest that the mind is "inside" the brain and 2) that the brain-as-computer argument fails on many formal counts. Agreed and agreed.
> All that I was proposing was simply the idea that the system/process/bundle of relations that we shorthand with the term "mind/brain" can be observed from two different perspective that offer radically different takes on that system/process/bundle of relations. It is in this sense that I was suggesting the computer metaphor might be useful. From "inside" (e.g., as a user interacting with a program), it looks radically different from what it looks like if you observe it from the "outside" - e. g. watch the processor and hard drive spinning and things getting accessed. Depending on whether you are "inside" or "outside", you will see something radically different - and with the complexity of computers today, this radical difference gets to the point that one is increasingly tempted to become a dualist about computers.
> 
> And perhaps this is the real threshold for what we call "artificial intelligence" - I. e.  The point at which we become definitively dualistic about computers - when we can no longer sufficiently explain the "insides" (the program) with the outsides (the spinning drive).
> 
> Who knows?
> 
> Greg
> 
> Sent from my iPhone
> 
>> On Oct 18, 2014, at 5:49 PM, Martin John Packer <mpacker@uniandes.edu.co> wrote:
>> 
>> Hi Greg,
>> 
>> I'm certainly not suggesting we stop using the terms inside and outside. Material entities - including complex systems - can be inside other entities, including other systems. But "mind" can't be inside anything, because it occupies no space. At least that how the classical enlightenment philosophers defined mental entities - they have no extension, no spatial dimensions. Remember how Descartes tried to link mind to the pineal gland, because that was the smallest structure he could find in the brain?
>> 
>> One of the indications that psychology is not, in fact, a study of the mind is that we are completely inconsistent in how we talk about it. I ask my students where their mind is. Most of them point at their heads. So I ask them what I asked Andy - "you mean if I look inside you skull I'll see your thoughts?" They tell me no. So I ask them again where their mind is, and they can't answer. I ask them how we can study something when we don't even know where it is.
>> 
>> Your right, important stuff is inside the head. I have no trouble at all with the proposal that we study what is inside the  head. I used to be a computer programmer, so I know something about the important stuff inside the machine. I think it's important to understand the human brain; I would not like to try to think without mine. But we won't find the mind by looking at the brain; in both cases there are material processes going on in material entities - physical in one case, biological in the other. In the case of a human being, the brain is a necessary basis for psychological processes to occur. But also necessary are the rest of the body, and a culture to live in. Just because the brain is inside the skull doesn't mean that the mind is inside the brain. There are now many powerful arguments against the assumption central to Cog Sci, that psychological processes are like computational processes, which operate on non-semantic formal representations (look at Clark, Barsalou, Glenberg, Ingold). And what sense would it make to say that consciousness is *in* the brain? Consciousness is a process; it is an aspect of our ongoing involvement in the material world. Where is it? It is where that involvement is.
>> 
>> Martin
>> 
>>> On Oct 18, 2014, at 6:18 PM, greg.a.thompson@gmail.com wrote:
>>> 
>>> Martin, I wonder whether you think the notions of "inside" and "outside run into similar trouble of mental/material dualism?
>>> I was thinking in particular of the notion of the "inside" of a system (this was how Jay Lemke once described the notion of "stance" as the insides if the system). 
>>> I can see trouble if we think of "Inside" solely in terms of "inside my head" as you mention. But I wonder if there isn't some possibility of working with this way of speaking that doesn't necessarily call in a mental/physical dualism? (I mean, "inside" and "outside are both ways of describing physical spaces, so it seems like as long as they aren't applied to a pre existing dualist if concept, then this shouldn't be a problem.)
>>> And though I'm not fond of the brain-as-computer metaphor, it might be instructive as a way to think about this inside/outside distinction as the difference between watching the processor at work (outside) and watching the screens as a program runs (inside). 
>>> In principle the one can be reduced to the other, but in practice it can't anymore (I assume this is true with today's computers). 
>>> The degree of complexity can make it seem like the program running is an autonomous explanatory level of its own, but that doesn't mean that it is. Just that it is the "inside" of the system.
>>> What do you think?
>>> -Greg
>>> Ps, apologies for not making more direct ties to lsv vs anl discussion. If this is too much of a sidetrack, I'm happy to take this up offline. But Martin, I find your position to be a very provocative one and would like to hear more about how it makes sense for you. It is a way of thinking that is very difficult to wrap one's Western language/mind/brain around!
>>> 
>>> 
>>> Sent from my iPhone
>>> 
>>>> On Oct 18, 2014, at 3:38 PM, Martin John Packer <mpacker@uniandes.edu.co> wrote:
>>>> 
>>>> Hi Michael,
>>>> 
>>>> LSV points out that no proper science sets out to study appearances. Every science studies entities that exist, in order to *explain*  appearance. One of his examples is from the science of optics. When we place a burning candle in front of a mirror there *appears* to be a second candle burning behind the mirror, or 'in' the mirror. The scientist doesn't study that second candle. What he or she studies is the first candle, and the mirror, in order to discover principles by which to explain why an 'image' of a second candle appears, apparently located 'in' the mirror.
>>>> 
>>>> It's the same with the mind. It *appears* to us (at least to those of us raised in western, scientific cultures) that our thoughts and feelings exist in a special, internal, subjective, hidden place that we call "the mind."  A scientific psychology, says LSV, needs to try to explain how that appearance is possible. It's not too difficult, in fact: our verbal thoughts, our private subvocal speech, is possible, first, because we can use vocal speech to direct our own actions and second, because a fibre bundle called the arcuate fasciculus forms between Broca's area and Wernicke's area (to considerably simply the neuroanatomy and neurofunctioning).  The appearance of a "mind in the head" is a *folk* psychology: it is simply one way, among several, in which people try to make sense of an experience that they have; it is the way our own psychological processes *appear* to us. Scientific psychology cannot study the mind, any more than it can study the second candle. It can, however, set out to *explain* the mind, and that is part of what LSV did. 
>>>> 
>>>> Martin
>>>> 
>>>>> On Oct 18, 2014, at 8:11 AM, Glassman, Michael <glassman.13@osu.edu> wrote:
>>>>> 
>>>>> I sort of feel like (at this point) Vygotsky did open himself up for being critiqued for going inside the head.  It was a choice, I don't think he was willing to give up the idea of individual development (which I think you have to do if you are going to escape dualism - because what develops if you can't say there is something inside the head that develops (remember I am suggesting individual development here).  
>> 
>> 
>