I still have no dates to report for The Unholy Consult, but I’m hoping that all the pieces will begin falling together this week. As soon as I know, I will post, I promise. In the meantime, for those interested, I do have some linkage to share.
Buzzfeed Books were kind enough to include The Prince of Nothing in their Top 51 Fantasy Series Ever Written a few days back, proving yet again why I need to get off my ass and get some real publicity shots.
As well, my “Alien Philosophy” piece from the previous two weeks has garnered some thoughtful responses both from Peter Hankins at Conscious Entities, and from Rick Searle at both Utopia or Dystopia and the Institute for Ethics and Emerging Technologies. The discussion is just getting warmed up, so by all means, join in!
I didn’t want to say anything until the post had a chance to be judged on its own merits, but “Alien Philosophy” is actually an extract from my attempt to write a “reader friendly” introduction to Through the Brain Darkly. Though I think it works well enough as a stand alone article, I’ve all but given up on it as intro material, and quite frankly, feel like a fool for ever thinking it possibly could be. Soooooo it’s back to the drawing board for me…
Your intro to Through the Brain Darkly should be a semi-fictional account of a neurologist diagnosing a case of anosognosia. If we can be so self-deluded about our capacities and so agile at generating confabulations to explain away our deficiencies, why can’t we generalize this case to the whole of not just consciousness, but metacognition as a whole?
You end the intro with something like “Even if some version of the withering intentionalist picture is true, it’s probably far from what our stunted metacognitive capacities fool us into believing.”
The reason I think this is the best tack is that you want to unleash the most powerful weapon in your arsenal immediately- anosognosia is in some sense empirical evidence that brains can malfunction and produce output in ways that most intentionalist theories *cannot account for*.
If only there was a way to trigger anosognosia or temporarily simulate it somehow, for perspectives sake. One of the things about science is how a lot of its experiments can be repeated by anyone. And there are experiments like where you stare straight ahead and bring an arm slowly around, forward, thumb outward, until your thumb dissappears from view at one point because of where you have a blind spot in your eye (for where the nerves leave the eye), but your brain paints over that area and you just never notice it otherwise. But maybe that home science stuff isn’t cool enough when you’re academically inclined – it’s got to be the multi sylable descriptions *yeah, I’m having a dig there…*
Now that, Jorge, is a bloody brilliant idea. Fantastic. There has to be a neuropathological case history involving a philosopher out there…
Saw a book on amazon.com
The Study of Anosognosia by George P. Prigatano; also, Phantoms in the Brain: Probing the Mysteries of the Human Mind with Oliver Sachs and others…
Prigatano’s book has been a go to reference of mine since it first came out. I wasn’t so taken with Phantoms.
Great, I’ll add Prigatano’s to my reading list. Thanks!
A real study in contrast, that.
I saw that through Charles Stross’s blog, I like their characterization of Beale. The link to Mixon’s award-winning blog post documenting the extent of acrackedmoon’s bullshit was worth reading. I seriously don’t know who is worse, the guy who thinks I’m a subhuman mongrel or the lady who would probably call me a neckbeard Nazi.
The moral I think, is that they’re basically transmitting the same signal, only using different signals possessing different strengths and weaknesses. These freaks ain’t going away.
After reading that I wanna open a vein with a salted-blade. How could anyone waste a single breath caring about anything mentioned in that article, it’s beyond meaningless. But I am an ignorant dumbcunt. So there’s that.
Better late than never. Personally, I can’t separate the incidents from a feeling of smug satisfaction. Small minded, I know… or brained, I should say.
What is it about ‘I told you so’ that feels so icky good?
While I got you here, ochlo, what do you make of Jack Gallant’s semantic mapping project?
You mean this?
Nothing seems very surprising, since I think many people assumed that this would work out much as it did based on neuropsychological case reports (not to take anything away from having actually demonstrated it, which is hard to do).
I’m exactly sure what you’re asking, I guess. I like the work, on balance.
Exactly. I was just wondering whether this was looked at askance or not within the community. One of the things that worries me is that, although a tremendous amount of care is put into explaining the capacities and limits of the experimental apparatus, no one seems to be pausing to consider the recursive aspect to the research, the fact that we’re not talking about brains vis a vis God, or some assumptive ‘view from nowhere,’ but rather talking about brains vis a vis brains. There always seems to be a brain missing in the analysis.
This sounds absurd, I’m sure, until you consider the difficulty our brains have handling mechanical complexity. I just think it would be more circumspect if they amended their terminology to something less grand, more biomechanical. Anyone out there you know of voicing anything similar?
NOT exactly sure. (oops)
Re: “This sounds absurd, I’m sure, until you consider the difficulty our brains have handling mechanical complexity. I just think it would be more circumspect if they amended their terminology to something less grand, more biomechanical. Anyone out there you know of voicing anything similar?”
It does sound absurd, and honestly never stops sounding absurd. Frankly, I don’t think I even understand the “difficulty” you reference absent a more explicit definition of “mechanical” and “complexity” in this context.
As far as I know, no neuroscientists care that neuroscientists are using their brains to study brains – what else would we do? Aren’t you using your brain to make statements about “the difficulty our brains have handling mechanical complexity”? There’s no way out of that, obviously.
Or perhaps there is – In cases like this, computers handle much of the mechanical complexity – assuming you mean something akin to the computations necessary to define the probabilistic structure embedded in the (natural language descriptors for) objects in visual scenes, processing of fMRI data, and the statistical relationships between the two.
The view is not “from nowhere” – it is through the lens of well-understood models of statistical inference. Moreover, the experimenters “see” through augmented eyes (fMRI machines), “remember” through augmented memories (hard drives), and “reason” through augmented brains (computers), in a sense.
Maybe the problem here is a failure to appreciate just how many real human brains were necessary to create the cultural (e.g., scientific method, competitive grant funding, anonymous peer review) and technological artifacts necessary to produce just one such study.
(I should add that I’ve met both Jack Gallant, and Alex Huth, and they are both extremely smart – I’m not trying to minimize their personal contributions to their own work by any means).
The “recursive” problem, at least from where I sit, seems peculiar to an outmoded model of human inquiry – the lone, pondering philosopher – that is largely if not entirely obsolete where the study of brains is concerned. It seems exactly like the kind of philosophical “problem” that scientists can, have, and will continue to ignore.
It reminds me of Zeno’s paradox of the Achilles and the tortoise, except that rather than concede, Achilles just says, “Fuck it – let’s race and see what happens”, and the tortoise is left dumbfounded at how quickly and thoroughly he is overrun.
Regarding the last question, what aspects of the their terminology would you have them change? I’m not sure what you’re referring to there.
Don’t stop disbelieving. I need someone to make me foolish precisely because I am an armchair lunatic in the wilderness. Why shouldn’t you be skeptical: what you do works, does work, and most importantly does work that enables more work to be done (I rather like Firestein’s characterization of neuroscience as the manufacturing of new ignorances regarding the brain). And I appreciate the assumption that all the problems we natter about being problems that will come out in the wash. I think your’s is the more sensible position in many respects… but…
I’m sure you would agree that it would miraculous if contemporary neuroscience weren’t labouring under some misapprehensions, faulty paradigms that limit your ability to make the most of your data. Shrugging off those paradigms ultimately depends on the field, but sometimes it takes an outsider to point them out. And in fact, your description also fits quite well with the picture I’m sketching. You need tools to get at the mechanisms, but you also need tools to deal with the complexity, with the sheer amount of data.
All I’m saying that the scientist’s brain (your brain) also relies on mechanisms to handle complexity, and that those tools, when not properly understood, could very well cause problems downstream. After all, it is simply a fact that neuroscientists have brains, and that they use those brains to reverse engineer brains. I’m sure you agree that this fact has something to do with the difficulty you face trying to understand brains.
Is this fair so far? Lemme know and I’ll hit you with the poppycock next!
“(I rather like Firestein’s characterization of neuroscience as the manufacturing of new ignorances regarding the brain).”
Me too, but his point was essentially a pedagogical one, for training new neuroscientists. I think he said something similar when he was interviewed on the Point of Inquiry podcast. That said, it might be more useful to say “narrower ignorances regarding the brain” in many instances.
“I’m sure you would agree that it would miraculous if contemporary neuroscience weren’t labouring under some misapprehensions, faulty paradigms that limit your ability to make the most of your data.”
I would. It would help if someone would tell us what they are.
“Shrugging off those paradigms ultimately depends on the field, but sometimes it takes an outsider to point them out. “
Can you give some examples of this happening? I’m skeptical how “outsider-y” these outsiders actually were. This matters, since the competitive and purposefully “adversarial” aspects of science (at least as I know it here in the United States) are intended to be self-correcting. What matters for your argument is how one defines the scientific “self”, and what stands outside it.
“And in fact, your description also fits quite well with the picture I’m sketching. You need tools to get at the mechanisms, but you also need tools to deal with the complexity, with the sheer amount of data.”
Again, I’m not sure what you mean by “mechanisms” – something that bottoms out in biophysics, or well-established thermodynamical principles (e.g., limits on vesicular recycling as the mechanism for synaptic depression, etc.)?
“All I’m saying that the scientist’s brain (your brain) also relies on mechanisms to handle complexity…”
What I was and am saying is that I have no idea what that sentence means without explaining what “mechanisms” you are referring to, or giving an example of the kind of thing that would qualify as one.
“…and that those tools, when not properly understood, could very well cause problems downstream.”
I suppose. But this is what philosophers always say. My answer remains, “Start the fucking race, turtles. If you win, you can tell us why you won.”
I also don’t understand why someone would think that the people who built and use the tools wouldn’t have an advantage in understanding their proper use. By “tools”, I mean computational techniques, neurophysiological recording methods, genetic manipulations, etc. I suspect you mean something else (“heuristic”?).
“After all, it is simply a fact that neuroscientists have brains, and that they use those brains to reverse engineer brains. I’m sure you agree that this fact has something to do with the difficulty you face trying to understand brains.”
Don’t be. In fact, I don’t agree at all. How are brains any different from hearts, or livers? We have those, too. Is that a problem? I don’t have a rat brain – does that mitigate the difficulty here?
I think the problem you are having is that the questions that interest you about brains are the ones that overlap with the philosophy of mind, or your peculiar focus on the ability of brains to do philosophy, or metacognition. That has nothing at all to do with the difficulties I personally face since I don’t care at all about those issues, at least professionally. Neuroscience is not, by and large, meta-meta-cognition.
Very, very (very) few of the questions that most neuroscientists care about touch on those subjects at all, and so the brain is as much as “thing” as other objects of scientific inquiry. I tend to take you literally when you say “neuroscientists”, when you should be saying “neuroscientists who study X” where X is consciousness, or something related. There’s no recursive doomloop relating to “metacognition” for a biophysicist focused on a particular potassium channel, for example.
While basic neuroscientists may try to “reverse engineer” brains, many others simply try to fix them with pharmacological interventions, etc. That it works is far, far more relevant than why. Translational science is a large and growing fraction of what people do, in and out of neuroscience.
Of course, I understand if it seems unfair to insist on the proper qualifiers when talking about neuroscientists. Still, you’re painting with far too broad a brush. Of course, you were asking about specific studies about semantic mapping. If you have a specific problem with their methodology, you should state it explicitly and concretely. This might be useful as a primer for how they see it:
Click to access 2011.Naselaris.etal.pdf
If the problem is the human-centered information that enters the analyses (e.g., names, in English, for objects), then you should probably focus more on machine-learning approaches to defining such entities, since what that field tends to show is that the categories that we use have structure extrinsic to us that can be recovered by algorithms sensitive to the statistical regularities that exist in the world. Putting this together, the structure of our semantic maps is neither arbitrary, nor peculiar to us (beyond the fact that many of the visual scenes are comprised by manmade objects).
But if the argument is simply sputtering that “But…brains…studying brains….THE EYE! THE EYE SEES ITSELF!!!”, well, yeah….you kinda seem like a lunatic.
Nice armchair, by the way.
I’ve been laughing all week because I’ve actually been sitting in an armchair! Da gout, got me.
I dunno. You strike me as awfully self-confident, given how cryptic theoretical posits like “semantic spaces” are. I thought the consensus was that neuroscience, still, was a fledging science, one lacking the lawlike generalizations characterizing disciplines even so close as biochemisty. Being closed about ‘philosophy’ is one thing, but being closed about asking questions about how the parochialism of your approaches (a parochialism that you know, simply given the history of science, is inevitable) could confound progress strikes me as… well, unscientific!
A science of semantics is a science of meaning. Would you care to neuroscientifically explain what meaning is? If not, then pull up an armchair.
Scott, Von Foerster used to put it this way
Physics orders its problems according
to the number of objects involved (“The one-body problem”, “The twobody
problem”,“The three-body problem”, etc.), I shall order our problems
according to the number of brains involved by discussing now “The onebrain
problem”, “The two-brain problem”, “The many-brain problem”, and
“The all-brain problem”.
1. The Single-Brain Problem: The Brain Sciences
It is clear that if the brain sciences do not want to degenerate into a physics
or chemistry of living—or having once lived—tissue they must develop a
theory of the brain: T(B). But, of course, this theory must be written by a
brain: B(T). This means that this theory must be constructed so as to write
itself T(B(T)). – Heinz von Foerster, Understanding Understanding
But he never actually poses what is problematic about this state of affairs. I take it that you are considering the brain as one resource or constraint among many, just as institutional biases or systematic experimental errors, and that we should extend our desire to qualify systematic errors by considering how the brains intrinsic or impoverished relation to itself might be infecting the scientific picture. Here I take you mean things like the search for Temporal Integration Correlates in the NCCs and various other kinds of integration correlates which you think are better explained as artifacts or epiphenomenon of informatic neglect?
Probably better than I could have put it. I generally find neurophenomenological hunts for NCCs painful to read.
The difficulty is always one of determining the degree to which a finding, data under some theory, is an artifact of the experimental apparatus. Absent any way of cognizing any parochialism, the assumption is that none exists, and so you have psychologists insisting their posits possess a unique, inexplicable extension, and so on and so forth. So you could say that empirical psychology is actually erected upon a foundation of such confounds!
“All I was doing was asking questions, ochlo.”
I think the technical term is “JAQing off”:
The original question was:
“While I got you here, ochlo, what do you make of Jack Gallant’s semantic mapping project?”
If you had a list of acceptable answers in mind beforehand, you should have said so, just to save time.
“If you aren’t simply making an ingroup claim to authority, then I just don’t know what your argument is.”
That’s evident. If you deny the existence of expertise, there is nothing beyond “in-group claims to authority” anyway. If so, why ask for a neuroscientist’s opinion about neuroscience? Why ask a random stranger on the Internet at all, if you’re really serious about this topic?
I’m not making an argument so much as expressing an opinion – my view (from the “in-group”, as you’d say) is that you are asking familiar and fairly silly questions, and it seems like dilettantism.
I’m not making an “argument” because the style of argumentation you generally employ strikes me as pointless – the needlessly esoteric jargon, etc. What’s funny is that you seem to like arguing so much that you’ll take both sides of an argument – defending philosophy against me here, attacking so much of it in the context of BBT. It’s a little odd.
“The point is operationalizing concepts guarantees nothing other than the explananda are adequate to the uses of a given experimental apparatus at a given point in time. The question, though, is the degree to which that apparatus limits adequate theory-formation and thus progress in the field.”
See? Like that. I don’t argue with it. “Uh….whatever” is not an argument. A lot of the rest is just trash talk, because I don’t take this very seriously. I have a BA in philosophy, so I’ve seen the view from both sides of the fence. I guess the thing I take seriously is the idea that this kind of rhetorical fappery should not be taken too seriously by anyone. Is there such a thing as trolling for the public good?
In this respect, I have a consistent position, but rather than state it, I perform it. I guess it seems to you that scientists are unaware of these issues. We talk about them all the time, but we do so in a different and particular way. Because – as you yourself have argued when your interlocutor is a philosopher rather than a scientist – it works. (I should add that there is usually math, statistics, and measuring and predicting things involved).
Now, if – as it seems – you want to argue that it doesn’t truly, fundamentally “work” for Deep Epistemological Reasons (“But….you’re neglecting NEGLECT ITSELF!!!!”), there’s no counterargument coming. Just more snickering, and armchair-themed trash talk.
“But as I mentioned, you seem to realize that’s not the issue, because otherwise you wouldn’t have raised the point of having a complete theory of meaning beforehand (why would you assume that I assumed such a facile thing?).”
It seems more or less in line with the level of dumbfuckery in general.
“You do agree that pretheoretical understandings have an impact on how research is carried out? I mean, if you were labouring in the basement of the Vatican, your apparatuses and operationalizations would look quite a bit different, would they not?”
That’s a perfectly legitimate point to make in a philosophy of science course for undergraduates. It’s this totalizing aspect of your approach that ultimately makes it risible. You’re like a man starving to death in a room full of food because you refuse to eat anything you can’t swallow whole.
“If that is the case, then my questions (potentially) hold water, and your defensiveness is likely counter-productive.”
I think the likelihood is nonzero, but pretty low. In the context of limited resources of time, and funding, the distinction is highly relevant. The view from the armchair doesn’t include the minutiae of statistical optimization problems that make up a lot of the day for most scientists. But whatever, keep talking in categories and syllogisms, instead of distributions and statistical inferences. I’ll be the Mary Swanson to your Lloyd Christmas – “So…you’re telling me there’s a chance!”
“Like I say, I don’t get your response. I don’t even think I’m saying anything a good number of neuroscientists would find surprising.”
Exactly. You’re not saying anything most scientists have not heard many, many times before. You’re not saying anything we don’t talk about constantly. You’re just dressing it up in alien jargon to make talking about it less rather than more productive.
“I feel more like I triggered an ingroup reflex (philosopher!!) than any thoughtful consideration.”
Kind of – the in-group trash talk has been Trump-ed up, for Internet’s sake. Thoughtful consideration? Yeah, not so much. That’s what I do at work, and this is what I do when taking a break from work.
This was fun. Best wishes for The Unholy Consult.
“Exactly. You’re not saying anything most scientists have not heard many, many times before. You’re not saying anything we don’t talk about constantly. You’re just dressing it up in alien jargon to make talking about it less rather than more productive.”
So then, you and your colleagues constantly discuss the ways the short cuts your brains use to handle complexity might be messing with theory formation. Just point me in their direction.
Have to point out though how the article is derisory toward ‘engineers with ray guns fighting…governments who don’t want them to mine asteroids in space?’
What you have there is a bias toward moralising stories – an extremism toward that end, while atleast the asteroids in space gets somewhere toward food and shelter. Used to be aesop would tell you a story about ants and grasshoppers and resource management (and the original ‘winter is coming’). Now what’s the focus – all the things that are morally bad (or on occasion, how something is untouchable, inedible, yet somehow transcendent and wonderful and to be gazed on/spend your time gazing at as your calories count down). Not things you can do toward a beneficial end – just a fixation on things not to be done.
Why an extremist lean that way? Because it’d take some moral to decide to be moderate on moralising! But moralising is all up it’s own butt!
Certainly the prince of nothing novels fall into that extremism.
Our life support being more and more decided by a system (and whatever moral structure it ends up imposing), but hey, as moralising grasshoppers, lets find out that rape is bad, yet again…
“I’ve been laughing all week because I’ve actually been sitting in an armchair! Da gout, got me.”
I’m sorry to hear that.
“I dunno. You strike me as awfully self-confident, given how cryptic theoretical posits like “semantic spaces” are.”
I have to assume you haven’t read the article I linked, or any of papers summarized in the videos I’d linked. There’s nothing cryptic about “semantic spaces”. And these “spaces” are empirically derived from data, not “posits” (except in the literal sense that “posit” means “to place”).
You just haven’t bothered to learn what the authors intend. Semantic spaces are rigorously and operationally defined in the context of their computational approach. Talking about generalized “spaces” is endemic to sensory neurophysiology, since the stimuli are often understood to sample a ‘parameter space’ of interest (e.g., visual angle, spatial frequency, orientation), etc. For the papers from the Gallant lab, “semantic space” is simply a coordinate transformation of real space – locations in the brain – “inflated” and “flattened” for computational convenience.
“I thought the consensus was that neuroscience, still, was a fledging science, one lacking the lawlike generalizations characterizing disciplines even so close as biochemisty.”
Many biochemists are neuroscientists. Neuroscience is not a methodologically defined field to the same degree that other fields tend to be. The “lawlike generalizations” in biochemistry obtain when talking about the liver (not neuroscience) and the brain (neuroscience). Again, you likely confusing what you think neuroscience is (i.e., the handful of talks Ned Block might show up for) with what it actually is (all the things that 30,000+ neuroscientists discuss at the Society for Neuroscience annual meeting).
“Being closed about ‘philosophy’ is one thing, but being closed about asking questions about how the parochialism of your approaches (a parochialism that you know, simply given the history of science, is inevitable)”
Is that it? Middle school debate team rhetoric? The next time I need help correcting for upward bias in mutual information estimates based in limited trial counts I’ll call Bruno Latour.
I’m not actually closed to asking questions about how we might avoid those biases. In fact, I wrote in my previous post: “I would [agree that it would miraculous if contemporary neuroscience weren’t labouring under some misapprehensions, faulty paradigms that limit your ability to make the most of your data]. It would help if someone would tell us what they are.”
Challenge…ignored. Insisting that there “simply must be” problems is not the same as pointing out what they are. My assertion is that it is invariably other scientists who do this work, not “outsiders”. Can you think of examples where I’m wrong here? [ < not a rhetorical question].
“…could confound progress strikes me as… well, unscientific!”
That’s because you’ve confused science with the philosophy of science. Which, I suppose, is to be expected, given how narrow your lens for thinking about neuroscience appears to be.
“A science of semantics is a science of meaning.”
I thought it was called linguistics, usually.
“Would you care to neuroscientifically explain what meaning is?”
This question perfectly encapsulates the ass-backwards approach typical of philosophy in general. We don’t need to blather uselessly about what “meaning” “is” “in itself” in order to ask more concrete questions like “Is the probabilistic structure relating the cooccurrence of natural language tokens expressed in cortical topography?”
The latter question has an answer. The link is in the video.
“If not, then pull up an armchair.”
If you think you need a complete theory of meaning BEFORE you can design and conduct an experiment which tells us something useful about how meaning is represented in the brain, you’re never getting out of that chair.
But I suppose that betrays my bias – I don't think philosophers are stupid. I think they are lazy. That's why they prefer to sit in armchairs. It's also why they never get anywhere.
All I was doing was asking questions, ochlo. You’re the one arguing that these questions are too foolish to be asked, simply because I’m perched in my armchair with my swollen toe. You can pay lip service to being open, but the presumption that all such questions, because they come from non-neuroscientists, are idiotic, pretty clearly suggests that you’re openness is has it’s limits. I’m just trying to understand what motivates those limits apart from simple chauvinism.
If you aren’t simply making an ingroup claim to authority, then I just don’t know what your argument is. To whit: operationalizing isn’t the point here (which you seem to realize, but argue nonetheless). The point is operationalizing concepts guarantees nothing other than the explananda are adequate to the uses of a given experimental apparatus at a given point in time. The question, though, is the degree to which that apparatus limits adequate theory-formation and thus progress in the field. Crying ‘operationalization’ is simply a red herring. Neuroscience, I take it, is interested in more than simply confirming the utility of its apparatuses to generate the results those apparatuses generate. If so… It’s not brain science, but then it’s not rocket science either.
But as I mentioned, you seem to realize that’s not the issue, because otherwise you wouldn’t have raised the point of having a complete theory of meaning beforehand (why would you assume that I assumed such a facile thing?). You do agree that pretheoretical understandings have an impact on how research is carried out? I mean, if you were labouring in the basement of the Vatican, your apparatuses and operationalizations would look quite a bit different, would they not?
If that is the case, then my questions (potentially) hold water, and your defensiveness is likely counter-productive.
Like I say, I don’t get your response. I don’t even think I’m saying anything a good number of neuroscientists would find surprising. I feel more like I triggered an ingroup reflex (philosopher!!) than any thoughtful consideration. The same as when I engage many philosophers, ironically enough!
Thanks for the update on The Unholy Consult! I. Can’t. Freaking. Wait.
You and me both!
I was going over the debate with Evan in the comments to his article at philosophy of brains. What really showed up there was how you two were using completely different notions of neglect. You might want to convey that neglect plays something the role of something the dual of the a priori or of transcendental conditioning. Neglect you seem to be saying is the kind of immanent condition underwriting the effectiveness of much of heuristic cognition. I frankly wasn’t convinced of your quick over of the Now of time consciousness in that exposition. For me what you have before described as the mark of cognition (registration of differences making differences) is just the way to drive home the meaning of neglect. Thomspon was just construing negelect as a very high level phenomenon when in your picture neglect cuts across modalities, and across what we might call infrastructural and ecological levels.
I’ll have to ponder that one some. At the time, it simply felt like more of the same to me, using qualification to throw off the applicability of my questions. My instinct is to balk at characterizing neglect as a functional analog of the a priori, simply because, well, it isn’t at all, but it strikes me that plays a similar function of ‘constraint from nowhere’ when applied to philosophical thinking–and that, my penetrating friend, is a shrewd observation indeed. For me, what neglect provides is way to actually conceive the experience of thinking in material terms. If you look at the debates I’m having with Eric on personal identity and weird minds, in each case I’m trying to bind ‘intuitions’ to fractionate, limited cognitive capacities, to say of thoughts, ‘that machine just doesn’t do that.’ Neglect provides a relatively perspicuous way to accomplish this–from the inside. The constraint ultimate arises out of the machinery (thus the absence of any a priori): neglect simply allows you to see one way, at least, it’s expressed in thought.
It is a kind of neurophenomenology I’m doing, but one that tips the Husserlian paradigm on its head, a paradigm which runs willy-nilly over our neglect structure… (or should I say ‘trace structure’ ;))
The ‘now’ bit wasn’t meant to convince but to show possibility… I was already exhausted, as was he.
Minor thing, but I think the pic is fine – it seems to match you – a sort of stunned, WTF look but smiling. As opposed to the, IMO, dreadful pic in the books – I presume that pic was some kind of strategic choice.
That’s what I tell my wife! But I’m beginning to have doubts…
I just stumbled upon this HP Lovecraft quote and it made me think of this blog.
“The most merciful thing in the world, I think, is the inability of the human mind to correlate all its contents. We live on a placid island of ignorance in the midst of black seas of infinity, and it was not meant that we should voyage far. The sciences, each straining in its own direction, have hitherto harmed us little; but some day the piecing together of dissociated knowledge will open up such terrifying vistas of reality, and of our frightful position therein, that we shall either go mad from the revelation or flee from the deadly light into the peace and safety of a new dark age.”
I always found that quote terrifying.
You’re the second person to post this quote saying this–the coincidence being that I had chosen it as the opening epigraph of TTBD a long time ago! Now I’m even more convinced that it’s the perfect quote.
Too bad I couldn’t use it in lieu of an introduction. Fawk.
Do you have plans for any more Atrocity Tales?
Now that you’ve been called a ‘dark phenomenologist’ I feel a lot better about BBT and what you’ve been saying in general. Makes me feel better about all the philosophy & literature classes I’ve taken
Then I must have gone wrong somewhere… hmmmm.
No, you’re fine. Your stuff still scares the shit out of me. The people responding to you are right up my alley, tho. They ease the strain of trying to get out of my armchair
They are similar only at a couple of hinges. Dark phenomenology really looks like an outgrowth of Christian mysticism. Henry’s whole argument against empirico transcendental parallelism and his attack on Husserelian intentionality is just to clear the way for his approach to Christ as the occlusively immanent ‘material flesh’ of the phenomenon which constitutes the hidden self sensing / self, impressing essence of all phenomenality, including (as he actually argues!) of the reductive natural sciences whose measuring instruments could never hope to sense or register absolute life.
So with the intro, is it hard to figure the hook for a general audience? What’s the problem you’re seeing, Scott? Or are you even before that, not even figuring the prob as yet?
An intro should act as an aid to digestion, not as the first instance of indigestion. That’s my worry in a nutshell.
Oh, the hook and the bomb are too close together. Yeah, Jorge’s idea of giving an account of anosognosia would probably act as a good teaser/hook. Get the curiosity going.
Juiced about the nomination of Prince of Nothing, which is thoroughly deserved. I have to pinch myself to recall that I was devouring yr novels way before we got to sandwich boarding the End of Days.
I think the Alien Philosophy text is one of the clearest and most accessible expositions of BBT that I’ve read. It’s an ideal intro. Looking forward to reading and reviewing TTBD.
BTW: here’s a brief exchange with Pete Mandik from facebook on BBT. Did I get you’re position right?
PM: “Does RSB ever anywhere supply non-intentional definitions of what he means by the terms “blind,” “metacognitive,” and “heuristic” ?
DR: I think he has to to unpack this in terms of abstract properties of mechanisms. Heuristics are mechanism properties that 1) that furnish mostly beneficial causal transactions with a creature’s environment 2) do so at a lower “dimensionality” than the pertinent causal systems in that environment (where dimensionality is some property of the state spaces needed to describe the behaviour of the relevant systems). In the case of metacognitive heuristics, the pertinent causal systems include other heuristic mechanisms. Something along those lines, but don’t quote me.
PM: Thanks, David. That helps quite a bit. I wonder if it’s a problem for the view that immune systems would therefore be metacognitive.
DR: Only if one thinks that the cognitive \non–cognitive distinction is a distinction in kind rather than an artefact of the aforementioned process…. I need to track down RSB’s response s to the objection that blindness is a representational notion, though.I’m ventriloquising here
I know I should write more about this because it is so important, but the fact is, since the warrant of BBT is abductive, I constantly return from my mad explanatory safaris with an eye to twiddling the knobs. So basically this is where I stand now:
Cognition consists in the transformation of sensory effects (past or present) to generate covariational environmental comportments subserving behavioural reinforcement (‘problem solving’). Metacognition consists in the transformation of available covariational environmental comportment effects (past or present) to generate covariational environmental comportments subserving behavioural reinforcement.
All cognitive mechanisms are heuristic, but not all cognitive mechanisms are heuristic in the same ways. Most importantly, a cognitive mechanism is more or less heuristic depending on the amount of information utilized versus the complexity of the system solved. (I’m working on a piece roughing this out in Bayesian brain terms, now, in fact).
‘Blind’ is just a metaphor for neglect. Neglect refers to those information structures that play no role whatsoever in an instance of cognition, even though they ‘should.’
These are the basics. So you can tell Pete that, no, the immune system does not count as metacognition on my account, but that yes, heroin addiction does count as a ‘solution’!
Thus my pessimism.
yeah i don’t get the immune-system bit, keep running into that sort of leap of logic/faith from the process folks.
to be (i hope) a bit clearer i get why you reject it but not why he would assert it.
To be fair, I don’t define cognition as regularly as I should. That’s often how I read, circling the main concepts and guessing at how they define them.
Having a scrapbook filled with musings as opposed to a corpus of published works doesn’t help either, I’m sure!
Re: heroin addiction as a “solution”
re: immune system – well, at a guess I could see where they are coming from. The immune system is an adaptive problem solving system.
I think it’s some hyperbole to refer to it as part of the brain, rather than a kind of second brain in the body. But I can see various perspectives from which you might cludge them together. The funny thing about these guys argument ad absurdums is that since the situation is so strange, they just end up giving more evidence towards the matter rather than disproving!
re: solutions – well, kamakaze pilots have ‘solutions’ for their goal as well.
But it is rather disturbing how the common speak seems to have no caveat – not even a tonal one, for any particular concerns with such solutions. The artificially constructed foetus brain from the link way up above and the ‘ethical experimentation’ line in the article…with no hesitation…is pretty disturbing.
Soon as it flies outside the common consideration but seems to still fall within common moralities, it seems to just get an auto pass. And who said we don’t need philosophy no more, eh?
” immune system is an adaptive problem solving system” this would turn all of evolution/life (or if one pushed it far enuff all of physics) into something like ‘minds’ thus my earlier complaint about the panpsychic/process folks and their continuing leaping over differences that make a difference…
Yeah – thus my comment about how their argumentum ad absurdums tend to add evidence against them. But they keep on seeing minds, all the way down.
I think life is some kind of pseudo physics. Fire, for example, is real physics – it gets born, breeds, goes extinct yet is part of the very rules of the universe, so it’s never really extinct.
Life had to happen – otherwise it wouldn’t have. Some weird niche amongst physics – a billion times less durable than fire. On the other hand, like war, fire never changes.
I say this, because hey, you can knock them for their panpsychic thing – but what’s the difference between saying everything is a mind and saying what’s sitting on our shoulders is a mind? Isn’t that just fractional panpsychism, as opposed to unfettered panpsychism?
well Callan, in these kinds of settings/projects i don’t call what sits on our shoulders a “mind” b/c i don’t think that minds exist, yet another example of mistaking a term (that really is a shorthand gesture for a series/process of bodily functions, some irony than that the Process folks fall into misplaced concreteness) for an actual thing in the world, just as i wouldn’t misuse quasi-technical terms from life-sciences to describe altogether different inorganic processes/events (like fire) unless i was writing poetry, for me precision/specificity is vital (being as mindful as we can of limits of such manipulations, see RSB above vs Och) in these matters, ok?
I like how I’m on the outside of that technical distinction.
I’m merely discarding organic/inorganic distinctions, ok?
But that’s why I like how I end up on the outside of that – like I’m the one appealing to poetry. Like I’m in the ad absurdum. Because it’ll be like I have to explain my discading of distinction (ie, as if I’m totes the one making a claim here, in doing so) rather than you explain why you have a distinction to begin with…beyond mere appeal to legacy. As if you’re not making a claim, dmf?
just sharing my own perspective/interests, have largely given up on trying to convince other people to convert, you may note that I phased my comment in 1st personish terms, to Witt:
“If I have exhausted the justifications, I have reached bedrock and my spade is turned. Then I am inclined to say: “This is simply what I do.” § 217
Wha? Just sounds very much indeed like an impetus to convert – rather than quite the opposite and humour potentially discarding a belief.
I mean, that’s why I liked the idea I was in the poetry – it’s like you were pulling me back in through the airlock and throwing me in a briar patch. Oh my, oh no!…I wish!
I’d like to be wrong about what I’m saying – so I’m definately humouring potentially discarding a belief. How ’bouts you?
hmm, now that sounds more like a call for de-alienating a philosophy.
“Indirect communication means, that man is conscious about the fact, that even when one has the strongest need for clarity and seeks for forms and formula no expression will be
-jaspers after kierkegaard
Thank you for updating us about the next novel in your series. We are eagerly awaiting it!
hey hey! Davias from tsa made a Wutteat shirt!
this is too generous but a good start against the tyranny of the means (and the technicians) http://dailynous.com/2015/08/27/just-one-third-of-published-psychology-is-reliable/
Yeah, I saw that – but it’s in regards to ‘studies’. Studies are…sort of the gossip of science. They don’t use controls. They allow biases to creep in in the way data is collated – I think someone posted a video link here once about them.
Russian covers of The Second Apocalypse: https://www.reddit.com/r/bakker/comments/3irg42/russian_covers_of_bakkers_works/
Oliver Sacks is dead. I’m just going to leave a little link here, which is an excerpt from what should be mandatory reading for followers of this blog.
“Zazetsky and Dr P. lived in worlds which were mirror images of each other. But the saddest difference between them was that Zazetsky, as Luria said, ‘fought to regain his lost faculties with the indomitable tenacity of the damned,’ whereas Dr P. was not fighting, did not know what was lost, did not indeed know that anything was lost. But who was more tragic, or who was more damned—the man who knew it, or the man who did not?”
It’s hard not to be dazzled by the man–the Robin Williams of neuroscience, at least enthusiasm-wise. A life well lived.
I learned from reddit he could squat 600 lbs. That guy came straight out of Ishuäl.
“Philosophy is a battle against the bewitchment of our intelligence by means of language” – Wittgenstein
(Apropos of something, somewhere…maybe.)
Interesting. But I’m a fallen Wittgensteinian, and see him as a thorough-going normative metaphysician who really only had the haziest sense of what he’s describing.
And I’m still wondering what neuroscientists make of the possibility that the ways their brains handle complexity impedes their ability to decode the complexities of the brain.
When companies crowd-source problems plaguing their own experts, ochlo, what percentage of the solutions come from outgroup contributions do you think? ‘Forest for the trees’ is a real phenomena, my friend.
“And I’m still wondering what neuroscientists make of the possibility that the ways their brains handle complexity impedes their ability to decode the complexities of the brain.”
You mean besides me? Just ask some. How hard is that?
To get a response beyond snickering or eyerolling, I suspect that you’ll need to define “complexity” more precisely (much as I’ve asked you to do above). It’s hard to do, and the notion has multiple aspects:
I’ve alluded to how some neuroscientists attempt to manage ‘complexity’, methodologically, elsewhere in the thread. But somehow – and, I suspect, inevitably – none of these specific, concrete approaches (e.g., multidimensional scaling techniques, etc.) will ever satisfy you, since you don’t want to be satisfied. Your argument depends on not being satisfied, essentially.
You’re like a scuba diver in a freshwater lake, dying of thirst, frantically begging the fish to tell you where to find water.
Still, I did try initially since on the more computational side of the neuroscience pool, discussing ways to manage complex data sets is the very essence of what we do, and runs through nearly every aspect of it. That’s what I meant by the fact that we discuss these issues all the time. We are constantly developing devices to capture more information (so as not to miss relevant details – e.g., simultaneous recordings from ever more electrode contacts) as advances in computing allow us to analyze that data tractably (e.g., supercomputing clusters, parellizingm, etc.).
The argument that “But you still have to use BRAINS!” seems relevant insofar as the contention has to do with how brains ‘manage complexity’. If the complexity can be made manageable through “assistive devices” for cognition, let’s call them, then it’s much less of a problem, isn’t it?
If you can provide a usefully rigorous way of defining the manageable limits of ‘complexity’, then perhaps these concerns can improve the practice of science.
I’ll wait over here.
Is the time-varying pattern of light on the retina not “complex” enough to be relevant? In a sense, sensory systems are model systems for how neural networks ‘manage complexity’, no?
“When companies crowd-source problems plaguing their own experts, ochlo, what percentage of the solutions come from outgroup contributions do you think? ‘Forest for the trees’ is a real phenomena, my friend.”
Comparing companies to Science, writ large (hence Capitalized), is so ludicrous that this doesn’t merit a response. I’ve asked you to provide examples of genuine outgroup solutions from the history of science, and you’ve yet to provide one.
I’m happy to agree “in theory” without actually caring much since “theory” never seems to translate into practice, as far as I can tell. So, this just seems like McGuinn-ism, dressed up as “spiraling dimensionality” or whatever.
“‘Forest for the trees’ is a real phenomena [sic]”.
To quote one of my favorite fantasy authors, “This is how Men reason in the Three Seas?”
Good luck with that, “friend”.
“And I’m still wondering what neuroscientists make of the possibility that the ways their brains handle complexity impedes their ability to decode the complexities of the brain.”
Uh….takes one to know one?
But just a game, ultimately.
(Not that I know what a game is; c.f. Wittgenstein).
Well, whatever, ochlo. I’m getting tired sorting through the sneer. Heaven forbid you acknowledge that neuroscience is laid out on the back of the same abject mystery that has us all scratching our heads, that it’s far–far–from the rigorous science you pretend it is. My hope is that yours is the minority opinion.
Hey Scott. Unfortunately, much of the content on your blog is vastly beyond me, or at least beyond the scope of my current experience. Hopefully one day I’ll be able to revisit many of the subjects you touch on and hope to grok them beyond the most superficial of surfaces. I do have a question about the Unholy Consult though: has anyone outside your editor, family, close friends etc. read the manuscript?
an impatient devotee