The mystery of consciousness: Sam Harris

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Re: The mystery of consciousness: Sam Harris

Postby Alex123 » Thu Oct 27, 2011 9:02 pm

Metta-4 wrote:I'll take a crack at it. :tongue: Only the expression of consciousness is affected by damage to the machine, ie; the brain.


If brain is destroyed, and consciousness cannot express itself in any way, then how can consciousness really exist other than a property of the neuron activity of the brain? What is the point in consciousness that depends in every way on brain's function? It is like positing a Self that expresses itself through 5 aggregates, where impermanence of the aggregates supposedly doesn't affect that Self.

Why is it that not just expression, but consciousness itself, is affected when the brain is affected (ex: drugs, alcohol, oxygen deprivation, stroke, brain damage, etc). It is not that one wants to say or do something but physically can't get it out, the innermost consciousness is different. Even behavior and emotions can be changed if certain parts of the brain are damaged.


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Re: The mystery of consciousness: Sam Harris

Postby chownah » Fri Oct 28, 2011 2:27 am

It seems that this sort of discussion dwells mostly on experiences of other people......we have seen or heard of people with damaged or diseasesed brain tissue and have seen or heard of how their behavior changed and then we have jumped to the conclusion that we know something about their consciousness. I am not trying to exactly negate this sort of concept or procedure but I do want to point out that it seems to be an indulging in a doctrine of self.....which as you probably know the Buddha suggests that we avoid. I think that the Buddha taught that if we want to know about consciousness then the way to do it is to calm the mind and then experience conscousness first hand...........speculating on the consciousness of other "selves" will probably not in and of itself lead to the kind of knowledge which the Buddha urges us to pursue......I guess...........
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Re: The mystery of consciousness: Sam Harris

Postby Alex123 » Fri Oct 28, 2011 5:38 pm

chownah wrote:It seems that this sort of discussion dwells mostly on experiences of other people.....


Did you ever drink? How did alcohol affect your consciousness? Was you ever under general anasthesia? How can physical intervention stop all consciousness?

Same people have also tried drugs (not me), but I suspect from hearing accounts of others, that it does affect perception, especially drugs like LSD.

chownah wrote: I am not trying to exactly negate this sort of concept or procedure but I do want to point out that it seems to be an indulging in a doctrine of self.....


Only as to negate the idea of Self. BTW, perception of self is tied to certain area of the brain... So according to neuroscience it is an illusion.

Most modern philosophers who know some discoveries of neuroscience deny the existence of Self. Feeling of Self is just a certain function of the brain.
Dennett, C. and Hofstadter, D.R. (1981). The Mind's I. Bantam Books. ISBN 0-553-01412-9.
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Re: The mystery of consciousness: Sam Harris

Postby chownah » Sat Oct 29, 2011 3:50 am

Alex123,
Good post.
In my previous post the main point I wanted to make was:
" I think that the Buddha taught that if we want to know about consciousness then the way to do it is to calm the mind and then experience conscousness first hand.." Do you think that this is a appropriate description of what the Buddha taught?
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Re: The mystery of consciousness: Sam Harris

Postby Ben » Sat Oct 29, 2011 3:57 am

Hi Chownah,

I posted the article from Sam Harris and articles like this by Harris and others because I think that being aware of developments in consciousness research and neuroscience has the potential to offer insights. Insights not just into how the brain works or developments in the field, but also to complement, and at times challenge, our own understanding. If you havent already done so I recommend you click on the links i provided in the opening post and read what he has got to say.
kind regards,

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Taṃ nadīhi vijānātha:
sobbhesu padaresu ca,
saṇantā yanti kusobbhā,
tuṇhīyanti mahodadhī.

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Re: The mystery of consciousness: Sam Harris

Postby manas » Sat Oct 29, 2011 4:47 am

Hi all,
a physicist by the name of Peter Russel has this fascinating series of youtube vids about what he calls, "the primacy of consciousness". Despite there being a few words like 'self and 'god' etc that many will object to, it is still quite a ride, as Russel quite convincingly (imo) proves that the current meta-paradigm of Western Culture - that consciousness somehow could arise out of inert matter - is incorrect. I encourage even just a viewing of the first vid, it's an eye-opener).

http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=pl ... pfKuUxa8fM

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Re: The mystery of consciousness: Sam Harris

Postby chownah » Sat Oct 29, 2011 4:54 am

Ben wrote:Hi Chownah,

I posted the article from Sam Harris and articles like this by Harris and others because I think that being aware of developments in consciousness research and neuroscience has the potential to offer insights. Insights not just into how the brain works or developments in the field, but also to complement, and at times challenge, our own understanding. If you havent already done so I recommend you click on the links i provided in the opening post and read what he has got to say.
kind regards,

Ben

Ben,
I agree completely with your reasons for offering these articles here. In fact I agree so completely that I used two key ideas from the two articles (one from each) as the basis for my recent chain of posts here....these ideas as taken directly from the articles are:

1. "Behavior and verbal report are fully separable from the fact of consciousness:"

2. "Many truths about ourselves will be discovered in consciousness directly, or not discovered at all."

Quote #1 is the basis for my idea that "It seems that this sort of discussion dwells mostly on experiences of other people......we have seen or heard of people with damaged or diseasesed brain tissue and have seen or heard of how their behavior changed and then we have jumped to the conclusion that we know something about their consciousness."....what I was trying to say was that behavior and verbal report from other people is fully seperable from the fact of their consciousness......this is not exactly the meaning that Harris is developing but it is one that I think is implicit in what he wrote.
Quote #2 is the basis for my idea, "I think that the Buddha taught that if we want to know about consciousness then the way to do it is to calm the mind and then experience conscousness first hand..........."....while Harris does not spell this out explicitly I think that what I said has nearly exactly the same meaning except that I realized his statements explicitly in relation to the Buddha's teachings....

At least I think so........
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Re: The mystery of consciousness: Sam Harris

Postby Ben » Sat Oct 29, 2011 4:57 am

Hi Manasikara,
manasikara wrote:Hi all,
a physicist by the name of Peter Russel has this fascinating series of youtube vids about what he calls, "the primacy of consciousness". Despite there being a few words like 'self and 'god' etc that many will object to, it is still quite a ride, as Russel quite convincingly (imo) proves that the current meta-paradigm of Western Culture - that consciousness somehow could arise out of inert matter - is incorrect. I encourage even just a viewing of the first vid, it's an eye-opener).

http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=pl ... pfKuUxa8fM

:namaste:


How does it relate to Sam Harris' views as expressed in the two blog posts in the opening post?
kind regards,

Ben
Learn this from the waters:
in mountain clefts and chasms,
loud gush the streamlets,
but great rivers flow silently.

Taṃ nadīhi vijānātha:
sobbhesu padaresu ca,
saṇantā yanti kusobbhā,
tuṇhīyanti mahodadhī.

Sutta Nipata 3.725


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Re: The mystery of consciousness: Sam Harris

Postby manas » Sat Oct 29, 2011 5:43 am

Ben wrote:Hi Manasikara,
manasikara wrote:Hi all,
a physicist by the name of Peter Russel has this fascinating series of youtube vids about what he calls, "the primacy of consciousness"...


How does it relate to Sam Harris' views as expressed in the two blog posts in the opening post?
kind regards,

Ben
It discusses the same issue of 'the hard problem of consciousness', in that there is as yet no convincing scientific theory that explains why we should be having any conscious experience at all. Electrons, waves and particles are still just inert matter; the mind is something apart from this (I'm not suggesting that conciousness is 'self-existent' in any way, however! - just that Russel is correct in overturning the notion that it could arise from matter.) I'm sorry that I'm unable to give a more detailed analysis at present. I just put that link out there because i thought it added weight to, or expanded upon (?), the article you had posted (which I did read, and which is very informative).

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Re: The mystery of consciousness: Sam Harris

Postby BubbaBuddhist » Sun Oct 30, 2011 4:00 pm

Alex123 wrote:
Metta-4 wrote:I'll take a crack at it. :tongue: Only the expression of consciousness is affected by damage to the machine, ie; the brain.


If brain is destroyed, and consciousness cannot express itself in any way, then how can consciousness really exist other than a property of the neuron activity of the brain? What is the point in consciousness that depends in every way on brain's function? It is like positing a Self that expresses itself through 5 aggregates, where impermanence of the aggregates supposedly doesn't affect that Self.

Why is it that not just expression, but consciousness itself, is affected when the brain is affected (ex: drugs, alcohol, oxygen deprivation, stroke, brain damage, etc). It is not that one wants to say or do something but physically can't get it out, the innermost consciousness is different. Even behavior and emotions can be changed if certain parts of the brain are damaged.


"Ultimately, everything we experience is a product of our cells and their circuitry." - p. 172
My Stroke of Insight: A Brain Scientist's Personal Journey by Jill Bolte Taylor


According to the reasoning, radio waves cannot exist without radios to express them. And if the radio is damaged so the signal is distorted, this must mean the broadcast itself is distorted. I don't agree with the conclusion that drugs affect consciousness itself; I still hold to my original assertion only the expression or experience is affected, the quality of awareness remains intact regardless of the object of that awareness. Nor have I ever posited a consciousness that depends in any way of brain functioning, Where the quality of awareness itself comes from I cannot say except that Buddhism teaches it's passed on from a previous sentient being, but concerning consciousness itself the teachings of Buddhism are clear: for experience to exist three things must exist: the sense object, the sense gate and the sense consciousness. In the case of sight, if the sense-gate (the eye) is damaged, then the experience of vision is affected. For example, I cannot read without glasses. Since Buddhism considers mind (mano) the sixth sense, if the sense-gate (the brain) is damaged, the sense-consciousness will be affected.

Buddhism and neuroscience are two different models of experiential reality with two different definitions of consciousness. If you want to debate neuroscience vs, Buddadhamma, I am not the person to do it. You'll have to find a neuroscientist.

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Re: The mystery of consciousness: Sam Harris

Postby Alex123 » Sun Oct 30, 2011 7:46 pm

Metta-4 wrote:I don't agree with the conclusion that drugs affect consciousness itself;


How to explain that doctors can put a person under complete anesthesia by using drugs (anesthetics)? It is not that a person can't get the right word or right bodily gesture out. It does not simply interfere with bodily consciousness, it totally shut downs mental consciousness itself. The awareness does not remain intact for the duration of the chemical action that the anesthetic does. I had a very enlightening experience about being knocked out. There was no awareness of time, space, black empty space, nothing-ness, any thoughts or anything.

If all consciousness can be shut down with drugs and resumed when the effect of drugs wears off, it does very strongly points to physical causes which these medicinal drugs affect.
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Re: The mystery of consciousness: Sam Harris

Postby BubbaBuddhist » Sun Oct 30, 2011 8:42 pm

Agreed, being under anesthesia is like dropping into a black hole--total loss of time. If you want a dhammic explanation I would suggest the anesthesia shuts down the sense-gates. if the sense-gate is shut down, no accompanying citta arises. An interruption in any part of the causal chainaffects the experience. Like when the eyes are closed, blindfolded or in utter darkness, there is no sight-sense-consciousness. No sense object, or no sense gate--no sense consciousness. If the brain is anesthetized, there is no mind-consciousness. What takes over during this period to maintain continuity of consciousness during 'un-counsciousness' is called bvangha-citta, and this is the topic of another thread/conversation altogether. I think several threads have already unreeled on the topic of bvanga.

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Re: The mystery of consciousness: Sam Harris

Postby Alex123 » Sun Oct 30, 2011 8:52 pm

Metta-4 wrote: If the brain is anesthetized, there is no mind-consciousness.


So brain is the required cause for mind consciousness which ceases when its source, the brain is affected by anesthetics or whatever.
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Re: The mystery of consciousness: Sam Harris

Postby BubbaBuddhist » Mon Oct 31, 2011 2:38 am

I really don't know where you're going with this alex. Consciousness NEVER ceases. Even when mind-consciousness pauses bvangha continues. And so since, as the Buddha commented, "since beginningless time." I think you need to bone up on basic Buddhist theory.

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Re: The mystery of consciousness: Sam Harris

Postby chownah » Mon Oct 31, 2011 2:42 am

Alex123 wrote:
Metta-4 wrote:I don't agree with the conclusion that drugs affect consciousness itself;


How to explain that doctors can put a person under complete anesthesia by using drugs (anesthetics)? It is not that a person can't get the right word or right bodily gesture out. It does not simply interfere with bodily consciousness, it totally shut downs mental consciousness itself. The awareness does not remain intact for the duration of the chemical action that the anesthetic does. I had a very enlightening experience about being knocked out. There was no awareness of time, space, black empty space, nothing-ness, any thoughts or anything.

If all consciousness can be shut down with drugs and resumed when the effect of drugs wears off, it does very strongly points to physical causes which these medicinal drugs affect.

I think it is clear that you do not remember anything from the time the drugs were in effect....it is not so clear whether there was consciousness or not.....
For example, many years ago I had a head injury and my experience is that i passed out to a state of no experience...black out...nothing.....then I came to (woke up) in a hospital...........but........my friend who was with me throughout this experience said that I did not black out at all but was pretty much totally conscious the entire time and I could walk and talk and observe my surrounding with the major difference being that I did not know my name or what day it was etc.........
So......from "my" perspective there was no consciousness but from my freind's perspective there was...........the point being that just because one does not remember being conscious does not mean that there was not consciousness........another example....do you remember being conscious throughout your entire life.....if not then was there no consciousness during large portions of your life?......I guess for me consciousness makes good sense as a concept for the present moment but trying to deal with it in the past or future gets very tricky......
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Re: The mystery of consciousness: Sam Harris

Postby pegembara » Mon Oct 31, 2011 3:21 am

Consciousness is aware of mind going to sleep and waking up. If consciousness is the mind, it cannot be aware of these things. Whatever consciousness is aware of isn't consciousness itself.
And what is right speech? Abstaining from lying, from divisive speech, from abusive speech, & from idle chatter: This is called right speech.
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Re: The mystery of consciousness: Sam Harris

Postby gavesako » Fri Nov 02, 2012 6:17 pm

Interesting article on NDE and the issue of "where is consciousness":

http://www.skeptiko.com/pim-van-lommel- ... -research/


Dr. Van Lommel: It’s a special interest in the relationship between consciousness and the function of the brain because as I have learned always and accepted the hypothesis. They haven’t proven the hypothesis that consciousness is a product of the brain. This topic should be discussed again because people experience an enhanced consciousness, the paradoxical occurrence of an enhanced consciousness during the period of a nonfunctioning brain.

So I’ve been seeing also in the literature about what we know about what happens in the brain when the heart stops. We know also the chemical features of such a patient. He loses consciousness within seconds all of his body reflexes are gone which is a product of the cortex of the brain. But also the brain stem reflexes are gone, the gag reflex, the corneal reflex or the wide pupils are clinical findings in those patients. And also the breathing stops. So the breathing center close to the brain stem stops functioning.

The clinical findings are there is no function of the brain anymore and the electrical activity where you measure it in the EEG is. In an average of 15 seconds there’s a flat-line. And the average period you need in a coronary care unit to resuscitate the patient is at least one to two minutes or more. So there are all those patients who have a cardiac arrest in the hospital and out of hospital arrests that flat-line on an EEG and they have about 20% of having a near-death experience, which is an enhanced consciousness in combination with emotions and memories from early childhood. Also sometimes with future events, with the meeting of deceased relatives, and also at the end of the experience is the consciousness returning to the body.

So all these aspects of consciousness that the people tell you, and there are so many who have told me or written me. It’s not possible that the current medical concepts that the brain product makes the consciousness, that consciousness is a product of the brain, that is impossible. So the brain function for me, it’s not producing consciousness but it is facilitating. That means it makes it more possible to experience your waking consciousness and doesn’t produce it.

Alex Tsakiris: One of the terms you kept using over and over again that I think is key is this idea of an enhanced consciousness. For me that’s one of the things I really don’t understand from the folks who are familiar with the research and yet they gloss over this. I mean, we’re not talking about even the same level of consciousness. We’re talking about almost uniformly people reporting an enhanced-a hyper, a super-consciousness at a time when at the very least the brain is severely compromised if not completely off-line. And I just don’t understand how there can be a complete denial of this basic fact.

Dr. Van Lommel: Because it doesn’t fit in their concepts. They have to change their own paradigm if they accept it so they close the door. This enhanced consciousness which I also call the non-local consciousness, there is no time and no distance. Everything is there at the same time and you have a life review during cardiac arrest for two minutes. You can talk for days about what happened to you but everything is there at the same time.

And the past and the future is there as well, so your consciousness is in a dimension where there’s no time and no space, which is totally different from the consciousness we have here. They are united in this physical world. You are the subject and the object. But in the other dimension there is only subject. You’re one with everything.

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Re: The mystery of consciousness: Sam Harris

Postby gavesako » Wed Dec 19, 2012 3:52 pm

Define neuroethics.

It’s a kind of subspecialty of bioethics. Until very recently, the human mind was a black box. But here we are in the 21st century, and now we have all these new technologies with opportunities to look inside that black box — a little.

With functional magnetic imaging, f.M.R.I., you can get pictures of what the brain is doing during cognition. You see which parts light up during brain activity. Scientists are trying to match those lights with specific behaviors.

At the same time this is moving forward, there are all kinds of drugs being developed and tested to modify behavior and the mind. So the question is: Are these new technologies ethical?


So what would be an issue you might look at through a neuroethics lens?

New drugs to alter memory. Right now, the government is quite interested in propranolol. They are testing it on soldiers with post-traumatic stress disorder. The good part is that the drug helps traumatized veterans by removing the bad memories causing them such distress. A neuroethicist must ask, “Is this good for society, to have warriors have their memories wiped out chemically? Will we start getting conscienceless soldiers?”


What do you think?

It is a serious business removing memories, because memories can affect your personal identity. They can impact who you think you are. I’d differentiate between offering such a drug to every distressed soldier and giving it only to certain individuals with a specific need.

Let’s say you have a situation like that in “Sophie’s Choice,” where the memories are so bad that the person is suicidal. Even if the drug causes them to live in falsehood, that would have been preferable to suicide.

But should we give it to every soldier who goes into battle? No! You need memory for a conscience. Doing this routinely might create super-immoral soldiers. As humans we have natural moral reactions to the beings around us — sympathy for other people and animals. When you start to tinker with those neurosystems, we’re not going to react to our fellow humans in the right way anymore. One wonders about the wrong people giving propranolol routinely to genocidal gangs in places like Rwanda or Syria.


Some researchers claim to be near to using f.M.R.I.’s to read thoughts. Is this really happening?

The technology, though still crude, appears to be getting closer. For instance, there’s one research group that asks subjects to watch movies. When they look at the subject’s visual cortex while the subject is watching, they can sort of recreate what they are seeing — or a semblance of it.

Similarly, there’s another experiment where they can tell in advance whether you’re going to push the right or the left button. On the basis of these experiments some people claim they’ll soon be able to read minds. Before we go further with this, I’d like to think more about what it could mean. The technology has the potential to destroy any concept of inner privacy.

http://www.nytimes.com/2012/12/18/scien ... brain.html

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