Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Mental Shifts 2.5

In MS1 I started with how surprising it is when an aspect of consciousness changes. The experience current to me is education - bringing new ideas into my awareness - causing me to experience amazement and wonder at connections between symbols and levels of meaning. The perceptual shift leads me to wonder about what exactly are the parts of the mind and how do they operate.

In MS2 I systematically describe the mind.

Memory, senses, thought/imagination correspond to past, present, and future respectively. This is all we have in our heads to work with.

The mind resides in the physical brain, which is biological and chemical, so health and drugs directly affect the mental state.

The metaphor of ‘Mental Space’ is useful to think about thinking. What is being attempted with this writing it to build a model of the mind in words, so that our minds can ‘see’ itself. Because the mind is intangible, and it’s only easy to talk of things as physical, physical-sensing metaphors and language get used.

The whole point of [write/talk]ing about this is to put our thinking quality, which is insensible, in terms that can be sensed (and traded) and thought about. This is so funny that we don’t know how our minds work, so we have to sketch its function in spatial words, then feed that back into the mind to process.

Lastly, if consciousness is ‘space’ then ideas are ‘structures’ within it. Those ideas can be concerning physical objects we sense, or abstract concepts invented by our self, or invented by others and communicated to our mind through symbolic communication. These idea structures get valuation that can be inaccurate and can change.


Now for some clarification.

When we think, we don’t have awareness of our thoughts, we don’t feel them the way we feel a cold swallow of water sliding down the throat (as apposed to a bitter pill which, being broken in half, is also jagged), the mind has no physical senses within it. What it does have is emotion, which is somewhat attached to thought, but thought is also disattached from emotion in that we can think on sad things when we are happy, and remember annoying work to be done when we are feeling relaxed. Emotions only suggest, they do not force the mind into particular thoughts. (This is one reason against recreational drug use which induces overwhelming emotions artificially to the point of impairing judgment.) So while we do not normally think about the mind we are thinking with, if we want to think about how it works, some symbolic model is needed for it to exist and be operated on ‘within mental space’. All we see and sense physically is in this mental space, along with our thoughts. This aspect of everything you experience being ‘in your head’ has a lot of preexisting ideas attached to it, mainly:

‘how do we know anything is real’


‘how can any absolute truth exist or be known if everything we know or can know comes to us in the form of thought and sense impressions, which are variable and untrustworthy?’

These two questions are answerable, but I’d rather ignore them for now. Some may see them as necessary to be answered first before going on, but I would rather not question my own “perception of internal accuracy & validity” for now, later these can be addressed.

My model may be inaccurate, and what I’m proposing is definitely disagreed with by other theories, specifically Freudian Psychoanalysis, which has its own special words for things and says the mind contains unconscious thinking elements. I am no longer convinced of this, but such a discussion will have to be for a later time. Despite possible failings with my model, theoretical discussion is the only way to think about this sort of issue. It is not telling you what is, but conversing about a topic. Essentially, I am writing to see what I think, holding little attachment to it. So if you have additions, corrections and comments, please write.

The last element to be addressed in the mind’s parts is spirit. Physical brain matter and its construction is accurately (to a point) learned about through the scientific method. Logical reasoning, physics and chemistry let us know solid facts about the brain, but many problems arise from ‘Science’ as a cultural institution not telling where fact end and theory begins. That boundary is present for those who look for it, it’s just not spoken in any of the popular sources most people get their science info from. So the spirit is not ‘findable’ and testable using the scientific method. There almost seems to be a limit to logic, and spirituality is somewhat beyond that. I’m not sure, but I’m thinking that spirituality is fundamentally not logical, and a different system must be switched to as some point in understanding that which cannot be observed and evaluated physically.

At any rate, we can say that a moral concept is not a physical object.

So at this point, we have to define the anatomy of an abstract mental concept, one type of those concepts being moral truths.

There are several major current beliefs about the nature of such concepts.

These beliefs can be wrong, having a understandable shape in mental space, but no truth or function in reality.

What is the field in which these things interact?

Physical reality

Spiritual reality

Within mental space we are working with concepts which make claims about how elements of reality relate to each other or other concepts.

One belief system says concepts have some absolute valuation based on how well they describe/explain the operation of reality.

An opposing belief is that any concept exists only in mental space, and can’t be tied to reality.

So concepts are either: true, untrue, partly true, or that no truth exists, all is a personal preference.

But, science provides a method for proving the truth of certain kinds of concepts within a specific framework. Math is the easiest to do this with. Pure concepts that operate reliably in interacting with the physical world. Such tidy examples are rare with other fields.

Can there be a science of moral truth? Not so much. It’s a realm that does not correspond the same way in terms of data collection, data verification, theory validation, experimental reliability, and algorithmic synthesis. This brings up the degree to which scientific principles are engrained and believed in our society. Is morality just too complex to figure out for us, but if we could would it operate on a basis that would fit a scientific framework of equations and repeatable processes? I don’t think so. Physical operations are in relation to physics, chemistry, and mathematical logic. Moral concepts are in relation to God, and or other humans – personally and as institutional groupings. If God or humanity where a force that always acted the same in any identical situation, then a science could be devised, but interaction between us and God is not of formula but as thinking entities interacting according to the attitudes and actions of each other. For us, there is the element of communication, which by the limitations of our physical frame, is inaccurate. Now if God exists, than absolute truth must exist. I’m going to work off that is a given, because I haven’t the capability to prove it at the moment.

So for next time (That being Mental Shifts 3, which may/maynot be tomorrow) the anatomy of a concept and how that relates to our knowledge of morality.

Grady Houger ~ word count: 1271 :-p

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