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The Brain Is Not For Knowledge...

Discussion in 'Philosophy' started by sealchan, May 24, 2019.

  1. sealchan

    sealchan Well-Known Member

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    ...but for ensuring the adaptability of the individual organism to its environment.

    I had this thought this morning and it struck me as having some potential gold in it so I thought I would start a forum thread with it.

    We might think that the primary purpose of our brains is to obtain knowledge so that we might understand "the truth". But what if that is a side effect of the brain's real purpose...to be able to model reality well enough such that an individual can effectively adapt to as wide a range of conditions as possible and make choices that promote survival?

    What would be the effective difference, if any? Would logic or rationality be the primary or sufficient tool needed for the later case?
     
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  2. icehorse

    icehorse Well-Known Member
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    I think it's useful to think in terms of there being two distinct mechanisms:

    1 - The "brain", which has evolved over millions of years to help the organism to survive.
    2 - The conscious "mind" which does things like obtain knowledge and create and sustain an ego.

    We do all of our conscious "thinking" with our minds. Our minds are capable of speaking and listening to speech. We mostly think our minds are in control. But actually, our brains are where the bulk of our skills lie. We cannot accurately explain most of our skills, which demonstrates the idea that our minds are less frequently "in control" than we like to think they are.

    This brain / mind split shows up in countless ways. One fascinating example is that brains are designed to "not remember". Our minds often have an agenda to remember something, and frequently this agenda is in conflict with the brain's basic "avoid remembering" mechanisms. Imagine studying for a final in a class you must take, but don't like. Your mind is motivated to learn the material, but your brain resists.
     
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  3. Valjean

    Valjean Veteran Member
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    Like the guidance hardware/software in a self driving car, its original function is to help us navigate the world, to survive and reproduce. Our cleverness is just a pernicious side effect. Likely it'll die out.
     
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  4. Amanaki

    Amanaki Well-Known Member

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    Our mind or consiousness is not in the brain :) the brain works more like a receiver that translate the mind in to thoughts.
     
  5. bobhikes

    bobhikes infinitologist
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    ".but for ensuring the adaptability of the individual organism to its environment." How is this not Knowledge?

    As for the truth no one needs to understand the truth and many people never even search for the truth, why is searching for the truth knowledge?
     
  6. viole

    viole Metaphysical Naturalist
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    From what organ did that thought of yours come from?

    Ciao

    - viole
     
  7. dybmh

    dybmh Terminal Optimist
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    This reminds me of "process philosophy". I actually know very little about it. But I am intrigued by the wiki on it.

    Process philosophy - Wikipedia
     
  8. sealchan

    sealchan Well-Known Member

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    Yes, a long time ago I was introduced to this simple idea, that our consciousness is like a boat on a vast sea of unconscious activity...and that idea is deeply useful I think. But I have not a clear sense to what extent participants on this forum come with that assumption or find it even sensible. It opens up a wide door for understanding "what it is like..." to have a mind, a human brain and how that impacts our sense of truth and knowledge. And yes I have certainly seen how the brain resists the mind's intent.
     
  9. sealchan

    sealchan Well-Known Member

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    I might agree metaphorically but use the language that consciousness is like a receiver that translates the unconscious which is entirely a product of brain activity into what we can self-consciously access.
     
  10. sealchan

    sealchan Well-Known Member

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    My evolutionarily produced brain.
     
  11. viole

    viole Metaphysical Naturalist
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    So, that thought was just for your adaptation, and not necessarily useful for knowledge, right? In that case, how do you know you are right?

    Btw, do you know Plantinga argument against a naturalistic origin of our brain?

    Ciao

    - viole
     
  12. joe1776

    joe1776 Well-Known Member

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    There's a huge gap in your theory: Our brains might be aligned with survival but they also present the greatest threat to our survival. If we only had to deal with the threats posed by the environment, we'd cooperate and deal with them easily. But our competitive ego pits us against ourselves so we're fighting for survival on two fronts.
     
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  13. Amanaki

    Amanaki Well-Known Member

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    When a thought arise it is noticed as an electromagnetic puls in the brain but for us to understand it the brain transform it to words, feeling, experiences. so in it sel the brain has no thoughts it only detect it :)

    Highly skilled meditators can move the consiousness around within the body, so it would feel like the thought comes from a different part of the body. So in a way consiousness and thoughts are linked, but is not the same
     
  14. sealchan

    sealchan Well-Known Member

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    I read a little...I suspect such philosophical inclinations turn on subtle biases about whether nouns represent things which exist (timeless substances) or whether verbs represent things which exist (actions, changes). Language implies both it seems. Or maybe I should say these philosophical questions have the flavor of human language-iness about them.

    Words are all, I think, based on bodily experience which has been abstracted into language over time by our social species who can utter a wide variety of distinguishable vocal utterances and correlate specific vocal utterances with various objects or activities experienced.

    One point is that our brains may care as much about so-called memes as they do about logic and that both have their role in our adaptability. And what, for lack of a better term, we might call a "node of adaptability" is just as much a "logical truth" as it is a "popular meme or idea". These nodes of adaptability are the "real" truths as they have their way of demonstrating their longevity even if the supporting methodology for doing so isn't precisely the same.

    However, with the progress of our shared knowledge we can expect that logical analysis of reality, especially that which has been technologized (made into useful tools) and/or automated, is having a profound effect on our consciousness and experience of reality. The old religious symbols which used to "get our attention" and earn our respect are losing their value. BUT! I think that such artifacts of brain activity as myths and symbols are still very much useful only they have become divorced from the traditional religious ideas to such an extent that they no longer are owned by that segment of our society. Religions are becoming unvalued and their usefulness is diminishing. We need creative replenishment which we CAN get from other sources. I've spoken about how great works of science fiction provide much of this sort of value to our modern culture.
     
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  15. sealchan

    sealchan Well-Known Member

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    I agree they do as Carl Sagan has so eloquently pointed out. Can our moral sense and our ability to control our reality be developed in a balanced way such that we don't accidentally and/or purposefully destroy ourselves?

    However, it may be that any sufficiently adaptative system reserves the power of potentially undoing itself. Otherwise how might they make deep adaptations to great changes in their containing environment? If they were not flexible enough to potentially fall apart they might not be sustainable enough not to be broken from without.

    The strong reed (the weak adaptative system) breaks in the wind.
     
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  16. exchemist

    exchemist Well-Known Member
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    Sounds as if you are starting to understand what science does.

    Modelling reality, well enough to predict what to expect, is the goal of science.

    It is the metaphysicians and religious people who keep trying to introduce the question-begging notion of "truth". Science avoids the term, as a rule.
     
  17. sealchan

    sealchan Well-Known Member

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    I participated in a student experimental project as a subject which used sensors placed on the skull to measure brain activity. We were asked to perform certain mental actions while they monitored brain activity. Having some familiarity with Zen meditation I decided that I would try to literally do what they were asking and calm my mind in order to more fully focus on specifically what they were asking me to focus on.

    Later, when they shared the results of their work they showed how certain areas of the brain were more active than others depending on the mental tasks that they had asked their subjects to perform. There was one set of anomalous readings that I realized might have been mine. When I explained what I had done they seemed to agree...that my focused meditative approach resulted in a broad spectrum of brain activity rather than more focused brain activity they were expecting. Or at least that broad activation of activity drowned out the more specific activity they were interested in.

    So it is interesting to compare physical brain activity with one's phenomenological, subjective experience of consciousness...the two often don't act in an expected analogous fashion.
     
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  18. sealchan

    sealchan Well-Known Member

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    I think that the term "truth" has a common sense usage that is often used or abused to serve the needs of the individual hoping to preferentially possess it.

    I was a math and physics major in undergraduate school for two years...then I went to a more interdisciplinary college and studied cognitive science and some more math and physics. I get science very well. If it doesn't seem like I do it is perhaps because I also talk about other things...
     
  19. Amanaki

    Amanaki Well-Known Member

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    I agree with you on this. I have also been tested during deep meditation and they was surprised how little activity that my brain made when i was in deep meditative state of mind :)
     
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  20. The Reverend Bob

    The Reverend Bob Fart Machine and Beastmaster

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    The brain has several functions not just one not just ensuring adaptation to to the environment but gathering information about said environment which is the foundation of knowledge and awareness. In fact our whole body is an information gathering tool.
     
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