Causal interaction between the mental and the physical.

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NicoL
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Causal interaction between the mental and the physical.

Post by NicoL » May 28th, 2017, 6:35 pm

It is said that causal interaction between the mental and the physical poses a problem, but does it really? If causation is understood as a formal ontological relation between events (i.e. occurrent and contingent states of affairs), it seems to me that an event A causing an event B under specific circumstances would not be made any more of a mystery just because the cause and the effect involve different categories of individual objects.

To be daft, why should I be fundamentally more skeptical of (1) a person mentally willing to raise his hand causing the physical rising of his hand, than (2) a magnet causing another magnet to come closer? Aren't both these instances of causation equally weird, but also equally plausible if we choose to accept that are causal relations between events in the world?

Don Schneider
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Joined: April 13th, 2016, 5:24 pm

Re: Causal interaction between the mental and the physical.

Post by Don Schneider » May 29th, 2017, 4:21 pm

NicoL wrote:It is said that causal interaction between the mental and the physical poses a problem, but does it really? If causation is understood as a formal ontological relation between events (i.e. occurrent and contingent states of affairs), it seems to me that an event A causing an event B under specific circumstances would not be made any more of a mystery just because the cause and the effect involve different categories of individual objects.

To be daft, why should I be fundamentally more skeptical of (1) a person mentally willing to raise his hand causing the physical rising of his hand, than (2) a magnet causing another magnet to come closer? Aren't both these instances of causation equally weird, but also equally plausible if we choose to accept that are causal relations between events in the world?
I don’t understand the premise of your first sentence. Who says such causes a problem and why?

Thank you.

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Coherence
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Re: Causal interaction between the mental and the physical.

Post by Coherence » May 29th, 2017, 9:40 pm

I don't think I understand your question.

In any case, general systems theory, as described in books like Murray Gell-Manns "The Quark and the Jaguar", Mae Wan Ho's "The Meaning of Life and the Universe", Terrence Deacons "Incomplete Nature", Camelo Castillo's "Origin of Mind: A History of Systems", Brian Goodwin's "How The Leopard Got It's Spot's", and a few others of this genre (Antonio Damasio is about to release his own effort along this line of reasoning).

Harold Morowitz, the late biophysicist, has recently conceptualized the origin of life itself in his book "The Origin and Nature of Life on Earth: the Emergence of the fourth Geosphere". Its a highly technical book - so if biophysics is a difficult or unknown subject to you, you won't appreciate how plausible this approach to the nature of life - and therefore, should be treated as mankinds most sophisticated understanding to the beginning of our own biological form.

Appreciating the evolution of the universe entails understanding that all things start from a state of disorganized chaos - the big bang. This is not an empty postulate of mythology, but an interpretation of real experimental astronomical data. Extending back to where this "background radiation" originated lands upon a date of around 14.5 billion years ago. With the evolution of the cosmos comes time and space, and time and space emerge as a function of the emergence of symmetrical structure at the 'quark' level. Quarks that equal 1 are made of 3 different 'types' of quark, and together they make up a proton. Conversely, quarks that equal 0 make a neutron. When protons capture neutrons, they give rise to nuclei, and when nuclei capture electrons, they give rise to atoms. These states all constitute "symmetries" in as much as they form a stable structure. Atoms in turn form bonds with other atoms to create molecules, and molecules in appropriate settings, such as deep sea alkaline hydrothermal vents, provide nano-spaces which provide sulfur and iron as well hydrogen from water and a few other chemicals to give rise to a vesicle made of phospholipids, which, when it reaches a certain threshold in size, "falls in" on itself because of spatial/geometrical constraints, to form the cellular enclosing. These phospholipid membranes are permeable to certain chemicals, particularly phosphorous, which creates something called an 'autocatalytic' feed back loop, where phosphorous gets inside the cell, and when inside, reacts a few more times until it becomes integrated into the phospholipid membrane. This is what life basically is: an enclosed molecular/energetic structure that is subject to dissipative forces from the 2nd law of thermodynamics, which manages to 'control' its own internal structure by extracting molecules/chemicals from its immediate environment to reconstruct its internal form.

Another important autocatalytic process that is present in almost all cellular life forms (prokaryote and eukaryote) is the TCA or tricarboxylic acid cycle, where the molecular reactants of the cycle help form the basic constituents of the cell: lipids, sugars, nucleic acids and amino acids. It's because of the molecular analysis of processes like these that more and more scientists are coming to accept life and consciousness as natural functions/structures of self-organizing processes within the Earth system. Before Morowitz even begins his discussion of the actual origins, btw, which is subtitled "The Emergence of the Fourth Geosphere", he analyzes the astrophysical conditions that precede the formation of the Earth, as well as the Hadean era itself, where the oceans (hydrosphere) land (lithosphere) and sky (atmosphere) begin to form in such a way as to permit the conditions for microscopic life to form. Indeed, Mars, Titan, and Europa may provide microscopic niches for bacterial life to form.

In other words, mind is an emergent property of biophysical processes. But by no means is the emergence of mind to be imagined as disconnected from the systems that evolved around the Human - since the Human is an emergent property of an evolving inter-penetrating ecosystem, the Human and its functionality is literally "coherent" with it's surrounding environment at a electromagnetic level - what Castillo calls every organisms "sense halo". All things are made up of atoms - and atoms relate through the effects of light on matter leading to the "jumping" of electrons in their quantum orbits. Therefore the Human mind is itself a function - however paradoxical as it may seem - of the "undeterminant" state of quantum reality. That said, evolution has constrained how we work, and like all physical matter, we are subject to symmetry dynamics - and in us, our very faces, voices, and emotionality expresses how we connect into one another: we have literally been molded by love, and its a beautiful thing to know.

Don Schneider
Posts: 64
Joined: April 13th, 2016, 5:24 pm

Re: Causal interaction between the mental and the physical.

Post by Don Schneider » May 30th, 2017, 11:05 am

Coherence wrote:I don't think I understand your question.

In any case, general systems theory, as described in books like Murray Gell-Manns "The Quark and the Jaguar", Mae Wan Ho's "The Meaning of Life and the Universe", Terrence Deacons "Incomplete Nature", Camelo Castillo's "Origin of Mind: A History of Systems", Brian Goodwin's "How The Leopard Got It's Spot's", and a few others of this genre (Antonio Damasio is about to release his own effort along this line of reasoning).

Harold Morowitz, the late biophysicist, has recently conceptualized the origin of life itself in his book "The Origin and Nature of Life on Earth: the Emergence of the fourth Geosphere". Its a highly technical book - so if biophysics is a difficult or unknown subject to you, you won't appreciate how plausible this approach to the nature of life - and therefore, should be treated as mankinds most sophisticated understanding to the beginning of our own biological form.

Appreciating the evolution of the universe entails understanding that all things start from a state of disorganized chaos - the big bang. This is not an empty postulate of mythology, but an interpretation of real experimental astronomical data. Extending back to where this "background radiation" originated lands upon a date of around 14.5 billion years ago. With the evolution of the cosmos comes time and space, and time and space emerge as a function of the emergence of symmetrical structure at the 'quark' level. Quarks that equal 1 are made of 3 different 'types' of quark, and together they make up a proton. Conversely, quarks that equal 0 make a neutron. When protons capture neutrons, they give rise to nuclei, and when nuclei capture electrons, they give rise to atoms. These states all constitute "symmetries" in as much as they form a stable structure. Atoms in turn form bonds with other atoms to create molecules, and molecules in appropriate settings, such as deep sea alkaline hydrothermal vents, provide nano-spaces which provide sulfur and iron as well hydrogen from water and a few other chemicals to give rise to a vesicle made of phospholipids, which, when it reaches a certain threshold in size, "falls in" on itself because of spatial/geometrical constraints, to form the cellular enclosing. These phospholipid membranes are permeable to certain chemicals, particularly phosphorous, which creates something called an 'autocatalytic' feed back loop, where phosphorous gets inside the cell, and when inside, reacts a few more times until it becomes integrated into the phospholipid membrane. This is what life basically is: an enclosed molecular/energetic structure that is subject to dissipative forces from the 2nd law of thermodynamics, which manages to 'control' its own internal structure by extracting molecules/chemicals from its immediate environment to reconstruct its internal form.

Another important autocatalytic process that is present in almost all cellular life forms (prokaryote and eukaryote) is the TCA or tricarboxylic acid cycle, where the molecular reactants of the cycle help form the basic constituents of the cell: lipids, sugars, nucleic acids and amino acids. It's because of the molecular analysis of processes like these that more and more scientists are coming to accept life and consciousness as natural functions/structures of self-organizing processes within the Earth system. Before Morowitz even begins his discussion of the actual origins, btw, which is subtitled "The Emergence of the Fourth Geosphere", he analyzes the astrophysical conditions that precede the formation of the Earth, as well as the Hadean era itself, where the oceans (hydrosphere) land (lithosphere) and sky (atmosphere) begin to form in such a way as to permit the conditions for microscopic life to form. Indeed, Mars, Titan, and Europa may provide microscopic niches for bacterial life to form.

In other words, mind is an emergent property of biophysical processes. But by no means is the emergence of mind to be imagined as disconnected from the systems that evolved around the Human - since the Human is an emergent property of an evolving inter-penetrating ecosystem, the Human and its functionality is literally "coherent" with it's surrounding environment at a electromagnetic level - what Castillo calls every organisms "sense halo". All things are made up of atoms - and atoms relate through the effects of light on matter leading to the "jumping" of electrons in their quantum orbits. Therefore the Human mind is itself a function - however paradoxical as it may seem - of the "undeterminant" state of quantum reality. That said, evolution has constrained how we work, and like all physical matter, we are subject to symmetry dynamics - and in us, our very faces, voices, and emotionality expresses how we connect into one another: we have literally been molded by love, and its a beautiful thing to know.

Welcome to the forum from another neophyte!

In your reply, you state “mind is an emergent property of biophysical processes.” This raises a question I have that I also had after reading the Oxford physicist Dr. David Deutsch’s The Fabric of Realty. He is the foremost advocate of “The many-worlds” interpretation of quantum mechanics. I emailed him with a question I had concerning his views as stated within his book and he kindly answered.

He states that: “The multiverse has always existed and is all that exists.” I then asked him how this was consistent with his frequent references within his book to things “evolving” and “emerging.” To be frank, I found his answer to be rather evasive. Spoken as the true disciple of Karl Popper that he is, he basically fell back on: “We must just go with our best theories.”

If you have approximately seven minutes sometime in the near future, please be so kind as to read my post “Philosophical proof of a creator” posted here on Epistemology and Metaphysics. Please bear in mind that Dr. Deutsch’s “multiverese” is simply a vast inflation of a single spacetime universe, so my proof applies equally to it as it does to a single universe scheme.

Thank you.

Don Schneider
Posts: 64
Joined: April 13th, 2016, 5:24 pm

Re: Causal interaction between the mental and the physical.

Post by Don Schneider » May 30th, 2017, 11:05 am

Coherence wrote:I don't think I understand your question.

In any case, general systems theory, as described in books like Murray Gell-Manns "The Quark and the Jaguar", Mae Wan Ho's "The Meaning of Life and the Universe", Terrence Deacons "Incomplete Nature", Camelo Castillo's "Origin of Mind: A History of Systems", Brian Goodwin's "How The Leopard Got It's Spot's", and a few others of this genre (Antonio Damasio is about to release his own effort along this line of reasoning).

Harold Morowitz, the late biophysicist, has recently conceptualized the origin of life itself in his book "The Origin and Nature of Life on Earth: the Emergence of the fourth Geosphere". Its a highly technical book - so if biophysics is a difficult or unknown subject to you, you won't appreciate how plausible this approach to the nature of life - and therefore, should be treated as mankinds most sophisticated understanding to the beginning of our own biological form.

Appreciating the evolution of the universe entails understanding that all things start from a state of disorganized chaos - the big bang. This is not an empty postulate of mythology, but an interpretation of real experimental astronomical data. Extending back to where this "background radiation" originated lands upon a date of around 14.5 billion years ago. With the evolution of the cosmos comes time and space, and time and space emerge as a function of the emergence of symmetrical structure at the 'quark' level. Quarks that equal 1 are made of 3 different 'types' of quark, and together they make up a proton. Conversely, quarks that equal 0 make a neutron. When protons capture neutrons, they give rise to nuclei, and when nuclei capture electrons, they give rise to atoms. These states all constitute "symmetries" in as much as they form a stable structure. Atoms in turn form bonds with other atoms to create molecules, and molecules in appropriate settings, such as deep sea alkaline hydrothermal vents, provide nano-spaces which provide sulfur and iron as well hydrogen from water and a few other chemicals to give rise to a vesicle made of phospholipids, which, when it reaches a certain threshold in size, "falls in" on itself because of spatial/geometrical constraints, to form the cellular enclosing. These phospholipid membranes are permeable to certain chemicals, particularly phosphorous, which creates something called an 'autocatalytic' feed back loop, where phosphorous gets inside the cell, and when inside, reacts a few more times until it becomes integrated into the phospholipid membrane. This is what life basically is: an enclosed molecular/energetic structure that is subject to dissipative forces from the 2nd law of thermodynamics, which manages to 'control' its own internal structure by extracting molecules/chemicals from its immediate environment to reconstruct its internal form.

Another important autocatalytic process that is present in almost all cellular life forms (prokaryote and eukaryote) is the TCA or tricarboxylic acid cycle, where the molecular reactants of the cycle help form the basic constituents of the cell: lipids, sugars, nucleic acids and amino acids. It's because of the molecular analysis of processes like these that more and more scientists are coming to accept life and consciousness as natural functions/structures of self-organizing processes within the Earth system. Before Morowitz even begins his discussion of the actual origins, btw, which is subtitled "The Emergence of the Fourth Geosphere", he analyzes the astrophysical conditions that precede the formation of the Earth, as well as the Hadean era itself, where the oceans (hydrosphere) land (lithosphere) and sky (atmosphere) begin to form in such a way as to permit the conditions for microscopic life to form. Indeed, Mars, Titan, and Europa may provide microscopic niches for bacterial life to form.

In other words, mind is an emergent property of biophysical processes. But by no means is the emergence of mind to be imagined as disconnected from the systems that evolved around the Human - since the Human is an emergent property of an evolving inter-penetrating ecosystem, the Human and its functionality is literally "coherent" with it's surrounding environment at a electromagnetic level - what Castillo calls every organisms "sense halo". All things are made up of atoms - and atoms relate through the effects of light on matter leading to the "jumping" of electrons in their quantum orbits. Therefore the Human mind is itself a function - however paradoxical as it may seem - of the "undeterminant" state of quantum reality. That said, evolution has constrained how we work, and like all physical matter, we are subject to symmetry dynamics - and in us, our very faces, voices, and emotionality expresses how we connect into one another: we have literally been molded by love, and its a beautiful thing to know.

Welcome to the forum from another neophyte!

In your reply, you state “mind is an emergent property of biophysical processes.” This raises a question I have that I also had after reading the Oxford physicist Dr. David Deutsch’s The Fabric of Realty. He is the foremost advocate of “The many-worlds” interpretation of quantum mechanics. I emailed him with a question I had concerning his views as stated within his book and he kindly answered.

He states that: “The multiverse has always existed and is all that exists.” I then asked him how this was consistent with his frequent references within his book to things “evolving” and “emerging.” To be frank, I found his answer to be rather evasive. Spoken as the true disciple of Karl Popper that he is, he basically fell back on: “We must just go with our best theories.”

If you have approximately seven minutes sometime in the near future, please be so kind as to read my post “Philosophical proof of a creator” posted here on Epistemology and Metaphysics. Please bear in mind that Dr. Deutsch’s “multiverese” is simply a vast inflation of a single spacetime universe, so my proof applies equally to it as it does to a single universe scheme.

Thank you.

Gertie
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Re: Causal interaction between the mental and the physical.

Post by Gertie » May 30th, 2017, 2:00 pm

NicoL wrote:It is said that causal interaction between the mental and the physical poses a problem, but does it really? If causation is understood as a formal ontological relation between events (i.e. occurrent and contingent states of affairs), it seems to me that an event A causing an event B under specific circumstances would not be made any more of a mystery just because the cause and the effect involve different categories of individual objects.

To be daft, why should I be fundamentally more skeptical of (1) a person mentally willing to raise his hand causing the physical rising of his hand, than (2) a magnet causing another magnet to come closer? Aren't both these instances of causation equally weird, but also equally plausible if we choose to accept that are causal relations between events in the world?
That may well be the case.

It is a problem tho, imo, because physical cause and effect which we do understand and can model and make predictions about, can theoretically account for any action we attribute to mental causation. So, for example, it seems like you can mentally will your own arm to rise (an action with causal physical correlates), but not mine, because there's no physical causal 'chain' between your brain and my arm.

If it's true, as it seems, that physical causation can fully account for all our actions, then mental causation looks redundant. The problem of 'over-determinism'.

But that would mean our highly complex and apparently very useful evolved mental states are in fact useless, which seems unlikely.

So I'd say that until we understand the nature of the relationship between the mental and physical, mental causation remains a mystery, like many aspects of consciousness.

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JamesOfSeattle
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Re: Causal interaction between the mental and the physical.

Post by JamesOfSeattle » May 30th, 2017, 2:39 pm

Gertie, I would suggest that the difference between physical cauasation and mental causation is akin to the difference between physical processes and biological processes. Of course biological processes have a physical basis, but it would be impossible to discuss interesting biological phenomena, such as reproduction, by referencing only the interactions between atoms.

*
[it's all about the levels of abstraction]

Spraticus
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Re: Causal interaction between the mental and the physical.

Post by Spraticus » May 30th, 2017, 6:25 pm

JamesOfSeattle wrote:Gertie, I would suggest that the difference between physical cauasation and mental causation is akin to the difference between physical processes and biological processes. Of course biological processes have a physical basis, but it would be impossible to discuss interesting biological phenomena, such as reproduction, by referencing only the interactions between atoms.

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[it's all about the levels of abstraction]
It wouldn't be impossible, (in principal at least), but it would be very tedious and almost certainly completely pointless.

Gertie
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Re: Causal interaction between the mental and the physical.

Post by Gertie » May 31st, 2017, 3:48 am

JamesOfSeattle wrote:Gertie, I would suggest that the difference between physical cauasation and mental causation is akin to the difference between physical processes and biological processes. Of course biological processes have a physical basis, but it would be impossible to discuss interesting biological phenomena, such as reproduction, by referencing only the interactions between atoms.

*
[it's all about the levels of abstraction]
OK, but I don't see how that addresses my post?

Burning ghost
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Re: Causal interaction between the mental and the physical.

Post by Burning ghost » May 31st, 2017, 4:47 am

YES! They are equally "weird". Well done for noticing :)

Where you go from there is in how you choose to engage in what people have said above. You'll see that some people simply don't understand what you mean. It is a difficult task to refine your words to bring your thoughts to other people. Once you've developed a way to do so you'll probably have a better understanding of what you can do with this thought and what other questions it will lead to.
AKA badgerjelly

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JamesOfSeattle
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Re: Causal interaction between the mental and the physical.

Post by JamesOfSeattle » May 31st, 2017, 12:02 pm

Gertie wrote: OK, but I don't see how that addresses my post?
Gertie, in your post you said "If it's true, as it seems, that physical causation can fully account for all our actions, then mental causation looks redundant." My point is that "mental causation" is not so much redundant as a description of physical causation at a higher level of abstraction. And only at this higher level of abstraction does it make sense that "mental states" would be useful.

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NicoL
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Re: Causal interaction between the mental and the physical.

Post by NicoL » June 2nd, 2017, 6:39 am

Gertie wrote: It is a problem tho, imo, because physical cause and effect which we do understand and can model and make predictions about, can theoretically account for any action we attribute to mental causation. So, for example, it seems like you can mentally will your own arm to rise (an action with causal physical correlates), but not mine, because there's no physical causal 'chain' between your brain and my arm.
It may be so, but it is not even remotely obvious to me that it is possible to understand and predict all kinds of phenomena with physical causation as a theoretical basis. If anything, to understand domains like linguistic discourse, social and economic processes, etc. many appeals have been made to psychological processes and mental causation (e.g. behavioural economics, Gricean semantics). Also, it is possible for me to mentally will your arm raising: all that is required is to be able to communicate with you and convince you to do so. It does not even matter whether I ever succeed in my lifetime to do so. All that matters is that it is possible to do so, and that this process would involve mental events (me desiring, me willing, me talking, you perceiving what I said, you willing to act).

Of course, you can say that any explanatory data involving mental entities could be reduced to more basic explanatory data involving only physical entities, but how is this claim justified? Is it self-evident in a way I don't see, or is it some sort of ubiquitous physicalist bias that tempts us to assume so?
Gertie wrote:If it's true, as it seems, that physical causation can fully account for all our actions, then mental causation looks redundant. The problem of 'over-determinism'.
Indeed, over-determination is more of an issue, but my consideration extends only to assuming that mind/body interaction is a showstopper in itself.

NicoL
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Re: Causal interaction between the mental and the physical.

Post by NicoL » June 2nd, 2017, 6:41 am

Spraticus wrote: It wouldn't be impossible, (in principal at least), but it would be very tedious and almost certainly completely pointless.
I am genuinely interested in why you think it wouldn't be impossible. Is reductionism so self-evident?

Prothero
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Re: Causal interaction between the mental and the physical.

Post by Prothero » June 14th, 2017, 12:30 am

NicoL wrote:It is said that causal interaction between the mental and the physical poses a problem, but does it really? If causation is understood as a formal ontological relation between events (i.e. occurrent and contingent states of affairs), it seems to me that an event A causing an event B under specific circumstances would not be made any more of a mystery just because the cause and the effect involve different categories of individual objects.

To be daft, why should I be fundamentally more skeptical of (1) a person mentally willing to raise his hand causing the physical rising of his hand, than (2) a magnet causing another magnet to come closer? Aren't both these instances of causation equally weird, but also equally plausible if we choose to accept that are causal relations between events in the world?
It is only a problem if one is a "dualist" whereby the mental and the physical are ontologically different attributes or substances.
If one is a neutral monist or process philosopher, then the mental and the physical are merely different attributes of single entity. In the case of process philosophers, the fundamental unit of reality is an event in space-time and all events have proto-physical and mental aspects.

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Papus79
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Re: Causal interaction between the mental and the physical.

Post by Papus79 » June 15th, 2017, 9:47 pm

Interesting question and yeah, I don't really get why a lot of mainstream thinkers have a huge problem with interaction. The challenge, particularly as laid out with the hard problem, is the attempt to try and figure out what the source 'substance' (for the lack of a better word) of consciousness is - ie. information, information and motion, information, motion, and neurons, etc. etc. for the sake of being able to have some type of meaningful ground rule to ascertain what's conscious vs. unconscious in nature, whether we could ever make conscious AI and if so how we'd do it, discerning whether we're causing pain to conscious systems in the world that we never would have thought were conscious to begin with, etc..

I might have to make a suggestion, and it's probably nothing new or novel and perhaps just a rephrasing or cleaning of what's been hinted at already here. it seems like, when it comes to complex systems, complexity can leverage simplicity. I'm probably going to blow the vernacular here and show that I'm not academically trained on this but to bumble through the language - it seems like to have a problem with consciousness interacting with matter is to have a big philosophical problem with anything in nature that could be called or thought of as a governance phenomena or activity. It actually seems way easier to apprehend out here in supposedly non-science land than it does if one's trying to comb their way through human or mouse neurons trying to find spooky particles or whatever.

To think of my experience of my own brain, and for most people's account my experience is pretty standard, we feel like our 'I' is living somewhere in the front of our heads, prefrontal or frontal cortex area, looking out through a pair of eyes. It's also the sense of being something like the head of a fountain. It's a fountain of data moving upward from hot, cold, pressure, and various other nerves as well as our other major sense-collecting devices and we're always kind of surfing on a wave of information. From there it feels like I'm making executive decisions to type this message right now but I don't think that's even particularly spooky. My best guess is, as human self-consciousness is something like the executive functioning unit of the human organism, it means that our conscious 'I' experience via its evaluation and measuring takes the same stuff that was circulated up to it, reorganizes it, and sends it back down but in a distinctly bundled and organized format.

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