Monday, October 30, 2006

From "Transposition" on the mind-body relation

I am not going to maintain that what I call Transposition is the only possible mode whereby a poorer medium can respond to a richer, but I claim that it is very hard to imagine any other. It is therefore, at the very least, not improbable that Transposition occurs whenever the higher reproduces itself in the lower. Thus, to digress for a moment, it seems to me very likely that the real relation between the mind and body is one of Transposition. We are certain that, in this like at any rate, thought is intimately connected with the brain. The theory that thought therefore is merely a movement in the brain is, in my opinion, nonsense, for if so, that theory itself would be merely a movement, an event among atoms, which may have speed and direction, but of which it would be meaningless to use the words “true” or “false.” We are driven then to some kind of correspondence. But if we assume a one-for-one correspondence, this means that we have to attribute an almost unbelievable complexity and variety to events in the brain. But I submit that a one-for-one relation is probably quite unnecessary. All our examples suggest that the brain can respond—in a sense, adequately and exquisitely respond—to the seemingly infinite variety of consciousness without providing one singly physical modification for each single modification of consciousness.

C. S. Lewis, The Weight of Glory, Transposition, pp. 63-4.

11 comments:

Blue Devil Knight said...

Who, when, what?

The author says:
"But if we assume a one-for-one correspondence, this means that we have to attribute an almost unbelievable complexity and variety to events in the brain."

Even single neurons are unbelievably complex (see Koch's book on the biophysics of computation to see how mind-boggling it can become). Put a bunch of them together and things get pretty mind boggling. It seems to me that the brain is much more complicated than the mind (e.g., there is lots of neural activity that isn't mental, but not vice-versa).

And why, when we alter the brain with drugs, do we alter consciousness so dramatically? I can even make your consciousness go away with anesthetics. Why doesn't the nonphysical conscious bit keep whirring along when you go under?

(For that matter, why not consider death like a permanent state of anesthesia, i.e., the extinguishing of consciousness? When we are alive, our consciousness can be extinguished, but when we die, and the physical activity is even more perturbed than under anesthesia, the mind survives. And which mind? The demented alzheimers- ridden mind? Or is there a mind of Eden in all of us that we go back to?)

HiveMaker said...

The theory that thought therefore is merely a movement in the brain is, in my opinion, nonsense, for if so, that theory itself would be merely a movement, an event among atoms, which may have speed and direction, but of which it would be meaningless to use the words “true” or “false.”

Um, huh?

"Assume that intentional predicates are irreducible. From this we can conclude that it is meaningless to assert that intentional predicates are reducible."

This is why apologetics is not considered a discipline that has a serious interest in the truth.

Victor Reppert said...

This is from C. S. Lewis's essay "Transposition." Since we are arguably in an infinite number of mental states at any one time, I guess the mind is still more complex than the brain. It was first preached in May of 1944.

Victor Reppert said...

It looks as if Lewis accepted what today would be called integrative dualism. See this link for the distinction.

http://www.ingentaconnect.com/content/oso/206611/2002/00000001/00000001/art00002

The close relationship between the mind and the body is supposed to explain how drugs and alcohol can so drastically affect consciousness. The argumentum ad LSD refutes a separatist dualism but not an integrative dualism.

Victor Reppert said...

And, this did not come from a work of apologetics. This came from a sermon Lewis preached. I do not see why, Hivemaker, even if you think apologists are deeply and profoundly mistaken, that we must also have no concern for the truth.

Anonymous said...

"Since we are arguably in an infinite number of mental states at any one time,"

Hmmm, can one count the number of mental states that can fit on the head of a pin?

Tanasije Gjorgoski said...

Hi Victor,
Interesting, I have believed in some form of "Transposition", but didn't know that there is a term for it.
Though I'm not sure that mind/brain as abstract notions are the right ones to choose as sides in that relation (transposition).
I would for example think that Dasein of some kind would transpose on the physical world. (Of course Dasein taken as richer, and physical world as poorer "medium". Though, I'm not sure that "medium" is the right word.)
The other question is of course what is the nature of this "Transposition". Did C. S. Lewis expressed his opinions on that question?

Blue Devil Knight said...

Victor said:
Since we are arguably in an infinite number of mental states at any one time, I guess the mind is still more complex than the brain.

We are in an infinite number of mental states at one time? I don't seem to be. That would be kind of confusing.

This is not convincing at all. The set of all possible brain states is, for all practical purposes, infinite (there are around 100 billion neurons in our brain, and even if we conservatively use bits (spike or no spike) to describe the state of each neuron, that means there are 2^100 billion possible brain states). This ignores the important temporal dimension of neuronal representation, which only multiplies the space of brain states. And it ignores the fact that many neurons don't just use spikes to process and transmit information, but graded signals. Also, the circuits change over long time scales (with learning, forgetting, development). Also, neuromodulators (seratonin, dopamine and the like) effectively change the dynamics of the circuits (changing moods and processing strategies).

So, his combinatorial argument seems very weak. However, the rhetorical claim that it's all just movement of particles is fun, kind of like Leibniz's mill.

JD Walters said...

It IS all just a movement of particles, if you don't have a rich enough metaphysics to back up the heavily theory-laden terms like 'information', 'processing', 'structure' and 'function' which pop up so often in neuroscience texts. I think Will Hasker has a comment on this in his book "The Emergent Self". He says the reason materialists seem to be able to side-step the argument from reason is that they use the language of cybernetics, without properly considering whether this cybernetic language is in fact compatible with some extreme versions of materialism which they espouse.

What if form and information (in-form-ation) are emergent properties in Hasker's or Clayton's sense? Do we have a new dualism where physical structures become information-bearing? Probably not, but at the very least it probably makes for a more nuanced materialism.

Anonymous said...

"It IS all just a movement of particles"

Nope, that is a metaphysical presupposition on your part.

And by the way, most materialists are more nuanced in their approach than the strawman portraits that are so often presented on this blog.

JD Walters said...

Anonymous,

Apparently you can't recognize hypothetical sentences. I said it's all just a movement of particles IF you don't have a richer metaphysics to back you up. My whole post was meant to acknowledge that there ARE more nuanced positions out there. William Hasker takes them on in his "The Emergent Self", and I think he fairly represents most of the positions. But you can't deny that there are some versions of materialism that give materialism a bad name.

Do some reading for a change, instead of just firing off accusations.