Bernardo Kastrup's latest paper.

#2
Hey,

Just skimmed over the paper and if I read correctly Bernardo establishes an argument (with references to scientific papers of course) that because in a physicalist universe certain kinds of experiences should not occur in a damaged/undersupplied brain, one could assume that the brain plays a inhibitory part and not an enhancing one. But when we look at other animals, with brains much smaller and, under the current scientific mainstream view, less cognitive capabilities (non-existing or undeveloped brain parts/functions), shouldn't those animals be much more able than humans regarding Bernardos argument? At least it seems that they have less inhibitory brain mass than we do?

Just a thought that came to my mind.
 
#3
Hey,

Just skimmed over the paper and if I read correctly Bernardo establishes an argument (with references to scientific papers of course) that because in a physicalist universe certain kinds of experiences should not occur in a damaged/undersupplied brain, one could assume that the brain plays a inhibitory part and not an enhancing one. But when we look at other animals, with brains much smaller and, under the current scientific mainstream view, less cognitive capabilities (non-existing or undeveloped brain parts/functions), shouldn't those animals be much more able than humans regarding Bernardos argument? At least it seems that they have less inhibitory brain mass than we do?

Just a thought that came to my mind.
Do we know that that isn't the case?

I was going to frivolously suggest that an ant should have greater capabilities than a human - but I was not being serious. On the other hand, animals do often have all sorts of abilities seemingly lacking in humans, such as the navigational abilities of migrating birds or sea creatures. Those are well-documented. There are other abilities often loosely termed 'animal instinct' which may be seen in pets such as dogs or cats which may transcend any mundane explanation.
 
#4
Animals surely have different abilites than humans, partly vast superior to ours (like dogs' olfactory system etc), but I think no one would deny that we have the overall most powerful mental capabilities. But I guess it can be difficult to discertain which abilities of humans and animals alike rely purely on the brain.
 
#5
Illusion,

I think you misunderstood. Humans have higher intellectual functions than animals. But a human brain that is in a low level of functioning due to psychedelic drugs or an NDE is NOT comparable to an animal brain that is fully functional. You are comparing apples and oranges.
 
#6
...But a human brain that is in a low level of functioning due to psychedelic drugs or an NDE is NOT comparable to an animal brain that is fully functional. You are comparing apples and oranges.
There's lots of evidence that the low levels of brain activity registered during NDEs correlates with very high levels of functionality: increased perceptivity, a heightened sense of reality, and so on. Many NDEs are life-changing experiences whose sense of immediacy and reality does not diminish over time. Don't conflate lack of brain activity with lack of high conscious activity: which actually points to the brain not being responsible for consciousness.
 
#7
But still, if we assume that the brain plays an inhibitory role as in diminishing "our" (who or whatever that is) awareness (in regard to the perception in NDEs), we somehow must compare the human brain to the animal brain. We have the greatest intellectual capabilities on this planet. Why? Because of our densely packed brains. So these capabilities directly correlate with the structure of the brain. So on the one hand the brain must act inhibitory, on the other hand its structure does enhance capabilities. For me the only conclusion would be, that only a part of the brain, in humans and animals alike, acts inhibitory and the other parts enhance the signal....
 
#8
But still, if we assume that the brain plays an inhibitory role as in diminishing "our" (who or whatever that is) awareness (in regard to the perception in NDEs)...
I agree that, superficially, it appears that the brain "plays an inhibitory role", and that until very recently I've been thinking of it in that way. However, someone who posted to Bernardo's latest thread here, one Francesco Barbera, mentioned someone called Sydney Banks and his three principles, which I hadn't heard of before.

Intrigued, I checked out the three principles on the Web. A particularly good site is here, and there's a brief written description of the principles here. (under the heading What are the Three Principles?).

The principles are: Mind, Consciousness, and Thought. I think Mind corresponds to Bernardo's Mind At Large (MAL): it is the universal intelligence (note: not necessarily intellect) that is the source of everything; the life force if you will. Bernardo thinks of our individual Consciousnesses as representing dissociated aspects of MAL, which, in a sense, restrict our view of the universe, hence the "inhibitory" idea.

What does our Consciousness do? It Thinks. And thought is what we use to create our perception of reality: viz. our experience of reality. Why is it that different people have different perceptions of the same thing? Why do I have an interest in spirituality, and someone else, no interest whatsoever? Why do I like a particular piece of music, and someone else hates it? Why do I find certain colour schemes appealing, whilst others prefer different colour schemes?

It plainly can't be because such things are, "externally" (that is, external to our localised consciousness, but still within universal Mind or MAL), different for different people: we all have a rough idea what spirituality is, we all hear the same piece of music and see the same colour schemes (barring effects of colour blindness). We have a tendency to think of experience as arising "externally"; however, in doing so, we're projecting inner experience outwards, thus reversing the actual causal chain and overlaying on "outside" what is really inside.

This isn't saying that "external" reality is any different for different people, rather that we are creators of our own inner landscapes, because every one of us interprets similar "external" stimuli differently. "External" reality, i.e. MAL or Mind doesn't have a particular agenda or moral outlook. It simply is, and we interpret It in various ways according to our experience and how we interpret that experience. Various events such as volcanic eruptions, hurricanes, tsunami, and so forth, are expressions of what MAL or Mind is, and are neither good nor bad. Strictly speaking, we can more understandably interpret things as good or bad only when they arise from the actions of living beings, particularly humans.

Near as I can tell so far, the idea is that the source of experience is always thought (ranging from the completely conscious to completely unconscious); without thought, we can't have experience. Experiences are internalised and remembered, and can, in turn, subsequently influence further thought in a self-reinforcing way. This can lead to neurosis: other people do or say certain things, and we may think about those and interpret them in self-denigratory ways. We may end up with a rather bleak inner landscape that colours our view of the "external" world, and act in ways that only serve to reinforce that landscape. We may feel trapped in feelings of worthlessness and seek escape in a variety of ways: acting tough; retaliating; avoiding triggering stimuli; meditating; taking classes in positive thinking; seeking a spiritual interpretation of the world that brings us detachment and calm; and so on.

The claim is that understanding the three principles can bring about a revolution in the way we habitually act. Once we realise that we are -- quite naturally and unavoidably -- conscious beings that have thoughts that in turn create feelings and experience, we don't actually have to let thoughts/experiences influence our behaviour.

Note that this isn't quite the same as meditatory practices through which we seek to enter a state of thoughtlessness. I'm not saying that's pointless: if you are able to stop thought, then perforce you stop what is the source of many problematic experiences and may eventually be able to detachedly centre yourself in this place. However, meditation is something that requires long practice and ongoing effort, and may only bring temporary relief.

IOW, the claim is that when you understand and internalise the three principles, you don't have to do anything. You still have thoughts: they may still have the power to disturb you, but deeply having understood and absorbed the principles, you are able to be much more resilient, and able to bounce back more quickly from their effects. You become much more able to shrug them off and to begin to see yourself as a kind of natural experiencing process in the universe. A process that quite naturally thinks -- thereby has experiences -- some of which may not feel all that good in the moment of thinking, but which don't have to rule the way you behave. In a way, it's a kind of potentially permanent meditative state without the meditation, or a meditation that is achieved through ordinary day-to-day living without having to set aside time specifically for it.

That's the claim, at any rate. I have a degree of intellectual understanding of the three principles, but I can't say that I have as yet internalised them and made them a part of my being. But let us say that I'm sufficiently intrigued by the idea to investigate further and see where, if anywhere, that might lead. The exciting prospect is that, in time, it might lead to greater happiness and greater tolerance and love. I'll have to wait and see, and may report back in due course on any progress I might make.
...we somehow must compare the human brain to the animal brain. We have the greatest intellectual capabilities on this planet. Why? Because of our densely packed brains. So these capabilities directly correlate with the structure of the brain. So on the one hand the brain must act inhibitory, on the other hand its structure does enhance capabilities. For me the only conclusion would be, that only a part of the brain, in humans and animals alike, acts inhibitory and the other parts enhance the signal...
That's one way of viewing it. Another is that human beings have the greatest capacity for thought we know of. That is reflected in the appearance, to us, of the brain, with its many neurons and generally complex structure: well, at least its appearance in most cases. Let's not forget that some people have hardly any brain to speak of and yet seem to function quite normally: that particular black swan is yet to be addressed and understood.
 
#9
But still, if we assume that the brain plays an inhibitory role as in diminishing "our" (who or whatever that is) awareness (in regard to the perception in NDEs), we somehow must compare the human brain to the animal brain. We have the greatest intellectual capabilities on this planet. Why? Because of our densely packed brains. So these capabilities directly correlate with the structure of the brain. So on the one hand the brain must act inhibitory, on the other hand its structure does enhance capabilities. For me the only conclusion would be, that only a part of the brain, in humans and animals alike, acts inhibitory and the other parts enhance the signal....
This makes sense and is the generally accepted position. It appears to be the most efficient way of modulating our awareness.
 
#10
Hey,

Just skimmed over the paper and if I read correctly Bernardo establishes an argument (with references to scientific papers of course) that because in a physicalist universe certain kinds of experiences should not occur in a damaged/undersupplied brain, one could assume that the brain plays a inhibitory part and not an enhancing one. But when we look at other animals, with brains much smaller and, under the current scientific mainstream view, less cognitive capabilities (non-existing or undeveloped brain parts/functions), shouldn't those animals be much more able than humans regarding Bernardos argument? At least it seems that they have less inhibitory brain mass than we do?

Just a thought that came to my mind.
This seems like an extrapolation that is, at least, questionable based on his paper.

He's speaking specifically to human evidence/phenomena. Perhaps there is some physical or non-physical differentiation between humans and all other "brain-based" organisms?

He also didn't speak to brain size per se, but rather impairment of the human brain in specific. Again, perhaps this phenomena is unique to the human brain structure or perhaps a super-structure (non-physical) that we do not yet understand.

I found the paper interesting and would be very interested in reading the skeptics' responses. I wonder what feedback he's received?
 
#11
As with his other papers on the subject, he ignores how the connectivity in the brain changes in the various situations. I've asked him about this before, it seems to be a deliberate choice on his part but he doesn't elaborate much. It is a serious flaw in his analysis IMO (at least without justifying it further - can't just handwave it away). Not to mention all the times when brain impairment has much more negative effects. A discussion comparing the situations may be useful.
 
#12
without thought, we can't have experience.
Hmmm... would you be 100% sure about this?
I am not.

In deep meditation you can get rid of thoughts but not experience.
What about animals? Probably most simple organisms are hardly thinking, at least not in the way we normally define 'thinking', and yet it's hard to deny that they experience their environment. Similarly, if recent studies on plants sentience are correct, they have experiences too...

cheers
 
#13
As with his other papers on the subject, he ignores how the connectivity in the brain changes in the various situations. I've asked him about this before, it seems to be a deliberate choice on his part but he doesn't elaborate much. It is a serious flaw in his analysis IMO (at least without justifying it further - can't just handwave it away). Not to mention all the times when brain impairment has much more negative effects. A discussion comparing the situations may be useful.
I remember having read Bernardo discussing this on several occasions.
Off the top of my head his argument centers around situations (such as use of certain drugs) that inhibit all areas of the brain compared to baseline. Most injuries and brain impairment typically will just affect an area, not the whole activity. Similarly some NDEs seem to do the same.

It's a bit like messing with an audio mixer by moving a couple of sliders up or down vs taking the whole bagillion of channels down together. If the whole music is turned down you will probably be able to finally hear what's around you, in the environment. If you just cranck up or down a few tracks it will still make no difference and probably ruin the final mix.

Sorry, weird metaphor... ahah :D
 
#14
Hmmm... would you be 100% sure about this?
I am not.

In deep meditation you can get rid of thoughts but not experience.
What about animals? Probably most simple organisms are hardly thinking, at least not in the way we normally define 'thinking', and yet it's hard to deny that they experience their environment. Similarly, if recent studies on plants sentience are correct, they have experiences too...

cheers
No I'm not sure about it, Bucky, and it did cross my mind. I was only reporting what I'd read, really, and it is something new to me. If I said instead that there was no experience without feeling, might that be an alternative? Have to think about that.
 
S

Sciborg_S_Patel

#15
As with his other papers on the subject, he ignores how the connectivity in the brain changes in the various situations. I've asked him about this before, it seems to be a deliberate choice on his part but he doesn't elaborate much. It is a serious flaw in his analysis IMO (at least without justifying it further - can't just handwave it away). Not to mention all the times when brain impairment has much more negative effects. A discussion comparing the situations may be useful.
Can you link to a post where you've asked him? Or if it's by email can you show us his reply?
 
S

Sciborg_S_Patel

#19
It was in that thread where you thought I was unfairly impugning his integrity by his rather selective parsing of the source material. Should be able to find by search.
Don't worry, Malf already did the hard work that you - as the person who made the claim - should've done.
 
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