Bakker's Blind Brain Theory

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H

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« on: July 15, 2015, 03:18:07 pm »
Quote from: TPB
In the old proverb of the three blind Indian gurus and the elephant, one grabs the tail and says the elephant is a rope, the other grabs a leg and says the elephant is a tree, while the third grabs the trunk and says the elephant is a snake. In each case, the gurus mistake the part for a whole. This is the Blind Brain Thesis (which I simultaneously can’t stop arguing and can’t bring myself to believe): the thalamocortical system is the guru and the greater brain is the elephant. Intentional concepts such as belief, desire, good, perception, volition, action–all the furniture of conscious life–are simply ropes and trees and snakes. Misapprehensions. According to BBT, there are literally no such things.

The reason they function is simply that they are systematically related to the elephant, who does the brunt of the work. They have to count as ‘insight’ or ‘understanding’ simply because they are literally the only game in town.

Quote from: TPB
Enter what I call Encapsulation, the strange mereological inflation that characterizes consciousness. Mistaking parts for wholes, I want to argue, is constitutive of experience. Dennett wants to say we are actually experiencing the elephant. But as a matter of empirical fact, the thalamocortical system only has access to a fraction of the information processed by the brain, a fraction it cannot but mistake for wholes. We are experiencing elephant parts as opposed to the elephant, and we’re experiencing them as wholes, something they are not.

Quote from: TPB
As magicians well know, the brain makes default identity mistakes all the time: In “The Mark of Gideon,” Captain Kirk unknowingly beams into a perfect replica of the Enterprise, and so assumes that the transporter has malfunctioned and that his entire crew has been abducted. His inability to discriminate between the real Enterprise and the replica leads to their thoughtless conflation. The BBT suggests that experience seems to unfold across a substrate of self-identity simply because its margins, those points where the absence of information are expressed, must always remain the same.

By marking the limit of differentiation they endow us with the illusion of a soul.

Quote from: TPB
We are the elephant in such a way that we are a rope, tree, and snake. Anything but an elephant.

I think it's odd we don't have a thread about Bakker's BBT.  It definitely has influenced his fiction, so here's a thread for us to maybe try to piece together some of it.
« Last Edit: July 15, 2015, 03:35:55 pm by H »
“I am a warrior of ages, Anasûrimbor . . . ages. I have dipped my nimil in a thousand hearts. I have ridden both against and for the No-God in the great wars that authored this wilderness. I have scaled the ramparts of great Golgotterath, watched the hearts of High Kings break for fury.” -Cet’ingira

Wilshire

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« Reply #1 on: July 15, 2015, 06:02:12 pm »
So the crux
Quote
Intentional concepts such as belief, desire, good, perception, volition, action–all the furniture of conscious life–are simply ropes and trees and snakes. Misapprehensions. According to BBT, there are literally no such things.

But I'm still uncertain: what, then, is the Elephant? What is the whole that we cannot comprehend?
« Last Edit: July 15, 2015, 06:06:25 pm by Wilshire »
One of the other conditions of possibility.

H

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« Reply #2 on: July 15, 2015, 07:07:55 pm »
Well, if I understand correctly, the Elephant is the "whole thing" in the sense that it's what moves it all, so to speak.  I guess to use a Bakker-ism, it's the darkness the comes before...
“I am a warrior of ages, Anasûrimbor . . . ages. I have dipped my nimil in a thousand hearts. I have ridden both against and for the No-God in the great wars that authored this wilderness. I have scaled the ramparts of great Golgotterath, watched the hearts of High Kings break for fury.” -Cet’ingira

Wilshire

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« Reply #3 on: July 15, 2015, 07:20:21 pm »
Is he/BBT suggesting that we dont/cant know what the whole is, or just that most people don't and need to be enlightened?
One of the other conditions of possibility.

H

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« Reply #4 on: July 15, 2015, 07:30:27 pm »
Is he/BBT suggesting that we dont/cant know what the whole is, or just that most people don't and need to be enlightened?

I think it's more about acknowledging that we are poorly/wrongly approximating the whole.

I think it's also fear of what happens if we can apprehend the whole (Semantic Apocalypse, etc.).

I admit I need to read a lot more to get a better grasp on it's full implications, right now my monkey brain can't extrapolate...
“I am a warrior of ages, Anasûrimbor . . . ages. I have dipped my nimil in a thousand hearts. I have ridden both against and for the No-God in the great wars that authored this wilderness. I have scaled the ramparts of great Golgotterath, watched the hearts of High Kings break for fury.” -Cet’ingira

Wilshire

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« Reply #5 on: July 15, 2015, 07:53:25 pm »
Well, I'm at the point as well, which is why I am asking ;).

I agree that the SA also plays a role, the whole thing where everything becomes meaningless when everything is known....
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Royce

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« Reply #6 on: July 28, 2015, 12:17:03 pm »
I have not read that much about this either, so please arrest me if I appear ignorant.

This theory is what drives the novel neuropath, right?. "The argument" proposed by Neil.

This notion that "self" is illusory and that perception/consciousness can be altered through neurological experiment is hardly breaking news?
Haven`t people all over the world figured that out through the use of psychedelics and deep meditation/yoga?  Another example is the experience called "satori" in zen buddhism.

Can someone explain what the difference is? Is the BBT something else entirely?   If all sensory experience is just "neurons firing", isn`t that observation also illusory?  If everything derived from the "self" is illusory, isn`t the BBT also just as illusory as santa claus?

Again, if the "self" is illusory, then everything the "self" says/does is also illusory. At this point everything is a dream. If all linguistic concepts are illusory in nature, then the "darkness that comes before" is unfathomable. There is no way to know what that is. If we try to describe it, we immediately enter the dreamstate of illusions.

H

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« Reply #7 on: July 28, 2015, 12:31:38 pm »
The truth is, I don't know.  My limited cognitive skills start to break down at the level this conversation tends to enter, so it becomes really hard for me to make solid points on it.

Here is another post where he outlines his theory.  Maybe that will help to clear things up, I'm not sure.
“I am a warrior of ages, Anasûrimbor . . . ages. I have dipped my nimil in a thousand hearts. I have ridden both against and for the No-God in the great wars that authored this wilderness. I have scaled the ramparts of great Golgotterath, watched the hearts of High Kings break for fury.” -Cet’ingira

Wilshire

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« Reply #8 on: July 28, 2015, 02:18:28 pm »
Royce, I don't think that logic really connects. Either we live in a world that exists, or it doesnt, and if you choose to think it doesn't, there's really nothing else worth talking about, or even anything that you can talk about with someone who thinks otherwise.

However, if you believe that you exist, you can continue having a conversation. If you and/or the world exists, then things are happening in it, pretty much by definition. While you might argue that the way you perceive these things is 'illusory' that doesn't mean they aren't happening.

Anyway, i have no answers for your questions, only partly because i feel like we are on two total different wavelengths.

Regarding Neuropath, yes I believe you are correct.
As for altering perception, yes, old news.

But  "This notion that "self" is illusory " I cannot make sense of in any real way. If you exist, you must be a self somewhere in there, right? As an atom is to a molecule, the large whole does exist in a definable fashion regardless of whether or not you can break it into smaller parts. I don't know how to discuss consciousness, but certainly there is a difference between living things and non-living things, and that difference is largely some ability to recognize 'self', isn't it?

One of the other conditions of possibility.

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« Reply #9 on: July 28, 2015, 03:41:52 pm »
But  "This notion that "self" is illusory " I cannot make sense of in any real way. If you exist, you must be a self somewhere in there, right? As an atom is to a molecule, the large whole does exist in a definable fashion regardless of whether or not you can break it into smaller parts. I don't know how to discuss consciousness, but certainly there is a difference between living things and non-living things, and that difference is largely some ability to recognize 'self', isn't it?

Well, I think that really depends highly on what you define "The Self" as though.  Certainly consciousness exists, because we experience it.  The question is though, is it (really) what we feel it is?

I can tend to agree with the wide ascertain that what we experience as "The Self" (as a director, as the operator) is indeed not what it actually is.  Our brain does what it wants when it wants, whether we are conscious of it or not.  In fact, research has kind of shown that our brain (without thought, consciousness, The Self) actually runs the show, not the reverse.  Decisions are made, then consciousness is informed, with the feeling of "I made this choice" (I being The Self, here).

I kind of started rambling there, but does that help?
“I am a warrior of ages, Anasûrimbor . . . ages. I have dipped my nimil in a thousand hearts. I have ridden both against and for the No-God in the great wars that authored this wilderness. I have scaled the ramparts of great Golgotterath, watched the hearts of High Kings break for fury.” -Cet’ingira

Royce

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« Reply #10 on: July 28, 2015, 04:52:05 pm »
Wilshire, I never said that "the world does not exist". The world is definitely real. All I am saying is that you should never confuse the map for the territory. The map being the world as humans perceive it through interpreting sensory data and described through conceptual language, and the territory is the world as it is behind all the labels.

You mention logic, but isn`t logic a concept too?  One of my favorite philosophical ramblers Terence Mckenna said that the world is literally made of language. It took me awhile to really understand what he meant by that, but now(after certain convincing experiences) I have to agree with that statement.

Your reality tunnel is a learned one. That reality tunnel can be altered if you want it to.

If you really think that the world is  what our descriptions of it tells us it is, then you are entering solipsism, and I really think that our minds/consciousness is way more weird than we might imagine at this point.

For the record I do not go around telling people I meet that "I do not exist". That would be crazy. I play the game as everyone else, and it really does not affect my day to day life if I ,on a philosophical level, do not exist.

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« Reply #11 on: July 28, 2015, 06:14:02 pm »
Royce, I'd respond, but I'm at almost a complete loss. I lack the learning to participate further along this discussion I think ;). I don't think you don't believe we exist, I'm just not playing the word games it seems.

I kind of started rambling there, but does that help?

The general concept makes sense, its what was described above in your/my original posts. I get it on general terms but appear to lack the knowledge for deeper understanding.
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Camlost

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« Reply #12 on: July 28, 2015, 08:40:54 pm »
Quote
I can tend to agree with the wide ascertain that what we experience as "The Self" (as a director, as the operator) is indeed not what it actually is.  Our brain does what it wants when it wants, whether we are conscious of it or not.  In fact, research has kind of shown that our brain (without thought, consciousness, The Self) actually runs the show, not the reverse.  Decisions are made, then consciousness is informed, with the feeling of "I made this choice" (I being The Self, here).

I have done no research on the topic, not even Bakker's blog to be honest as I often get mired in the language and lose the meaning(but language is 9/10 of any expertise if you ask me), so my understanding may be dramatically off of what he is trying get at. Preface aside, my interpretation whilst reading Neuropath is that the notion of Self is misrecognized by that which I call my Self. The most succinct and precise way I can describe it, again my interpretation, is that we (read "I"/Self) mistake ourselves for the authors when we are in fact only narrators. Using another of Bakker's fictions as a referent, this gap, infinitesimal as it is, delineates the darkness that comes before from our conscious experience of such. It sounds far to familiar for myself to have come up with it, but I think that's the crux of the notion that our thoughts precede " us".

As to the hurdle of the Self being illusory, I don't think the argument is necessarily that the Self doesn't exist(it seems a bit bootstrap to me, self-refrencing itsself for its own existence), but rather that we can't point anywhere and say that this is the origen of consciousness. If I had to guess, I'd bet there are camps of neuroscientists divided by the theory that consciousness is an emergent principle, a by-product of a wildly firing thicket of neurons, and those that might argue that our observational tools aren't exact enough to locate consciousness.

I don't know. Thought I'd throw my two cents in on an argument none of us really seem to have a complete grasp of lol

EDIT: Sorry H, I think all I've gone and done here is reiterate the point you were trying to make. If I'm interpreting you correctly that is.
« Last Edit: July 29, 2015, 12:43:57 am by Camlost »

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« Reply #13 on: July 29, 2015, 06:13:52 am »
As a little warm up to my possible TPB guest post, I'm going to try wading into this thread... after work (which essentially means I'm dead tired - but I have my laptop back and typing is pleasing).

So the crux
Quote
Intentional concepts such as belief, desire, good, perception, volition, action–all the furniture of conscious life–are simply ropes and trees and snakes. Misapprehensions. According to BBT, there are literally no such things.

But I'm still uncertain: what, then, is the Elephant? What is the whole that we cannot comprehend?

'The Elephant' is everything your brain is doing that you don't experience "directly." Science is hard-pressed to coherently express how much information the brain processes and how it does so (mostly a mixture of chemical and electrical activity, maxing out the basic heat potentials of an organ like the brain by dispersing its energy output). But what "you" or "I" directly experience is a fraction of what's going on in the brain at any given time (though, I might argue that we can train ourselves to experience more of that going's on).

As a segue, one of my favorite introductions to the brain was the Default Mode Network (because computer metaphors won't die, despite the brain defeating analogy by every historical comparison ever) and the Connectome.

Bakker's picked the thalamocortical because it is a structure at the crux between many "higher cognitive functions" neural-correlates of consciousness we might associate with "the self" in this discussion and unconscious, non-conscious, mammalian, reptilian, functions of the brain stem, cerebellum, etc.

Again, we can argue that you can work to experience more. But as a commonality, we aren't able to articulate the majority of our brain's functional life because it just doesn't exist to "us." One point that really changed my outlook on all of this was the variety of brain dysfunction and degeneration. Blindsight, prosopagnosia, akinetopsia, etc, etc, ad nauseam. Dysfunction and degeneration can be so, so selective and one need only read My Stroke of Insight to have a clear example of the old adage "few are lucky enough to diagnose themselves." And yet in almost every case, people cannot articulate their own absences. For instance, it was a common demonstration in the psychology textbooks I read to showcase our blindspot, where our visual field actually has an absence where the retinal nerves exit the eye.

This notion that "self" is illusory and that perception/consciousness can be altered through neurological experiment is hardly breaking news?
Haven`t people all over the world figured that out through the use of psychedelics and deep meditation/yoga?  Another example is the experience called "satori" in zen buddhism.

Some people have. Supposing that a majority of people adopt this perspective is foolish, though. In many cases, many of those realizations are attributed to "the mind," instead of "the brain," etc. As you wrote, our articulations dominate every domain.

Lol - now that I've read the thread, I see that you all haven't taken this too far.

So to finish up for the moment, though I feel this has been good warmup for tomorrow, if only as a short introduction, our experience of what we call consciousness is truncated, no matter how we cut that discussion. Whether or not one can truly maximize their experience of the brain's function is another guess, entirely.
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« Reply #14 on: July 29, 2015, 10:39:38 am »
As a child and indeed through most of my teenage years I subscribed to the idea that I was the only real "conscious" and all else was illusory - part of the holographic world. At the time I was and am still fairly convinced of the holographic theory.

Anyway it took me a long time before I began to understand this extreme form of Solipsim and to come to terms with it both personally and academically.