First and Third Person, Tripping Over Descriptions
One of the more ludicrous follies of philosophers is the claim that "mind" cannot be reduced to brain doings because of the "ontological distinction" between "first-person" experience and "third-person" brain and neuron events.
This is of course a symptom of those who know nothing about representation and the structure of information prattling insipidly.
In some ways, given philosophers' prediclection for presuming that their words somehow influences the way the world is, it's almost understandable that they lack the skill to discern the scope of description from the object being therein described.
In rather colloquial (as is all my writing anyway) a response to one particularly egregious example which is affronted to the audience as an authority appeal.
Let me unpeel his authority to repeal his appeal:
I dispair of amateurs ever understanding the problems of representation and scope. Myron, quoting Georg Northoff @ http://www.the-brights.net/forums/forum/index.php?/topic/10735-the-philosophers-brain/&page=615#comment-266233 | Either the First-Person Perspective, referring to mental states, is distinguished (and thus dissociated) from the Third-Person Perspective, | which rather refers to neuronal states. Or the First-Person Perspective is reduced, subordinated or eliminated in favour of the Third-Person | Perspective. In the first case, the First-Person Perspective can no longer be linked to the brain because otherwise it could not be | distinguished from the Third-Person Perspective. There is no "elimination", no non-linkage to the brain. The existence of a first person perspective perception is not in question. There is reduction and sobordination (as identity) as The first person perspective is a particular structure of process and representation that is *representable* from a third person perspective. There is no "perspective" to what happens. The brain does as it does whether being described - whether or not there is first-person, third- person, liberal, tea-partier, Martian or Betelguesian "perspective". The universe, including brains, do not need to be looked at to do. | In the latter case, the First-Person Perspective can be linked to the brain.However, the question for the distinction between First- and | Third-Person Perspective arises. If the First-Person Perspective is reduced to the Third-Person Perspective, it should refer to neuronal | states. This however is not the case since it e.g. First-Person Perspective rather refers to mental states. Wrong. A correctly descriptive and expository "third person perspective" of a "first person perspective" would indeed "reduce" the "first person perspective" to "third person perspective". But it would not eliminate it ... remember this is a description of what happens objectively; it is merely a *description* of what is happening. Instead it would IDENTIFY - the structures and organizations of process of particular "neuronal states" (ignorance is no excuse, the brain, and consciousness is an ongoing dynamic process ... billions of them each second ... and consciousness and coscious feelings/thoughts/sensations/dispostions are transient, transactive entities, not "states") from this "third person perspective" that ARE the "first person perspective" of those phaneronic transactions. In other words a properly comprehensive descriptive elaboration of brain processing will SUBSUME as a complete subset whatever first person perceptions are transacted overall. First person perception is necessarily a subset of the processing of the brain (NOT A DESCRIPTION OF THAT PROCESSING) which includes many other things within that timeframe. The "third person description" is NOT something coincident with the *experience* of the first person perspective. If we imagine some future, brain-process-omniscient super-tech scan capable of cotemporaneously generating a "third person perspective" in the same timeframe of the first person experience, it will NOT BE THE SAME MIND describing the "third person perspective" as experiencing the first person perspective. It will be either another mind (most likely a super-sophisticated-super-computer of the future progammed with as of now unimaginable brain-scan sensors and the programming to analyze them in real time) or - if the "first person" is a future scientist, possibly himself (aided by super-computer software) generating the description long AFTER the primary experience from the scan recordings and analysis programs. It is important to note that as Myron likes to insist, the "third person perspective" is a **DESCRIPTION** where as the first person perspective is the event. Ergo ontologically distinct. But The "third person perspective" DESCRIBES what the brain is doing where the experience IS the brain's doing. There is no contrast and no conflict. We reduce fire to oxidation and thermodynamics. We describe it in extreme detail, in many cases known top to bottom. But we NEVER confuse our description, our chemical and thermodynamic equations and other descriptions, no matter how detailed with the fire itself. Likewise the first person experience is analogously fire. It is *the brain's doing" just as the flame of a burner is the doings of pumped methane and propane gas and atmospheric oxygen. Our knowledge and description doesn't change that ... though it allows us to move things around to our overall benefit. Likewise a "third person perspective" of a first person experience is a *description* of the brain's doing that doesn't change what the brain does .... or the "first person" experience it does. If comprehensive and expository it simply describes *how* that brain processing is perceived by the brain AS that experience. As a description, it in no way changes what which it describes ... but as with fire, the understanding may let us change things around in the future to our benefit. The problem comes ONLY in the incompetence of thinking that the "third person perspective" which should properly *describe* brain doings (asserted incompetently as "neuronal states") IS the identity being asserted. It isn't. It is the brain-doings that are the asserted identity. The *description* of and as a "third person perspective" could not be available until after the fact. (Note that the brain is re-entrant and degenerate. While the brain is, I surmise, arranged to achieve as much determinacy as feasible, it is both physically and computationally impossible to predict the whole of the evolution of an experience, particularly a prolonged one, before its eventuation. That is, in my surmise a good part of the evolutionary "why" (not how) we have consciousness. (Consciousness allows us to remember parts of the process path of an experience to reproduce or avoid such paths in the future). But that non-predictability enforces the absolute logical (and computational as "consciousness" lags events perceived therein) necessity that a *description* will follow and NEVER be identical with the transaction of an experience. Any "third person" - including re-presentation of an event with self aware knowledge of it - is necessarily a separate and later event than the experiential registry of the event. The brain process is the event; the description of it a separate one). | Either solution implicitly or explicitly presupposes the epistemic dichotomy between First- and Third-Person Perspective with respect to | mental and neuronal states: Yes it does. THERE IS NO THIRD PERSON PERSPECTIVE OF AN EXPERIENCE ... at least not until such time as our science is capable of more sophisticated scanning technology than is today considered possible, and computational power a million or so times above what is now available, and a rather complete knowledg of brain process. Which does not mean that a comprehensive, correct, and substantially complete description of how such generally happens cannot be derived from the intense researches, hard and subtle work now underway. We may never be able to generate a real time, even substantively delayed, elaboration of any *particular* experience as a "third person perspective" ... but there is no bar to us knowing in a general (and highly detailed so far as the particular brain processes and structures - or as a high level information flow schemata - way how it happens. But such knowledge is NOT and does NOT purport to be "the experience" being described. GET THIS STRAIGHT AND STOP BEING INCOMPETENT ABOUT REPRESENTATION AND INFORMATION SCOPE: A reductionist/identist claim asserts the existence of a proper DESCRIPTION of behaviors of matter in the brain according to the laws of physics and chemistry that *DESCRIBES* **HOW** ***THE BRAIN*** creates and perceives experiences from senses ongoing internal processes. The DESCRIPTION doesn't *change* what the brain does. The reductionist/identist claim is that the BRAIN doing as and what it does IS the perception of the experience (which IS the experience). The unitarian-materialist (TM by me, keep philosofuckulist hands off) does not claim that such description can be made at the instant of an experience ... or for that matter necessarily ever for any partucular real person real-event-experience. Only that A DESCRPTION consistent with what is (then) known of physics on up through chemistry, biology, neurology ... and information manipulation per computer science ... and the rest (hugely consistent with what is now known of physics and basic chemistry and CS at least) is possible in principle to account for any manifestation of a first person perspective. Note again and well: a description does NOT change what is described. | In the case of distinction between First- and Third-Person Perspective, their epistemic dichotomy is explicitly presupposed. Though | implicitly this remains also true in the case of subordination or elimination of the First-Person Perspective in favour of the Third-Person | Perspective because otherwise there would be no need for its resolution by either subordination or elimination. This is incompetence. Again there is no subordination or elimination. The "Third-Person-Perspective" if/when manifested and only exist after complete fact of the transaction of the "First-Person-Perspective". And the "Third-Person-Perspective" is a DESCRIPTION of the *BRAIN* transactions that SUBSUME, -- NOT SUBORDINATE -- and certainly not "eliminate" the "First-Person-Perspective. A correct and expository "Third-Person-Perspective" as a DESCRIPTION will DESCRIBE how brain process IS the event experiencce in "First-Person-Perspective". | The discussion about the ‘epistemic mind problem’ presupposes subsequently the epistemic framework of an dichotomy between First- and Third- | Person Perspective with respect to mental and neuronal states. The only "epistemic mind problem" here is that of how people who do not understand how to map the scope of representations assert knowledge and understanding of the subtleties of "mind". There is no more an "epistemic mind problem" than there is an "epistemic fire problem". Anyone who thinks reductive "knowledge how" reductions "eliminate" and thus cause some kind of "problem" is invited to test their theory to see whether a wholly reductive description of combustion eliminates the fire of their stove burner. Keep a first aid kit handy and somebody standing by to take you to the emergency room. On the other hand it seems that *belief* that there is an "epistemic mind problem" does tend to actually reduce at least the ability to USE what mind such believer may have. In some cases, it seems that the critical faculties of such mind, at least in context of consideration of connections between material and mind, are completely eliminated. Fortunately though a widespread pathogen a few of us seem to have some immunity.