Sunday, December 12

Mind Theory - human agency in and out of time.

To reiterate, Einstein’s general theory of relativity, as far as it relates to time, defines time only in terms of a reference frame comprising a combination of space and time. The simple example provided by the late Stephen Hawking, amongst many, was the example of the ping pong players engaging in a game within the confines of a railway carriage. The time taken for the ball to travel from one side of net on the table to the other, is unaffected by the speed of the train, but for an onlooker stationary on the station, peering through the trains window s as it passes by the time taken is reduced by the speed of the train. So that the reference frame is always the same, wherever one is in the universe, so that the concept of space time means you can’t talk about past present or future time. Of course there is something fundamentally flawed in that concept of space time because no allowance is provided for our existence in terms of a never ending series of NOWS. Einstein recognised this problem and ever since there has been any number of hypotheses advanced, but it remains an enduring mystery. The latest thinking is that maybe the very idea of space time has to be abandoned and favor some kind of deep ubiquitous consciousness. 


Einstein, who was immensely interested in philosophy, said that the problem of ‘NOW’ worried him. He explained his concerns  with the philosopher Rudolf Carnap. Einstein recognised the experience of NOW means something special, different from the past and future yet that difference does not and cannot occur within physics. He concluded such an experience cannot be grasped by science, which was a matter of painful but inevitable resignation for him. Human Being: In and Out of Time, Raymond Tallis page 123 “Seeing Ourselves”. 


The ideas courted ever since that there is a kind of natural order of things purely skirts around this problem. For instance, according to Tallis our body is not “at” the time it exists in the way I am at those times. My kidneys for instance are not in any way at a clock time, nor is “that” of being a cluster of true facts about the state of it, or the surrounding world, is in. The same applies to the brain.

Llinas on the other hand talks about a global signal to the brain and that temporal mapping generates cognition. He talks about the binding of sensory information into a single cognitive state that is implemented through the temporal coherence of inputs from specific and non-specific thalamic nuclei at the cortical level. This coincidence detection is the basis of temporal binding. Chapter 6 page 124 “ Eye of the Vortex”.  


Hence Llinas seeks to explain high order consciousness as a product of the mapping ability in the material brain, but makes no mention of the vexing issue concerning time as originally concerned Einstein, pondered over ever since and referenced by Tallis. 


Furthermore, philosopher Richard Rorty (Philosophy and the Mirror of Nature- Philosophy without Mirrors - page 373) argues we can’t see ourselves as a collective of facts.


Understanding the facts by referencing the likely source of the brain's cognitive functionality provides limited knowledge but fails entirely to explain our being in time. That is our uniqueness as humans as it makes it possible for us to see the world and ourselves interacting within it. Whatever limitations there are to our grasp of reality, consciousness is not explained simply by referencing higher level functionality within the brain without explaining how it works. Therein the idea of some kind of deep ubiquitous consciousness may be a possibility given the problems of time.  


However, this all leads one to the inescapable conclusion for the necessity of a self which will be covered in mind theory 4.