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Posted by Aurino Souza on September 6, 2002 15:38:23 UTC

Hi Kyle,

I now took some time to think about your posts and here is what I have to say. I'll take a clue from one particular paragraph in your first post as it not only contains the essence of the problem, it also creates a problem for the rest of your argument.

" But the point remains : As neurophysiological (and pyschological) research is accumulated, the less valuable the purely philosophical theories of language become. We now understand the rough (neurophysiological) architecture of consciousness itself! Almost all the pathways and processes! "

Hah! Here's the catch! I couldn't have come up with a better example of the problem myself. Please think very carefully about this:

Science has had enormous success coming up with models for natural phenomena. Much of that sucess, scientists say, is due to acceptance of the scientific method. I have no problem with that. But while the emphasis on empiricism demanded by the scientific method is laudable, establishing the objective validity of a scientific model is just half the work. What the scientific model, as it stands today, misses completely is the fact that once you came up with a working idea, you have to communicate it to others. A scientific theory that can only be understood by its author is useless, I'm sure no one will dispute that. And if you agree with that, you must also agree that effective communication should be as much a goal for science as experimental validation. More so, in fact, as communication is more important to science than science is to communication. Communication can happen without science, the reverse is not true!

It is clear to me that an understanding of communication should come before any attempt at communicating a scientific fact. That is, to try and come up with a scientific theory for communication is like asking a dog to catch his tail. It can't be done, but for as long as you mindlessly chase it you won't be able to understand why.

And so it is that communication must be dealt with as an abstract problem before we can use it to communicate scientific theories, including theories about the role played by the brain in communication.

What is our most successful science? I dare say it is physics. And why is physics so successful? Because, by the time we started to tackle it seriously, a very effective language already existed in which to express its theories. That language is called mathematics. If we had as powerful a language in which to express our knowledge of biology, creationism would be as popular as the Flat Earth Society. As it happens, biology is expressed in English, and that leaves room for all sorts of misinterpretations and misunderstandings, even amongst biologists themselves.

So my point is, before we can build good theories, we must build good languages in which to express those theories. Math is a good language for science. English is not.

" And I make that claim knowing full well that it seems to conflict with several ontological models – ones that reject ‘consciousness’ as a purely mechanistic/ naturalistic process, ie. we have a ‘soul’ or that consciousness (ie. our existence) is too awesome and beautiful a thing to be simply mechanistic in origin. Although I do actually subscribe to the former view, I don’t think that mapping consciousness in the brain explicitly eliminates the latter view, so neurophysiology still leaves room for the dualists (and the concept of ‘soul’...) "

Now here you touched on something absolutely fascinating for me. If you look at the structure of all human languages, such as English, almost all meaningful statements require three elements: subject, verb, and object. And that means one thing: any meaningful theory about anything, including reality, which is expressed in a human language, must necessarily be dualistic in one way or another. The focus of dualism changes, matter-energy, body-soul, body-brain, organic-inorganic, space-time, man-machine, and so on and on, but the fact remains that monism is linguistically unattainable.

Think about all that, and you'll see how important it all is.

Thanks for your comments,


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