Recent developments in the philosophy of mind have produced a body of work that clarifies issues regarding the relationship between brain and mind, the reduction of mental phenomena into the realms of biology, chemistry, and physics, and the causal relationships between intention, free will, and action. The concept of supervenience, originally articulated in the moral philosophy of G.E. Moore and R.M. Hare, has taken center stage in this work, and has led to precise, albeit controversial, statements of what we might believe or disbelieve about how the mind influences the brain, how the converse may be true, and how, perhaps, neither point of view may ultimately prevail.
Supervenience clearly delineates relationships between sets of properties, and can be applied to the mental and physical realms, providing a valuable conceptual framework. Simply put, one set of properties supervenes on a second set, if any two entities that are identical in the second set cannot differ in the first set. The key iss ecomes one of indiscernibility, which can be shown to be relevant to issues of ontological primacy, priority, and even explanation, while avoiding the historic pitfalls of searching for causality, identity, and even the infamous "reality" that has eluded scientists, theologists, and philosophers for ages. Certain arguments, for example, lead to the conclusion that there is, logically and scientifically, a basis for a unified field of consciousness, the existence of a shared Cartesian soul, and pockets of "free will" embedded within the chemical/biological substrate that we call the brain. Questions such as "can a machine be conscious" become approachable, as does the question "what is it to be conscious?"
It will also be seen that concepts from Tibetan Buddhist writing are relevant, and even helpful, when regarded from within this framework. In particular, we shall see that there is a crisis in our notion of the brain/mind relationship, and that zen insights may help us to find our way out of concptual cages of our own creation. ("How do you get the goose out of the bottle?" "There, it's out!")
These seemingly trivial concepts create the foundation of a systematic thought process that may become as important as the invention of the number "zero" was to mathematics, or the concept of "empty" was to chemistry (Oxygen was discovered by finding out when it was not present).
It thus becomes possible to ask whether EEG rhythms supervene on brain states and/or mind states, or whether these states supervene on EEG rhythms, and to put neurofeedback into a conceptual framework that clarifies and informs the relevant physiological and clinical data. The facts surrounding neurofeedback can provide important considerations for these studies and, in turn, philosophically precise thinking may become critical to the rigorous progress of future neurotheraputic thought. Thought experiments such as the "Star Trek" transporter problem ("Exactly who or what goes where when?") and the "Brain in a Bottle" ("prove to yourself that you are not a brain in a bottle") become more tractable as we examine our thought processes in a systematic and thorough manner.
It will be argued that there is a need for a new area of "high information physics" that has new causal laws and relationships, in much the same way that relativity theory, quantum mechanics, and high-energy physics introduced new laws that were invisible at the macroscopic level, but took profound hold at the microscopic and cosmologic levels.
This talk will describe the concepts of supervenience in the mind/body problem, and outline the strict reasoning process that characterizes modern philosophy of mind. In the same ways that insights from theoretical physics have had a dynamic interplay with the development of modern philosophical concepts, it will be seen that the new psychophysics, especially as embodied in the operant conditioning of the EEG, holds promise as a stimulating and informative conceptual soil upon which the philosophy of mind may find welcome support and nourishment. Ultimately, just as chemistry and physics have sent us to the moon and allowed us to put thinking machines into tiny chips of silicon, the new neurosciences may allow us to travel to other dimensions, find new realities (or the one we have been looking for all along), and perform the mental equivalent of a moon landing, all from within our own individual and collective minds.
Dr. Collura has over 30 years experience as a biomedical engineer and neurophysiologist. He has conducted clinical research and development and system design, in the areas of evoked potentials, microelectronics, human factors, EEG mapping for epilepsy surgery, and neurofeedback. His graduate work focused on the real-time measurement of visual and auditory evoked potentials, and relationships with selective attention in a vigilance task. He then spent 8 years with AT&T Bell Laboratories as a technical staff member and supervisor in the areas of integrated circuit technology, computer graphics, networking, and man/machine interfaces. He then served from 1988 to 1996 on the Staff of the Department of Neurology, Cleveland Clinic Foundation, where he conducted research and development in EEG mapping for epilepsy surgery, long-term EEG monitoring, and DC brain potentials. As a consultant to industry, he has designed software and hardware for computerized tomography, automated radiometry, and automated imaging. Since 1995, he has been founder and president of BrainMaster Technologies, Inc. He has published over 100 peer-reviewed journal articles, book chapters, abstracts, and papers. He has 2 patents and 3 patents pending, all in the areas of neurofeedback, electrode technology, and evoked potential methods and systems. His current interests focus on research and development of automated neurofeedback systems, evoked potential neurofeedback, and low-cost quantitative EEG. He is a licensed Professional Engineer in Ohio and Illinois, is a past board member of the International Society for Neuronal Regulation (ISNR), and is president-elect of the Neurofeedback Division of the Association for Applied Psychophysiology and Biofeedback (AAPB).
Other Products by tom collura
1) Neurophysics - A 21st Century Science of the Mind