Friday, January 25, 2013
More on Churchland
Continuing from the previous post, in this article she also discusses free will in the context of self control. It is an adaptive mechanism not limited to humans. She said:
“When the very abstract question of free will is put in this context, I am no longer sure exactly what the question is. If it means can we have self-control, then obviously the answer is yes. If it means can we create a choice with no causal antedecent, in all probability the answer is no.”
I’m guessing there are those who make such a claim for the second type of free will, but I am not one of them. Hence I’m referring to it as a means of self control and executive or top-down decision making. She further notes that executive control is also a key part of social mores.
In this article on conscious and unconscious control she reiterates what Eagleman said in Incognito, that quite a bit of control is handled unconsciously. Like him she gave the example of skills once learned, how they then operate automatically. What she didn’t discuss was that those skills required conscious control in the learning process. The same goes for learning social mores or learning anything, for that matter. And that when we must learn new data the conscious control aspect again comes to the fore.
In the last section of the article (p. 346) she said:
“To be clear, we are not advancing the radical thesis that there is no such thing as consciousness or conscious control. The main point of this article is rather that although consciousness – for instance of goals and what the neo-Kantian would call ‘reasons’ – does sometimes have an important role in control, it is not required for control. Nonconscious control can be – and frequently is – exercised, and this control can be
every bit as genuine as the conscious variety.”
Of course it can, but she doesn’t focus on the conscious aspects of control because it is not part of her agenda. She then admits that research to date is scant on the interaction of conscious and unconscious control, and conscious control is not well understood. Well duh, no wonder if neuroscience researchers are agog with unconsciousness and too busy debunking consciousness. The good news is that there is an entire field called decision neuroscience that is examining the basis of conscious control. Yet we don’t hear that much about it, if at all, from the eliminative reductionist circles.
As to the issue of emergence, in this article she describes it as follows:
“By emergent property, I do not mean anything spooky or metaphysical. I merely mean that the property is a function of both the intrinsic properties of neurons in the network and the dynamics of their interactions. I mean it is a network property. The network provides the neural mechanism whereby the phenomenon is produced” (108).
Which is how I’ve been using it term, not as some disembodied Platonic ideal. Anyone who has read this blog at all knows I’ve railed against such idealism from the get go. Earlier in the article she notes that morality itself emerges from earlier structures but was an advance into network properties beyond the earlier structures (96).