2010.02.14 19:00 - What is this thing called, Mind?

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    The Guardian for this meeting was Calvino Rabeni. The comments are by Calvino Rabeni.

    I arrive, and after a few minutes a visitor shows up.  I've seen Lawrence Vyceratops 4 or 5 times before, in a number of good sessions.  My impression was of a careful contemplator and dialoguist.  This should be interesting, I think.


    Lawrence Vyceratops: Hello.
    Calvino Rabeni: Hi, Lawrence

    Calvino Rabeni: How are things in the life?
    Lawrence Vyceratops: Good. And you?
    Calvino Rabeni: Well, good too
    Calvino Rabeni: You have been to this group before, I know
    Lawrence Vyceratops: Yes. A few times, now.
    Calvino Rabeni: Are you getting to ... find something interesting in it, or whatever you came for :)
    Lawrence Vyceratops: I come to talk to people who are interested in the mind.
    Calvino Rabeni: :)
    Calvino Rabeni: Can I ask, then, what specifically about the topic of mind to you find most intriguing?
    Lawrence Vyceratops: Most people I talk to in RL are more concerned with video games and gadgets, mind you, I have gadgets too, but... you get my drift, I'm sure.
    Calvino Rabeni: Surely
    Lawrence Vyceratops: Well, the fact that humans have one and, yet, everyone is confused.
    Lawrence Vyceratops: ...and they are angry and violent, which is the more pressing problem.
    Calvino Rabeni: Yes, it seems, the mind was not designed ... to be clear and straightforward
    Lawrence Vyceratops: Perhaps, or there simply was a wrong turn, or the right turn was missed.
    Calvino Rabeni: There are many stories to account for it :)
    Calvino Rabeni: As if an explanation were needed ... of course this would be reassuring
    Lawrence Vyceratops: A reassuring comfort would be for an explanation to be seen by oneself.
    Calvino Rabeni: Like your example of the gadgets, perhaps, the intention of many is to study the mind in order to control or change it for some purpose
    Lawrence Vyceratops: And for many...
    Lawrence Vyceratops: Yes, I see a lot of that. Religion, philosophy, self-help, etc...
    Lawrence Vyceratops: But, we hardly look to understand what it is.
    Calvino Rabeni: It appears to be deeply important based on the amount of effort that has been put into it :)
    Calvino Rabeni: Yes true!
    Lawrence Vyceratops: Yes.
    Lawrence Vyceratops: Why do we look to change ourselves? Why do we seek spiritual growth, so to speak?
    Lawrence Vyceratops: Why do we look to become better before we realize what we are?
    Calvino Rabeni: Not all do, of course
    Calvino Rabeni: but your question makes me think, that it is important to have some kind of project to do while studying something
    Calvino Rabeni: in order to show its workings
    Lawrence Vyceratops: Yes.
    Calvino Rabeni: so having a positive fixit project might be useful during the study of mind in order to understand it
    Calvino Rabeni: Although, I think one could study the mind through useless things too :)
    Lawrence Vyceratops: Or, can the project be, let's discover what is there.?
    Calvino Rabeni: This is close to the idea of what this PlayAsBeing group is supposed to be about
    Calvino Rabeni: Let's discover what is there
    Calvino Rabeni: By playing with it

    Lawrence Vyceratops: Well, there are sights, sounds, thoughts, and time.
    A new visitor shows up.
    Calvino Rabeni: Hello Ripley
    Ripley Wiefel: Hello!
    Ripley Wiefel: What are you 2 up to!
    Ripley Wiefel: ?
    Ripley Wiefel:  (Comments removed for reasons apparent later)
    Calvino Rabeni: This is a place where people sit to have discussions about the nature of mind
    Lawrence Vyceratops: Hi, Ripley, we were just discussing the mind.
    Calvino Rabeni: but the new agers don't like it so they leave :)
    Ripley Wiefel: (Launches into good chat, but comments removed for reasons apparent later)
    Lawrence Vyceratops: Not too familiar with New Ager...
    Lawrence Vyceratops: Not philosophy, I don't think.
    Calvino Rabeni: No, neither really, it starts with simple awareness and observation of what is happening
    Ripley Wiefel: Is it a religion?
    Lawrence gets to the point, incisively...
    Lawrence Vyceratops: More like, looking at what and who we really, not just our perceptions of who we are, our "characters."
    Calvino Rabeni: There is not really a narrow paradigm
    Calvino Rabeni: Not religious, not dogmatic
    Ripley Wiefel: (comments removed for reasons apparent later)
    Lawrence Vyceratops: I wouldn't say self-help...
    Lawrence Vyceratops: We are not trying to "get better."
    Calvino Rabeni: That neither, unless one finds, that having awareness can be helpful to self :)
    Ripley Wiefel: (comments removed for reasons apparent later)
    Lawrence Vyceratops: We are simply discovering what is mind and life.
    Calvino Rabeni: We're more about questions, than answers and fixing things
    Ripley Wiefel: (comments removed for reasons apparent later)
    Calvino Rabeni: Perhaps some philosophers practice awareness,yes
    Lawrence Vyceratops: Hmm.. I don't know much philosophy, other than all the thousands of different forms of advice...
    Calvino Rabeni: Many spend more time thinking out their theories
    Ripley Wiefel: (comments removed for reasons apparent later)
    Calvino Rabeni: Love of philosophy - well I'd guess, loving something is a good motivation for doing it
    Calvino Rabeni: Earlier we were talking about "mind", but it could have easily be, "wisdom"
    Lawrence Vyceratops: Are you joining the talk, Ripley? Would you like to have a seat?
    Calvino Rabeni: Would you agree with that, Lawrence?
    Calvino Rabeni: Yes, that would be good, have a seat if you like
    Lawrence Vyceratops: I'm not sure, Calvino...
    Ripley Wiefel: (comments removed for reasons apparent later)
    Ripley Wiefel: It's good that you 2 are thinking! :)
    ... and even takes on the (lack of) privacy notice we guardians should give to newcomers - which I forgot, after the "what is this" explanation turned into a discussion.  Lawrence, dude, do we have a job for you!
    Lawrence Vyceratops: Do you know about the recording, publishing of the talks, Ripley?
    Ripley Wiefel: No.
    Calvino Rabeni: It is the way this place works
    Calvino Rabeni: there is a recorder, and whatever is said here, gets published on our wiki page
    Ripley Wiefel: Oh you publish it on the Net?
    Lawrence Vyceratops: Yes.
    Ripley Wiefel: Every word I say gets put there?
    Calvino Rabeni: Yes, so it is not a place for private talks :)
    Lawrence Vyceratops: I think so... I've only done this a few times...
    Calvino Rabeni: If you are not comfortable with that, you might not want participate
    Ripley Wiefel: (opts out of being recorded and leaves with a polite farewell remark)
    Calvino Rabeni: Thanks, Ripley
    Calvino Rabeni: A lot of people give their assent I noticed, some leave
    Calvino Rabeni: I'm not sure what I would think,confronted with the choice for the first time
    Lawrence Vyceratops: haha
    Calvino Rabeni: Where were we
    Lawrence Vyceratops: I believe we were talking about discovering what is there.
    Lawrence Vyceratops: As opposed to seeing a goal and then going to that.
    Calvino Rabeni: Yes, and I thought you might believe "wisdom" was a bit too far
    Lawrence Vyceratops: Perhaps. We have not gotten into that.
    Calvino Rabeni: Sure
    Lawrence Vyceratops: So, I said that some things that are there are sight, sounds, thoughts, time, etc...
    Calvino Rabeni: Anything to add to that list ?
    Lawrence Vyceratops: Well, there are sensations, emotions, memories...
    Lawrence Vyceratops: We can look at these things to discover what is there.
    Calvino Rabeni: In a word, appearances ?
    Calvino Rabeni: Anyway, plenty to "work" with
    Lawrence Vyceratops: Can you clarify?
    Lawrence Vyceratops: Yes.
    Calvino Rabeni: You seem pretty principled in you approach to thinking about mind.
    Lawrence Vyceratops: I have been thinking for a long time. hahaha ;)
    Calvino Rabeni: :)

    Calvino Rabeni: Have you found any schemes systems or methodologies (or paradigms) influenced you in the study of mind?
    Lawrence Vyceratops: Oh, I have discovered many distractions! haha
    Haha, indeed :)
    Calvino Rabeni: Not a beginner at it
    Calvino Rabeni: Nor stuck in the systems along the way....
    Lawrence Vyceratops: I have been questioning as long as I can remember.
    Lawrence Vyceratops: Never had a firm grasp of religion or philosophy...
    Calvino Rabeni: Just as well :)
    Lawrence Vyceratops: Too esoteric for me... very imaginative.
    Branch point ... which road to take?
    Calvino Rabeni: You might have invented your own then
    Calvino Rabeni: A principle of minimalism might be part of it?
    Lawrence Vyceratops: I hope not! haha
    Lawrence Vyceratops: Well, I suppose you could say that.
    Calvino Rabeni: What happens when we learn something about mind, or think we do?
    Lawrence Vyceratops: What do you mean?
    Calvino Rabeni: Perhaps it becomes part of a "system"?
    Calvino Rabeni: Then during studying, a theory is being constructed
    Lawrence Vyceratops: The mind is apparently a system.
    Calvino Rabeni: If not careful, we get stuck in the system
    Lawrence Vyceratops: You mean when you study what someone else says?
    Calvino Rabeni: Yes, or even, making up one's own understanding
    Lawrence Vyceratops: Or do you mean our habit to do that?
    Calvino Rabeni: A conceptual system for interpreting experience and assigning meaning - whether self-invented or acquired
    Lawrence Vyceratops: Yes. I think the confusion lies in the many different interpretations of experiences.
    Calvino Rabeni: It is a basic problem - the mind is a system that tries to study itself
    Lawrence Vyceratops: Confusion in communication.
    Lawrence Vyceratops: Yes.
    Lawrence Vyceratops: It does seem to be a problem.
    Calvino Rabeni: Communication between 2 minds? Yes, that can be confusing
    Calvino Rabeni: but also, a mind being consistent with itself
    Calvino Rabeni: confusing also
    Lawrence Vyceratops: I often bring up the importance of defining terms.
    Lawrence Vyceratops: For instance, what do we mean when we say mind? We began to explore it, saying it is sight and sound and so forth...
    Lawrence Vyceratops: What is mind?
    Calvino Rabeni: I suppose I think, defining might be useful insofar as it shows new things by failing to be complete
    Calvino Rabeni: There's often a kind of struggle between the "definers" and the ones who think that is somehow limiting
    Lawrence Vyceratops: Yes, our knowledge is limited, but we can describe, and then seeing for ourselves makes it complete. So it is important that we see.
    Calvino Rabeni: It is a basic critique of language, probably a familiar one to you?
    Lawrence Vyceratops: I'm not sure I firmly grasp the entire concept you are describing...
    Calvino Rabeni: Personally I don't think, descriptions have any chance of completeness
    Calvino Rabeni: Any description is a temptation to see a small part of reality
    Lawrence Vyceratops: No, the description is not complete. Only seeing for oneself makes the understanding complete.
    Calvino Rabeni: and stay within it, or to see its limits
    Calvino Rabeni: "Seeing for oneself" - seeing what or in what way?
    Calvino Rabeni: I am wondering about the idea of understanding being complete
    Calvino Rabeni: Not sure how that can happen
    Lawrence Vyceratops: When someone uses a term and another attempts to understand that person's meaning, we must see for oneself to have understanding.
    Lawrence Vyceratops: Otherwise, we might have two different understandings.

    Calvino Rabeni: And is "seeing for oneself" enough to reach completeness in some way?
    Calvino Rabeni: And a related question, can two "minds" have the same understanding?
    Lawrence Vyceratops: Completeness in communication.
    Calvino Rabeni: I believe in "deeper" communication, but not sure what "completeness" would be
    Lawrence Vyceratops: I'm sure. Like for instance, you can point to one of the cushion and we both can see it. That understanding apparently complete, because we both are sitting on cushions.
    Calvino Rabeni: In a word, but the feelings and values and other perspectives of "cushion" might be different - the subjectivities
    Lawrence Vyceratops: That is where confusion comes in! ;)
    Calvino Rabeni: Does communication depend on making an agreement about the limits of "objects" and what is / is not part of them?
    Lawrence Vyceratops: See, without that, we can see that a cushion is so that we can sit more comfortably. No more meaning is needed.
    Lawrence Vyceratops: Well, surely. Otherwise, we are talking of two different things.
    Lawrence Vyceratops: Also, we must be objective. We both can't agree to some faniciful imagination about the cushion, that is not true.
    Calvino Rabeni: So it seems, first, kind of arbitrary around the edges, and second, to involve a fair amount of prior agreements to be in place.
    Lawrence Vyceratops: We must be concerned with truth. Truth being, what we both can see, without imagining something to be there that is not actually there.
    Calvino Rabeni: Anyway, perhaps certain aspects of experience are not easily handled by agreeing about the nature of objects
    Lawrence Vyceratops: But, in the case of a cushion, surely that is something we can agree on, without subjectivity.
    Lawrence Vyceratops: We can both say that the fountain is there, in front of us, spewing water. That is evident.
    Calvino Rabeni: The conventional behavior is to assume, I would say, agree that it is evident.
    Calvino Rabeni: But, it leaves out, one might think, most of the intersting aspects of that object.
    Lawrence Vyceratops: Yes, so can we see mind in the same way?
    Lawrence Vyceratops: How do you mean?
    Calvino Rabeni: I don't know, maybe if we tried it, it would work :)
    Calvino Rabeni: What's interesting about the fountain?
    Lawrence Vyceratops: That would be nice. haha
    Calvino Rabeni: What meaning does it have?
    Lawrence Vyceratops: Well, we could easily form opinions of what is interesting about the fountain.
    Calvino Rabeni: Yes, easily - and even communicate them
    Calvino Rabeni: now, it might be, that would actually create new objective perceptions?
    Lawrence Vyceratops: Yes, but we are speaking of looking at the mind, to recognize what is there. Can it be as easy as looking at the fountain to see it there also?
    Calvino Rabeni: Or on the other hand, subjectivities to be disregarded?
    Calvino Rabeni: I'd guess no, but you may have another idea or even an experience of that.
    Calvino Rabeni: Of course I woudl be interested in a report about that
    Lawrence Vyceratops: Well, we can say a few things about mind and explore it together.
    Lawrence Vyceratops: To see if we agree about it.
    Lawrence Vyceratops: If we do not agree, then we look harder.
    Calvino Rabeni: Unless taken literally well, maybe it is difficult to "see" the fountain together
    Calvino Rabeni: Maybe it is just as easy / difficult as to "see" mind.
    Calvino Rabeni: But traditionally, people find "mind" more confusing
    Lawrence Vyceratops: Well, we can see the fountain, it's surface, the water spouting...
    Calvino Rabeni: And don't seem to agree on any definition
    Lawrence Vyceratops: We can point to its placement.
    Lawrence Vyceratops: Yes, that's why we should make clear our definitions.
    Calvino Rabeni: Things we think can be measured, in principle
    Lawrence Vyceratops: We can say the mind is "there," but if we are looking somewhere else, it's no good...
    Calvino Rabeni: But what about the qualitative aspects of its appearance
    Lawrence Vyceratops: First, what is mind?
    Lawrence Vyceratops: Before it's qualities, what is it? Can we point to it?
    Lawrence Vyceratops: Where does mind lie?
    Lawrence Vyceratops: Is this body mind?
    Calvino Rabeni: If you see where it lies, we can see if I can see it there also

    Lawrence Vyceratops: We generally refer to the body, or somewhere in the body, as the mind, or containing mind.
    Lawrence Vyceratops: Is the body also mind?
    Calvino Rabeni: A kind of metaphor - a vessel like idea
    Lawrence Vyceratops: The nervous system extends throughout the body. The nervous systems senses. Does the mind also sense?
    Lawrence Vyceratops: Is the nervous system mind?
    Calvino Rabeni: It seems somewhat futile to try to identify the mind with objects; yet I also cannot accept a completely disembodied mind.
    Lawrence Vyceratops: There are also thoughts. Are thoughts a product of mind or do thoughts make up the mind, or are our thoughts mind?
    Calvino Rabeni: Nice question
    Calvino Rabeni: That is like - are the ripples a product of water, or do ripples make up water, or are ripples the same as water
    Calvino Rabeni: It seems, mind is an activity associated with thoughts
    Calvino Rabeni: sometimes....
    Calvino Rabeni: But then so are ripples, perhaps
    Lawrence Vyceratops: Do we generally have the impression that mind is an object that is active?
    Calvino Rabeni: Many people have very different impressions
    Lawrence Vyceratops: Or is it, as you say, that mind is activity?
    Lawrence Vyceratops: So, the activity of mind is not actually of mind, but is mind?
    Calvino Rabeni: I'd say, inseparable, but not identical
    Calvino Rabeni: so probably, neither ofthose choices seem strictly true
    Lawrence Vyceratops: So, what is meant by "my mind" or "your mind"?
    Calvino Rabeni: What if it's just a social convention - would this be acceptable :)
    Lawrence Vyceratops: I'm not sure what is meant by social convention...
    Lawrence Vyceratops: Could we say, yet, that mind is an accumulation of thoughts and ideas?
    Calvino Rabeni: Kind of like saying "good evening, how are you ... good, thanks" without "good" meaning anything definite
    Calvino Rabeni: No I don't think mind is an accumulation of thoughts and ideas, that seems somewhat circular
    Lawrence Vyceratops: Hmmm... We'd have to look deeper.
    Calvino Rabeni: because it will prove difficult then to say what the "ideas" are
    Calvino Rabeni: So we can't stop there :)
    Lawrence Vyceratops: So, what are ideas? Are ideas, a system of thought?
    Calvino Rabeni: How could ideas accumulate? In some kind of container?
    Lawrence Vyceratops: Yes, I see.
    Calvino Rabeni: The mind is not like a book or a computer device
    Calvino Rabeni: Not a vessel or repository
    Lawrence Vyceratops: The brain is, however.
    Calvino Rabeni: Perhaps not
    Lawrence Vyceratops: The nervous system is like a computer.

    Lawrence Vyceratops: Were we saying earlier that the mind is a system?
    Calvino Rabeni: That's a popular idea lately, that the brain is like a computer
    Lawrence Vyceratops: In the sense that it runs like a programmed computer.
    Calvino Rabeni: Yes, people somehow have accepted that as if it were a reasonable idea :)
    Lawrence Vyceratops: Is it reasonable?
    Calvino Rabeni: How they got to where that makes sense, is perhaps nearly as interesting a study as "mind"
    Lawrence Vyceratops: Perhaps. :)
    Calvino Rabeni: Well, not quite
    Calvino Rabeni: But it might tread some of same topics
    Calvino Rabeni: Who "wrote my program"?
    Lawrence Vyceratops: So, earlier, did we say that mind was a system?
    Lawrence Vyceratops: I would say that human DNA, society, and accumulated perspectives have written the program, or conditioned us.
    Calvino Rabeni: The idea of a system has its uses perhaps, but its limits also
    Lawrence Vyceratops: Also, we mustn't forget environment...
    Calvino Rabeni: Perhaps we are "conditioned" but not programmed
    Lawrence Vyceratops: Perhaps programmed is not the best term.
    Calvino Rabeni: Yes, that's the problem with the computer metaphor
    Calvino Rabeni: it assumes an outside programmer, and complete control
    Lawrence Vyceratops: I see your point.
    Calvino Rabeni: neither of which seems to be the case with DNA, society, etc.
    Calvino Rabeni: Even the accepted ideas of what DNA does are unreasonably mechanistic
    Lawrence Vyceratops: Well, if we are conditioned to particular behavior, and if that behavior includes inventing a computer, then perhaps "programmed" could be a valid concept.
    Calvino Rabeni: There is no one who "wrote the code"
    Lawrence knows the magic words... "let's look deeper".
    Lawrence Vyceratops: But, let's look deeper. What have we agreed that is accurately descriptive of mind?
    Calvino Rabeni: Influenced perhaps, but still, "programmed" has fairly rigid definitional boundaries, compared to life
    Calvino Rabeni: "We" meaning, conventions in wide use?
    Lawrence Vyceratops: No, you and I.
    Calvino Rabeni: OK
    Calvino Rabeni: I don't sense an accurate description has been agreed upon
    Calvino Rabeni: Do you?
    Lawrence Vyceratops: haha That's why I asked.. ;)
    Calvino Rabeni: So, no agreement :) Does that make the pursuit futile?
    Lawrence Vyceratops: What is doing the thinking of an individual?
    Calvino Rabeni: BY conventional definition, the "mind"
    Lawrence Vyceratops: haha
    Calvino Rabeni: But that is a circular definition
    Lawrence Vyceratops: What do we understand it to be?
    Calvino Rabeni: Not that circular definitons are bad
    Lawrence Vyceratops: Is it the brain?
    Calvino Rabeni: No
    Calvino Rabeni: Let us try for a positive definition then.
    Lawrence Vyceratops: Ok.
    Calvino Rabeni: Your question, you first :)
    Lawrence Vyceratops: Oh...
    Calvino Rabeni: heh hen
    Calvino Rabeni: I have one in mind, and promise not to modify it if I hear yours first :)
    Lawrence Vyceratops: Could we see that mind is a flow of thoughts?
    Lawrence Vyceratops: ... a movement of thoughts through time?

    Lawrence Vyceratops: Therefore, could mind be seen as a process, as opposed to an object? Perhaps an object of perspective?
    Ah, I like that formulation.  But I'm still being somewhat coy about it.
    Calvino Rabeni: I'm following so far - have you said all you want for now?
    Lawrence Vyceratops: Well, could it be that mind is simply the process of "moving" thoughts?
    Lawrence Vyceratops: Movement of thoughts... ideas, concepts, etc...
    Calvino Rabeni: I like that definition - more than any of the more commonly heard notions of mind
    Calvino Rabeni: In the future we may even take it as a point of departure, leaving the "object-like" metaphors behind.
    Lawrence Vyceratops: So, we can be in agreement that mind is the system of thought?
    Calvino Rabeni: Agreement yes, but somewhat relative to better agreement about "system" and "thoughts" - but yes it seems a step in the right direction of understanding "mind"
    Lawrence Vyceratops: Ah, good :) Good that we are walking together, so to speak...
    Calvino Rabeni: And actually, I want to assert that agreement would be "agreeable to me" :)
    Lawrence Vyceratops: haha
    Calvino Rabeni: People like agreement, apparently, else the word would not be used for both purposes
    Lawrence Vyceratops: So, from here, can we discern what awareness is?
    Calvino Rabeni: Well, I had promised to state a definition of mind, earlier
    Lawrence Vyceratops: Oh, yes.
    Calvino Rabeni: It's pretty abstract - I'd say that mind is what we call a certain pattern of correlation between processes that occur that are distributed in space and time.
    Calvino Rabeni: It's a somewhat fuzzy definition I know
    Calvino Rabeni: but it emphasizes pattern and correlation and time
    Calvino Rabeni: It's difficult to nail down, as people noticed with the similar question "what is life"?
    Lawrence Vyceratops: I am unclear...
    I was hoping we'd follow up on that, but we switched to "thoughts" as an object of inquiry.  I thought that could be a good, more focused topic, but, I heard a RL voice calling and needed to "wind down."

    Calvino Rabeni: I think my defintion might correlate with yours, if the notion of "thoughts" is taken somewhat broadly
    Lawrence Vyceratops: Well, can we nail down thoughts? What are they? Can we agree on what and where it is?
    Nice job of refocusing - it's quite tempting to go another cycle, but...
    Calvino Rabeni: Hmmm, unfortunately I am called to dinner - but I would be happy to pick up that question in the future.
    Lawrence Vyceratops: Alrighty. It was nice talking with you. :)
    Calvino Rabeni: I think, it will be easier to focus on than "mind"
    Calvino Rabeni: Sure, glad you stopped by.
    Lawrence Vyceratops: Thank you. Glad to meet you as well.
    Calvino Rabeni: Hopefully, see you another time to continue the questioning.
    Calvino Rabeni: Bye for now.
    Lawrence Vyceratops: Bye.
    The time passed as usual and the true nature of mind barely scratched.  The interesting thing is, though, that it will be possible to remember any benefits of this session, if I encounter Lawrence again.  That reminds me of a cognitive effect I've noticed - the availability of the logs, even if I don't actually go back and read them,  affects my memory in a positive way.  That seems like a "mind" effect that doesn't quite fit the standard notion of "information."  So what IS this thing called, Mind?
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