[quote author=“JustThis”] I can follow that line of reasoning but it still leaves unanswered the question of thought and mental phenomena. Are they physical in nature or not? If they are non-physical then we have a source ‘outside’ the physical world that can effect the brain. My statement about circular reasoning had to with what would constitute proof of a non-physical force.
Yes, the reasoning that I gave does not explain the “how” of thinking, but it does offer up a reasonable basis for defining the “box” that thinking occurs in as residing firmly in this world.
[quote author=“JustThis”]It is also recognized that the brain changes in response to learning new things, forming new neural pathways. How does the physical brain change in response to new ideas (non-physical phenomenon}?
Well, I don’t believe that those ideas are non-physical, so I don’t see how the mechanism would be all that different. There are multiple different regions of the brain, and they seem to do different things. Some of them directly gather sensory information, and some of them are more or less isolated from any such “direct” contact with the outside world. All of them interact via the same electrochemical means, though. So, the sense data of the “outside” world, and novel thought data of the “inside” world, should be qually free to inform new pathways.
[quote author=“JustThis”] One question about the line of reasoning that you espouse, if the brain wanted a hamburger why would it form a thought about it, perceive the thought, form another thought about the action, perceive that thought and then go get the burger? Unless you want to say that the brain felt it wanted a burger, then decided to go get the burger and the thoughts that were formed meant nothing, they were just after the fact window dressing. If indeed this is the case then thinking is meaningless, pointless or purposeless because the brain has already made all the decisions before we consciously know about them.
First of all, let me be very clear about something: I do not know how or why the brain/mind work in these respects. I do enjoy theorizing about it, which I will do shortly, but all such speculations should be taken as just that.
That having been said, I believe that the mind (which the brain gives rise to) is very complicated. So, to talk about the brain wanting a hamburger is really to oversimplify things. The brain registers hunger, and a variety of things happen to make sure that hunger is properly addressed.
Stepping back, a moment, I would say that it is fairly obvious that the human mind is posessed of a fairly advanced capacity for simulation. It is an ability so innate that many of us do not even stop to think about it. I would contend, however, that this capacity for simulation is key to understanding why the brain would “waste” all this effort thinking about wanting a hamburger, instead of merely going to get it.
So, when hunger is registered, I would contend that the brain begins to run “simulations” of ways in which this hunger could be eliminated. In the end, after different aspects of the brain contribute to this debate, a course of action can be decided on.
Sometimes, I suppose, there will be no clear winner amongst the simulations. A choice must be made. Intuitively, I suspect that this need for a mental arbiter is what gives rise to the concept of “I” that each of us is so familiar with. I also suspect that many of the altered states that are experienced through meditation has to do with calming this process of simulate and arbitrate down, so that certain things can just be “experienced” without this filter.