Notes Toward a New Foundation of Knowledge

Daniel Alroy

2016 September 24

1.

Identifying the most basic assumption. It has been recently found that humans possess innate and universal mental faculties, including sensation, cognition, and emotion. These finding are the direct opposite of most basic assumption that underlies theories of knowledge for the last 300 years. John Locke introduced that empirically false assumption (1689) postulating that sensations are imported into the brain from sensory receptors, none innate. Locke concluded that the brain of the newborn is like a blank slate (tabula rasa). There have been three major theories of knowledge that are based on the tabula rasa assumption since Locke: Empiricism, Physicalism, and the current computer metaphor.

2.

Empiricism. Present day Empiricism is based on David Hume’s extension of Locke’s tabula rasa assumption to cognition. Hume concluded that humans do not, and cannot, possess knowledge of the world prior to experience. Emanuel Kant rejected the tabula rasa assumption, and especially its extension to cognition. Present-day neuroscience shows that humans do possess knowledge about the world prior to experience, proving Kant right in this regard.

3.

Physicalism. In the 1920’s a group known as the Vienna Circle introduced Physicalism – currently the dominant theory of knowledge. Physicalism is based on Locke’s tabula rasa assumption, as well as on Hume’s extension of it to cognition. Physicalism defines existence as physical. It denies that a non-physical mind exist, but concedes that that a non-physical mind may be a causally inert epiphenomenal by-product of brain function.

4.

The computer metaphor. The advent of the general-purpose digital electronic computer have shifted the view of reality from being physical to being computational. The universe, evolution, an organism, the brain and the cell are now interpreted as computational entities or processes. While Physicalismpresumes that the mind cannot do anything that the brain cannot, the computer metaphor presumes that the mind cannot do anything that the computer cannot. There is a significant difference between these two denials. In physics structure determines function, in computers function is severed from structure: a given function can be realized on computers of different hardware design. Once the assumption that the brain is “nothing but” a biological information processor, then it follows that mental states can be realized in brains of different anatomies, as well as on non-biological computers. In conclusion, Physicalism takes the position that the brain is necessary but the mind is not. The computer metaphor goes further, claiming that neither is necessary.

5.

Recent developments. The direct electrical stimulation of the brains of children born deaf evokes sensation of sound. It proves that the sensation of sound is innate and evoked by the brain. Put differently, sound is not received from the ears or from air vibration through the ears. The same is true for all sensations. Thus, the tabula rasa assumption has proved false. Current theories of knowledge, which are based on the empirically false tabula rasa assumption, are no longer tenable.

6.

Sociology of knowledge considerations. Max Planck observed that it takes a generational transition before a new paradigm is accepted. In the instant case, it would not take that long. Before the end of the current decade cortical visual prostheses that have been developed for persons who lost their vision would prove equally effective for children born blind. It would prove that the sensation of light is not received from the eyes or from electromagnetic radiation through the eyes. The shocking realization that the sensation of light is an innate and private would make the reconstruction of the foundation of knowledge an immediate concern.

7.

Toward a dawn of new day. It is now necessary to replace the tabula rasaassumption by its direct opposite. This would be the most basic change in the foundation of knowledge since that empirically false assumption was introduced some 300 years ago. The scientific, technological, epistemological, ethical and ontological implications would be vast. Making explicit these implications is a challenge. Undertaking this challenge represents a unique opportunity for the philosophic community to gain its rightful place in advancing the knowledge enterprise.

Y.

IMAGINING A SENSATION SELECTIVELY ACTIVATES THE BRAIN

 

Y1

Illusory or dreamed sensations. Seeing appetizing food selectively activates brain loci in the gustatory cortex that evoke taste sensations. Auditory illusions or hallucinations selectively activate the auditory cortex. Dreaming in color selectively activates the color-specific area V4a in the visual cortex.

Y2

Top-down attention. Similarly, top-down attention to a given submodality element of sensation selectively activates the neural clusters within the corresponding submodality-specific cortical area that evoke it.

Y3

Imagining a voluntary behavioral act. When a person performs a voluntary behavioral act, the related brain areas are selectively activated, including Brodmann areas 8, 6, and 4 (the planning, premotor, and motor areas). It was discovered that these brain areas are also selectively activated when that behavioral act is imagined.

Y4

Brain-Computer Interfaces (BCIs). The fact that imagined action activates brain areas that are activated when the action is performed is the basis for providing people paralyzed from the neck down with several interfaces to perform actions such as the activation of a mechanical arm or the control of a mechanical chair. A bundle of nearly one hundred electrodes is implanted in a cortical motor area. These electrodes detect the information that activates the muscles to perform the desired action. Then, a computer identifies the intended action and activates the appropriate servomechanisms.

Y5

Mental Causation. Exercise of the imagination is mental not physical. The activated brain is physical. Thus, the successful use of BCI by people paralyzed from the neck down proves that the mind affects the brain and behavior.

Z.

SOME IMPLICATIONS OF IMAGINED STIMULI

 

Z1

Epistemological Consequences. Exercise of the imagination is mental not physical. The activated brain is physical. Thus, the successful use of BCI by people paralyzed from the neck down proves that the mind affects the brain and behavior.

Z2

Ontological Consequences. The causal efficacy of the mental points to the existence of a deeper level of reality, which is a common denominator of both the phenomenal and the physical. The present search for a Theory of Everything excludes the phenomenal. As such it is inherently incomplete and therefore would not be of everything. The interaction of the phenomenal and the physical in the human brain is the natural place to begin looking for that deeper level of reality.

Z3

On the relation of mental causation and free will. The question whether or not we can have free will is conditioned on the acceptance that the non-physical mind affects the brain and behavior. Physicalism defines existence as physical and the non-physical mind, if it exists, as causally inert (by definition). This basic tenet makes it pointless for Physicalists to entertain the question of free will. We have found that the mind does affect brain and behavior. Hence, humans can be held responsible for their conduct.

Z4

Scientific Consequences

 

Z4.1

Identifying submodality-specific cortical areas. Present-day neuroscience has identified modality-specific cortical areas. But, in some cases it has not identified the submodality-specific areas. For example, some color areas of the visual cortex have been identified while brightness has not.

Z4.2

Using imagined stimuli to identify brain loci of interest. Having conscious and awake subjects in a functional magnetic resonance imaging machine (fMRI) imagine specific sensations would significantly increase the activity of the downstream neural clusters that evoke that sensation. Consider the following examples.

Z4.3

Imagining submodality elements of visual sensation. Imagining motion in a particular direction will selectively activate the cortical column in V5/MT for that corresponding direction specificity. submodality-specific cortical area cause central achromatopsia – complete color blindness, which leaves the sensation of light and dark intact. The cortical locus of the sensation of light and dark has not yet been identified. One simple way to identify this area is the following. Direct a person who has been placed in an fMRI to imagine looking at bright source of light. It would selectively increase the activation level of the part of the visual cortex that evokes the sensation of brightness, and thus identify its loci.

Z4.5

Imagining submodality elements of taste. The simplest way to identify the downstream, gustatory submodality areas is to put a healthy person in an fMRI and have them imagine each specific taste: sweet, bitter, salty, umami, and sour. We assume the primary cortex will not significantly increase its activity while the areas that evoke each sensation will.

Z4.6

Imagining submodality elements of auditory pitch. The sensation of any auditory pitch is evoked by the auditory cortex, in an area that is downstream from the primary auditory cortex A1. That area has not been identified yet. As in the case of identifying submodality elements of taste basic taste that area can be identified by having a musician in an fMRI imagine the sensation of a given auditory pitch, such as middle A (440Hz). This would selectively increase the activation of the part of the non-primary auditory cortex that evokes that particular pitch.

Z4.7

Locked-in Syndrome. A person with locked-in syndrome is unable to communicate. Imagining a particular sensation or percept activates a corresponding brain locus. This makes it possible for some communication with a person with locked-in syndrome by telling them for “yes” to imagine sweet taste, and for “no” imagine bitter. It is interesting to find if the number of alternatives could be increased to that of the letters of the alphabet.

Z4.8

Identifying cortical locus that evokes the sensation of light. Anne Roe and associates (Roe AW et al 2005) identified visual area V2 as containing cells that produce brightness illusion. As in the case of imagining, dreaming, or having an illusion involves activating the same brain loci that normally evokes that sensation. Therefore, the cells that Anne Roe identified in V2 evoke the sensation of brightness. This can be tested by using fMRI to scan the visual cortex of a person who is instructed to imagine looking at a bright source of light. That would identify the loci of cells in visual area V2 that manifest selective increased activation. Subject to further confirmation, said identified cells evoke the sensation of light.

 

Extended version

2016 September 20

A.

INNATE CONSCIOUS STATES – MILESTONES IN DISCOVERY

 

A1

Galileo Galilei. “…Hence I think that tastes, odors, colors and so on are no more than names so far as the objects in which we place them is concerned, and that they reside only in consciousness.” Letter to the illustrious and very reverend Don Virginio Cesarini. The Assayer in Discoveries and Opinions. p. 274. 1623/1957.

A2

Rene Descartes. Descartes spent some eight years in Leiden, in the Netherlands dissecting brains. He did not observe any qualitative difference in what is transmitted from one type of sensory receptor to the brain compared to that of any other type of sensory receptor. Descartes therefore concluded that the qualitative diversity of experience is evoked in the brain (1644/1955). These conclusions became known as The doctrine of innate ideas. Roger Sperry (see A8 below) reached virtually the same conclusions based on evidence available to him. Present-day neuroscience has proved this Descartes/Sperry thesis correct.

A3

Isaac Newton. Newton was an avid student of Descartes’ analytic geometry. The quotation below suggests that Newton was also acquainted with Descartes’s conclusion that sensations are innate. In Opticks (1704) Newton states that color and sound are not physical properties, but instead are evoked by the nervous system (the “Sensorium”) writing: “And if at any time I speak of Light and Rays as coloured or endued with Colours, I would be understood to speak not philosophically and properly, but grossly, and according to such Conceptions as vulgar People in seeing all these Experiments would be apt to frame. For the Rays, to speak properly are not coloured. In them there is nothing else than a certain Power and Disposition to stir up a Sensation of this or that Colour. For as Sound in a Bell or musical String, or other sounding Body, is nothing but a trembling Motion, and in the Air nothing but motion propagated from the Object, and in the Sensorium ‘tis a Sense of that Motion under the Form of Sound; so Colours in the Object are nothing but a Disposition to reflect this or that sort of Rays more copiously than the Rest; in the Rays are nothing but the Dispositions to propagate this or that Motion into the Sensorium, and in the Sensorium they are Sensations of those Motions under the Form of Colours.”

A4

Charles Darwin. Heritability is one of the three basic tenets of Darwin’s theory of evolution (1859). In The Expression of the Emotions in Man and Animals (1872) Darwin extended the notion of heritability from physical attributes to behavioral and mental capacities.

A5

James Clerk Maxwell. “Colour is a mental science” (1872).

 

A6

Language. The discovery of cortical areas specialized for speech production (Broca 1861) and comprehension (Wernicke 1874) established the existence of these innate and universal complex cognitive mechanisms. It implies the existence of a universal language mechanism that is involved in learning any historical language. Noam Chomsky in his book Syntactic Structures (1955) was the first to make this fact explicit. Steven Pinker further elaborated that thesis in his book The Language Instinct: How The Mind Creates Languages(2010) describing language as an innate “hard-wired” capacity.

A7

Erwin Schrödinger. In Mind and Matter (1958) Schrödinger states “The sensation of colour cannot be accounted for by the physicist’s objective picture of light waves .”

A8

Roger Sperry. In Neurology and the Mind Body Problem (1952) Sperry observed that the input from the senses is qualitatively homogenous. He therefore concluded that the qualitative aspect is the stimulated target in the brain. The direct stimulation (e.g. electrical) of a modality-specific cortical area of a conscious and awake person would evoke a sensation of that sensory modality: visual sensation by stimulating the visual cortex, sensation of sound by stimulating the auditory cortex, and sensation of taste by stimulating the gustatory cortex. Put differently, the Sperry thesis implies that sensations are not received from the sense or from the external world from the senses.

A9

DNA, the heritability molecule. The discovery of the structure of DNA (Watson & Crick 1953) proved it to be the biological information molecule, which is involved in replication and the transmission of biological information between generations.

A10

Carl G. Jung. “It is almost absurd prejudice to suppose that existence can be only physical. As a matter of fact, the only form of existence of which we have immediate knowledge is psychic (i.e. in the mind). We might as well say, on the contrary, that physical existence is a mere inference, since we know of matter only in so far as we perceive psychic images mediated by the senses” (1975).

A11

The experience of a limb in persons born without it. Persons who lose a limb commonly report that they continue to experience sensations, including pain, in the lost limb. The tabula rasa assumption is that the phantom limb phenomenon is brought about by endogenous stimuli of experiences obtained before the limb was lost. Ronald Melzack (1997) examined persons that were born without a limb that reported sensations in the limb they never had and concluded that those somatic sensations are innate. The development and use of MRI imaging finally made it possible to confirm the described somatic sensations by imaging the somatosensory cortex of such persons (Brugger et al. 2000).

A12

de Broglie, Louis. de Broglie was the first scientist in modern times to recognize that the sensation of light is evoked by the brain and is not an attribute of electromagnetic radiation. InMind and Brain John Eccles presents a quote by de Broglie: “We clearly understand how, for instance, light may be collected by our eye, act on the retina, induce in our optic nerve an electrical influx which excites certain nerve cells in our brain, but the transformation of these purely physical phenomena into the conscious perception of a luminous sensation remains astounding and almost inconceivable.” (1985).

A13

Innateness of the sensation of light. In Inner Light (1995), Daniel Alroy presented the empirical grounds for concluding that since color and all sensations are innate then it is also true of the sensation of light. Cortical visual prostheses elicit sensations of light in persons who lost their vision. It should work equally well for the born blind. This is expected to be tested by 2020.

A14

Evolutionary psychology. In The Adaptive Mind Leda Cosmides and John Tooby (Barkow et al., 1992) proposed that capacities such as language and the judgment of attractiveness in potential mates are the result of natural selection, which adapts innate capacities to challenges of survival and which can be further molded by experience.

A15

Auditory prostheses for the born deaf. There are over 300,000 deaf persons, many of whom were born deaf, who can hear sounds by the direct electrical stimulation of auditory-related brain areas, either directly or through stimulation of the cochlea (Carner et al., 2007). The fact that the born deaf can be made to hear sounds by direct electrical stimulation constitutes conclusive proof that the sensation of sound is innate and evoked by the brain. Put differently, the sensation of sound is not received from the ears or from air vibration through the ears. We now know that all sensations are innate and are evoked by the brain.

A16

Principles of Neural Science. The various editions of Principles of Neural Science indicate when, finally, the finding that sensations are innate became accepted in neuroscience. In the third edition (Kandel E et al. 1991), the chapter about Hearing by John Kelly starts with the sentence “Sound is a property of air vibrations,” while John Martin in the chapter about Neural Coding states that the sensation of colors and sounds do not exist outside the brain. In the fourth edition (2000) the statement that sound is a property of air vibrations was deleted; the statement that sensations, as such, do not exist outside the brain, retained. The fifth edition (2010), Chapter 21 on Neural Coding states: “colors, tones, smells, and tastes are mental creations constructed by the brain out of sensory experience. They do not exist as such outside the brain.”

A17

Cell-type proteins as determinants of subjective states. In 2012 the United States Patent Office granted Daniel Alroy a patent for identifying the cellular determinants of the qualitative aspect of any given submodality element of sensation (U. S. Patent No. 8,112,260).

A18

Taste-specific cells in the gustatory cortex. Charles Zuker and his associates (Peng, et al. 2015) identified and electrically stimulated taste-specific cells for sweet, umami, bitter, sour, and salty in the gustatory cortex of mice, eliciting the corresponding taste-specific behavioral responses. Some of the mice did not have prior taste experience via stimulation of the mouth or tongue. This result proves that the sensation of taste is innate and is evoked by the brain.

A19

Innateness and the philosophic community. Colin McGinn’s recent book Inborn Knowledge – the Mystery Within (2015) may be the first book by a known philosopher that defends nativism - the view that innateness of human mental faculties is a fact, and it ought to replace the tabula rasa assumption. It is a significant milestone.

Brain Prostheses and Epistemology

2015, November 22

 

1.

Sensations are innate. The most basic tenet tat underlies present-day knowledge was introduced by John Locke. Locke postulated that the brain of the newborn is like a blank slate (tabula rasa), and sensations are imported into the brain – none innate. We now know that the exact opposite is the case: auditory prostheses allow the born deaf to hear by direct brain stimulation. This fact proves that the sensation of sound is innate, is evoked by the brain, and not imported into it. The same is true of all sensations.

2.

The mind affects the brain. Physicalism is the currently dominant theory of knowledge. The tabula rasa assumption is it’s basic tenet. Physicalism also postulates that only physical causes can have physical effects. Consequently, non-physical mental intentions must be causally inert. The assumption that the mind is causally inert is disproved by cortical prostheses that allow persons paralyzed from the neck down to control by thought alone external mechanisms, such as a mechanical wheelchair or curser on a computer screen. Imagining a voluntary action selectively activate some of the same brain loci as when the person can actually perform such action. Such selective activation is detected in any such area (e.g. the motor cortex), amplified, then processed by a computer program, which in turn regulate the imagined action using servomechanisms. The imagined act is mental; the activated motor cortex is physical. Thus, the exercise of the causal power of the mind is commonplace. Ontologically, it proves that present-day physics is profoundly incomplete.         

3.

It is now necessary to make explicit the implications of the new state of affairs. However, the philosophic community needs a while longer before the facts are acknowledged and acted upon. It so came to pass that the most important (and most urgent) challenge in advancing knowledge is virtually terra incognita.

4.

I intend to e-publish shortly a rough draft addressing the new state of affairs. If condition permit, it would be followed by a revised version.

 

 

 

A revised note about the epistemological priority of the phenomenal relative to the physical

2015, November 21

 

Physical entities are said to be ‘publicly observable’, or observable from the ‘third-person perspective’. The physical satisfies the twin criteria of being observable by sight, touch, and other sensory modalities of exteroception, and being located in space, In contrast, sensory modalities of interoception, such as hunger and thirst, are private and are not spatially localizable. They are said to be observable from the ‘first-person perspective’. As, such they do not satisfy the physicality criteria.

Recently, it has been found that sensations are innate. The qualitative aspect of an elementary sensations is determined by the stimulated brain loci, and not by the nature of the stimulus. As a consequence, the sensory modalities of exteroception, by which the physical world is observable are as private as hunger and thirst. For this reason, observations from the third-person perspective are ultimately based on the first-person perspective. Thus, our experience of the physical world is phenomenal: it does not satisfy the criteria of physicality. In conclusion, our knowledge of the physical is inferred from the phenomenal. This fact has epistemological consequences:

*It confers epistemological priority on the phenomenal relative to the physical

* The phenomenal is not eliminable, or reducible to the physical

* attributes such as color and sound are evoked, not produced, by the brain

* Spatial attributes are inapplicable (by definition) to the phenomenal

* Hence, the mind is not ‘in’ the brain, and for the same reason attributes of color and sound are evoked, and not produced, by the brain.

Ontologically, the above considerations lead to the conclusion that properties such as color and sound are nonphysical natural attributes, and consequently, the physical is an incomplete description of nature.

 

1.

Identifying the most basic assumption. It has been recently found that humans possess innate and universal mental faculties, including sensation, cognition, and emotion. These finding are the direct opposite of most basic assumption that underlies theories of knowledge for the last 300 years. John Locke introduced that empirically false assumption (1689) postulating that sensations are imported into the brain from sensory receptors, none innate. Locke concluded that the brain of the newborn is like a blank slate (tabula rasa). There have been three major theories of knowledge that are based on the tabula rasa assumption since Locke: Empiricism, Physicalism, and the current computer metaphor.

2.

Empiricism. Present day Empiricism is based on David Hume’s extension of Locke’s tabula rasa assumption to cognition. Hume concluded that humans do not, and cannot, possess knowledge of the world prior to experience. Emanuel Kant rejected the tabula rasa assumption, and especially its extension to cognition. Present-day neuroscience shows that humans do possess knowledge about the world prior to experience, proving Kant right in this regard.

3.

Physicalism. In the 1920’s a group known as the Vienna Circle introduced Physicalism – currently the dominant theory of knowledge. Physicalism is based on Locke’s tabula rasa assumption, as well as on Hume’s extension of it to cognition. Physicalism defines existence as physical. It denies that a non-physical mind exist, but concedes that that a non-physical mind may be a causally inert epiphenomenal by-product of brain function.

4.

The computer metaphor. The advent of the general-purpose digital electronic computer have shifted the view of reality from being physical to being computational. The universe, evolution, an organism, the brain and the cell are now interpreted as computational entities or processes. While Physicalismpresumes that the mind cannot do anything that the brain cannot, the computer metaphor presumes that the mind cannot do anything that the computer cannot. There is a significant difference between these two denials. In physics structure determines function, in computers function is severed from structure: a given function can be realized on computers of different hardware design. Once the assumption that the brain is “nothing but” a biological information processor, then it follows that mental states can be realized in brains of different anatomies, as well as on non-biological computers. In conclusion, Physicalism takes the position that the brain is necessary but the mind is not. The computer metaphor goes further, claiming that neither is necessary.

5.

Recent developments. The direct electrical stimulation of the brains of children born deaf evokes sensation of sound. It proves that the sensation of sound is innate and evoked by the brain. Put differently, sound is not received from the ears or from air vibration through the ears. The same is true for all sensations. Thus, the tabula rasa assumption has proved false. Current theories of knowledge, which are based on the empirically false tabula rasa assumption, are no longer tenable.

6.

Sociology of knowledge considerations. Max Planck observed that it takes a generational transition before a new paradigm is accepted. In the instant case, it would not take that long. Before the end of the current decade cortical visual prostheses that have been developed for persons who lost their vision would prove equally effective for children born blind. It would prove that the sensation of light is not received from the eyes or from electromagnetic radiation through the eyes. The shocking realization that the sensation of light is an innate and private would make the reconstruction of the foundation of knowledge an immediate concern.

7.

Toward a dawn of new day. It is now necessary to replace the tabula rasaassumption by its direct opposite. This would be the most basic change in the foundation of knowledge since that empirically false assumption was introduced some 300 years ago. The scientific, technological, epistemological, ethical and ontological implications would be vast. Making explicit these implications is a challenge. Undertaking this challenge represents a unique opportunity for the philosophic community to gain its rightful place in advancing the knowledge enterprise.


The Physicality Criteria

Daniel Alroy

2015 November 8


Objectivity and existence. The simplest notion of existence is persistence. An entity exists if it endures through the passage of time and survives over changes in location. Personal observations of such invariance are subjectively consistent, or intrasubjectively - consistent. When a similarly situated individuals express consensus on observing such an entity then such observation is intersubjectively-consistent. Observations are said to be objective if they are intrasubjectively and intersubjectively consistent. An entity is said to exist if it can be objectively observed. Veridicality is another manifestation of existence. For example, the appearance, manner and voice by which a familiar person is recognizable is veridical. Consider another example. If we have a number of identical small cubes arranged into a larger 3x3x3 cube, then we can determine that their total number is 27 in several different ways such as:

*Count the small cubes in the larger cube

* Count the number of cubes per dimension and raise it to the third power

* Divide the weight of the larger cube by the weight of a small cube

* Divide the displacement of the larger cube relative to a smaller cube when immersed in a water container

Physicality. Note the contrast between a triangular tile and the concept of triangularity. The tile is located in space while the concept of triangularity is not. Furthermore, the tile can be, while the concept of triangularity cannot be, seen, touched, or observed by any other sensory modalities of exteroception. For these reasons, the tile is deemed physical, while the concept of triangularity is not. Our capacity to apprehend concepts is innate and universal. Persons familiar with a given mathematical concept, such as triangularity, reach consensus as readily as the testimony of the senses in observing a triangular tile. Concepts can satisfy objectivity and existence criteria. Physical entities satisfy, in addition, the criteria of locatability in space, and accessibility to observation by sensory modalities of exteroception.


Some notes concerning the new foundation of knowledge

2015, October 28


1.

Innateness. One important property of the physical is that it can be seen or otherwise observed by means of sensory modalities of exteroception. That which can be so observed is said to be publicly observable. A sensation, such as fear, is not observable by means of exteroception; it is private and therefore subjective. Sensations are innate and are evoked in the brain. As such, they are private and not physical. Therefore, in order to decide whether sound is a physical property or not, the question is whether brain stimulation of a person born deaf would evoke the sensation of sound in that person. If it does then sound is a phenomenal property that does not satisfy the criterion of physicality. If, however, such brain stimulation does not evoke sensations of sound in the born deaf then it would prove that sound is imported into the brain. Then, there are three possible alternative origins of sound, as follows: 

* Sound is a property of the external world (Physicalism), or

* Sound is a subjective property originating from the ears (Locke), or

* Sound is a subjective property of the auditory nerve (Müller).

This issue has now been empirically determined. The sensation of sound is evoked by the brain and not imported into it. Children born deaf can be made to hear by brain stimulation. There are well over 100,000 persons who were born deaf who hear by use of an auditory prosthesis that electrically stimulates the cochlea. In case of a dysfunctional auditory nerved (e.g. neurofibromatosis type II) the auditory the locus of electrical stimulation is shifted from the cochlea to the auditory brain stem. Similarly, all sensations are evoked by the brain – none are imported into it. Consequently, our experience of the physical world is phenomenal. Hence, our knowledge of the physical is an inference from the phenomenal. This confers epistemological priority of the phenomenal relative to the physical: innateness of sensations constitutes conclusive disconfirmation of Physicalism. 

2.

The tabula rasa doctrine. The central tenet of present-day knowledge is that sensations are imported into the brain, none innate. That tenet was introduced by John Locke some 300 years ago, postulating that the brain of the newborn is like a blank slate (tabula rasa). It is therefore now necessary to replace the tabula rasa doctrine by its direct opposite. This action is epistemological. It is therefore for the philosophic community to undertake. However, the philosophic community does not accept, as yet, the empirical fact of innateness. 

3.

Some consequences of the tabula rasa doctrine. Beliefs have consequences. Therefore, the most basic tenet of knowledge would have vast consequences. The two examples below illustrate the grave harm caused by the empirically false current foundation of knowledge.

* The failure to develop effective medication for chronic pain. Pain, like all sensations is evoked in the brain – not imported into it from the body. Yet, the tabula rasa doctrine denies the fact. Instead, it postulates that pain is imported into the brain via C-fibers. This misconception led to tens of thousands of needless surgeries aiming to eliminate the presumed bodily origin of pain. Then, the issue of chronic pain continues to be a medical problem.

* Human nature and conduct. Humans possess some innate and universal sensations, needs, desires, and conceptual mechanisms. These commonalities of human nature are the basis for human conduct. Natural Law is the view that ethical and legal systems should be based on the commonalities of human nature. Current theories of knowledge are based on the rejection that there is innate human nature. This 300 year-old epistemological tradition has led to the selection of non-universal systems of ethics and law. Such systems cripple the ability to secure long-term cooperation in tackling global issues. 

4.

What the mind can do that the brain does not and cannot do. On inspection, some of the furniture of the mind has no counterpart in the physical world. Concepts, for example, are not publicly observable and, consequently, do not satisfy the criteria of physicality. Yet, they are vital in mathematics and physics, and outside the exact sciences, notions of beauty, justice, and democracy are all useful concepts, but none are physical. It is therefore transparent that non-physical entities can be and are useful. The brain can recognize instances that qualify as a given concept, but this is distinct from the brain representing the concept. The issue is clarified in the binding of a percept. If a red ball is thrown toward you, then visual area V4 will process the color of the ball, visual area V5 will represent the motion of the ball, and the inferotemporal cortex will represent the spherical shape of the ball. For the brain to represent this situation, these three attributes need to converge to some brain location, but no such locus exists for the example given. While the phenomenal experience of a percept is signaled by temporal synchrony, such synchrony by itself cannot cohere into a unified percept. Thus the mind perform a vital function in visual perception.  

5.

The mind affects the brain and behavior. Recent developments have demonstrated that persons paralyzed from the neck down can control the cursor on the computer screen, the action of a mechanical chair, or the control of a mechanical arm with their thoughts alone. In such systems the paralyzed person imagines carrying out the intended action and sensors detect the resulting activation of the motor cortex. That information is then used to control those devices. If the world were exclusively physical, then only physical causes could have physical effects. However, we now find that the non-physical mind affects the brain and behavior. This proves that the phenomenal is part of nature. Further, it points to the existence of a level of reality of which both the physical and non-physical are different aspects.


A revised note

2015, October 21


The systemic failure to address long-term global problems. The conscious capacity of Homo sapiens to obtain and use knowledge has emerged in evolution because it increases the ability to manipulate the environment. In the short-term, such ability may improve survival; in the long-term, it may have the opposite effects. For this reason, short-term social action must be based on the expected long-term consequences, which in turn ought to be based on innate commonalities of human nature. Present-day moral and legal systems are inconsistent with this imperative. 

Consider the organization of knowledge. The foundation of knowledge, knowledge proper, and the application of knowledge, is also known as philosophy, science, and technology. These three knowledge areas can be viewed as levels of an inverted pyramid, where philosophy is at the base, science is the middle level, and technology as the top level. It shows that philosophy is the most basic, and that it has the widest scope. Another unique aspect of philosophy is this: science and technology provide information about what can be done, but not about what ought to be done. Philosophy is the only field of knowledge that can address the question of what ought to be done. Present-day science has shown that there exist innate commonalities of human nature. It provides the ground for commonalities of human conduct. Some three hundred years ago John Locke proposed thetabula rasa assumption that the brain of the newborn is like a blank slate and that sensations are imported into the brain, none innate. This empirically false assumption is the most basic tenet of present-day epistemology. It denies the fact of innate commonalities of human nature. These empirically mistaken notions have contributed to the fact that current systems ethics and law are relativistic rather than universal. Such systems of ethics and law cripple the ability to achieve long- term solutions to global problems. The three cases listed below exemplify the gravity of the problem and the consequent need to bring the foundation of knowledge up to date.

Global warming. Three million years ago the carbon dioxide  (CO2) in the atmosphere was 400 parts per million (ppm). The resulting warming climate melted polar ice and caused the sea level to rise some twenty meters above the current level. The first industrial revolution replaced muscle power with machine power by burning fossil fuel, which produces CO2 as a by-product. Electrification and the introduction of automobile transportation accelerated CO2 emissions, which recently reached the 400ppm level. It is projected to double by the end of the century. The warming trend cannot be reversed or stopped this century even if all CO2 emissions cease. Once we reject commonalities of human nature and conduct, we relinquish the ability to take into consideration and effectively act on long-term 

Migration of asylum-seekers to Europe. The United Nations projects that the population of Sub Saharan Africa will increase from the current 1.2 billion to 4.6 billion by the end of the century. Some Sub Saharan countries, like Gambia, are subject to oppressive regimes. Hence, persons who are emigrating from Africa can justly claim the status of asylum-seekers. Europe is subject to the United Nations’ law under which it may not arrest and deport asylum-seekers. It is therefore possible, and indeed likely, that perhaps one-third out of the 3.4 billion-person increase in the population of Sub Saharan Africa will end up in Europe. In such an event the current European populations will become minorities in their own countries. Most Europeans would be troubled by such a prospect. The question is what ought to be done. Would it not be better to provide financial incentives to families of Sub Saharan Africa to have fewer children?

Genetic enhancement. Biotechnology now makes it possible to identify and correct disease genes. Such cures are heritable. These techniques are the same as the ones needed to replace a non-disease gene by a better performing gene. The West recoils from such germline modifications and has prohibited doing it in humans. The more pragmatic East rejects the West’s reaction. These different moral perspectives cannot be expected to be resolved anytime soon. For this reason, each side is likely to follow their own moral guide. In that event, the current century would be the initial bifurcation of Homo sapiens into two divergent genetic populations. At present, the West is decidedly against germline modifications and against enhancement of the genome. Having moral and legal systems based on the denial of commonalities of human nature, the West has relinquished the grounds for urging the East to follow the West on this issue.

 

Toward a Dawn of a New Day

Daniel Alroy

2015 December 19

Recent advances in neuroscience show that humans possess some innate and universal mental faculties including exteroception, interoception, and cognition, and therefore there exist commonalities of human nature and conduct. Some 350 years ago, John Locke postulated the direct opposite, assuming that sensations are imported into the brain – none innate – and concluding that the brain of the newborn is like a blank slate (tabula rasa). That empirically false assumption underlies knowledge to this day. It is now necessary to first replace the tabula rasa assumption by the fact that sensations are evoked by the brain and then make explicit the implications of such reconstruction. Doing so would constitute the most fundamental change in the foundation of knowledge in 350 years.

Characterizing the physical  

We address below the central problem of knowledge: the relation of mind and brain. First we need to characterize the physical using ordinary language. Your dentist can see your aching tooth but not your toothache. The tooth is deemed physical while the toothache is not. Thus, the physical is taken to be publicly observable while sensations that are private are not. The same distinction applies to the difference between a triangular tile and the concept of triangularity. The tile is publicly observable and is thus physical while the concept of triangularity is not publicly observable, and thus, it does not satisfy the criterion of physicality. But is the concept of triangularity real?

Existence criteria. Persistence signifies existence. Existing entities endure through the passage of time and survive relocation.  For example, a child can count marbles and then recount them, knowing that the result is incorrect if the two counts differ. An accountant may total a table of numbers first adding the numbers by columns and then adding the numbers by rows. The two sums being unequal would indicate addition error. Consistent errorless outcomes are manifestations of objectivity. The above tests are available to the individual observer. Agreement between similarly situated individuals is a more stringent objectivity test. Objectivity is an existence criterion.

Veridicality is another manifestation of existence. For example, the appearance, manner, and voice by which a familiar person is recognizable is veridical. Consider another example. If we have a number of identical small cubes arranged into a larger 3x3x3 cube, then we can determine that their total number is 27 in several different ways such as:

*  Count the small cubes in the larger cube

*  Count the number of cubes per dimension and raise it to the third power

*  Divide the weight of the larger cube by the weight of a small cube 

*  Divide the displacement of the larger cube relative to a smaller cube when immersed in a water container

Discovery, in contrast convention or invention, is an existence criterion. Discovered attributes are manifestations of existence. Square tiles, for example, can cover a floor without gaps, as can tiles that are triangular or hexagonal. But, no other regular polygon will do.  This conclusion is subject to discovery, and is thus deemed real.  Consider another example. The fact that only three out of the five regular solids have triangular faces is a discovery.

The first conclusion from the above considerations is that the concept of triangularity is real: It readily satisfies the above existence criteria. The more fundamental conclusion is existence is not limited to the physical.

Sensations of sound are innate and hence phenomenal. Consider sound. As a property of air vibration it would be physical, but as a private sensation, it would not. It turns out that the electrical stimulation of the brain of a person born deaf can elicit sensations of sound. This fact proves that sensations of sound are evoked by the brain and are not imported into it either from the ears or from the air vibrations through the ears. In conclusion, sound is a phenomenal, not a physical, property. There are several hundred thousand persons who were born deaf, that can experience sounds by using auditory prostheses. These prostheses elicit sensations of sound by the electrical stimulation of the auditory nerve or the auditory brain stem. Recent neuroscientific findings show that all sensations are evoked by the brain - none imported into it. Thus, experience is phenomenal. Our knowledge of the physical is inferred from the phenomenal. This fact confers epistemological priority on the phenomenal relative to the physical. 

The mind affects the brain and behavior. Top-down attention selectively activates the corresponding brain loci. Thus, for example, a voluntary action is preceded by activation of the motor cortex (and some other brain loci). A similar activation is produced by the imagined performance of such voluntary action. Such activation is detectable in some brain loci, including the primary motor cortex (Brodmann area 4). These facts are the basis that make it possible for persons paralyzed from the neck down to control by their thoughts physical activities such as the cursor on a computer screen, the action of a mechanical wheelchair, or a mechanical arm. If the physical defined existence then only physical causes could have physical effects. But the undisputed fact of the existence of thought controlled physical devices has disconfirmed that assumption. In conclusion, present-day physical theories are profoundly incomplete description of nature.

 

Molecular Biology of the Cell and Neuroscience

Part I

2015 December 13

Molecular biology of the cell. The development of structural biology in the 1940’s and the discovery of the structure of DNA in 1953 marked the advent of molecular biology of the cell as the most basic science of life. The biological field of neuroscience is at least 100 years older. As can be expected, some principles implicit in the molecular biology are applicable to neuroscience. One example o such application is briefly outlined below.

Cell-types. The cell is the basic unit of life. To the first approximation, the genome of a multicellular organism is the same in the different cell types. It contains DNA coding the proteins that can be expressed in a given organism. A cell-type can be characterized by the subset of the genome’s proteins that can be (its epigenome), or are (proteins specificity), expressed in it. The protein specificity of a cell-type is the primary determinant of its phenotype (or morphology), and it’s intrinsic function. Most factors that determine intrinsic function are intracellular: the genome, replication, transcription, alternative splicing, translation, and post-translational modification (as well as some other factors that are addressed separately). Taken together these factors imply that viewing neural function as purely intercellular is a mistake.

Neuroscience. Karl Lashley (1929, 1950) sought to identify brain loci and cell-types that exhibit memory trace (the engram). He failed, concluding memory is neither locus-specific nor cell-type-specific. Donald Hebb, his student, then proposed (1949) that interconnections and interactions provide the specificity that brain loci and cell-types appear to lack. That proposal is equivalent to the application of the tabula rasa assumption to the neuron, and moving the causal locus of function from cells to their interconnections. That Hebbian view of neural function has become dominant in neuroscience to this 

An example of applying concepts of molecular biology of the cell to neuroscience. Logically, whatever is true of all cells of a given organism is necessarily true of brain cells (including neurons). Hence, the protein specificity of the neuron determines both its morphology and its intrinsic function. Thus, Hebbian view of function is inconsistent with molecular biology of the cell. Neurons that perform their normal function in vitro (e.g. hypothalamic circadian rhythm cells) demonstrate intracellular causal locus. It is now recognized that the conclusions that Karl Lashley reached have proved empirically false. It remains necessary to undo the Hebbian ‘remedy’ of removing the causal locus from neurons to their interconnections. The fact that there are no public domain databases that contain the protein specificities of cells in the body and brain, while billions of dollars are committed to attempts to emulate the brain on computers is, of course, a scandal.

Alzheimer disease. Concepts implicit in molecular biology of the cell make the neuron the causal locus of function. The persistent failure of medicine to develop an effective drug to treat Alzheimer disease is primarily due to the misconception that instead, the cause of neural function is, or could be, intercellular.

 

Physicalism is no Longer Tenable

A revised note

2015, December 7

The central problem of knowledge is the relation of mind and brain. The main empirical issue is whether sensations are innate and are evoked by the brain, or are they imported into the brain. Recently, this issue was settled: sensations are innate, are evoked by the brain and not imported into it. Physicalism, the currently dominant theory of knowledge, is still based on John Locke’s empirically false assumption that sensations are imported into the brain. Replacing that assumption by its direct opposite, and making explicit the implications of this step constitutes a new foundation of knowledge.

The following elaborates the above using some of the terminology associated with this issue. Physical entities are said to be ‘publicly observable’. This implies the twin criteria of 

1) locatability in space, and 

2) observable visually or by other sensory modalities of exteroception.  

Such observations are said to be made from the third-person perspective. Thus the perception of a triangular tile is physical, while the concept of triangularity is not. Similarly, an aching tooth is physical, while the toothache is not. The ability to apprehend concepts and the experience of pain are said to be made from the first-person perspective.

The finding that exteroception, like all sensations are innate, evoked by the brain, and not imported into it, shows that what is deemed ‘publicly observable’ is in fact based on observation made from the first-person-perspective. The following analogy made the transition plain: Physicalism implies that nature is observable on a large, shareable screen. The fact is persons observe the world on their personal and private screens. Similarly situated individuals reach intersubjectively consistent observations whether it be the visual count of the number of sheep in an enclosure, or the logical operation that the number of sheep in two enclosures is the sum of the sheep in each enclosure. Experience is phenomenal. It does not satisfy the criteria of physicality. The physical is inferred from the phenomenal. Thus, the phenomenal is ineliminable. Moreover, it is no longer logically possible to ‘reduce’ the phenomenal to the physical. Physicalism is no longer tenable.

 

The empirically false tabula rasa assumption underlies present-day knowledge

Daniel Alroy

2015, December 2

 

F1

John Locke’s tabula rasa doctrine:  Sensations are imported into the brain, none innate. This is the basic tenet of the following epistemological positions: 

F2

David Hume’s Empiricism

F2.1  Humans do not have any knowledge about the world prior to experience

F2.2  Only the publicly observable exist. Hence, the following do not exist:

F2.3  Innate and universal cognitive mechanisms

F2.4  Concepts

F2.5  Necessary connection (e.g. in cause and effect, and in inductive inference)

F3

The Vienna Circle’s Physicalism

F3.1 First-person perspective observations are not scientifically acceptable

F3.2  Qualities such as sound and color are deemed to be physical properties

F3.3  Goal-oriented explanations are to be excluded from science (e.g. in biology) 

F3.4  The mind is causally inert 

F3.5  Ethics is to be removed from the empirical domain

F4

Physicalistic neuroscience

F4.1  Neurons are relatively simple cells 

F4.2  The causal locus of neural function is intercellular

F4.3  The mind is causally inert by-product of brain function 

F5

Artificial Intelligence (AI) 

F5.1  The neuron is a digital functional unit 

F5.2  Neurons are are uniform prior to receiving input

F5.3  The output of a neuron is computable from its inputs alone

F5.4  The brain is a Universal Turing Machine (UTM)

F5.5  The mind is causally inert by-product of computation

A glimpse of the new epistemological landscape

Daniel Alroy

2015, October 15

1.

The goal-oriented mechanism of homeostasis characterizes life. Life is characterized by homeostasis -goal-oriented, negative feedback processes aimed at maintaining vital variables (e.g. glucose) within given set points. These set points are characteristically far from thermodynamic equilibriums. This is true of the entire tree of life. Thus, ultimately, biological explanations are goal-oriented. Consider temperature homeostasis in humans. It is innate and universal. Homeostasic maintenance of internal temperature is non-conscious while ambient temperature allows automatic maintenance of internal temperature within a given set point range. Otherwise, voluntary action may be needed to restore homeostasis. Then a sensation of hot or cold is evoked. That sensation ceases minutes after the restoration of homeostasis. The sensations of hot and cold are phenomenal - and not physical attributes of temperature.

2.

Resolving the is/ought problem. The view that prescription cannot be derived from description is known as the is/ought problem. However, this issue does not arise because life is a goal-oriented process. The issue is whether description can be derived from prescription. Any voluntary action couples an array of alternatives of what can be done, with goal-oriented act of selection from the available alternatives. Once the goal-oriented act of selection is made, it decoupled what remains as an ordinary physical causal procedure. The is/ought problem is no more.

3.

The sensation of sound. Children that are born deaf due to dysfunctional auditory nerves can be made to hear by implanting an auditory prosthesis that electrically stimulates the auditory brainstem. This fact conclusively proves that sound is not an attribute of air vibration and that it does not originate from the ears. The same reasoning applies to all sensations – none are received from the senses. 

4.

The physical world is colorless and silent – ours is not. The brain mechanisms that bring about sensations, percepts, and concepts, are innate and universal. Such innate experience satisfies existence criteria but not those of physicality. Hence, the physical is inferred from the phenomenal. This fact confers epistemological priority of the phenomenal relative to the physical. Thus, the phenomenal is ineliminable. Physicalism is no longer tenable.

5.

The mind can, while the brain cannot solve the binding problem. In ball games, for example, the percept of the ball combines its round shape, color, location, and motion. The brain processes each such attribute in spatially distinct areas e.g. submodality-specific cortical areas). These disjointed attributes do not converge into any brain locus that could represent a given percept. Thus, the mind’s eye, in being able to see a given percept, performs a vital function that the brain does not, and apparently cannot. 

6.

Concepts. Consider a triangular tile. It is 1) located in space and 2) it is publicly observable. As such, it is physical. In contrast, the concept of triangularity, is neither publicly observable, nor deemed to be located in space. As such, it does not satisfy the criteria of physicality. Concepts are crucial for the effective organization of knowledge. The ability to conceptualize is innate and universal. Here again the non-physical has advantages that go beyond the physical.  

The State of the World

Global warming. Three million years ago the carbon dioxide (CO2) in the atmosphere was 400 parts per million (ppm). The resulting warming climate melted polar ice and caused the sea level to rise some twenty meters above the current level. The first industrial revolution replaced muscle power with machine power by burning fossil fuel, which produces CO2 as a by-product. Electrification and the introduction of automobile transportation accelerated CO2 emissions, which recently reached the 400 ppm level. It is projected to double by the end of the century. The warming trend cannot be reversed or stopped this century even if all CO2 emissions cease. This human produced crisis points to the failure of society to take into consideration, and effectively act on long-term global issues.

Migration of asylum seekers to Europe. The United Nations projects that the population of Sub Saharan Africa will increase from the current 1.2 billion to 4.6 billion by the end of the century. Some Sub Saharan countries, like Gambia, are subject to oppressive regimes. Hence, persons who are emigrating to Europe can justly claim the status of asylum seeker. European Union is subject to the United Nation law under which it may not arrest and deport asylum seekers. It is therefore possible, and indeed likely that perhaps one-third out of the 3.4 billion increase in the population of Sub Saharan Africa will end up in Europe. In such an event the current European populations of about 500 million will become minorities in their own countries. Is such prospect the only way, or the optimal way to address the problem? Current relativistic morality of the West cannot resolve this issue, or even address it!  

Genetic disease prevention and enhancement.Biotechnology now makes it possible to identify and correct disease genes. Such cures are heritable. These techniques are the same as the ones needed to replace a non-disease gene by a better performing gene. Expert opinion is clueless as to how to proceed. The West recoils from such germline modifications and has prohibited doing it in humans. The more pragmatic East rejects the West’s reaction. These different moral perspectives cannot be expected to be resolved anytime soon. For this reason, each side is likely to follow their own moral guide. In that event, the current century would be the initial bifurcation of Homo sapiens into two divergent genetic populations.

Updating C. P. Snow’s Two Cultures. C. P. Snow, in his 1958 lecture, Two Cultures, observed that science and technology have a large and growing part in modern culture. He proposed that being ignorant of science is being ignorant. Snow proved partially right: without understanding science a person is ignorant. However, Snow’s implication that knowledge of science makes a person educated deserves a re-consideration. The foundations of knowledge, knowledge proper, and the applications of knowledge are also known respectively as philosophy, science and technology. Each of these three knowledge areas may be viewed as levels of an inverted pyramid, with philosophy at the base, science in the middle level, and technology as the top level. The inverted pyramid shows philosophy to be the most basic and to have the widest scope. It is also the only part of knowledge that can address the question what ought to be done: science and technology are confined to what can be done. The reasons of what ought to be done cannot be left implicit, muddled, or based on the empirically false tabula rasa assumption. For these reasons, philosophical perspective is a vital  part of being educated.

Innate commonalities of human nature and Natural Law. Natural Law is the view that moral and legal systems should be based on innate commonalities of human nature. Locke’s tabula rasa assumption, which underlies present-day theories of knowledge, denies that any mental capacity is innate. As a result, moral and legal systems of the West are non-universal. Such intrinsic non-universality cripples the capacity to reach long-term global consensus on global concerns such as gene therapy and climate change. Setting aside the empirically false tabula rasa assumption would make possible to undertake the reformation of the moral and legal systems of the West. Present-day society lacks the conceptual framework of addressing the consequences of global warming, the problems of the expected mass migration, and the opportunities that are being made possible by biotechnology. These concurrent concerns have made the issue of what ought to be done, central. Conclusion: bringing the foundation of knowledge up to date is a matter of urgency.

Why this century is unlike any other

Daniel Alroy

2015, October 7

Gene therapy. Biotechnology now makes it possible to identify and correct disease genes. Such cures are heritable. These techniques are the same as the ones needed to replace a non-disease gene by a better performing gene. Expert opinion is clueless as to how to proceed. The West recoils from such germline modifications and has prohibited doing it in humans. The more pragmatic East rejects the West’s reaction. These different moral perspectives cannot be expected to be resolved anytime soon. For this reason, each side is likely to follow their own moral guide. In that event, the current century would be the initial bifurcation of Homo sapiens into two divergent genetic populations. This impending development points to the need to know what ought to be done, not merely what can be done.

Global warming. Three million years ago the carbon dioxide  (CO2) in the atmosphere was 400 parts per million (ppm). The resulting warming climate melted polar ice and caused the sea level to rise some twenty meters above the current level. The first industrial revolution replaced muscle power with machine power by burning fossil fuel, which produces CO2 as a by-product. Electrification and the introduction of automobile transportation accelerated CO2 emissions, which recently reached the 400 ppm level. It is projected to double by the end of the century. The warming trend cannot be reversed or stopped this century even if all CO2 emissions cease. This human produced crisis points to the inability of society to take into consideration, and effectively act on long-term global issues.   

Updating C. P. Snow’s Two Cultures. C. P. Snow, in his 1958 lecture Two Cultures, observed that science and technology have a large and growing part in modern culture. He proposed that being ignorant of science is being ignorant. From a current day perspective, Snow proved right that without understanding science a person is ignorant. However, his implication that knowledge of science makes a person educated requires review and revision. Philosophy, science, and technology may be viewed as three levels of an inverted pyramid where philosophy is at the base, science is the middle, and technology is the top level. Such a pyramid shows that philosophy has the widest scope. It is the only part of knowledge that addresses the differences as well as the commonalities between the sciences. Furthermore, science and technology provide information only about what can be done, but does not what ought to be done. Addressing the issue of what ought to be done is within the exclusive domain of philosophy. For these reasons, philosophy is the most important part of knowledge. Hence, to be educated is to be philosophically informed. 

Concepts and consequences

1.

Homeostasis. Life is characterized by homeostasis -goal-oriented, negative feedback processes aimed at maintaining vital variables (e.g. glucose) within given set points. These set points are characteristically far from thermodynamic equilibriums. This is true of the entire tree of life. Thus, ultimately, biological explanations are goal-oriented. 

2.

Resolving the is/ought problem. It is said that prescription cannot be derived from description. This is known as the is/ought problem. However, deriving description from prescription is straightforward. The voluntary goal-oriented action couples an array of alternatives of what can be done, with goal-oriented act of selection from the available alternatives. Once the goal-oriented act of selection is decoupled what remains is an ordinary physical causal procedure. 

3,

Universal versus non-universal systems of ethics and law. Natural Law is the view that moral and legal systems should be based on innate commonalities of human nature. Locke’s tabula rasa assumption, which underlies present-day theories of knowledge, denies that any mental capacity  is innate. As a result, moral and legal systems of the West are non-universal. Such intrinsic non-universality cripples the capacity to reach long-term global consensus on global concerns such as gene therapy and climate change. Setting aside the empirically false tabula rasa assumption would make possible to undertake the reformation of the moral and legal systems of the West.  

4,

The element of time. The revolution in biotechnology is moving with great speed. It is to be expected that global warming will cause migration of tens, if not hundreds of millions persons. Society lacks the conceptual tools of addressing these challenges. The bottom line is that the reconstruction of the foundation of knowledge is an urgent matter.

 

Angela Merkel’s response to the migrant crisis

A philosophical perspective

Daniel Alroy

  

Information technology and biotechnology have developed in an unprecedentedly fast pace. Since 1960, computing cost (cost-per-transistor times switching speed) dropped by more than billion-fold. This century, progress in biotechnology has been faster still and more fundamental. Humanity is now on the brink of wresting from nature the future evolution of life on Earth. These two technological revolutions show that history is unidirectional: the study of the past can no longer serve as a guide for the future. The same biotechnological techniques that make it possible to prevent incurable diseases also make it possible to enhance human capacities. Such awesome power makes urgent the study of what ought to be done. This subject, however, is outside the scope of science and technology.  

Philosophy – the foundation of knowledge - is formally the exclusive domain for addressing issues of what ought to be done. But, that discipline has lost its way. As a result, it has become part of the problem. Consider the needed action on global warming. Commonalities of human nature underlie human conduct and provide the ground for non-relativistic moral and legal systems. In contrast, the tabula rasa doctrine, which underlies current theories of knowledge, denies that such commonalities exist. This denial, in turn, underlies the adoption in the West of non-universal systems of ethics and law. Such relativism effectively prevents the type of long-term decisive action in addressing global concerns such as climate change.

Consider another example: some migrants to Europe are from Sub-Sahara Africa. United Nations’ demographic studies predict that the current 1.2 billion population of Sub-Sahara Africa would nearly quadruple to 4.6 billion by the end of the century. It is both possible and likely that at least one billion of the additional 3.4 billion will migrate to Europe. The current native population of Europe is about 500 million is shrinking. Hence, by the end of the century native Europeans would represent less than one-third of the population in Europe.  The feel-good, but relativistic morality of Liberalism, has made acceptance of such a trend both moral and legal. The current refugee flow from the Middle East has been triggered by the United Nations’ cutting funds to the refugee camps in Jordan, Turkey and Lebanon, prompting the inhabitants of these camps to seek better conditions. The United Nations has been exerting pressure on the European Union that it is both their moral and legal responsibility to open their borders and take care of the inflow. The leader of Germany accepted that this is so, and is demanding that Central and Eastern European countries do likewise. The philosophical question is whether it is either the legal or moral obligation of Europeans to become a minority in their homelands by helping persons from distant lands, with foreign cultures and without democratic traditions. Is it? Conclusion: the non-universal moral and legal systems of the West are due for review and revision as part of the reconstruction of the foundation of knowledge.

 

Toward a new foundation of knowledge

A background note

2015, September 21

Daniel Alroy

Information technology and biotechnology have developed in an unprecedentedly fast pace. Since 1960, computing cost (cost-per-transistor times switching speed) dropped by more than billion-fold. This century, progress in biotechnology has been faster still and more fundamental. Humanity is now on the brink of wresting from nature the future evolution of life on Earth. These two technological revolutions show that history is unidirectional: the study of the past can no longer serve as a guide for the future. The same biotechnological techniques that make it possible to prevent incurable diseases also make it possible to enhance human capacities. Such awesome power makes urgent the study of what ought to be done. This subject, however, is outside the scope of science and technology.

Philosophy – the foundation of knowledge - is formally the exclusive domain for addressing issues of what ought to be done. But, that discipline has lost its way. As a result, it has become part of the problem. Consider the needed action on global warming. Commonalities of human nature underlie human conduct and provide the ground for non-relativistic moral and legal systems. In contrast, the tabula rasa doctrine, which underlies current theories of knowledge, denies that such commonalities exist. This denial, in turn, underlies the adoption in the West of non-universal systems of ethics and law. Such relativism effectively prevents the type of long-term decisive action in addressing global concerns such as climate change.

Consider another example: some migrants to Europe are from Sub-Sahara Africa. United Nations’ demographic studies predict that the current 1.2 billion population of Sub-Sahara Africa would nearly quadruple to 4.6 billion by the end of the century. It is both possible and likely that at least one billion of the additional 3.4 billion will migrate to Europe. The current native population of Europe is about 500 million is shrinking. Hence, by the end of the century native Europeans would represent less than one-third of the population in Europe. The feel-good, but relativistic morality of Liberalism, has made acceptance of such a trend both moral and legal. The current refugee flow from the Middle East has been triggered by the United Nations’ cutting funds to the refugee camps in Jordan, Turkey and Lebanon, prompting the inhabitants of these camps to seek better conditions. The United Nations has been exerting pressure on the European Union that it is both their moral and legal responsibility to open their borders and take care of the inflow. The leader of Germany accepted that this is so, and is demanding that Central and Eastern European countries do likewise. The philosophical question is whether it is either the legal or moral obligation of Europeans to become a minority in their homelands by helping persons from distant lands, with foreign cultures and without democratic traditions. Is it? Conclusion: the non-universal moral and legal systems of the West are due for review and revision as part of the reconstruction of the foundation of knowledge.

 

Physicalism:  prescription for extinction

Pre-edited draft

The capacity to discover and use knowledge has emerged in evolution because it can make possible survival in in greater range of environments. An essential aspect of knowledge is that it can inform about the non-immediate consequences of an action in space and time. Ignoring non-immediate consequences of action could be fatal. For example, using pipes to distribute water can promote survival. But the long- term use of lead pipes (as the Romans did) would have the opposite effects. The first industrial revolution is the current analog of using lead in water pipes.  

The first industrial revolution. The first industrial revolution replaced muscle power with machine power. It involves burning fossil fuel, which produces carbon dioxide (CO2) as a waste by-product. This year the CO2 in the atmosphere reached, for the first time in human history, the level of 400 parts per million (ppm). The last time that CO2 level was reached was some 3 million years ago when the sea level was some 65 feet higher than now. In the atmosphere, the increase in CO2 causes warming. In the oceans, the accumulation of CO2 causes acidification, which in turn, leads to extinction of fish species. The CO2 level is likely to double by the end of the century. These long-term trends are neither reversible nor stoppable. This millennium may prove our last.

What is wrong with efforts to slow down global warming? Technology – the application of knowledge - provides alternatives means for what can be done. Wisdom is the ability to decide what ought to be done. What can be done is the most advanced part of knowledge. Technology is catapulting humanity into an unknown future. In contrast, Physicalism has severed the question of what ought to be done from its biological foundation and removed it from the empirical domain. The result is the dysfunctional coupling of what can be, and what ought to be done. Global warming is not the problem. Instead, it is just one of the manifestation of the inability of humanity for decisive collective response to survival imperatives. Focus needs to shift toward the systemic inability to arrive at decisive collective action an a long term problem of any basic problem confronting humanity. Toxic philosophy is the primary culprit, and there is no remedy other than the reconstruction of the foundation of knowledge.

Human nature is the empirical basis of human conduct. Goal-oriented collective action is made possible by the existence of the following basic four capabilities:

Innate and universal capacities. The inter-generational transmission of genetic information is innate and universal both for unicellular and multicellular organisms. DNA replication, RNA transcription, and protein translation are manifestations of innate and universal mechanisms. These, and other innate and universal mechanisms are also manifested in the behavior of organisms. 

Centrality of goals. Homeostasis characterizes cells while they are alive. Homeostasis, of any given variable, such as glucose, involves negative feedback relative to a particular set-point. Action of such mechanisms is goal-oriented. For this reason biological explanations are ultimately goal-oriented.  

Mental capacities promote survival by facilitating goal achievement. Mental capacities have emerged in the evolution because they increase the range of conditions under which survival possible. It allowed, among other things, the development of conceptual knowledge.     

Human nature and human conduct. Taken together, the innate commonalities of human nature, the centrality of goal-oriented considerations, and the use of mental and capabilities, are the biological common ground foundation for a non-relativistic philosophy of action.

Physicalism is a pathology. Physicalism denies each of the basic four capabilities cited above:

The tabula rasa doctrine. Physicalism is based on the empirically false tabula rasa doctrine, which denies that any behavioral or mental capacity is innate.

Denial of the existence of goal-oriented biological mechanisms. Physicalism calls for the elimination of goal-oriented explanations. Last century, biologists and neuroscientists tried to adhere to that misguided prescription. No longer. Goal-oriented explanations in biology and neuroscience are now common. 

The mind as an evolutionary harmless error. Physicalists view the mind as a causally inert by-product of brain function. For example, Physicalists take the bizarre position that taking pain medication is causally unrelated to having pain experience.

The removal of ethics from the empirical domain. Denying the possible existence of commonalities of human nature, Physicalists deny the possible existence of commonalities of human conduct, and consequently of the possibility of morality and legal systems based on natural law. The consequence is relativism and focus on the non-universal short term – exactly the opposite of what is called for. The resulting inability for decisive collective long-term action may prove terminal. As such it is pathologic.  

What ought to be done. Physicalism is currently the dominant theory of knowledge. Its basic tenet is the tabula rasa doctrine. That doctrine is now known to be empirically false. Physicalism has modified that empirically false doctrine into a pathology, which constitutes prescription for extinction. Max Plank observed that acceptance of a new paradigm (in physics) typically involves a generational transition. It is over 300 years since the introduction of the currently dominant tabula rasa doctrine. Plank’s observation does not appear to apply to the overdue need for reconstruction of the foundation of knowledge. A way ought to be found out of this predicament, and avert having evolution cast its vote about the future of humanity.

 

 

 

 

 

 

For a Young, Growing IT Company that Aims to Become the Largest

I can help make it happen

Daniel Alroy

Provisionally, the price (in million US dollars) is related to the year the agreement is made, as follows:

Year      Price
2016           10
2017         100
2018       1000

 

A. 

The Next Big Thing is Due

At present, persons need several different information-processing devices, whose functions overlap.  This burdensome situation is one of the indications that the Big Next thing is due.

B. 

The challenge

B1 

Information-processing technology, as any problem-solving some fundamental elements. Some such elements are elusive. This elusiveness is manifested, among other things, by the curious fact that some first-rate programmers are terrible systems analysts. Consider, for example, Input (I), Processing (P), and Output (O). The temporal sequence below seems commonsensical:

I --> P --> O

But, systems analysis requires the following

O --> I --> P

B2 

Or, consider the generalizing inference known as induction. Induction non-deductive, or deductively invalid, inference. Apart from its central role in science, induction is also the major factor in intelligence (i.e. the induction sub-test in intelligence tests correlates best with the total score).

Inductive cognitive mechanisms are innate, are typically non-verbal, and are in part non-conscious. Following Locke and Hume, the existence of any mental capacity is denied, and therefore, the existence of innate cognitive inductive mechanisms is denied. It so came to pass that the existence of the most basic mechanism for the advancement of knowledge is denied. This is the reason why the research into inductive cognitive mechanisms is virtually non-existent. This scandal is obscured by shifting attention to confirmation - the stage subsequent to induction.

B3 

There is a difference in the approach of technology experts and those in basic science toward advancing knowledge. Technology experts are in command of available knowledge and know how to apply it. They are justifiably a proud group. In contrast, in basic science one looks beyond what is known into what is not. It is a humbling experience. In anticipating a major transition, it might be a productive exercise for experts to assume for a while the mental attitude of basic scientists and recognize that the island of knowledge is surrounded by an ocean of ignorance.

C. 

Advent of the microprocessor era

1972 

Intel introduces the 8008 – the Q1 Corporation, a company I formed while a student at the Graduate Center of City University, delivered to Litton Industries in Long Island, New York the world's first general-purpose computer system utilizing the 8008 microprocessor.

1973 

Q1 receives $40,000 a month from Nixdorf Computers in computer know-how.

1974 

Intel introduces the second-generation microprocessor – the 8080. Q1 delivers the world's first 8080 microprocessor computer system. All general-purpose microcomputer systems in the United States, Europe, and Asia are Q1-made.

1975 

NASA orders Q1 computer systems for all of its eleven bases.

1979 

The British Government, through its former National Enterprise Board, purchased Q1 computer know-how for over $10

D. 

A proposal

Although much of my work experience has been in technology, my main interest has always been how the relation of mind and brain determines the nature of knowledge. While I do not intend to return to the computer field, I believe that I am in a unique position to outline what ought to be done toward the realization of the potential of the Next Big Thing. I will be happy to hear from parties who may want to explore further the possibility of a short-term involvement.

E. 

An example:  the personal authentication problem

E1 

What is wrong what current e-pay systems? The replacement of tangible tokens of monetary value by electronic ones is important. But no such system can be successful in the long run unless some other issues are tacked first. Passwords are difficult to remember and are easy to break and are nuisance otherwise. This is recognized. There are some ingenious methods in use, and others that are about to be introduced, to address this problem. Some such methods provide a satisfactory, if suboptimal, means of payment. But in the long run, and Internationally, all such limited-purpose solutions to the personal authentication are doomed to fail.

E2 

A proposed solution. It may prove the case that an invention, which was filed this month with the United States Patent Office as a Provisional Patent Application (PPA) is the optimal solution for the unique and universal identification of persons. The intention is to offer that identification method for adoption worldwide, perhaps through the United Nations. Such identification method would be a part of any future general-purpose information system. The rights to that PPA and to the subsequent Regular Patent Application will be assigned to a new corporate entity to be formed. That entity then will consider private placement by a small number of sophisticated investors.

 

 

A note about the foundation of knowledge

 

Knowledge may be represented by three-level inverted pyramid: 

*   the foundation of knowledge (philosophy) on the bottom; 

*   present knowledge (science) as the middle level, and 

*   the application of knowledge (technology) as the top level.

That representation makes plain some attributes of the bottom level:

*   It has the widest scope;

*   It is the most compact, and 

*   It is the most basic.

Put differently, science tells us what is while technology tells uswhat can be done. But the ever-present question confronting any person or group is what ought to be done. That central question is outside the scope of science and technology. They are part of ethics, which is a part of philosophy.  For these reasons, philosophy is only part of knowledge with the conceptual space for the systematic formulation of action.

1. 

Knowledge-based action

1.1 

Evolution and the utility of knowledge. The ability to obtain and use knowledge has emerged in the evolution of higher organisms because it improves survival prospects. But it can also accelerate extinction. Below we make reference to some instances. Let me mention two of these here.

1.2 

The first industrial revolution. The essence of the first industrial revolution was the production of power by burning fossil fuels.   Carbon dioxide (CO2) emission is the by-product of burning fossil fuels. Recently, the CO2 in the atmosphere reached the average level of 400 parts per million (ppm). The last time that level of CO2 was in the atmosphere was some three million years. The sea level then was some 65 feet higher than now.  The CO2 level in the atmosphere may double by the end of the century. That level is inconsistent with life as we know it:  the current millennium my bay Homos sapiens’ last.

1.3

The European Union:  immigration and democracy. As discussed below, non-European immigrant are projected to become majority by mid-century in some European countries. Contrary to expectations a significant percentage of those immigrants have not adopted the culture of their new land. In nearly all cases, these immigrants come from countries without democratic tradition.  Hence, the current democratic tradition will end once the non-European immigrants become the majority.

1.4

In both cases, the cause is a self-destructive false belief. Neither of the above instances are the result of a natural calamity, or the result of a defeat in a conflict with some adversary:  these consequences are self-inflicted.

1.5

The fundamental roots of false belief systems. To date, media pundits in addressing fundamental problems confronting society have failed to identify flaws belief system as the root cause of present human predicament, as exemplified by the two examples cited above, as well as, some other examples described below.  It may be thee case that this is the first, and thus far the only, source to point to the foundations of knowledge as the root cause of what ails us.

2. 

An initial glimpse at the new epistemological landscape.

2.1 

Innateness.

2.1.1 

In typical cell division, the two daughter cells contain, to the first approximation, the same genetic information. The transmitted information is innate: ceteris paribus, the environment does not contribute to mitosis.

2.1.2

Meiosis and metabolism are innate in multicellular organisms.

2.1.3 

Temperature homeostasis is innate in mammals.

2.1.4 

Hunger, thirst, pleasure and pain are innate in primates.

2.1.5

The perception of space as three-dimensional is innate in humans.

2.1.6 

All sensations are innate and are evoked by the brain – none imported into it.

2.2 

Universality.  Biology and psychology have demonstrated that some of the innate behavioral and mental capacities are universal.

2.3 

Homeostasis and goal-oriented language. A defining attribute of life is homeostasis. Homeostasis is a goal-oriented mechanism. Hence, any biological or psychological explanation is ultimately goal-oriented.




2.4 

Non-immediate consequences of action. Innate, universal cognitive mechanisms, and accumulated knowledge, make possible to assess consequences of action that are non-immediate in time and space. This intelligence is, and ought to be, the basis for selecting course of action deemed to be optimal.

2.5 

The mind affects brain and behavior. Top-down attention selectively activates correlated brain-loci. Imagining a manual action with the right arm, for example, activates the representation of that arm in Brodmann area 4 in the contralateral hemisphere of the primary motor cortex (output of layer 5 pyramidal cells). Detecting that activation can then be used to cause an artificial arm to carry out the imagined action. This knowledge is now used to provide persons paralyzed from the neck down the ability to use their thoughts to control servo-mechanisms. The above non-controversial facts constitute conclusive empirical proof that the mind affects brain and behavior.

3. 

Ethical systems, legal systems, and public policy

3.1 

Natural law and historical religions.

The term ‘natural law’ is used by historical religions. Each historical religion involves a moral code, which is claimed to be universal. However, since each historical religion represents a minority of humanity, such claim is not strictly true. The thousands year-old historical religion are not science-based, and in this sense, their claim to be ultimate is of limited validity.

3.2 

Life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.  The United States Declaration of Independence characterizes the right to Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of happiness as ‘inalienable’.  This formulation asserts that some truths about individuals and society are universal by virtue of being truths of nature. And as such, governments must not have the to abridge them.

3.3 

The concept of natural law as a basis for a legal system. The Declaration of Independence is a manifestation of the belief that there exist universal truths about human nature and conduct, which ought to be the basis the legal system and public policy.

3.4 

Current biology and psychology. Present-day biology and neuroscience and psychology have demonstrated the existence of innate and universal behavioral and mental capacities, thus proving empirical confirmation for the natural law concept of law.

3.5

A more mundane example of natural law. Social policy aims at improving the well being of its members.  For this reason, an action by an individual or a group aimed in gaining some benefit by causing much larger harm to others is wrong, and ought to be illegal.  This example is universal – it is not limited to a given place or time.   Similar observation can be made in regard to moral conduct, whether or not it is also cover by law.

3.6

A current example. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA). The FDA requires drug companies to conduct clinical trials before it approves a new drug for use. Naturally, this also ought to be done with the introduction of any new chemical that could prove harmful to health, to food or food packaging.  Oddly, it is legal. Instead, a chemical is removed from use only after it is found to be harmful.  The required level of proof is high. As a result, the removal of a harmful chemical from use takes dozens of years. During such extended period millions of persons are adversely affected.  Under natural law, this practice would be judged wrong, and therefore ought to be illegal. But it is. The Declaration of Independence notwithstanding, the legal system of the United States has been severed from its original natural law aspiration. Addressing this issue requires examining the philosophical view of human nature that underlie ethical and legal systems that reject the concept of natural law.

4. 

Our troubled legacy

4.1 

The denial of universality. The most basic assumption that underlies present-day knowledge - the tabula rasa assumption - denies that humans possess any innate behavioral or mental capacity. It thus denies the possible existence of any innate commonalities of human nature. In conclusion, present-day theory of knowledge erroneously severs human nature from human conduct.

4.2 

The removal of goal-oriented language from biology and psychology. Physicalism is a tabula rasa doctrine.  It has made its own contribution to the present human predicament by arguing that biology and psychology must not use goal-oriented language because physics does not.  It so happened that goal-oriented homeostatic mechanisms define life.  Last century this misguided conclusion was influential. Fortunately, it is much less so now.

4.3 

The denial that the mind plays a role in behavior.Physicalism argues that only physical causes can have physical effects, and concludes that non-physical states such as pleasure and pain are causally inert.

4.4 

The removal of ethics from the empirical domain. In conclusion, the denial of human commonalities, the removal of goal-oriented language, and the denial that needs and desires matter in behavior, taken together, remove the subjects of ethics and law from the empirical domain.  Last century in Vienna, Physicalists did just that.

5. 

Positive law

5.1 

The legal doctrine of Positive Law. Positive Law confers validity on laws that are passed by a given political entity in a given area in a given time. Such laws have an element of hierarchy. City laws may be constrained by State laws, which in turn may be constrained by Federal laws.  The Positive Law doctrine is relativistic.  Its non-universality has prevented the West from effectively dealing with crucial security issues as demonstrated by the following examples. As the following examples show, individually and collectively, the law no longer serves the vital interests of the country.

5.2 

The Nuremberg Trials. After the end of the Second World War, the Allies set a tribunal in Nuremberg and tried the leaders of Nazi Germany. The Nazi leaders were accused of committing crimes. But, under Positive Law no crime was committed: Typically, the accused leaders carried out legal orders of a democratically elected government. The Tribunal was forced to be resourceful. It formulated an ad hoc law of ‘crimes against humanity’ and applied it retroactively. The Nuremberg Trials could have been and should have been a wake-up call that Positive Law is fatally flawed. But, this did not take place.

5.3 

Theodore Alvin Hall. Theodore Hall is the American spy that, as far as we know, is the person who transmitted to the Soviet Union the secrets of the atom bomb. This fact was discovered following the breaking of the secret communication code used by the Soviets. In 1951 the Federal Bureau of Investigation interviewed Hall in Chicago. It was decided that the evidence would be considered hearsay and thus inadmissible in Court. Hall was let go, and he moved to England were he pursued a career in molecular biology. That situation provided another opportunity for legal scholars to confront the fact that the legal system of the United States falls short in protecting the country against its adversaries. Another opportunity to address this fundamental issue was wasted.

5.4 

David Hicks. David Hicks, an Australian, joined Al Qaeda and fought American troops in Afghanistan.  He was captured, confessed to the facts and in 2007 was given nine month prison term. J. Wells Dixon, of the Center for Constitutional Rights appealed Hicks’ conviction and prevailed. The conviction of David Hicks as terrorist is due to be removed from the Court’s records.

5.5 

Guantanamo Bay detainees. After September 11, 2001 attacks the United States set up a tribunal to expedite the legal processing of detainees. To date, six detainees were found guilty. Of these six convictions three were overturned on appeal. None of the detainees related to the September 11, 2001 attacks were ever brought to trial. Specifically, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the mastermind of those attacks was never brought to trial.

5.6 

Demographic trends in Europe



5.6.1

Transition by mid-century. Non-European immigrants are about to become majority within less than two generations in countries where they constituted 8% or more at the turn of the century. This projection is based on the following assumptions (see graph above):

*

The replacement rate averages at 2.2 children per family;

*

The average number of children of recent non-European immigrants is more than twice that rate, taken here to be 4.4 children per family;

*

The average number of children of Europeans is less than 2.2 children per family, here taken be 2.2 children per family.

*

Stopping incoming immigration will not change the projected outcome since it does not make reference to that variable.

5.6.2

The current immigration trend was predictable. Shown below is a letter I faxed to the New York Times in 2001. Initially I was informed that the newspaper would be publish the letter. Shortly thereafter, that decision was reversed.



5.6.3 

Assumptions that underlie immigration policies have proved false. The Liberal tradition assumes that non-European immigrants would learn the language and customs of their adopted country. In many cases this has not happened. The pathology of this situation is manifested by the fact Liberal world-view assumes responsibility for that failure.  Most of those immigrants came from countries without democratic political systems. Hence, the default projection is that once the minority becomes majority, democratic traditions will end. The trends are set and can no longer be reversed or stopped.  Sooner or later, the spotlight of attention would be directed at the mistaken assumptions that is causing this self-inflicted harm. Why not now?

5.7 

Climate change.

5.7.1 

Fossil fuel and carbon dioxide (CO2) levels. Burning fossil fuel increases the level of CO2 in the atmosphere and the oceans. Last year, the average level of CO2 in the atmosphere reached, for the first time in 3.5 million years, the average level of 400 parts per million (ppm). At that time the sea level was about 65 feet higher than now. It is not possible to reverse or stop global warming this century.

5.7.2 

India and China. A recent study found that pollution in India shortens life the of the population by the total of 2.1 billion years annually. If one assumes that average life span in India is 75 years, then the 2.1 billion years equals 28 million deaths per year. China has recently replaced the United States as the largest contributor the CO2 rise. This development suggests that slowing increase in CO2 levels is not a realistic goal, and that instead the focus ought to be on slowing the acceleration of global warming.

5.7.3 

This millennium may prove to be Homo sapiens’ last. By the end of the current century the CO2 level in the atmosphere is projected to be in the 800-1000 ppm range. That would be inconsistent with life as we know it.


 

 

5.8 

Germline modifications. The promise and perils of human germline modifications is the central ethical issue facing humanity.  I would expect China, but not the West, to apply this technology once it proves safe.  The least of the consequences of this bifurcation is that it will bring to an end the Olympic Games.

5.9 

Conclusion. None of the above-given examples of current law provide guidance of what should be done. The Constitution does not provide guidance; case law does not provide guidance. The time has come to recognize the need to ground Positive Law on natural law.

6.

The foundation of knowledge.

6.1 

Positive Law must be grounded in natural law.

The examples given above make clear that Positive Law lacks the universality, empirical basis, and the global authority necessary to address crucial issues confronting the world today. This is one reason why Positive Law must be grounded in natural law.

6.2 

First, the foundation of knowledge must be brought up to date. The 300 hundred year-old tabula rasa doctrine is the most basic assumption underlying present-day knowledge. It is now known to be empirically false. What is not recognized is how damaging that false notion has been. It is time to bring the knowledge enterprise up to date. It would be imprudent to put off that undertaking.

Regarding the notion that the biological cell, the brain and the universe are Universal Turing Machines

A top-down argument

 

The attributes of incompleteness of incorrectness may apply to representation, but not to reality. Consider a geographical map of Brazil, for example. Such a map is necessarily incorrect: it is not mathematically possible to correctly project the three-dimensional curvature of the earth onto a two-dimensional flat surface. Such a map is also incomplete in extent and in detail. The issues of incorrectness or incompleteness are inapplicable to the territory itself. For this reason, any statement to the effect that a representation is identical with the reality represented is tautologically false.

Physical theory uses mathematics to represent aspects of reality. As maps, mathematics is subject to limitations as to completeness and consistency. These limitations of mathematics inhere in computers and Universal Turing Machines (UTMs). Hence, any statement purporting that the cell, the brain, or the universe is a UTM, is tautologically false.

 

Mind, Brain and the Foundation of Knowledge

Sensations are evoked in the brain - not imported into it.
This fact constitutes the new foundation of knowledge. 

Overview.

The most basic issue at the foundation of knowledge involves the distinction between what is, and what is not, physical.  Your dentist can see your aching tooth, but not your toothache.  The tooth is publicly observable while the toothache is private.  By that criterion the tooth is physical while the private sensation of pain is not. More generally, the issue is the relation between the physical brain and the phenomenal experience elicited by it.

Sound as a physical quality is said to be a property of air vibration in the 20-20,000 Hz range that is recognized by the ears and then imported into the brain.  However, sound can be elicited by direct brain stimulation, in the absence of air vibration and in the absence of input from the ears. This is the basis for the use of auditory prostheses for children who were born deaf due to dysfunction of the auditory nerve, as in the case of neurofibromatosis type II.  The fact that sound can be elicited in the absence of air vibration or input from the ears constitutes a conclusive disconfirmation of the notion that sound is a physical property.

What is true of sound is true of all sensations.  Vision, hearing, touch, taste, and smell are five of the sensory modalities of exteroception; each is represented in the cerebral cortex by a modality-specific area. The direct electrical stimulation of any modality-specific cortical area in a conscious person elicits a sensation of the corresponding modality: vision in the visual cortex, hearing in the auditory cortex, touch in the somatosensory cortex, taste in the gustatory cortex, and smell in the olfactory cortex.  Thus, identical stimuli are sufficient to elicit qualitatively diverse sensations, as determined by the modality-specific cortical area stimulated.  This fact demonstrates that such stimuli do not contribute to the qualitative nature of the evoked sensation.  It proves that sensations are not imported into the brain, either from the senses or from the outside world through the senses. Consequently, sensations are subjective rather than physical properties. Furthermore, these findings show that our ordinary experience of the world is exclusively phenomenal.  The physical is known by inference from the phenomenal.  Put differently, what is deemed to be publicly observable (and thus physical) is ultimately based on observations from the perspective of first-person experience (and thus phenomenal).

Some 300 years ago John Locke (1690) postulated the notion that the brain of the newborn is like a blank slate (tabula rasa) until it receives postnatal input from the senses. David Hume (1748) then made explicit the implications of applying the tabula rasaassumption to cognition, thus forming the basis for his epistemology of Empiricism.  Physicalism is the currently dominant epistemology.  It was introduced early last century by a group known as the Vienna Circle. Physicalism may be characterized by three attributes:  1) it defines existence as physical, 2) consequently, it implies that if brain function produces as a by-product non-physical mental states then such states must be causally inert, and 3) it excludes teleological, or goal-oriented explanations in science because such explanations are not used in physics. One consequence of this position has been the removal of ethics from the empirical domain.  Physicalism is based on a modified version of the tabula rasa assumption:  in order to avoid the dualistic version of Locke, it deems sounds and colors to be physical properties of the external environment, rather then originating in the ears and eyes, respectively. Thus, the tabula rasa assumption is the most basic tenet that underlies present-day knowledge.

As noted above, the tabula rasa assumption has been proved false as to the notion that sensations are received from the senses. We now know also that that brains of newborn are not blank slates.  The newborn has sensory, emotional, and cognitive mechanisms prior to any postnatal input from the senses. For example, the newborn likes sweet and dislikes bitter. The sensations of hunger and satiety are part of the mechanism that is involved in restoring glucose homeostasis and the sensation of hot and cold are a part of a mechanism that is involved in restoring temperature homeostasis.  These sensations are innate in the sense of not being learned.  And, except for pathological cases, these capacities are universal. Consequently, the most basic assumption that underlies present-day knowledge has been proved false.

It is now necessary to make explicit the epistemological consequences of replacing the tabula rasa assumption by its direct opposite.  For example, the fact that no sensations are imported into the brain constitutes conclusive disconfirmation of Physicalism.  A more fundamental consequence relates to physics. Imagining a sensation selectively activates the brain locus that evokes it. Imagining is mental while the consequent brain activation is physical.  However, implicit in physics is the assumption that only physical causes can have physical effects.  For this reason, brain activation by imagination requires that the foundation of physics be reviewed and revised.

Epistemology is a part of philosophy. It is therefore a task for the philosophic community.  However, the philosophic community does not yet acknowledge the evidence that brains of newborns are not blank slates, and that sensations are not imported into the brain. Max Planck observed that paradigm change often involves generational transition.  If Planck’s constant for paradigm change would apply here, then the most fundamental reconstruction in the foundation of knowledge in 300 years will remain a virtual terra incognita for some time to come.  The possible consequences of the expected delay in undertaking the need for reconstruction of the foundation of knowledge may be best judged by the role of knowledge in evolution.

The capacity to obtain and use knowledge has emerged in evolution because it increases the range of conditions under which survival is possible. From the evolutionary perspective it is the action-consequences of knowledge that matter. Any such action couples what can be with what ought to be done. What can be done is represented by technology.  What ought to be done is represented by a mixture of ethics, law, and public policy as reflected by national budgets.  What can be done is the most successful part of human knowledge while what ought to be done is the most troubled.  The industrial revolution, information technology, and biotechnology provide a background against which application of knowledge can be judged.  The unintended and uncontrollable consequences of these technologies indicate that the reconstruction of knowledge is an urgent matter.

The industrial revolution.  The industrial revolution introduced power production by burning fossil fuels, which emits carbon dioxide (CO2) as a by-product.  From the last ice age to the industrial revolution, the average CO2 level in the atmosphere was about 280 parts per million (ppm) by volume.  In May 2013 the CO2 reached for the first time the level of 400 ppm.  That carbon dioxide level in the atmosphere existed during the geological epoch, the Pliocene, some 2.6 to 5.3 million years ago. Then, the 400 ppm CO2 level caused warming, which melted polar ice and caused sea level to rise to about 65 feet above the current level. Since the 1980’s, about half of the Arctic Ice cap melted. That ice cap is expected to be completely gone by midcentury. The current increase in CO2 level in the atmosphere increases by 4.5 ppm per year.  At that rate it would reach 800 ppm by the end of the century. China, which is still in its early stage of industrialization, already replaced the United States as the largest polluter.  It is too late to reverse or stop climate change. Climate change is the direct consequence of human actions and not a result of some natural phenomenon. These actions are manifestations of bad philosophy.


Innateness and the foundation of knowledge.

0.1

Darwin and the philosophic community.  In The Descent of Man (1871), Darwin applied his theory of evolution to humans, concluding that we possess some forms of behavior that are innate. In the Expression of Emotion in Animals and Man (1872), he extended those conclusions to mental faculties. Earlier, John Locke, in An Essay Concerning Human Understanding (1705), proposed the contrary view that the brain of the newborn is like a blank slate (tabula rasa), and that postnatal experience is limited to input from the senses. The English speaking philosophic community has, by and large, accepted Darwin’s theory of evolution, but has thus far rejected Darwin’s application of evolution to the innateness of mental faculties. Present-day science has proved Darwin right. 

0.2

Sensations are evoked in the brain.  The use of auditory prostheses by those who are born deaf is the most common example demonstrating that sensations are evoked in the brain, and not imported into it. The electrical stimulation of the auditory nerve or auditory brain of children born deaf elicits sensations of sound (Kuchta J. 2004; Colletti V. et al. 2005). Hence, sensations of sound are evoked in the brain and are not received from the ears, and are not properties of air vibration. The same is true of all sensations (Sperry R. 1952; von Buddenbrock W. 1953/1958; Gardner E.P., Martin J. H. 2000; Brugger P. et al. 2000). 

0.3

The scope the tabula rasa assumption. Locke’s tabula rasa doctrine underlies the following:

 *       Empiricism       

*       Physicalism      

*       Ethics and law          

*       The computer metaphor of the brain 

0.4    

Replacing the tabula rasa assumption. The replacement of the tabula rasa assumption by the fact that sensations and some other mental faculties are innate would constitute, by definition, the new foundation of knowledge. Nominally, the implications of such a change would be co-extensive with the implications of the tabula rasaassumption. Making explicit the implications of this paradigm change will inevitably become the central challenge confronting the philosophic community in the coming decades.                 

0.5

What ought to be done.  The current technological revolution has given society a false sense of control over its future.  But the opposite is true.   The fact that present-day theories of knowledge, ethics, and law are based on a 300-year old misconception has deprived society the ability to effectively address these problems or even comprehend what these problems are. It is as if technology is catapulting humanity into an unknown future with a dysfunctional guidance system.  The issue is survival, not philosophy. First, we must set aside the tabula rasa assumption, and then we must undertake the decades-long challenge of making explicit the implications of the new state of affairs.

Figure 1.   The area covered by a beam of light is a function of the square of the distance from its points of origin. The light intensity per-unit-area is the function of the inverse square of that distance. This inverse square relation holds for gravitation or any other form of force with rectilinear propagation in a three-dimensional space.


1.       

Empiricism and innate cognition


1.0    

Do we have innate knowledge about the world prior to experience?  Empiricism is an epistemological position that denies that the newborn can have any knowledge about the world prior to postnatal experience.  This position was developed by David Hume (1777/1975), who applied Locke’s tabula rasa assumption to cognition.  Hume maintained that all knowledge is obtained only through the senses and denied that we may have any innate and universal cognitive knowledge about the world.  Emanuel Kant (1787/1999) rejected that position, maintaining instead that we have innate and universal cognitive mechanisms, which impose structure on input from the senses. For example, Kant maintained that our perception of space as three-dimensional  is innate and universal, and that it underlies Newtonian physics.   

1.1    

The perception of space as three-dimensional is innate. The retina provides two-dimensional visual information about perceived space.  Yet, we perceive it as three-dimensional, even when looking with only one eye. This implies that the perception of depth does not originate in the eyes.  It is not based on experience either: If a baby is placed on an opaque part of an otherwise transparent tabletop, it will look at the transparent part and will avoid crawling there (Gibson & Walk 1960). Taken together, these two observations – that depth perception does not originate in the eye, and that even a newborn baby perceives depth – show that there is an innate cognitive mechanism that imposes a three-dimensional interpretation on the input from the eyes.        

1.2    

Euclidean geometry and Newtonian physics. The so-called inverse square laws in physics follow from solid geometry of three-dimensions where lines of force are rectilinear (Figure 1).  Hence, the inverse square laws are implicit in the knowledge about the world of the newborn, even prior to any postnatal experience. In this regard, Kant proved right. 

1.3    

Knowledge prior to experience.  Present-day theories of physics are not yet in a final form, but they nevertheless constitute knowledge about the world. Newtonian physics is a familiar example: it is a non-final theory, but it constitutes knowledge about the world. There are aspects of Newtonian physics can be derived by taking space to be three-dimensional, and these constitute obtainable knowledge about the world prior to input from the senses – this is in direct opposition to the assumption that defines Empiricism, which may be defined as the denial that humans have, or can have, any knowledge about the world prior to input from the senses. So defined, Empiricism has proved to be factually false.      

1.4    

The inductive inference. Fundamental scientific advances involve the generalizing inductive inference. The inductive inference is not deductively valid. Like geometrical and mathematical concepts, the inductive inference is rooted in innate and universal cognitive mechanisms. Empirical investigation of these mechanisms is likely to shed light on the logic implicit in scientific induction.  


2.     

Physicalism in the 20th century   


2.0    

Locke’s tabula rasa is dualistic. John Locke partitioned that which is perceived into primary and secondary qualities. He called primary qualities those qualities that are like size and shape, which he believed are attributes of the external world; he called secondaryqualities attributes those that he believed to originate in the senses and not belong to external world, such as color and sound.  This partition made Locke’s version of the tabula rasa assumption dualistic.  

2.1    

Rudolf Carnap In the 1920’s, a group known as the Vienna circle, initially named after Ernst Mach, sought to purge the tabula rasa doctrine from Locke’s dualistic formulation.  In his book The Analysis of Sensations(1904/1914), Mach stated that the first-person perspective underlies observations that are deemed public.  Rudolf Carnap, who was a leader of the Vienna circle, reached similar conclusions in his book The Logical Construction of the World (1928/2003). Carnap therefore recommended that the first-person perspective be adopted as the basis for a non-dualistic reformulation of the tabula rasa assumption.    

2.2    

Otto Neurath.  The first-person perspective is deemed subjective and, as such, as inconsistent with Materialism. Thus, Otto Neurath Neurath, an ardent (Marxist) Materialist, objected to the selection of the first-person perspective as the basis for a non-dualistic language of science. He insisted that the third-person perspective be selected instead.  Carnap relented, and so it was.  Carnap explained the reversal of his position by saying that the decision was not a necessary one, but a matter of choice.  But soon thereafter, the notion that there is a choice in the matter was discarded. It is inexplicable why Carnap did not address this sharp departure from his stated position. Neurath then renamed Materialism as Physicalism. 

2.3    

Gilbert Ryle. In The Concept of Mind (1949), Ryle presented the reader with the choice between Physicalistic behaviorism and dualism. He then effectively argued against dualism and rested his case. The book implies that the rejection of dualism leaves Physicalism as the remaining alternative. This formulation relieved Ryle from the need of arguing against the first-person perspective, and even of the need to defend Physicalism.  The book was a smashing success. It made Physicalism the quasi-official position of the English-speaking philosophic community.   

2. 4

Innateness of sensations and Physicalism.  Empirical evidence demonstrates that sensations are innate and are evoked in the brain (Von Buddenbrock 1932/1963, Sperry 1952, Gardner & Martin 2000). As a consequence, sensory qualities are not publicly observable. It is therefore necessarily the case that observations that are deemed public are ultimately based on the first-person perspective: Physicalism is no longer tenable. It cannot be reconciled with the fact that the knowledge of the physical is derived from observation and inference, neither of which satisfies the criterion of physicality.

Figure 3.   Interoception. Its role in the homeostatic regulation of internal body states. The default mode of the homeostatic regulation is not conscious. Interoception refers to exception-based subjective states, which require voluntary behavior to restore homeostasis.


3.    

Interoception, needs and desires    


3.0     

Interoception. In humans, the sensations of hunger and thirst are innate and universal. They exemplify interoreception-based sensations, which are related to the maintenance of homeostatic internal body states (Cannon 1932/1963). The existence of universals of human nature underlies universals of human conduct. It provides the grounds for non-relativistic ethics and law.  

3.1    

Interoception and the tabula rasa doctrineThetabula rasa doctrine implies that no needs and desires are innate. Only what is innate can be universal in human nature.  Hence, the tabula rasa doctrine severs human conduct, ethics and law from human nature. It thus deprives ethics and law of any basis other than convention or dogma. The Vienna Circle recognized this implication of the tabula rasa doctrine when they removed ethics from the empirical domain. It so came to pass that other than convention or dogma, present-day ethics and law have no foundation.  

3.2

Interoception and teleology. Interoception is involved in the homeostatic regulation of internal body states. Homeostasis is a teleological concept.  Following Galileo, teleology was purged from scientific explanations until the last quarter of the 20th century. The mathematics of servomechanism restored the acceptability of teleological explanation ((Rosenbleuth, Wiener and Bieglow 1943).  The cell, while it is alive, maintains some variables within narrow set-points that are far from thermodynamic equilibrium. The cellular mechanisms that make this balancing act possible are inherently homeostatic and are thus teleological in their function. Hence, teleology is a defining characteristic of life. Temperature homeostasis in mammals provides needed uniformity of chemical processes. This relative independence of variations of outside temperature is especially important for brain function.

3.3    

Interoception, homeostasis and the  mental.  Mental states are evoked whenever voluntary action is needed to restore homeostasis (Figure 3). Such restoration is associated with positive affect.  But shortly after restoration of homeostasis, the involvement of the mental is withdrawn, and operation returns to non-conscious regulation. Thus, in interoception, mental states appear when automatic mechanisms are insufficient to restore homeostasis, and disappear, soon after homeostasis is restored.  Apparently, the mind plays a role in interoception.  

3.4   

An implication. The current application of the tabula rasadoctrine to needs and desires make it impossible to reach evidence-based consensus among people of different religions and ethnicities. Hence, the central moral imperative of our time is to set aside that doctrine, and then seek to derive human conduct from human nature.  Such action would also provide an empirical foundation for the legal theory of natural law.

           

 

 

 

 

Figure 4.   The molecular constitution of the cell reflects the evolution of the organism, the development of a particular cell type, and its intrinsic function. Extending this notion to brain cells is about to transform neuroscience.

 

4.       

Neuroanatomic determinants of neural function  

 

4.0    

Two conflicting views of neural function. The discovery of the structure of DNA in 1953 showed the cell to be complex and autonomous. Prior to that discovery, the neuron was viewed as a tabula rasa cell, whose output is computable from its inputs alone. In fact, neurons emit input-independent output. For example, hypothalamic neurons that generate circadian rhythm do so also in the absence of any input and do so in vitro as well. The view of the simpleton cell led some to believe that the brain is a computer (McCulloch and Pitts 1943/1990, Smolensky 1994). In biology, function is structure-dependent, while in computers, it is not. Thus, if the brain is a computer, then there can be no unique neuro-anatomic correlates to any neural function or to a correlated mental state.  This issue must be resolved in order that the neural correlates of consciousness (NCC) be identified. It is addressed below.

4.1    

Structure-independent function. The general-purpose digital computer is an implementation of Alan Turing’s abstract, simple, and explicit formulation of computation, known as the Universal Turing Machine, or UTM (Turing 1936). The program, or algorithm, that represents a possible function of a UTM, can be processed on computers with different hardware designs. Thus, an algorithm does not, and cannot possibly have, a single unique hardware implementation.    

4.2    

Structure-dependent function.

 

4.2.1    

Molecules, cells, and cell type distribution.  Skin, muscle and bone cells of an organism differ in their constitutively-expressed proteins. This protein specificity accounts for both the cell’s phenotype and its intrinsic function (Figure 4).  What is true of all cell types is true of brain cells. Their protein specificity determines both their phenotype and intrinsic function. Structural biology infers intrinsic function of a molecule from its structure. Molecular biology of the cell extends structure-dependence to the molecules constituting the cell. Cytoarchitecture maps the three-dimensional distribution of cell types. Korbinian Brodmann mapped the cytoarchitecture of the human cerebral cortex (1905/2006) into functional areas. For example, Brodmann area 4 is the primary motor cortex, area 17 is the primary visual cortex, and area 41 is the primary auditory cortex. This identification of intrinsic function is exclusively structure-dependent: it makes reference to neither interactivity nor connectivity.

4.2.3    

Intrinsic neural function determines mental states.Structure determines intrinsic function and intrinsic function determines mental states.  Hence, structure determinaes mental states.   

4.2.4

The brain is not a UTM.  This section constitutes the first empirical proof that the brain is not a Universal Turing Machine.

 

5.

A glimpse of the new epistemological landscape. Present-day knowledge is still based on the empirically false assumption that sensations are imported into the brain.  Making explicit the implications of the fact that sensations are evoked in the brain and not imported into it is a long-term process.  The preliminary notes below touch on the following topics:

*    Characterizing the physical

*    The physical is an inference from the mental

*    The mind affects brain and behavior

*    Deriving human conduct from human nature

5.1

Characterizing the physical.

 

5.1.1

Concepts.  The contrast between concepts and physical objects brings out the attributes that characterize physicality.  A characteristic of existence is that it persists when observed by a person at different times (intrasubjective consistency), and by different observers (intersubjective consistency).  By this criterion, mathematical concepts and operations are the epitome of objectivity.  Hence, they satisfy the existence criterion. Concepts (e.g. triangularity), are apprehended introspectively, but are not publicly observable.  Furthermore, the attribute of locatability in space is not applicable to concepts.  In this sense concepts exist in the Platonic realm and thus ubiquitous.

5.1.2

Characterizing the physical.  Consider, for example, a triangular equilateral tile in contrast to the concept of triangularity.  The tile is physical, while the concept of triangularity is not.  The tile satisfies the twin criteria of being located in space and being publicly observable; the concept of triangularity satisfies neither criteria.

5.1.3

Sensations.  Red/green and yellow/blue are two sets of primary opponent colors.  Looking at one such color (e.g. yellow) for a while produces an afterimage of the opponent color (blue, in this case). The blue afterimage is private, while the blueness of the sky seems publicly observable. However, the world of physics is colorless.  In both cases the blue color is evoked by the visual cortex:  sensations of color, like all sensations, are private.  As such colors do not satisfy the criterion of physicality.  The color afterimage is universal and intrasubjectively consistent.  Thus, like concepts, color qualities satisfy the criterion of existence.

5.2

Perception of the physical.  The physical is knowable by observation and inference.  The observation involves vision, ouch and other sensory modalities of exteroception.  The inference is mainly logical and mathematical and as such it is concept-based.  Neither concepts nor sensation satisfy the criteria of physicality.  If the non-physical is called mental then the physical is knowable as inference from the mental.

5.3

The mind matters – the causal efficacy of the mental. Imagining a sensation selectively activates he corresponding modality-specific cortical area (e.g. color the visual cortex, a tune – the auditory cortex).  The act of imagining is mental, while the activated cortex is physical.  Thus, the mind activation of the physical brain is commonplace. This fact points to a fundamental incompleteness of present-day physics.

5.4

Ethics and the foundation of the legal system. Two factors make possible the development of non-relativistic ethics, which in turn, provides foundations for the legal doctrine of natural law. The first factor is the existence of innate and universal needs and desires (e.g. hunger and thirst).  It makes possible to derive human conduct from human nature.  The second factor is the ability of the mind to affect brain and behavior. This fact provides the presently missing empirical grounds for holding persons responsible for their actions.

 

References.

Alberts B. et al. Molecular Biology of the Cell. 5rd ed. 2008. Garland Publishing, Inc.

Alroy, D. Inner Light. Synthese.Volume 104. 1995.

Alroy, D. Concepts and methods for identifying brain correlates of elementary mental states.  US Patent 7,680,602.  2010.

Alroy, D. Methods for identifying protein specificity of brain cells that evoke a given mental state that does not contain smaller constituents. US Patent 8,112,260 B2.  2012

Brodmann K. Localization in the Cerebral Cortex: the Principles of Comparative Localization in the Cerebral Cortex based on Cytoarchitecture. Translated by L. J. Garey. 1905/-2006. New York, NY. Springer-Verlag.

Brugger P. et al. Beyond Remembering: Phantom Sensations of Congenitally Absent Limbs. Proc Natl Acad Sci USA. 2000 May 23;97(11):6167-72.

Cannon W. B. The Wisdom of the Body. 1932/1963. New York: N. N. Norton and Company, Inc.

Carnap R. The Logical Structure of the World and Pseudoproblems in Philosophy. Translated by RA George. 1928/2003. Peru, Illinois. Open Court.

Colletti V. et al. Auditory Brainstem Implant (ABI): New Frontiers in Adults and ChildrenOtolaryngol Head Neck Surg. 2005 Jul;133(1): 126-38.

Darwin C. The Descent of Man, and Selection in Relation to Sex. 1871. London, UK. John Murray.

Darwin C. The Expression of the Emotions in Man and Animals. 1872. London, UK. John Murray

Gardner, E. P., and Martin, J. H.  Coding of sensory information. Principles of Neural Science.Eric E. Kandel et al, Editors. 4th Edition. 2000.  New York:  McGraw Hill.

Gardner, E. P., Johnson, K. O. Sensory Coding. Principles of Neural Science. Edited by Kandel E.R. et al. 5th Edition. 2013. New York: McGraw-Hill Medical.

Gibson, E. J. Walk R.D. The “Visual Cliff”. Scientific American. April 1960.

Hume D. An Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding. 2nd edition. Edited by L. A. Selby-Bigge. 1777/1975. The Clarendon Press.

Kant, E. Critique of Pure Reason. 2nd edition. 1787/1999. Translated by Guyer P. and Wood A. Cambridge University Press.

Kuchta JNeuroprosthetic Hearing with Auditory Brainstem Implants. Biomed Tech (Berl).2004 Apr;49(4):83-7.

Locke, J. An Essay Concerning Human Understanding. 1705/1975. Edited by P.H. Niddith. The Clarendon Press.

Mach, E. The Analysis of Sensations. 1906/1914. Translated by Willimans C. M. and Waterlow S. Chicago.

Martin, J. H.  Coding of Sensory Information. Principles of Neural Science. Kandel, E. R. et al, Editors. Third Edition.  1991.  New York:  McGraw-Hill.

McCulloch W. S. and Pitts W. H. A Logical Calculus of the Ideas Immanent in Nervous ActivityReprinted in McCulloch W. S. Embodiments of Mind. 1943/1990. The MIT Press.

Rosenblueth R, Wiener N, Bigelow J. Behavior, Purpose and Teleology. Philosophy of Science. January 1943. Volume 10: 18-24.

Ryle G. The Concept of Mind. 1949. London, UK. Hutchinson & Company, Ltd.

Smolensky P. Computational Models of Minds. A companion to the philosophy of mind. Edited by S.Guttenplan. 1994. Blackwell Publishers, Ltd.

Sperry R. Neurology and the Mind-Body Problem. American scientist. 1952. 40: 291-312

Turing, A. On Computable Numbers with an Application to the Entscheidungsproblem. Proceedings of the London Mathematical Society. 1936. 42: 230-65. 43: 644-6.

Von Buddenbrock W. The Senses. 1953/1958. Translated by F. Gaynor. Ann Arbor: The University of Michigan Press.

Watson J. D., Crick F. H. Molecular Structure of Nucleic Acids; a Structure for Deoxyribose Nucleic Acid. Nature. 1953.

Intrinsic function of cells

Daniel Alroy

2015, September 9

The cell is the basic unit of life. Molecular biology of the cell is the most basic science of life. The genome in a multi-cellular organism is, to the first approximation, the same in the different cell-types of that organism. The genome of a given organism encodes the amino acid sequence of proteins that can be expressed in it. A cell-type of such organism may be characterized by that subset of the proteins encoded by the genome that can be, or are, expressed in it. The protein-specificity of a given cell-type is the primary determinant of its phenotype and intrinsic function. Put differently, the causal locus of function is intracellular while the phenotype is a downstream manifestation of the protein-specificity of the cell.

The human body contains about 220 cell-types by phenotype. Each cell-type by phenotype typically represents numerous subtypes in terms of its protein-specificity. For example, the phenotype of the olfactory receptor cell represents some 350 subtypes in terms of protein-specificity. These considerations make plain the need to identify the protein-specificity of the cell-types of the human body and brain. At present brain cells are compared relative to their phenotypic differences, without reference to a common denominator. Chemistry moved from a pre-theoretic to theoretic discipline when chemical elements were determined relative to the common denominator - of number of protons in their nucleus. A similar transition from pre-theoretic to theoretic stage is about to take place in neuroscience, by identifying brain cells of an organism by their protein specificity relative to the common genome. This is true for all cell types of an organism. More generally, whatever is true of all cell types of an organism is necessarily true of brain cells.

Currently, the mainstream notion about causal locus of neural function is that it is intercellular. Consider the amyloid hypothesis of Alzheimer’s disease (AD). It is based on the notion that intercellular amyloid plaque is the cause of AD. On the basis of this assumption, the drug industry has developed and tested this century about 200 drugs aimed at reducing the intercellular plaque. They all failed. It costs over a billion dollars and about 10 years to introduce a new drug. For this reason, this consistent failure deserves conceptual scrutiny. The circadian rhythm cells in the suprachiasmatic nucleus of the hypothalamus are a simple example of intracellular causal locus – they can perform their function in vitro. More fundamental, but less obvious, is the intracellular locus of homeostatic function of any cell.

Notes Toward the New Foundation of Knowledge

Daniel Alroy

2015, August 10

Physicalism. The foundation of mathematics, physics, and biology were put on a new foundation last century. That transformation left intact the most basic assumption that underlies present-day knowledge. It was introduced by John Locke some 300 years ago. Locke postulated that the brain of the newborn is like a blank slate (tabula rasa), and that all sensations are imported into the brain, none innate. The tabula rasa assumption is the basic tenet of Physicalism, the currently dominant theory of knowledge. It deems only the publicly observable to be physical, thus excluding private sensations. For example, your dentist can see your aching tooth but not your toothache. The tooth is publicly observable and thus physical, while the toothache is not, and therefore does not satisfy this criterion of being physical. Physicalism seeks to account for our experience of the world by exclusively physical terms. For example, it postulates that sound is a property of air vibration and, as such, physical. Whether sound is, or is not, a property of air vibration is an empirical issue, and is not subject to postulation. Sound would not satisfy the criterion of being physical if the sensation of sound could be evoked by stimulation of persons who are born deaf. There are over 100,000 persons that were born deaf, and they are able to hear sounds in response to electrical stimulation of the auditory nerve or the auditory brain stem. Thus, sound is phenomenal, not physical. We now know that the same is true of all sensations. For these reasons, our experience of the physical world is exclusively phenomenal. Hence, our knowledge of the physical is inferred from the phenomenal experience of it.  These facts confer epistemological priority of the phenomenal over the physical, making it ineliminable. The above amounts to the conclusive disconfirmation of Physicalism. That dead doctrine will remain unburied for decades to come. However, this is a matter of the sociology of knowledge. It is outside our present focus.  

False beliefs and consequences. The empirically false foundation of present-day knowledge is a major contributor to grave problems that beset humanity. Consider an example. There exist innate commonalities of human nature. This, in turn, must be the basis for commonalities of human conduct and legal systems. Physicalism, denying the possible existence of any innate mental capacity denies the possible existence of human nature and conduct. As a result, the moral and legal systems of Western democracies are local and provisional rather than universal. This misconstrued foundation is sufficient, by itself, to incapacitate any decisive long-term international action on global concerns such as the pollution of the oceans and global warming. It is as if technology is catapulting humanity into an unknown future, and toxic philosophy has set the trajectory toward possible extinction this millennium and jammed the guidance system. 

Toward the dawn of a new day

It is necessary to bring the foundation of knowledge up to date. It is now necessary to undertake the reconstruction of the foundation of knowledge. However, the philosophic community does not yet accept the empirical verdict of science regarding innateness of mental faculties.  It so came to pass that the most pressing task in advancing knowledge is virtually terra incognita. By yearend I intend to e-publish an initial draft of a short book that reviews the empirical grounds for the innateness of sensations, emotions, and cognitions, outline the history of the current views, spell out some of their consequences, and finally outline the new epistemological landscape. Below are some background notes. 

Information technology. The memory chip in today’s information technology devices would contain over a billion transistors in an area that contained just a single transistor in 1960. To the extent that the cost per unit area remained roughly the same, it represents a billion-fold drop in the cost per transistor. Nothing in prior human history compares to such rapid development. Furthermore, while consumption of energy degrades it, the consumption of information leaves it intact.In this regard, publicly available databases invalidate a basic tenet of economics about the scarcity and consumption of goods. In the last fifty years, information technology has emerged as a determinant of social life in countries rich and poor.

Biotechnology. The first human genome was sequenced at the beginning of the current century at the cost of over $1 billion. That cost is now just over $1,000. In contrast, during the 1960’s the number of transistors per unit area of silicon chip increased by a thousand-fold and the cost per transistor dropped by that factor. Thereafter the rate in the increase of transistor density, and the drop in cost-per-transistor never equaled or exceeded that rate. Thus, the current drop in the cost of sequencing a human genome is about a thousand-fold faster than that of transistors over the same time period. If sequencing the genome assists in identifying disease conditions, it is gene-editing that makes it possible to correct them. Until recently gene-editing was an uncertain and difficult procedure. Recent dramatic advances changed that situation. By the next decade, if not sooner, it would be feasible carry out pre-implantation somatic gene therapy. Humans are now in a position to wrest from nature the future evolution of life on Earth.

History. History is unidirectional. The past can no longer be a guide to the future. How else can a future course be determined? The conscious capacity to obtain and use knowledge has emerged in evolution because it extends the range of environments in which humans can survive. The foundations of knowledge (philosophy) and applications of knowledge (technology) are distinct from knowledge proper (science). From an evolutionary perspective, only what we do matters; what we know, and what we can do, do not. Upon inspection, we find that science and technology are silent on this issue; addressing the ever-present crucial question of what ought to be done is the exclusive domain of philosophy.

The chasm between reality and its representation

Daniel Alroy

1.

Maps and territories. It is not mathematically possible to project 3D curvature onto a 2D surface without distorting areas or angles. This fact poses a challenge to map makers. The common Mercator cylindrical projection map distorts areas. As a result, such maps starting from either pole to 70 degrees latitude are virtually unusable. Thus, maps of the earth are necessarily incorrect; they are also inherently incomplete when contrasted with the represented territory. In conclusion, maps of the earth are necessarily incorrect and incomplete. By contrast, it is meaningless to ask whether a given territory is complete or correct. These attributes are, in principle, inapplicable to territories. Thus, there exists an unbridgeable chasm between maps and the territories they represent.

2.

Mathematics and science. Mathematics rich enough to contain arithmetic is subject to limitations in regards to completeness and consistency. In physics, representations are made by use of mathematics. As a consequence, the limitations of mathematics become an ineliminable part of physics. The same is true for any other scientific discipline that is mathematically formulated.

3.

Completeness, consistency, and reality. The attributes of completeness and consistency are not applicable to reality. Hence, there exists an unbridgeable chasm between mathematically formulated theories and the reality they represent. The dictum ‘the map is not the territory’ applies to physical theories as well as to cartography. Statements of the form ‘the map is identical with the territory it represents’ are tautologically false.

4.

Universal Turing Machines. Alan Turing has formulated a procedure that makes explicit the notion of computation. That abstract formulation is now called the Universal Turing Machine (UTM). John von Neumann modeled the general-purpose digital computer after the UTM. Both the UTM and the general-purpose computer are means for mathematical representation. Hence, it is tautologically false to state the UTM or the computer is identical with any aspect of reality they may represent.

5.

Can the brain be a Universal Turing Machine? Current intellectual fashion suggests that the biological cell, the brain, and nature itself, are UTMs. Such suggestions are based on the tautologically false premise that a representation is, or can be, identical with the reality it represents. The cell, the brain, and the universe are not universal Turing machines.

 

Philosophy is an applied discipline

Daniel Alroy

2015, July 20

The central problem of knowledge in a nutshell. Charles Darwin, based on his theory of evolution, reached the conclusion that humans, like other species, possess some innate behavioral and mental capacities. In the prior century, John Locke proposed the contrary assumption, that the mind of the newborn is like a blank slate (tabula rasa). On that point, current empirical findings have proved Darwin right and Locke wrong. It is now necessary to replace the tabula rasa assumption by its opposite. Doing so would constitute the most fundamental advance in knowledge since Locke introduced his empirically false assumption some 300 years ago. Epistemology, the theory of knowledge, is a part of philosophy. Therefore, it is for the philosophic community to undertake the needed reconstruction of the foundation of knowledge. But there is a problem. Following Darwin, the philosophic community has generally accepted his theory of evolution, but has rejected his conclusion regarding innateness, remaining instead committed to Locke’s tabula rasaassumption. It so came to pass that the most basic assumption of present-day knowledge is the 300 years-old, empirically false,tabula rasa assumption. It will take time before the philosophic community lets go of the 300-year old epistemological legacy. Currently, the central problem of knowledge is virtually terra incognita

The role of knowledge in evolution. The capacity to obtain and apply knowledge has emerged in evolution is because it extends the range of environment in which we can survive. From evolutionary perspective only what we do matters – what we know and what we can do – do not. For this reason, decisions as to what ought to be done is the ever-present crucial issue facing individuals and societies. The foundation of knowledge, knowledge proper, and the applications of knowledge are also known as philosophy, science, and technology, respectively. Science and technology do not have the means of deriving prescription from description, or what ought to be from what is. This subject is the exclusive domain of philosophy.

Technology - On what can be done. The semiconductor technology is engine that powers the information technology revolution.  In the decade of the 1960’s the number of transistor per unit area of a memory chip doubled annually, so that by 1970 a memory chip contained 1,024 transistors. The production cost per unit area of silicon remained about the same. Hence, the cost-per-transistor dropped by a thousand-fold. Current memory chips typically contain over a billion transistors, reflecting a slowing down in the increase transistor density. The increase in the number of transistors per unit area was until recently the most revolutionary technological advance in human history. Now biotechnology is in the lead. The cost of sequencing the first human genome cost over one billion dollars. The cost now is below $4 thousand dollars. This price drop took place in about twelve years. It is orders of magnitude faster than thus the 1960-1970 thousand-fold drop in the cost-per-transistor. Humans are now in apposition to wrest from nature the future evolution of life on Earth. We do not have the wisdom how to apply this awesome power.

Toward reconstruction of the foundation of knowledge. Technology - what can done – is the most successful part of knowledge; the knowledge of what ought to be done is moored to 300 years-old misconceptions. It is as if technology is catapulting humanity into an unknown future, with a dysfunctional guidance system. Philosophy is not only the most fundamental part of knowledge; it is now also the part that most urgently requires reconstruction.

Physicalism:  prescription for extinction

Pre-edited draft

The capacity to discover and use knowledge has emerged in evolution because it can make possible survival in in greater range of environments. An essential aspect of knowledge is that it can inform about the non-immediate consequences of an action in space and time. Ignoring non-immediate consequences of action could be fatal. For example, using pipes to distribute water can promote survival. But the long- term use of lead pipes (as the Romans did) would have the opposite effects. The first industrial revolution is the current analog of using lead in water pipes.  

The first industrial revolution. The first industrial revolution replaced muscle power with machine power. It involves burning fossil fuel, which produces carbon dioxide (CO2) as a waste by-product. This year the CO2 in the atmosphere reached, for the first time in human history, the level of 400 parts per million (ppm). The last time that CO2 level was reached was some 3 million years ago when the sea level was some 65 feet higher than now. In the atmosphere, the increase in CO2 causes warming. In the oceans, the accumulation of CO2 causes acidification, which in turn, leads to extinction of fish species. The CO2 level is likely to double by the end of the century. These long-term trends are neither reversible nor stoppable. This millennium may prove our last.

What is wrong with efforts to slow down global warming? Technology – the application of knowledge - provides alternatives means for what can be done. Wisdom is the ability to decide what ought to be done. What can be done is the most advanced part of knowledge. Technology is catapulting humanity into an unknown future. In contrast, Physicalism has severed the question of what ought to be done from its biological foundation and removed it from the empirical domain. The result is the dysfunctional coupling of what can be, and what ought to be done. Global warming is not the problem. Instead, it is just one of the manifestation of the inability of humanity for decisive collective response to survival imperatives. Focus needs to shift toward the systemic inability to arrive at decisive collective action an a long term problem of any basic problem confronting humanity. Toxic philosophy is the primary culprit, and there is no remedy other than the reconstruction of the foundation of knowledge.

Human nature is the empirical basis of human conduct. Goal-oriented collective action is made possible by the existence of the following basic four capabilities:

Innate and universal capacities. The inter-generational transmission of genetic information is innate and universal both for unicellular and multicellular organisms. DNA replication, RNA transcription, and protein translation are manifestations of innate and universal mechanisms. These, and other innate and universal mechanisms are also manifested in the behavior of organisms. 

Centrality of goals. Homeostasis characterizes cells while they are alive. Homeostasis, of any given variable, such as glucose, involves negative feedback relative to a particular set-point. Action of such mechanisms is goal-oriented. For this reason biological explanations are ultimately goal-oriented.  

Mental capacities promote survival by facilitating goal achievement. Mental capacities have emerged in the evolution because they increase the range of conditions under which survival possible. It allowed, among other things, the development of conceptual knowledge.     

Human nature and human conduct. Taken together, the innate commonalities of human nature, the centrality of goal-oriented considerations, and the use of mental and capabilities, are the biological common ground foundation for a non-relativistic philosophy of action.

Physicalism is a pathology. Physicalism denies each of the basic four capabilities cited above:

The tabula rasa doctrine. Physicalism is based on the empirically false tabula rasa doctrine, which denies that any behavioral or mental capacity is innate.

Denial of the existence of goal-oriented biological mechanisms. Physicalism calls for the elimination of goal-oriented explanations. Last century, biologists and neuroscientists tried to adhere to that misguided prescription. No longer. Goal-oriented explanations in biology and neuroscience are now common. 

The mind as an evolutionary harmless error. Physicalists view the mind as a causally inert by-product of brain function. For example, Physicalists take the bizarre position that taking pain medication is causally unrelated to having pain experience.

The removal of ethics from the empirical domain. Denying the possible existence of commonalities of human nature, Physicalists deny the possible existence of commonalities of human conduct, and consequently of the possibility of morality and legal systems based on natural law. The consequence is relativism and focus on the non-universal short term – exactly the opposite of what is called for. The resulting inability for decisive collective long-term action may prove terminal. As such it is pathologic.  

What ought to be done. Physicalism is currently the dominant theory of knowledge. Its basic tenet is the tabula rasa doctrine. That doctrine is now known to be empirically false. Physicalism has modified that empirically false doctrine into a pathology, which constitutes prescription for extinction. Max Plank observed that acceptance of a new paradigm (in physics) typically involves a generational transition. It is over 300 years since the introduction of the currently dominant tabula rasa doctrine. Plank’s observation does not appear to apply to the overdue need for reconstruction of the foundation of knowledge. A way ought to be found out of this predicament, and avert having evolution cast its vote about the future of humanity.

 

 

 

 

 

For a Young, Growing IT Company that Aims to Become the Largest

I can help make it happen

Daniel Alroy

Provisionally, the price (in million US dollars) is related to the year the agreement is made, as follows:

Year      Price
2016           10
2017         100
2018       1000

 

A. 

The Next Big Thing is Due

At present, persons need several different information-processing devices, whose functions overlap.  This burdensome situation is one of the indications that the Big Next thing is due.

B. 

The challenge

B1 

Information-processing technology, as any problem-solving some fundamental elements. Some such elements are elusive. This elusiveness is manifested, among other things, by the curious fact that some first-rate programmers are terrible systems analysts. Consider, for example, Input (I), Processing (P), and Output (O). The temporal sequence below seems commonsensical:

I --> P --> O

But, systems analysis requires the following

O --> I --> P

B2 

Or, consider the generalizing inference known as induction. Induction non-deductive, or deductively invalid, inference. Apart from its central role in science, induction is also the major factor in intelligence (i.e. the induction sub-test in intelligence tests correlates best with the total score).

Inductive cognitive mechanisms are innate, are typically non-verbal, and are in part non-conscious. Following Locke and Hume, the existence of any mental capacity is denied, and therefore, the existence of innate cognitive inductive mechanisms is denied. It so came to pass that the existence of the most basic mechanism for the advancement of knowledge is denied. This is the reason why the research into inductive cognitive mechanisms is virtually non-existent. This scandal is obscured by shifting attention to confirmation - the stage subsequent to induction.

B3 

There is a difference in the approach of technology experts and those in basic science toward advancing knowledge. Technology experts are in command of available knowledge and know how to apply it. They are justifiably a proud group. In contrast, in basic science one looks beyond what is known into what is not. It is a humbling experience. In anticipating a major transition, it might be a productive exercise for experts to assume for a while the mental attitude of basic scientists and recognize that the island of knowledge is surrounded by an ocean of ignorance.

C. 

Advent of the microprocessor era

1972 

Intel introduces the 8008 – the Q1 Corporation, a company I formed while a student at the Graduate Center of City University, delivered to Litton Industries in Long Island, New York the world's first general-purpose computer system utilizing the 8008 microprocessor.

1973 

Q1 receives $40,000 a month from Nixdorf Computers in computer know-how.

1974 

Intel introduces the second-generation microprocessor – the 8080. Q1 delivers the world's first 8080 microprocessor computer system. All general-purpose microcomputer systems in the United States, Europe, and Asia are Q1-made.

1975 

NASA orders Q1 computer systems for all of its eleven bases.

1979 

The British Government, through its former National Enterprise Board, purchased Q1 computer know-how for over $10

D. 

A proposal

Although much of my work experience has been in technology, my main interest has always been how the relation of mind and brain determines the nature of knowledge. While I do not intend to return to the computer field, I believe that I am in a unique position to outline what ought to be done toward the realization of the potential of the Next Big Thing. I will be happy to hear from parties who may want to explore further the possibility of a short-term involvement.

E. 

An example:  the personal authentication problem

E1 

What is wrong what current e-pay systems? The replacement of tangible tokens of monetary value by electronic ones is important. But no such system can be successful in the long run unless some other issues are tacked first. Passwords are difficult to remember and are easy to break and are nuisance otherwise. This is recognized. There are some ingenious methods in use, and others that are about to be introduced, to address this problem. Some such methods provide a satisfactory, if suboptimal, means of payment. But in the long run, and Internationally, all such limited-purpose solutions to the personal authentication are doomed to fail.

E2 

A proposed solution. It may prove the case that an invention, which was filed this month with the United States Patent Office as a Provisional Patent Application (PPA) is the optimal solution for the unique and universal identification of persons. The intention is to offer that identification method for adoption worldwide, perhaps through the United Nations. Such identification method would be a part of any future general-purpose information system. The rights to that PPA and to the subsequent Regular Patent Application will be assigned to a new corporate entity to be formed. That entity then will consider private placement by a small number of sophisticated investors.

 

 

A note about the foundation of knowledge

 

030815.jpg

Knowledge may be represented by three-level inverted pyramid: 

*   the foundation of knowledge (philosophy) on the bottom; 

*   present knowledge (science) as the middle level, and 

*   the application of knowledge (technology) as the top level.

That representation makes plain some attributes of the bottom level:

*   It has the widest scope;

*   It is the most compact, and 

*   It is the most basic.

Put differently, science tells us what is while technology tells us what can be done. But the ever-present question confronting any person or group is what ought to be done. That central question is outside the scope of science and technology. They are part of ethics, which is a part of philosophy.  For these reasons, philosophy is only part of knowledge with the conceptual space for the systematic formulation of action.

1. 

Knowledge-based action

1.1 

Evolution and the utility of knowledge. The ability to obtain and use knowledge has emerged in the evolution of higher organisms because it improves survival prospects. But it can also accelerate extinction. Below we make reference to some instances. Let me mention two of these here.

1.2 

The first industrial revolution. The essence of the first industrial revolution was the production of power by burning fossil fuels.   Carbon dioxide (CO2) emission is the by-product of burning fossil fuels. Recently, the CO2 in the atmosphere reached the average level of 400 parts per million (ppm). The last time that level of CO2 was in the atmosphere was some three million years. The sea level then was some 65 feet higher than now.  The CO2 level in the atmosphere may double by the end of the century. That level is inconsistent with life as we know it:  the current millennium my bay Homos sapiens’ last.

1.3

The European Union:  immigration and democracy. As discussed below, non-European immigrant are projected to become majority by mid-century in some European countries. Contrary to expectations a significant percentage of those immigrants have not adopted the culture of their new land. In nearly all cases, these immigrants come from countries without democratic tradition.  Hence, the current democratic tradition will end once the non-European immigrants become the majority.

1.4

In both cases, the cause is a self-destructive false belief. Neither of the above instances are the result of a natural calamity, or the result of a defeat in a conflict with some adversary:  these consequences are self-inflicted.

1.5

The fundamental roots of false belief systems. To date, media pundits in addressing fundamental problems confronting society have failed to identify flaws belief system as the root cause of present human predicament, as exemplified by the two examples cited above, as well as, some other examples described below.  It may be thee case that this is the first, and thus far the only, source to point to the foundations of knowledge as the root cause of what ails us.

2. 

An initial glimpse at the new epistemological landscape.

2.1 

Innateness.

2.1.1 

In typical cell division, the two daughter cells contain, to the first approximation, the same genetic information. The transmitted information is innate: ceteris paribus, the environment does not contribute to mitosis.

2.1.2

Meiosis and metabolism are innate in multicellular organisms.

2.1.3 

Temperature homeostasis is innate in mammals.

2.1.4 

Hunger, thirst, pleasure and pain are innate in primates.

2.1.5

The perception of space as three-dimensional is innate in humans.

2.1.6 

All sensations are innate and are evoked by the brain – none imported into it.

2.2 

Universality.  Biology and psychology have demonstrated that some of the innate behavioral and mental capacities are universal.

2.3 

Homeostasis and goal-oriented language. A defining attribute of life is homeostasis. Homeostasis is a goal-oriented mechanism. Hence, any biological or psychological explanation is ultimately goal-oriented.

 

 

 

2.4 

Non-immediate consequences of action. Innate, universal cognitive mechanisms, and accumulated knowledge, make possible to assess consequences of action that are non-immediate in time and space. This intelligence is, and ought to be, the basis for selecting course of action deemed to be optimal.

2.5 

The mind affects brain and behavior. Top-down attention selectively activates correlated brain-loci. Imagining a manual action with the right arm, for example, activates the representation of that arm in Brodmann area 4 in the contralateral hemisphere of the primary motor cortex (output of layer 5 pyramidal cells). Detecting that activation can then be used to cause an artificial arm to carry out the imagined action. This knowledge is now used to provide persons paralyzed from the neck down the ability to use their thoughts to control servo-mechanisms. The above non-controversial facts constitute conclusive empirical proof that the mind affects brain and behavior.

3. 

Ethical systems, legal systems, and public policy

3.1 

Natural law and historical religions.

The term ‘natural law’ is used by historical religions. Each historical religion involves a moral code, which is claimed to be universal. However, since each historical religion represents a minority of humanity, such claim is not strictly true. The thousands year-old historical religion are not science-based, and in this sense, their claim to be ultimate is of limited validity.

3.2 

Life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.  The United States Declaration of Independence characterizes the right to Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of happiness as ‘inalienable’.  This formulation asserts that some truths about individuals and society are universal by virtue of being truths of nature. And as such, governments must not have the to abridge them.

3.3 

The concept of natural law as a basis for a legal system. The Declaration of Independence is a manifestation of the belief that there exist universal truths about human nature and conduct, which ought to be the basis the legal system and public policy.

3.4 

Current biology and psychology. Present-day biology and neuroscience and psychology have demonstrated the existence of innate and universal behavioral and mental capacities, thus proving empirical confirmation for the natural law concept of law.

3.5

A more mundane example of natural law. Social policy aims at improving the well being of its members.  For this reason, an action by an individual or a group aimed in gaining some benefit by causing much larger harm to others is wrong, and ought to be illegal.  This example is universal – it is not limited to a given place or time.   Similar observation can be made in regard to moral conduct, whether or not it is also cover by law.

3.6

A current example. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA). The FDA requires drug companies to conduct clinical trials before it approves a new drug for use. Naturally, this also ought to be done with the introduction of any new chemical that could prove harmful to health, to food or food packaging.  Oddly, it is legal. Instead, a chemical is removed from use only after it is found to be harmful.  The required level of proof is high. As a result, the removal of a harmful chemical from use takes dozens of years. During such extended period millions of persons are adversely affected.  Under natural law, this practice would be judged wrong, and therefore ought to be illegal. But it is. The Declaration of Independence notwithstanding, the legal system of the United States has been severed from its original natural law aspiration. Addressing this issue requires examining the philosophical view of human nature that underlie ethical and legal systems that reject the concept of natural law.

4. 

Our troubled legacy

4.1 

The denial of universality. The most basic assumption that underlies present-day knowledge - the tabula rasa assumption - denies that humans possess any innate behavioral or mental capacity. It thus denies the possible existence of any innate commonalities of human nature. In conclusion, present-day theory of knowledge erroneously severs human nature from human conduct.

4.2 

The removal of goal-oriented language from biology and psychology. Physicalism is a tabula rasa doctrine.  It has made its own contribution to the present human predicament by arguing that biology and psychology must not use goal-oriented language because physics does not.  It so happened that goal-oriented homeostatic mechanisms define life.  Last century this misguided conclusion was influential. Fortunately, it is much less so now.

4.3 

The denial that the mind plays a role in behavior. Physicalism argues that only physical causes can have physical effects, and concludes that non-physical states such as pleasure and pain are causally inert.

4.4 

The removal of ethics from the empirical domain. In conclusion, the denial of human commonalities, the removal of goal-oriented language, and the denial that needs and desires matter in behavior, taken together, remove the subjects of ethics and law from the empirical domain.  Last century in Vienna, Physicalists did just that.

5. 

Positive law

5.1 

The legal doctrine of Positive Law. Positive Law confers validity on laws that are passed by a given political entity in a given area in a given time. Such laws have an element of hierarchy. City laws may be constrained by State laws, which in turn may be constrained by Federal laws.  The Positive Law doctrine is relativistic.  Its non-universality has prevented the West from effectively dealing with crucial security issues as demonstrated by the following examples. As the following examples show, individually and collectively, the law no longer serves the vital interests of the country.

5.2 

The Nuremberg Trials. After the end of the Second World War, the Allies set a tribunal in Nuremberg and tried the leaders of Nazi Germany. The Nazi leaders were accused of committing crimes. But, under Positive Law no crime was committed: Typically, the accused leaders carried out legal orders of a democratically elected government. The Tribunal was forced to be resourceful. It formulated an ad hoc law of ‘crimes against humanity’ and applied it retroactively. The Nuremberg Trials could have been and should have been a wake-up call that Positive Law is fatally flawed. But, this did not take place.

5.3 

Theodore Alvin Hall. Theodore Hall is the American spy that, as far as we know, is the person who transmitted to the Soviet Union the secrets of the atom bomb. This fact was discovered following the breaking of the secret communication code used by the Soviets. In 1951 the Federal Bureau of Investigation interviewed Hall in Chicago. It was decided that the evidence would be considered hearsay and thus inadmissible in Court. Hall was let go, and he moved to England were he pursued a career in molecular biology. That situation provided another opportunity for legal scholars to confront the fact that the legal system of the United States falls short in protecting the country against its adversaries. Another opportunity to address this fundamental issue was wasted.

5.4 

David Hicks. David Hicks, an Australian, joined Al Qaeda and fought American troops in Afghanistan.  He was captured, confessed to the facts and in 2007 was given nine month prison term. J. Wells Dixon, of the Center for Constitutional Rights appealed Hicks’ conviction and prevailed. The conviction of David Hicks as terrorist is due to be removed from the Court’s records.

5.5 

Guantanamo Bay detainees. After September 11, 2001 attacks the United States set up a tribunal to expedite the legal processing of detainees. To date, six detainees were found guilty. Of these six convictions three were overturned on appeal. None of the detainees related to the September 11, 2001 attacks were ever brought to trial. Specifically, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the mastermind of those attacks was never brought to trial.

5.6 

Demographic trends in Europe

 

11111.jpeg

 

5.6.1

Transition by mid-century. Non-European immigrants are about to become majority within less than two generations in countries where they constituted 8% or more at the turn of the century. This projection is based on the following assumptions (see graph above):

*

The replacement rate averages at 2.2 children per family;

*

The average number of children of recent non-European immigrants is more than twice that rate, taken here to be 4.4 children per family;

*

The average number of children of Europeans is less than 2.2 children per family, here taken be 2.2 children per family.

*

Stopping incoming immigration will not change the projected outcome since it does not make reference to that variable.

5.6.2

The current immigration trend was predictable. Shown below is a letter I faxed to the New York Times in 2001. Initially I was informed that the newspaper would be publish the letter. Shortly thereafter, that decision was reversed.

 

 

5.6.3 

Assumptions that underlie immigration policies have proved false. The Liberal tradition assumes that non-European immigrants would learn the language and customs of their adopted country. In many cases this has not happened. The pathology of this situation is manifested by the fact Liberal world-view assumes responsibility for that failure.  Most of those immigrants came from countries without democratic political systems. Hence, the default projection is that once the minority becomes majority, democratic traditions will end. The trends are set and can no longer be reversed or stopped.  Sooner or later, the spotlight of attention would be directed at the mistaken assumptions that is causing this self-inflicted harm. Why not now?

5.7 

Climate change.

5.7.1 

Fossil fuel and carbon dioxide (CO2) levels. Burning fossil fuel increases the level of CO2 in the atmosphere and the oceans. Last year, the average level of CO2 in the atmosphere reached, for the first time in 3.5 million years, the average level of 400 parts per million (ppm). At that time the sea level was about 65 feet higher than now. It is not possible to reverse or stop global warming this century.

5.7.2 

India and China. A recent study found that pollution in India shortens life the of the population by the total of 2.1 billion years annually. If one assumes that average life span in India is 75 years, then the 2.1 billion years equals 28 million deaths per year. China has recently replaced the United States as the largest contributor the CO2 rise. This development suggests that slowing increase in CO2 levels is not a realistic goal, and that instead the focus ought to be on slowing the acceleration of global warming.

5.7.3 

This millennium may prove to be Homo sapiens’ last. By the end of the current century the CO2 level in the atmosphere is projected to be in the 800-1000 ppm range. That would be inconsistent with life as we know it.

 

 

 

5.8 

Germline modifications. The promise and perils of human germline modifications is the central ethical issue facing humanity.  I would expect China, but not the West, to apply this technology once it proves safe.  The least of the consequences of this bifurcation is that it will bring to an end the Olympic Games.

5.9 

Conclusion. None of the above-given examples of current law provide guidance of what should be done. The Constitution does not provide guidance; case law does not provide guidance. The time has come to recognize the need to ground Positive Law on natural law.

6.

The foundation of knowledge.

6.1 

Positive Law must be grounded in natural law.

The examples given above make clear that Positive Law lacks the universality, empirical basis, and the global authority necessary to address crucial issues confronting the world today. This is one reason why Positive Law must be grounded in natural law.

6.2 

First, the foundation of knowledge must be brought up to date. The 300 hundred year-old tabula rasa doctrine is the most basic assumption underlying present-day knowledge. It is now known to be empirically false. What is not recognized is how damaging that false notion has been. It is time to bring the knowledge enterprise up to date. It would be imprudent to put off that undertaking.

 
 
 

Regarding the notion that the biological cell, the brain and the universe are Universal Turing Machines

A top-down argument

 

The attributes of incompleteness of incorrectness may apply to representation, but not to reality. Consider a geographical map of Brazil, for example. Such a map is necessarily incorrect: it is not mathematically possible to correctly project the three-dimensional curvature of the earth onto a two-dimensional flat surface. Such a map is also incomplete in extent and in detail. The issues of incorrectness or incompleteness are inapplicable to the territory itself. For this reason, any statement to the effect that a representation is identical with the reality represented is tautologically false.

Physical theory uses mathematics to represent aspects of reality. As maps, mathematics is subject to limitations as to completeness and consistency. These limitations of mathematics inhere in computers and Universal Turing Machines (UTMs). Hence, any statement purporting that the cell, the brain, or the universe is a UTM, is tautologically false.

 

 
 
Mind, Brain and the Foundation of Knowledge

Sensations are evoked in the brain - not imported into it.
This fact constitutes the new foundation of knowledge.

Overview.

The most basic issue at the foundation of knowledge involves the distinction between what is, and what is not, physical.  Your dentist can see your aching tooth, but not your toothache.  The tooth is publicly observable while the toothache is private.  By that criterion the tooth is physical while the private sensation of pain is not. More generally, the issue is the relation between the physical brain and the phenomenal experience elicited by it.

Sound as a physical quality is said to be a property of air vibration in the 20-20,000 Hz range that is recognized by the ears and then imported into the brain.  However, sound can be elicited by direct brain stimulation, in the absence of air vibration and in the absence of input from the ears. This is the basis for the use of auditory prostheses for children who were born deaf due to dysfunction of the auditory nerve, as in the case of neurofibromatosis type II.  The fact that sound can be elicited in the absence of air vibration or input from the ears constitutes a conclusive disconfirmation of the notion that sound is a physical property.

What is true of sound is true of all sensations.  Vision, hearing, touch, taste, and smell are five of the sensory modalities of exteroception; each is represented in the cerebral cortex by a modality-specific area. The direct electrical stimulation of any modality-specific cortical area in a conscious person elicits a sensation of the corresponding modality: vision in the visual cortex, hearing in the auditory cortex, touch in the somatosensory cortex, taste in the gustatory cortex, and smell in the olfactory cortex.  Thus, identical stimuli are sufficient to elicit qualitatively diverse sensations, as determined by the modality-specific cortical area stimulated.  This fact demonstrates that such stimuli do not contribute to the qualitative nature of the evoked sensation.  It proves that sensations are not imported into the brain, either from the senses or from the outside world through the senses. Consequently, sensations are subjective rather than physical properties. Furthermore, these findings show that our ordinary experience of the world is exclusively phenomenal.  The physical is known by inference from the phenomenal.  Put differently, what is deemed to be publicly observable (and thus physical) is ultimately based on observations from the perspective of first-person experience (and thus phenomenal).

Some 300 years ago John Locke (1690) postulated the notion that the brain of the newborn is like a blank slate (tabula rasa) until it receives postnatal input from the senses. David Hume (1748) then made explicit the implications of applying the tabula rasaassumption to cognition, thus forming the basis for his epistemology of Empiricism.  Physicalism is the currently dominant epistemology.  It was introduced early last century by a group known as the Vienna Circle. Physicalism may be characterized by three attributes:  1) it defines existence as physical, 2) consequently, it implies that if brain function produces as a by-product non-physical mental states then such states must be causally inert, and 3) it excludes teleological, or goal-oriented explanations in science because such explanations are not used in physics. One consequence of this position has been the removal of ethics from the empirical domain.  Physicalism is based on a modified version of the tabula rasa assumption:  in order to avoid the dualistic version of Locke, it deems sounds and colors to be physical properties of the external environment, rather then originating in the ears and eyes, respectively. Thus, the tabula rasa assumption is the most basic tenet that underlies present-day knowledge.

As noted above, the tabula rasa assumption has been proved false as to the notion that sensations are received from the senses. We now know also that that brains of newborn are not blank slates.  The newborn has sensory, emotional, and cognitive mechanisms prior to any postnatal input from the senses. For example, the newborn likes sweet and dislikes bitter. The sensations of hunger and satiety are part of the mechanism that is involved in restoring glucose homeostasis and the sensation of hot and cold are a part of a mechanism that is involved in restoring temperature homeostasis.  These sensations are innate in the sense of not being learned.  And, except for pathological cases, these capacities are universal. Consequently, the most basic assumption that underlies present-day knowledge has been proved false.

It is now necessary to make explicit the epistemological consequences of replacing the tabula rasa assumption by its direct opposite.  For example, the fact that no sensations are imported into the brain constitutes conclusive disconfirmation of Physicalism.  A more fundamental consequence relates to physics. Imagining a sensation selectively activates the brain locus that evokes it. Imagining is mental while the consequent brain activation is physical.  However, implicit in physics is the assumption that only physical causes can have physical effects.  For this reason, brain activation by imagination requires that the foundation of physics be reviewed and revised.

Epistemology is a part of philosophy. It is therefore a task for the philosophic community.  However, the philosophic community does not yet acknowledge the evidence that brains of newborns are not blank slates, and that sensations are not imported into the brain. Max Planck observed that paradigm change often involves generational transition.  If Planck’s constant for paradigm change would apply here, then the most fundamental reconstruction in the foundation of knowledge in 300 years will remain a virtual terra incognita for some time to come.  The possible consequences of the expected delay in undertaking the need for reconstruction of the foundation of knowledge may be best judged by the role of knowledge in evolution.

The capacity to obtain and use knowledge has emerged in evolution because it increases the range of conditions under which survival is possible. From the evolutionary perspective it is the action-consequences of knowledge that matter. Any such action couples what can be with what ought to be done. What can be done is represented by technology.  What ought to be done is represented by a mixture of ethics, law, and public policy as reflected by national budgets.  What can be done is the most successful part of human knowledge while what ought to be done is the most troubled.  The industrial revolution, information technology, and biotechnology provide a background against which application of knowledge can be judged.  The unintended and uncontrollable consequences of these technologies indicate that the reconstruction of knowledge is an urgent matter.

The industrial revolution.  The industrial revolution introduced power production by burning fossil fuels, which emits carbon dioxide (CO2) as a by-product.  From the last ice age to the industrial revolution, the average CO2 level in the atmosphere was about 280 parts per million (ppm) by volume.  In May 2013 the CO2 reached for the first time the level of 400 ppm.  That carbon dioxide level in the atmosphere existed during the geological epoch, the Pliocene, some 2.6 to 5.3 million years ago. Then, the 400 ppm CO2 level caused warming, which melted polar ice and caused sea level to rise to about 65 feet above the current level. Since the 1980’s, about half of the Arctic Ice cap melted. That ice cap is expected to be completely gone by midcentury. The current increase in CO2 level in the atmosphere increases by 4.5 ppm per year.  At that rate it would reach 800 ppm by the end of the century. China, which is still in its early stage of industrialization, already replaced the United States as the largest polluter.  It is too late to reverse or stop climate change. Climate change is the direct consequence of human actions and not a result of some natural phenomenon. These actions are manifestations of bad philosophy.

 

 

Innateness and the foundation of knowledge.

0.1

Darwin and the philosophic community.  In The Descent of Man (1871), Darwin applied his theory of evolution to humans, concluding that we possess some forms of behavior that are innate. In the Expression of Emotion in Animals and Man (1872), he extended those conclusions to mental faculties. Earlier, John Locke, in An Essay Concerning Human Understanding (1705), proposed the contrary view that the brain of the newborn is like a blank slate (tabula rasa), and that postnatal experience is limited to input from the senses. The English speaking philosophic community has, by and large, accepted Darwin’s theory of evolution, but has thus far rejected Darwin’s application of evolution to the innateness of mental faculties. Present-day science has proved Darwin right. 

0.2

Sensations are evoked in the brain.  The use of auditory prostheses by those who are born deaf is the most common example demonstrating that sensations are evoked in the brain, and not imported into it. The electrical stimulation of the auditory nerve or auditory brain of children born deaf elicits sensations of sound (Kuchta J. 2004; Colletti V. et al. 2005). Hence, sensations of sound are evoked in the brain and are not received from the ears, and are not properties of air vibration. The same is true of all sensations (Sperry R. 1952; von Buddenbrock W. 1953/1958; Gardner E.P., Martin J. H. 2000; Brugger P. et al. 2000). 

0.3

The scope the tabula rasa assumption. Locke’s tabula rasa doctrine underlies the following:

 *       Empiricism       

*       Physicalism      

*       Ethics and law          

*       The computer metaphor of the brain 

0.4    

Replacing the tabula rasa assumption. The replacement of the tabula rasa assumption by the fact that sensations and some other mental faculties are innate would constitute, by definition, the new foundation of knowledge. Nominally, the implications of such a change would be co-extensive with the implications of the tabula rasa assumption. Making explicit the implications of this paradigm change will inevitably become the central challenge confronting the philosophic community in the coming decades.                 

0.5

What ought to be done.  The current technological revolution has given society a false sense of control over its future.  But the opposite is true.   The fact that present-day theories of knowledge, ethics, and law are based on a 300-year old misconception has deprived society the ability to effectively address these problems or even comprehend what these problems are. It is as if technology is catapulting humanity into an unknown future with a dysfunctional guidance system.  The issue is survival, not philosophy. First, we must set aside the tabula rasa assumption, and then we must undertake the decades-long challenge of making explicit the implications of the new state of affairs.

 

Figure 1.   The area covered by a beam of light is a function of the square of the distance from its points of origin. The light intensity per-unit-area is the function of the inverse square of that distance. This inverse square relation holds for gravitation or any other form of force with rectilinear propagation in a three-dimensional space.

 

1.       

Empiricism and innate cognition

 

1.0    

Do we have innate knowledge about the world prior to experience?  Empiricism is an epistemological position that denies that the newborn can have any knowledge about the world prior to postnatal experience.  This position was developed by David Hume (1777/1975), who applied Locke’s tabula rasa assumption to cognition.  Hume maintained that all knowledge is obtained only through the senses and denied that we may have any innate and universal cognitive knowledge about the world.  Emanuel Kant (1787/1999) rejected that position, maintaining instead that we have innate and universal cognitive mechanisms, which impose structure on input from the senses. For example, Kant maintained that our perception of space as three-dimensional  is innate and universal, and that it underlies Newtonian physics.   

1.1    

The perception of space as three-dimensional is innate. The retina provides two-dimensional visual information about perceived space.  Yet, we perceive it as three-dimensional, even when looking with only one eye. This implies that the perception of depth does not originate in the eyes.  It is not based on experience either: If a baby is placed on an opaque part of an otherwise transparent tabletop, it will look at the transparent part and will avoid crawling there (Gibson & Walk 1960). Taken together, these two observations – that depth perception does not originate in the eye, and that even a newborn baby perceives depth – show that there is an innate cognitive mechanism that imposes a three-dimensional interpretation on the input from the eyes.        

1.2    

Euclidean geometry and Newtonian physics. The so-called inverse square laws in physics follow from solid geometry of three-dimensions where lines of force are rectilinear (Figure 1).  Hence, the inverse square laws are implicit in the knowledge about the world of the newborn, even prior to any postnatal experience. In this regard, Kant proved right. 

1.3    

Knowledge prior to experiencePresent-day theories of physics are not yet in a final form, but they nevertheless constitute knowledge about the world. Newtonian physics is a familiar example: it is a non-final theory, but it constitutes knowledge about the world. There are aspects of Newtonian physics can be derived by taking space to be three-dimensional, and these constitute obtainable knowledge about the world prior to input from the senses – this is in direct opposition to the assumption that defines Empiricism, which may be defined as the denial that humans have, or can have, any knowledge about the world prior to input from the senses. So defined, Empiricism has proved to be factually false.      

1.4    

The inductive inference. Fundamental scientific advances involve the generalizing inductive inference. The inductive inference is not deductively valid. Like geometrical and mathematical concepts, the inductive inference is rooted in innate and universal cognitive mechanisms. Empirical investigation of these mechanisms is likely to shed light on the logic implicit in scientific induction.  

 

2.     

Physicalism in the 20th century   

 

2.0    

Locke’s tabula rasa is dualistic. John Locke partitioned that which is perceived into primary and secondary qualities. He called primary qualities those qualities that are like size and shape, which he believed are attributes of the external world; he called secondary qualities attributes those that he believed to originate in the senses and not belong to external world, such as color and sound.  This partition made Locke’s version of the tabula rasa assumption dualistic.  

2.1    

Rudolf Carnap In the 1920’s, a group known as the Vienna circle, initially named after Ernst Mach, sought to purge the tabula rasa doctrine from Locke’s dualistic formulation.  In his book The Analysis of Sensations (1904/1914), Mach stated that the first-person perspective underlies observations that are deemed public.  Rudolf Carnap, who was a leader of the Vienna circle, reached similar conclusions in his book The Logical Construction of the World (1928/2003). Carnap therefore recommended that the first-person perspective be adopted as the basis for a non-dualistic reformulation of the tabula rasa assumption.    

2.2    

Otto Neurath.  The first-person perspective is deemed subjective and, as such, as inconsistent with Materialism. Thus, Otto Neurath Neurath, an ardent (Marxist) Materialist, objected to the selection of the first-person perspective as the basis for a non-dualistic language of science. He insisted that the third-person perspective be selected instead.  Carnap relented, and so it was.  Carnap explained the reversal of his position by saying that the decision was not a necessary one, but a matter of choice.  But soon thereafter, the notion that there is a choice in the matter was discarded. It is inexplicable why Carnap did not address this sharp departure from his stated position. Neurath then renamed Materialism as Physicalism. 

2.3    

Gilbert Ryle. In The Concept of Mind (1949), Ryle presented the reader with the choice between Physicalistic behaviorism and dualism. He then effectively argued against dualism and rested his case. The book implies that the rejection of dualism leaves Physicalism as the remaining alternative. This formulation relieved Ryle from the need of arguing against the first-person perspective, and even of the need to defend Physicalism.  The book was a smashing success. It made Physicalism the quasi-official position of the English-speaking philosophic community.   

2. 4

Innateness of sensations and Physicalism.  Empirical evidence demonstrates that sensations are innate and are evoked in the brain (Von Buddenbrock 1932/1963, Sperry 1952, Gardner & Martin 2000). As a consequence, sensory qualities are not publicly observable. It is therefore necessarily the case that observations that are deemed public are ultimately based on the first-person perspective: Physicalism is no longer tenable. It cannot be reconciled with the fact that the knowledge of the physical is derived from observation and inference, neither of which satisfies the criterion of physicality.

 

Figure 3.   Interoception. Its role in the homeostatic regulation of internal body states. The default mode of the homeostatic regulation is not conscious. Interoception refers to exception-based subjective states, which require voluntary behavior to restore homeostasis.

 

3.    

Interoception, needs and desires    

 

3.0     

Interoception. In humans, the sensations of hunger and thirst are innate and universal. They exemplify interoreception-based sensations, which are related to the maintenance of homeostatic internal body states (Cannon 1932/1963). The existence of universals of human nature underlies universals of human conduct. It provides the grounds for non-relativistic ethics and law.  

3.1    

Interoception and the tabula rasa doctrine. The tabula rasa doctrine implies that no needs and desires are innate. Only what is innate can be universal in human nature.  Hence, the tabula rasa doctrine severs human conduct, ethics and law from human nature. It thus deprives ethics and law of any basis other than convention or dogma. The Vienna Circle recognized this implication of the tabula rasa doctrine when they removed ethics from the empirical domain. It so came to pass that other than convention or dogma, present-day ethics and law have no foundation.  

3.2

Interoception and teleology. Interoception is involved in the homeostatic regulation of internal body states. Homeostasis is a teleological concept.  Following Galileo, teleology was purged from scientific explanations until the last quarter of the 20th century. The mathematics of servomechanism restored the acceptability of teleological explanation ((Rosenbleuth, Wiener and Bieglow 1943).  The cell, while it is alive, maintains some variables within narrow set-points that are far from thermodynamic equilibrium. The cellular mechanisms that make this balancing act possible are inherently homeostatic and are thus teleological in their function. Hence, teleology is a defining characteristic of life. Temperature homeostasis in mammals provides needed uniformity of chemical processes. This relative independence of variations of outside temperature is especially important for brain function.

3.3    

Interoception, homeostasis and the  mental.  Mental states are evoked whenever voluntary action is needed to restore homeostasis (Figure 3). Such restoration is associated with positive affect.  But shortly after restoration of homeostasis, the involvement of the mental is withdrawn, and operation returns to non-conscious regulation. Thus, in interoception, mental states appear when automatic mechanisms are insufficient to restore homeostasis, and disappear, soon after homeostasis is restored.  Apparently, the mind plays a role in interoception.  

3.4   

An implication. The current application of the tabula rasa doctrine to needs and desires make it impossible to reach evidence-based consensus among people of different religions and ethnicities. Hence, the central moral imperative of our time is to set aside that doctrine, and then seek to derive human conduct from human nature.  Such action would also provide an empirical foundation for the legal theory of natural law.

 

Figure 4.   The molecular constitution of the cell reflects the evolution of the organism, the development of a particular cell type, and its intrinsic function. Extending this notion to brain cells is about to transform neuroscience.

 

4.       

Neuroanatomic determinants of neural function  

 

4.0    

Two conflicting views of neural function. The discovery of the structure of DNA in 1953 showed the cell to be complex and autonomous. Prior to that discovery, the neuron was viewed as a tabula rasa cell, whose output is computable from its inputs alone. In fact, neurons emit input-independent output. For example, hypothalamic neurons that generate circadian rhythm do so also in the absence of any input and do so in vitro as well. The view of the simpleton cell led some to believe that the brain is a computer (McCulloch and Pitts 1943/1990, Smolensky 1994). In biology, function is structure-dependent, while in computers, it is not. Thus, if the brain is a computer, then there can be no unique neuro-anatomic correlates to any neural function or to a correlated mental state.  This issue must be resolved in order that the neural correlates of consciousness (NCC) be identified. It is addressed below.

4.1    

Structure-independent function. The general-purpose digital computer is an implementation of Alan Turing’s abstract, simple, and explicit formulation of computation, known as the Universal Turing Machine, or UTM (Turing 1936). The program, or algorithm, that represents a possible function of a UTM, can be processed on computers with different hardware designs. Thus, an algorithm does not, and cannot possibly have, a single unique hardware implementation.    

4.2    

Structure-dependent function.

 

4.2.1    

Molecules, cells, and cell type distribution Skin, muscle and bone cells of an organism differ in their constitutively-expressed proteins. This protein specificity accounts for both the cell’s phenotype and its intrinsic function (Figure 4).  What is true of all cell types is true of brain cells. Their protein specificity determines both their phenotype and intrinsic function. Structural biology infers intrinsic function of a molecule from its structure. Molecular biology of the cell extends structure-dependence to the molecules constituting the cell. Cytoarchitecture maps the three-dimensional distribution of cell types. Korbinian Brodmann mapped the cytoarchitecture of the human cerebral cortex (1905/2006) into functional areas. For example, Brodmann area 4 is the primary motor cortex, area 17 is the primary visual cortex, and area 41 is the primary auditory cortex. This identification of intrinsic function is exclusively structure-dependent: it makes reference to neither interactivity nor connectivity.

4.2.3    

Intrinsic neural function determines mental states. Structure determines intrinsic function and intrinsic function determines mental states.  Hence, structure determinaes mental states.   

4.2.4

The brain is not a UTM.  This section constitutes the first empirical proof that the brain is not a Universal Turing Machine.

 

5.

A glimpse of the new epistemological landscape. Present-day knowledge is still based on the empirically false assumption that sensations are imported into the brain.  Making explicit the implications of the fact that sensations are evoked in the brain and not imported into it is a long-term process.  The preliminary notes below touch on the following topics:

*    Characterizing the physical

*    The physical is an inference from the mental

*    The mind affects brain and behavior

*    Deriving human conduct from human nature

5.1

Characterizing the physical.

 

5.1.1

Concepts.  The contrast between concepts and physical objects brings out the attributes that characterize physicality.  A characteristic of existence is that it persists when observed by a person at different times (intrasubjective consistency), and by different observers (intersubjective consistency).  By this criterion, mathematical concepts and operations are the epitome of objectivity.  Hence, they satisfy the existence criterion. Concepts (e.g. triangularity), are apprehended introspectively, but are not publicly observable.  Furthermore, the attribute of locatability in space is not applicable to concepts.  In this sense concepts exist in the Platonic realm and thus ubiquitous.

5.1.2

Characterizing the physical.  Consider, for example, a triangular equilateral tile in contrast to the concept of triangularity.  The tile is physical, while the concept of triangularity is not.  The tile satisfies the twin criteria of being located in space and being publicly observable; the concept of triangularity satisfies neither criteria.

5.1.3

Sensations.  Red/green and yellow/blue are two sets of primary opponent colors.  Looking at one such color (e.g. yellow) for a while produces an afterimage of the opponent color (blue, in this case). The blue afterimage is private, while the blueness of the sky seems publicly observable. However, the world of physics is colorless.  In both cases the blue color is evoked by the visual cortex:  sensations of color, like all sensations, are private.  As such colors do not satisfy the criterion of physicality.  The color afterimage is universal and intrasubjectively consistent.  Thus, like concepts, color qualities satisfy the criterion of existence.

5.2

Perception of the physical.  The physical is knowable by observation and inference.  The observation involves vision, ouch and other sensory modalities of exteroception.  The inference is mainly logical and mathematical and as such it is concept-based.  Neither concepts nor sensation satisfy the criteria of physicality.  If the non-physical is called mental then the physical is knowable as inference from the mental.

5.3

The mind matters – the causal efficacy of the mental. Imagining a sensation selectively activates he corresponding modality-specific cortical area (e.g. color the visual cortex, a tune – the auditory cortex).  The act of imagining is mental, while the activated cortex is physical.  Thus, the mind activation of the physical brain is commonplace. This fact points to a fundamental incompleteness of present-day physics.

5.4

Ethics and the foundation of the legal system. Two factors make possible the development of non-relativistic ethics, which in turn, provides foundations for the legal doctrine of natural law. The first factor is the existence of innate and universal needs and desires (e.g. hunger and thirst).  It makes possible to derive human conduct from human nature.  The second factor is the ability of the mind to affect brain and behavior. This fact provides the presently missing empirical grounds for holding persons responsible for their actions.

 

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© 2017 Daniel Alroy