[ExI] Supervenience and the Placebo was Re: willpower defined

Stuart LaForge avant at sollegro.com
Sat Apr 23 00:33:52 UTC 2022

Quoting Bill Wallace:

> Here we go again with definitions.  An abstract concept only exists as we
> define it.

Not so. Many abstract concepts spookily exist independently of brains.  
The orbits of planets were ellipses long before intelligent primates  
named them such. An abstraction is in some ways a compression  
algorithm for reality. Like a shorthand symbol for a meaningful  
recurrent pattern or relationship between elements of set that still  
tries to maintain the "shape" of the set. Anything you expend the  
energy to define must has some value to you, your genes, your god or  
country. If you don't believe me, then believe Tolkien. His Hobbits  
ultimately proved to be worth billions.

> Suppose I have an approach-avoidance conflict. I am stuck in the middle and
> can't make up my mind.  Trying to get rid of an addiction can be thought of
> like this.  In the brain there may be opposing excitatory and inhibitory
> forces that are equal.  Now I see something on tv or read in a book that
> adds one iota to the approach side, making doing it more attractive, and so
> I do the thing, whatever it is.  I have trouble calling this willpower.  It
> may look like this to others.

Call it whatever you want. Ganas, from Spanish is a fine word for it, also.

> Now consider all traits as being in a huge set.  We pick out certain ones
> and call the total willpower (or just about anything).  Someone else comes
> along and picks out a slightly different set and calls that willpower.  The
> two argue:  one says that's more like persistence than willpower and the
> other disagrees.  Who is right?  Neither.  Both.  One of them.  Depending
> on use of the word.  Look at all the flap over the years about what to call
> intelligence.  Is it unitary?  Multifaceted?  Depends on who is picking out
> the parts from the total set.

OK. Maybe willpower is unnecessarily complicated to empirically test  
what I am getting at. Let's look at a well-established medical  
phenomenon replicated by labs the world-wide: the placebo effect. The  
idea being that the mind must be able to cause brain states because  
the placebo effect demonstrates that mind can cause body states  
including the curing of illness. And if the brain generates the mind,  
then it is the most convenient part of the body for the mind to  

> Being forced to eat beets is a different force than what holds the Moon up
> there.  Pretty sure about that.
> Mind over matter is dualism and makes utterly no sense to me.  bill w

Bill, if you believe in the difference between hardware and software,  
then you are a dualist. If you don't believe that software can affect  
hardware, then you haven't been paying attention. Supervenience is bad  
philosophy because it doesn't explain empirical evidence. How can one  
explain the placebo effect, the ability for sugar pills to have a  
therapeutic effect based no more than on a belief, without dualism and  
downward causation and mind over matter?

Stuart LaForge

> On Mon, Apr 18, 2022 at 12:37 AM Stuart LaForge via extropy-chat <
> extropy-chat at lists.extropy.org> wrote:
>> Quoting Bill Wallace:
>>> On Sat, Apr 9, 2022 at 7:37 PM Will Steinberg via extropy-chat <
>>> extropy-chat at lists.extropy.org> wrote:
>>>> Not every experiment has to be done like a clinical trial.
>>>> Take 100,000 people.  Also have each of them them to an objective
>> observer
>>>> in their life.  Ask each of the 10000 their goals for the next year.
>> In a
>>>> year, check with the participants and their observers, to see whether
>> they
>>>> completed their goals.  Split the 'did complete' and 'didn't complete'
>>>> groups into 2.  Match individuals in each group to an individual in the
>>>> other who is matched in terms of income, race, age, sex, as much as
>>>> possible.  Discard unmatched participants.  The difference is willpower
>>> Yeah, or some other more or less equivalent term.  I think they need to
>> be
>>> matched on goals, the goals rated as to difficulty and so on. and I could
>>> quibble a bit about their environments, but I more or less agree.  bill w
>> IMO, the most fascinating thing about will-power is that it exists and
>> is thus quantifiable. The reason this is surprising is because modern
>> functionalist, physicalists, and materialists insist that brain makes
>> mind in a one way causal relationship termed supervenience. That is to
>> say that a brain state should be able to cause and mind state but a
>> mind state should not be able to cause a brain state.
>> Since, even in cases of addiction, willpower is often defined
>> colloquially as "mind over matter", this would violate supervenience
>> because "mind over matter" would be labelled as downward causation and
>> forbidden.
>> Near as I can tell, willpower would have to defined as the triumph
>> over-riding of one part of the brain against another. Such as one's
>> frontal lobe overcoming ones limbic system and allowing one to fight
>> off a craving for any particular stimulus.
>> Stuart LaForge
>>>> On Sat, Apr 9, 2022 at 1:20 PM William Flynn Wallace via extropy-chat <
>>>> extropy-chat at lists.extropy.org> wrote:
>>>>> EXample:  a couple, male and female, go to a party.  The guy's
>>>>> ex-girlfriend is there.  We observe his interactions with people.  He
>> talks
>>>>> to others, including the ex and his date observes body language, facial
>>>>> expressions and so on.  We see signs in her of anger and just being
>> upset.
>>>>> She talks to him and they leave the party.
>>>>> Well, does that look like jealousy?  Sure does.  But how do we know
>> it's
>>>>> not a stomachache?  Or leaving to study for a test?  Or or or.We don't.
>>>>> What we need is more observations of that couple in various situations
>> and
>>>>> maybe just interview them and ask what is going on.
>> Jealousy might be another bizarrely "causal" states of mind. The sheer
>> number of people that have through history been murdered by somebody
>> in a fit of jealous rage should be relatively high.
>> Stuart LaForge
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