PhiloMadrid - Pub Philosophy Meetings in Madrid

Thursday, April 18, 2013

from Lawrence, Sunday PhiloMadrid meeting: Silent mind, awareness without thinking,+ LUNCH

Essays: Miguel, Ruel and myself – LUNCH 28/04 @3.30pm– Msg from Asun flat for rent

Dear Friends,

This Sunday we are discussing: Silent mind, awareness without thinking.

At face value the topic seems a bit confusing, but I would argue that this issue unearths more
problems than we can handle. Basically, I would describe this topic as a lake of quick sand.

Luckily Miguel, who proposed the topic, Ruel and I have all written an essay. And although I have
not read the two essays (not to be influenced when writing mine) I am sure we're going to have some
interesting ideas to contemplate.

LUNCH at the Segoviano -----

In the meantime, I need to pass the details to Encarna for the Lunch on the 28th at 3.30pm at the
Centro itself. If you wish to come, and haven't done so yet, please let me or Encarna know and it is
very important to let me know what you want from the menu.

1) 28th April 2013 - we start lunch at 3:30pm and then start the meeting as usual. In the meantime
we can think about the menu:
-Starters (frituras variadas), Entrecot o Cochinillo con ensalada, Postre- cafe-bebida. 25 euros per
-Alternative option 1: fish or vegetarian but you will have to speak to Encarna about this, I've got
her number so please ask me or her when you come to the meeting. 25 euros per person
-Alternative option 2: cochido completo (plus the extras above) 20 euros per person.
(Looking at the menu you might think this is a challenge to this week's subject, but I am assured
that the food is very good!!!)

Lawrence I forgot to ask you if you can include this link of a 56sqm apartment in Chamartin. Close
to Principe de Vergara and Serrano and Paseo Habana for 700eu. All details in the link.



Finally, best and see you Sunday – essays below

Lawrence: 606081813
PhiloMadrid Meeting
Meet 6:30pm
Centro Segoviano
Alburquerque, 14
28010 Madrid
Metro: Bilbao

Thursday's Open Tertulia in English
Important Notice: From December 1st, the Tertulia will take place at O'Donnells (ex-Moore's) Irish
Pub, c/ Barceló 1 (metro Tribunal)



The Silent mind, awareness without thinking

We can interpret this topic in two ways. The first, as an issue between consciousness and
unconsciousness, and the second as an issue between sense perception and rational reasoning (thinking).

Except that there are two problems with the topic. Although we've been talking about the mind, close
to half a millennium, it is still not clear that there actually is, as an independent entity, such a
thing as the mind. I am inclined to think that there is no independent mind. But rather what the
human brain calls a mind is none other than an extrapolation by the brain of a particular type of
sense perceptions.

So if there is no such thing as a mind then obviously the mind is silent; indeed we cannot say
anything about the mind at all! Or at least what we can say about the mind, we can easily say it is
the brain, without any logical loss nor form and substance.

Of course, just because we might discover that there is no independent substance that is
identifiable with the mind (and independent of the brain), it does not follow that this concept is
not useful. But from being useful we cannot confer ontological properties to concepts they do not have.

But this does not exclude awareness without thinking. Unconscious perception and cerebral functional
processing is now a well established characteristic of humans and other biological systems, such as
animals. But are functional processing of unconscious perceptions also thinking? That is, thinking
of any kind, never mind rational thinking?

This would mean that functions such as ignoring background noise or repelled by offensive smells
would be classified as rational thinking. And if unconscious perception functions are not thinking
what is the difference between thinking and cerebral perception functions? Is this question of the
same type as raising my arm and my arm rising? (Wittgenstein)

And if we look at the issue from another angle, what is it that we are aware of when we are aware of
something through the process of thinking? And is there any difference, in type at least, of
awareness done through thinking and awareness done without thinking? By type, I don't mean the
content of what we are aware of (that's token) but perhaps the means of carrying the information of
the content. For example, is there any material difference between a perception of a noise in the
background and listening (and enjoying) a piece of music by my favourite composer? Where does
awareness without thinking stop and awareness with thinking begin?

Indeed, to flip the argument, can there be thinking without awareness? We can accept that certain
biological functions are done unconsciously, and even instinctively, and for all that matters, we
can accept that what we call a mind is none other than a function of the brain, but are we prepared
to accept that we can thinking without being aware of it? For example, we have expressions that
illustrate the point: we apologise for certain things we do because we were "not thinking" or "not
aware" that something was already the case.

Once again this question depends on what we accept as thinking. Most people would agree that
language is indeed thinking, but we process (speaking or understanding) our native language
unconsciously, and in many cases we are not aware of how we formulating language structures, how we
use the right words and expressions without consciously going through a menu of words, of course
sometimes we do go through a menu of words; I've just done it!

And we can go another step further. We all accept that mathematics is a rational form of thinking.
And yet one of the most important modus operandi of human beings, at least, is inductive thinking.
Now we can argue about the details but inductive thinking is at the very least a rudimentary form of
probability and the evaluation of the chances of an event repeating itself. Therefore, are some
instances of language and induction cases of thinking but without awareness?

To conclude, if by silent mind we mean silent brain: awareness without thinking, then surely we are
sometime aware without thinking. We can all agree that sometimes we are aware of something without
thinking; indeed this is a no brainer. But then what is the difference between what we call thinking
and what the brain does with sense perceptions? Can we drop the word thinking in the same way we are
free to drop the word mind from our menu?

Best Lawrence

from Lawrence, Sunday PhiloMadrid meeting: Silent mind, awareness without thinking

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