The Source of Human Reason?

The Source of Human Reason?

All of our acts and thoughts are based upon philosophical assumptions. Metaphysics is a fancy word for our concern about ‘what is real’. For example, whenever we think or speak about responsibility we are assuming causality. Without causality there is no responsibility. The nature and status of the self is another speculation, and an important one, in most decisions we make daily.

Politics is about forming perceived reality in accordance with points of view. In America we have two parties and each party attempts to move the electorate to perceive that party’s point of view is better than the other’s point of view.

We rely on our unconscious to furnish the building blocks for comprehension of reality. If we examine the cognitive sciences and the human sciences we see a constant emphasis about the unconscious. It is through our conceptual systems, which are unconscious, that we make sense of our every day existence and our everyday metaphysics exists within our conceptual system.

It appears to me that cognitive science has two paradigms; symbolic manipulation, which is also called AI (Artificial Intelligence) and the second paradigm, which might be called ‘conceptual metaphor’, or it might be called ‘embodied mind’, or ‘embodied realism’.

AI (Artificial Intelligence) research began shortly after WWII. Alan Turing was one of the important figures who decided that their efforts would not be focused on building machines but in programming computers.

The new potential paradigm for cognitive science has given us evolution-based realism. This is also called embodied-realism because it has abandoned the mind/body dichotomy that characterizes other forms of realism and is convinced that natural selection is the process by which the human species has developed.

Cognitive science studies our conceptual systems. Cognitive science has, since the 1970s, amassed a great deal of empirical evidence to conclude that most of our conceptual activities fly below our conscious radar. Our unconscious, which contains our stealth conceptual system, has been ignored by our Western philosophical tradition, thereby leading us astray in matters of great importance.

The ‘cognitive’ in cognitive science is used “for any kind of mental operation or structure that can be studied in precise terms. Most of these structures and operations have been found to be unconscious.” Visual and auditory processing–memory and attention–all aspects of thought and language–mental imagery–emotions and conceptual aspects of motor operations–and neural modeling of cognitive operation; all of these are part of the science known as cognitive science.

“Most of what we [SGCS (Second Generation Cognitive Science)] will be calling cognitive unconscious is thus for many philosophers not considered cognitive at all.” Cognitive for many philosophers’ means that which has truth-conditional meaning, “that is, meaning defined not internally in the mind or body, but by reference to things in the external world.”

This branch of cognitive science, “because our conceptual systems and our reason arise from our bodies, will also use the term cognitive for aspects of our sensorimotor system that contribute to our abilities to conceptualize and to reason. Since cognitive operations are largely unconscious, the term cognitive unconscious accurately describes all unconscious mental operations concerned with conceptual systems, meaning, inference, and language.”

The ‘bible’ for embodied-realism is “Philosophy in the Flesh” by Lakoff and Johnson. The paradigm of this cognitive science is ‘conceptual metaphor’. The fundamental findings from which all principles flow are:
• The mind is inherently embodied.
• Thought is mostly unconscious.
• Abstract concepts are largely metaphorical.

Let us imagine how human reason might have been born. The question seeking an answer is: how can natural selection (evolution) account for human reason?

Somewhere back in time we must encounter the signs of reason within the capacity of our ancestors. What is the essence of reason? The necessary and sufficient conditions for reason are conceptual and inference ability. To conceptualize is to create neural structures that can be used to facilitate making if-then inferences.

Imagine an early water dwelling creature, which must survive utilizing only the ability to move in space and to discriminate light and shadow. The sense of a shadow can indicate a friend or foe and can indicate eat or not eat. Assume that this sensibility has a total range of two feet, i.e. a shadow within a radius of two feet of the creature can be detected.

A shadow comes within sensible range, the creature can ‘decide’ by the size of the shadow whether the shadow is friend or foe and as a possible lunch. If the shadow is large the creature must ‘run’ if it is small the creature might ‘decide’ to pursue.

It seems obvious to me this simple creature must have the ability to reason in order to survive. This creature must be capable of ascertaining friend/foe and eat/not eat. It must also determine how to move based upon that conceptual structure. It must be able to make inferences from these concepts, these neural structures of what is sensed, to survive. This creature must have the capacity to perceive, conceive, infer, and move correctly in space in order to survive.

Continuing my imaginary journey; I have a friend who is the project engineer on a program to design robots. I ask this friend if it is possible for the computer model of a robot in action can perform the essential operations required for reasoning. She says, “I think so, but I will ask my robot simulation to do the things that are considered to be reasoning”.

She performs this operation and tells me that it is within the capacity of the robot movement system to also do reasoning. I conclude that if the sensorimotor control system of a creature also has the ability to reason, then biology would not recreate such a capacity and thus this sensorimotor capacity is also a reasoning capacity that evolves into our human capacity to reason.

Quotes from Philosophy in the Flesh by Lakoff and Johnson

Does this imaginary journey compel you to shout with joy at discovering the source of human reason?

Not necessarily. The water dwelling creature that didn’t flee before it was consumed was eaten before it could procreate. The one that fled lived to procreate. While sensation and movement must have been present, perception, conception, inference are unnecessary. Indeed the stimulus that elicited movement could be a purely chemical and external one. The response could be simply peripheral and reflexive and not involve the central nervous system at all let alone conscious cognition.

logic is not unconscious.

Can you elaborate on your idea?

Logic is definitely-unconscious.

You are correct Coberst.

Logic is our primary conscious system of thought. While it is essentially hardwired within our brains naturally, it is how we correlate information. Logic is lost subconsciously or unconsciously. We are aware of how things occur upon experience. Whether we conscientiously recognize it as logic or not is moot, how we interpret data is something that we aren’t aware of even in the most rudimentary perception or non existent perceptions of how we think. However, If it is not conscious thought process then what is it, that answer would certainly be more entertaining.

human reason is the process by which we understand truth and falsehood, and how to determine between the two. reason is a mental faculty that is a very highly-evolved expression of the need to interact successfully with an objective reality, in order to survive. as man needed to learn to use his consciousness to adapt, and could not use his physical body to survive in nature, the unconscious mind because the expression of simple rules and methods of interacting with reality. such methods as the law of the excluded middle, the law of mutual exclusivness, the law of identity, etc are all conscious expressions of how our mind has evolved to survive in the world.

reason therefore is structural, but can only operate on a very basic level unconsciously. in order to extrapolate from any but the most superficial and obvious truths, we need to engage our rational mind conceptually. we need to think. by thinking, we explore the rational structure of our brains, using reason as a tool to determine right from wrong, true from false, good from bad, etc.

I think we need to investigate what we are saying by unconscious then. Because how you explained the above, I would replace your usage of unconscious with subconscious.

perhaps, or maybe ‘preconscious’ would be better… its just semantics really, just a word referring to the idea that there are structural areas of the brain which give rise to conscious thought, and which consciousness is not aware of directly. and officially, psychology does not recognize the word “subconscious” as such, preferring only “unconscious”, but still… no big deal.

Psychology doesn’t recognize anything its an abstract concept of categorization. The American Psychological Association has books on it referring to the subconscious.

A few years ago, I had to accompany a friend of mine to a doctor for removal of his wisdom teeth. He had a general anesthesia for the procedure (he was put to sleep). When the procedure was completed, I was there when the anesthetic was wearing off. I remember him having what seemed to me a rational conversation with the nurse (and he was a quite a rational person by nature), and he appeared to me to be well aware. The strange thing is, when the anesthetic completely wore off in a couple of hours, he could not remember his conversation with the nurse. He could not remember anything he said to her!
So I am inclined to think that reasoning, to some degree (and perhaps especially for some people) is a conditioned response.

Language could probably be another analogy (those who speak several languages here will probably know what I am talking about). When language is learned at an early age (I’d say before 13-ish), it becomes automatic as it becomes integrated in still-growing brain pathways; but when one learns it later in life, it becomes less so “intuitive” and more deliberate and conscious in its utilization.

i believe it was freud who coined the term ‘subconscious’, or perhaps his student jung… but regardless, as a graduate with a psychology degree i can say that my professors taught us that there is “consciousness and unconsciousness” and that “subconscious” was a term that some authors used, but that was not officially endorsed by APA…its kinda like how “insanity” isnt a psychological term either (its a legal one), but plenty of psychologists use it anyways.

of course, my professors may have been wrong, or just plain stupid… come to think of it, thats probably the case. either way, consciousness can be thought of as a tree: smaller at the top (where we are directly aware of it via consciousness), and larger as you move down into more “subconscious” or “preconscious” regions (regions that we COULD be aware of if we introspect on them), and still further down you get the largest areas of primal instincts, early conditioning, archetypal belief structures, etc, areas which are more fixed and outside of the ability of the awareness to directly perceive (these areas i could call truly “unconscious”)… so yes, you are right that in my example, i would say “subconscious” is a better term to use.

logic is BOTH unconscious/conscious. Read the literature. Heuristics/biases program shows we have unconscious/quick biases and heuristics which come to a lot of quick/good judgement calls and an endless supply of bad judgements that seem right (staticians are brutal for it) another mental system we have reasons through situations better/slower.

Anyway the problem is heuristics/biases permeate everyone even people who work with logic/statistics fall prey to them. The problem is many of them get logical outcomes in plenty of situations they just lead to systematic errors.

consciousness is the tip of the iceberg so to speak. Obviously massive parts of logic or at least how we arrive at conclusions logical or otherwise is unconscious but people can limit coming to errors because of unconscious heuristics/biases, those same things help people arrive at logical conclusions though you just have no know what types of reasoning errors to avoid.

I need a descriptive example of how logical conclusions are arrived what you refer to as unconsciously. Unless you mean what I understand as subconsciously ,as I had already discussed previously in the thread…

Why do you automatically attribute his (assumed to be logical) conversation while under anesthesia to be subconscious rather than just simply a conscious conversation not remembered?

To get to whether logic is conditioned or inherent we must delve into child psychology. A baby will cry when it is born because it needs something. Is it logical? Yes. Is it instinct? Well, the latter may be an issue for us here. As instinct may not necessarily be logical. We can pretty much safely assume that when born the baby is aware it is not alone as it is being handled. Or if it is alone, (maybe mom is dead or passed out) would still cry to obtain its needs. As it does have needs. The only thing the child can do is cry to get its needs Met. The child will stop crying when its needs are met. This is all logical thinking… but if it is instinct, then it isn’t necessarily logic… as instinct is not necessarily logical to the child. As in how could a baby understand to start sucking on its mothers nipple, or grasping for it without its eyes open. Sensing it is there. Is that logical? I don’t think so, it must be instinct. If a childs cryings are able to be identified as instinct then we have a problem if logic is actually being utilized. But as time progresses we can witness that the child really doesn’t stray from logical thought processes throughout infancy. When it cries it needs something. It will cry until that specific needs are met, which is logical. It understands crying will meet its needs, or it is a continuation of instinct and doesn’t understand anything. Even so, once understanding is met, it doesn’t stray from the logical processes, it still opens its mouth when it wants something. It logically understands words as words are spoken to it… Unless you contribute it all to instinct, then logic is instinct and inherent for all our lives, even if conscientiously aware of our thought processes, I lean to that it must be inherent…

Right. Pandora, your friend could have been fully conscious when he spoke to you and subsequently suffered retrograde amnesia due to the anesthesia.

A good bit of the difficulty we seem to be having here is due to the problem of how we define reason or rationality. If we define it narrowly perhaps only formal logic will meet our defintion. If we define it broadly then history exhibits reason as Hegel argued. Or more broadly still, the laws of nature themselves are rational.

Traditionally reason was opined to oppose emotion which was deemed irrational. But emotions have there own inchoate rationality based on instinctive survival value. The substances that smell disgusting would often be toxic if eaten. There is a rationality to that which does not require that one know how to parse a syllogism.

So before we can agree on the origin of reason, we must define what we mean by the word.

This is interesting; I did not consider this possibility. Now, I do not know what chemical compound was used in iv sedation for his oral surgery, but I looked around at some common ones (propofol, methohexitone, diazepam) and found that one of the interesting side effect of Diazepam is what’s called an anterograde amnesia.

What I think I was attempting to do is to suggest that rationalizing, or at least superficial appearance thereof, or certain brain processes that are normally involved in it, to some degree, can be integrated into implicit memory; as in instances when one is engaged in “reasoning” with dream characters in one’s sleep.

Stranger things have happened. I recently learned of a mathematician who claimed he received the solutions to math problems when a Hindu goddess appeared to him in dreams.