Godel’s Contributions to Consciousness Part 3

So what is this Incompleteness Theorem?

At the beginning of the twentieth century, mathematicians assumed that all of mathematics was a created form [Constructivism] simply utilized to express relations between things, whether or not those things were present in reality. On that basis, it was further believed that if all of the rules of this creative form could be fully expressed that all of mathematics could be known, and all future assertions in mathematics could be determined true or false based upon the formal system developed to do such. An amazing attempt at this process was completely by Russell and Whitehead in the three volume set, the Principia Mathematica. Formalism or Constructivism was assumed to be reasonable, true, and the future of mathematics, and to some degree logic. For the formal system to be functional, it would have to correctly identify all true statements accurately, and create no contradictions

Kurt Godel shocked the mathematical world be creating a short Proof, which demonstrated beyond doubt that all formal systems are necessarily incomplete. That in some manner a true statement can be introduced into the formal system, which the formal system could not identify as true. As it turns out, this Godel Phrase actually creates an infinite number of true statements that the formal system cannot identify as true, making any formal system necessarily incomplete, because, once the first Godel number/phrase is inserted, another [G’] is created, which continues without ceasing. Godel’s intense introversion led his announcement of the proof to be less than overwhelming, but other mathematicians of the day made the findings more public within the mathematics community.

Godel’s original proof made the concept of a formal system quite strict, such as the Principia Mathematica level of formalism. Perhaps had he stopped at that point, his work would be non-relevant to the questions of consciousness, but in a later version of his proof, he was able to so simplify the definition of a formal system, while retaining the result of the proof, that this otherwise esoteric bit of mathematics suddenly becomes substantial in a whole host of other intellectual inquiries. These true but unprovable statements, and their existence, have, in Nagel and Hoffstader’s words, forever separated the concepts of “true” and “provable.” That is an amazing paradigm shifter for any of us.

Consider: is it not the case that a creative idea which in every way seems fresh, intriguing and true after receiving the insight, would not have been necessarily identified as “true” by your mind prior to that creative insight?

Godel’s Contributions to Consciousness Part 2

Kurt Godel was born in 1906, and was such a tenacious child that his family referred to him as “Mr. Why” by the time he entered grade school. He made rather amazing contributions to the field of logic and mathematics over the course of his career. Einstein remarked that his greatest pleasures late in life were the daily conversations he shared with Godel, someone, it appears, he considered an intellectual equal. Godel provided Einstein with a mathematical solution to the field equations of general relatively, which he gave to Einstein at his 70th birthday. It was Einstein who helped him obtain a position at the Institute for Advanced Study.

 

Godel believed that his proofs confirmed Platonism, according his biographer, Wang, but he never published a formal proof of that assertion. He was known as an idiosyncratic person, and appeared to have starved himself to death in 1978 over a general paranoia of food. Irrespective of his personal oddities, his genius at logic has earned accolades that he was the greatest logician since Aristotle. The most relevant of his proofs for this discussion are the Incompleteness Theorems, which will be the subject of the next entries. These theorems, and indeed Godel and his work in general, were made part of public knowledge with Hoffstadter’s “Godel, Escher & Bach.”

 

Gödel, Escher, Bach: An Eternal Golden Braid

Godel’s Contributions to Consciousness Part 1

Many of the cutting edge thinkers in consciousness studies refer back to Logician and Mathematician Kurt Godel. Examples include Douglas Hoffstadter, in his epic “Godel, Escher & Bach: an Eternal Golden Braid.” David Chalmers in his “The Conscious Mind.” Roger Penrose in his trilogy of works on mind brain interaction. These three alone account for some of the most intriguing concepts in advanced ideas related to consciousness.

Each of them note that based upon Godel’s Theorem [subject of an upcoming entry], it is not possible, even theoretically, for the mechanical predictable aspects of the electical/chemical brain to account for all the qualities associated with “mind.” Godel predicted the limitations of artificial intelligence in digital computing that have proved to be quite accurate, at least to date. The limitations he suggested have remained solid for the nearly fifty years since his death.

The three above authors all attempt to restore as reductionistic and physically based a theory of concsiousness as possible, given the constraints of Godel’s Theorem. Chalmers and Penrose actually wrote that the limitations provided by Godel’s Theorem could imply a more idealistic or mystical philosophy, but they specifically chose to limit themselves to a more reductionistic explanation. I would support a more radical approach, approximating that of Amit Goswami, a physicist who wrote the rather stunning “The Self Aware Universe.”

More to come in the next series of posts.

The Self-Aware Universe: How Consciousness Creates the Material World

Candle Flame Meditation

This is a practice designed both as a meditative practice and as a means of further developing the faculty of concentration.

Place a lit candle at approximately eye level and darken the room appropriately.  Find a comfortable position and focus complete concentration on the candle flame.

If you keep your eyes open, you mind observe a sensation of merging with the flame.  If you close your eyes, focus upon the after-image in your mind and try to maintain that image as a visualization exercise.

After some practice with these basic exercises, you may wish to extend the visualization with eyes closed of the flame of light growing and encompassing your body.  This can be imagined as purifying and as protective.

Observing Ego

There is a rather delightful aphorism from the yogic traditions, which will paraphrase, and perhaps mangle a bit:

I have feelings, but I am not my feelings.  I have thoughts, but I am not my thoughts.

This pearl of exceptional wisdom should probably be on a plaque on the wall of every therapist and psychiatrist in the world.  For this is, in essence, the purpose of many forms of psychotherapy.  In cognitive models one learns to identify negative thoughts as not intrinsic to the person.  In psychodynamic models, one learns that we are distinct from the patterns we unconsciously repeat in life.  In family therapy on learns that one is affected by and affects the family system but is not identical to it.  This is the essence of developing an observing ego.

Neuroplasticity

Although epiphenomenalism may be assumed true by both doctors and patients alike, since it seems to match data related to impaired neurological function, some of the research in neuroplasticity refutes the entire concept of epiphenomenalism. Early research demonstrated that when people learn new skills, such as typing or piano, that areas of the motor cortex of the brain actually increase in size to match. Later research demonstrated new brain connections, after some forms of brain injury, sometimes form to areas of the brain which would otherwise have processed information from different areas of function. This process actually restores the lost functioning, even with different areas of the brain processing the information.

Although these studies were fascinating as they showed the neuronal connections and biological functioning of the brain changed as a result of essentially newly learned tasks, some researchers minimized the results with arguments that this was largely a unique ability for repair following injury. One of the more recent studies was a true paradigm changer. In this research, Tibetan Buddhist monks participated in functional brain imaging studies while practicing a compassion based meditation technique. The finding was astounding: monks showed a novel Gamma brainwave pattern in the frontal lobe, which correlated with the subjective sense of blissfulness. This brainwave pattern had never been seen in any non-pathological state before, and its presence and strength was only related to the number of hours of meditative practice. No other demographic factors correlated with the finding, which suggested a clear circumstance in which willed meditative practice altered brain function over extended practice.

Since epiphenomenalism requires that mental process is only an accidental byproduct of neuronal firing, there is no conceivable way that mental process could actually effect the biological structure. This latest research proves just the opposite: that mental process changes the biology of the brain. Clearly then, any form of biological monism cannot account for this research finding. A different model is needed which accounts for the research data.

Train Your Mind, Change Your Brain: How a New Science Reveals Our Extraordinary Potential to Transform Ourselves

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