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Andrew Huberman’s False Assumption About Consciousness

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Hamza Tzortzis

Channel: Hamza Tzortzis

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Episode Transcript

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Bismillah R Rahman r Rahim in Alhamdulillah wa Salatu was Salam ala Rasulillah Salam alaykum Warahmatullahi Wabarakatuh brothers and sisters and friends, may the peace and blessings of Allah be upon every single one of you.

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In this video, I'm going to be responding to Dr. Andrew who Berman's force physicalist assumption, he believes the terms brain and mind can be used interchangeably. And he believes the brain and the mind are the same thing. Now, this is not neuroscience, this is philosophy. This is metaphysics. Because to adopt such a position, you have to adopt a philosophical approach to the mind to the brain. And that philosophical approach is known as physicalism. So he's adopting a physicalist assumption. And I would argue it's a false assumption, because physicalism cannot adequately explain the brain in the mind. And I'm gonna explain that in a few moments. Now, by the way, physicalism is

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the approach to the mind or the philosophy of the mind, or even the brain that basically argues that consciousness can be reduced to or is identical to, in some way to physical processes or physical stuff. But before I unpack the purpose of this video, let's introduce Dr. Andrew Huberman. Dr. Andrew Huberman is a popular American neuroscientist and tenured associate professor in the Department of neurobiology and psychiatry, and Behavioral Sciences at Stanford University School of Medicine. He has a very popular YouTube channel, Huberman lab, where he provides interesting insights on the brain, neuroscience and behavior. So he said during a video the following words,

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yeah, so the brain and nervous system, which so it's like brain spinal cord connections with the body and Baqi and I don't distinguish between brain and mind, I think that's like an 80s discussion, were earlier. And I think it would take us down the wrong track. So brain or mind to me is interchangeable. Now the purpose of this video is to respond to such a claim and to respond to those words, and to also express to you that he's adopting a false physicalist assumption, a metaphysical assumption, a philosophical assumption. This is not neuroscience.

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Yes, he's a neuroscientist, but neuroscience and neuroscientists, they have to adopt a particular philosophical and metaphysical assumption, in order for the domain of knowledge known as neuroscience to progress and grow. And just like with most domains of knowledge, you have to adopt certain philosophical assumptions. And I want to unpack that. I also feel it's very important to unpack Huberman assumption for the following reasons. Number one, neuroscience is not metaphysically innocent, meaning it is not free from philosophical assumptions. Number two, a key aspect of the mind includes inner subjective conscious experience. And in the language of neuroscience, this is

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referred to as qualia.

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And this also includes the hard problem of consciousness. And the hard problem of consciousness, which we're going to unpack cannot be answered by neurobiological investigation. Number three, and this is very important. Popular scientists or academics, just like Dr. Huberman provide a great service to the viewers and followers. However, their popularity may blind people to the false philosophical assumptions that may promote an atheistic or materialistic discourse. So in the context of today's video, the main key objective is to show that humans assertion that the mind and the brain are the same, which is held by many neuroscientists and atheists, is based on the false

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assumption that neuroscience can fully and adequately explain the mind in the brain. However, neuroscience is based on the philosophical assumption known as physicalism. So given that neuroscience adopts physicalism, Huberman will have to demonstrate that physicalism is true in order for his claim to be coherent. However, Huberman cannot do this by engaging in neurobiological investigation, because neuroscience is based on the assumption of physicalism. So to argue that neuroscience can prove physicalism is like a dog trying to catch his tail. Because in order for neuroscience to work, he has to assume physicalism to be true. Neuroscience cannot prove its own

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assumptions. So what Huberman needs to do is not refer to neuroscience, but to undergo philosophical investigation or metaphysical inquiry in order to try and explain to us why his assertion is actually true because he's assertion is based on a physicalist assumption. So here is a summary of my points and I'm going to unpack them in the next few minutes. God willing inshallah I

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Want to show that Huberman seems to commit the causation correlation fallacy is a logical fallacy. It's an error in reasoning. Due to the conflation between correlation and causation. I also want to provide a useful analogy to explain how two different things can be different. Yet they're connected in some way, just like the brain and the mind, consciousness and the mind, they're connected. But they can also be distinct and different, I want to provide an analogy. To get you to understand this, I also want to explain to you that the mind includes inner subjective conscious experience. And this also includes the hard problem of consciousness. And I want to explain how the hard problem

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of consciousness cannot be explained by neuroscience and cannot be explained by the assumption of neuroscience, which is physicalism. physicalism is not an adequate philosophical approach to the mind to explain or to answer the two key questions that the hard problem of consciousness brings to the table. And therefore, I want you to understand that, in order for humans claim to be true, he would have to show that physicalism is an adequate philosophical explanation for the brain and the mind. And finally, I'm going to briefly show why physicalism fails to address the hard problem of consciousness. And in future videos, I'm going to unpack the various conceptions of physicalism on

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this channel, God willing, insha Allah. So let's explain why Huberman seems to commit the error in reasoning, the logical fallacy known as the correlation causation fallacy. Now, it is well established that if you do anything to the brain, it's going to affect your consciousness. No one is denying this. Now, neuroscience as a domain of knowledge is essentially generally speaking, a science of correlations is the study of correlations. They investigate neurobiological activity, and they correlate it to states of consciousness, and behavior. Now, this doesn't mean the brain is the same thing as consciousness, just because there is a correlation between the brain and

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consciousness, or the brain and behavior to claim such a thing will be committing the error in reasoning, the logical fallacy known as the correlation causation fallacy, and this fallacy is when two things seem to be correlated, then one of them must cause the other. Now, this is not true. Now, let me give you a helpful analogy to understand just because two things may be correlated, that it doesn't mean that they are the same.

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So just to reiterate, no one is denying that the physical brain and consciousness are related or connected in some way. But it's just a relationship, the brain and consciousness are not necessarily the same thing. And take the following analogy into consideration.

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Take for example, the car and the driver. So the car can represent the brain and the driver can represent consciousness. Now we know if the car is broken,

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the human being the driver won't be able to move the car anywhere.

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And likewise, if the human being is dead, or not functioning, but the car is okay, and it's functioning and it's able to move, the car won't be able to move anyway, either. So we know they both need each other or they are connected in some way. But we know they are distinct. They're not the same thing. And this is more in line with our kind of philosophical and metaphysical intuition. And this is very important for us to understand. And this is a very helpful, useful analogy, because in Huberman philosophical worldview, the car and the human being on the same thing, and you could use them interchangeably. So let's now talk about the brain and the mind. So Huberman asserts that

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the brain and the mind are the same thing. And they can be used interchangeably. Now, what he's ignoring here or he's not bringing to the table is the mind with regards to inner subjective conscious experiences. And inner subjective conscious experiences is also related to this concept known as the hard problem of consciousness. Now, the hard problem of consciousness is really concerned with the nature and the source of our conscious experiences. And this is also referred to as phenomenal experience. So in a subjective conscious experience is also referred to in academia as phenomenal experience. So the hard problem of consciousness presents two key questions. Number one,

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what is it like for a particular organism or a human being, to have an inner subjective conscious experience? And number two, why and how do these inner subjective conscious experiences arise from seemingly cold blind non conscious physical processes? So that these are two key questions. The first question is of an epistemic nature is about knowledge. The second question is an ontological question. It's about the soul

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have an inner subjective, conscious experiences. So let me give you an example. Imagine on a Sunday morning, I have a hot chocolate. When I'm having a hot chocolate, I'm having an inner subjective conscious experience. So with regards to the first question we can ask, what is it like for Hamza to have a hot chocolate on a Sunday morning? That's a valid question. So if we were to map out everything in my brain, and understand all the neurobiological processes and all the neurochemical activity, and correlate to my experience of having a hot chocolate and Sunday morning, it doesn't follow that you now just by looking at this neurochemical firing, that you now know what it's like

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for me to have an inner subjective conscious experience, in this case. Now you know what it's like for me to have a hot chocolate Sunday morning, you just don't know because you're not experiencing what I'm experiencing. You're not me. You just have these neurochemical firings, you have this neurobiological activity.

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So there is an epistemic gap if you like there is a knowledge gap. With regards to my inner subjective conscious experience, you don't know what it's like for me to have that particular experience. Now, you may argue, well, Hamza, you could describe it. You could say things like hot, creamy, sweet, of course I can. But remember, words are vehicles to meaning and meaning is essentially an expression, or a linguistic expression of my inner subjective conscious experience, which you're not experiencing, I'm experiencing it. So just because I'm saying creamy, and you know what creamy means for you, and you have correlated to your particular experiences of what it means

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to be creamy. It doesn't necessarily follow that those two terms are the same thing with regard to our subjectivity. Our subjective experience is connected to those terms. We can also ask, How does Hamza have an inner subjective conscious experience from having a hot chocolate in a Sunday morning, and that experience that subjectivity that inner subjective conscious experience arises from cold, non conscious physical processes? How and why does that happen?

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Because if you think about physicalism, as an approach to the philosophy of the mind, physicalism doesn't say that physical processes are conscious. Because if you study physicalism, physical processes and physical stuff, are blind and unconscious, meaning there is no intentional force directing these physical processes anywhere. And these physical processes are not aware of themselves, or aware of anything outside of themselves. And they're not about or of something. In other words, they don't have intentionality.

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So how can inner subjective conscious experience which seems to have some kind of intentional force seems to have some form of aboutness? Right, our conscious experiences about something or have something? How can that arise from physical processes that are blind and cold, non conscious, and they don't have any intentionality they're not about or have something.

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So, from this perspective, we see that the hard problem of consciousness is indeed a hard problem. And this has been summarized and articulated by neuroscientists and philosophers of the mind. For example, Professor David Chalmers, he says, the really hard problem of consciousness is the problem of experience, when we think and perceive there is a wheel of information processing, but there is also a subjective aspect, what unites all these states is that there is something it is like to be in them, all of them are states of experience. If any problem qualifies as the problem of consciousness, it is this one, in this central sense of consciousness and organism and a mental

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state is conscious, if there is something it is like to be in that state. Also, you have Professor Torian altar, he says, How does my brains activity generate those experiences? Why those are not others? Indeed, why is any physical event accompanied by conscious experience? The set of such problems is known as the hard problem of consciousness. Even after all the associated functions and abilities are explained. One might reasonably wonder why there is something it is like to see letters appear on the computer screen.

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And even neuroscientists are starting to agree with this. And they agree with this, many of them. For example, the neuroscientist Daniel ball, he states the following with regards to the hard problem of consciousness and he essentially saying the hard problem is unresolved.

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There are lots of hard problems in the world, but only one gets to quote itself the hard problem. That is the problem of consciousness, how 1300 grams or so have no

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of cells conjures up the seamless kaleidoscope of sensations, thoughts, memories and emotions that occupy every waking moment, the hard problem remains unresolved. Now before we discuss how physicalism fails to address the hard problem of consciousness, we have to summarize that actually neuroscience has a metaphysical assumption and a philosophical assumption known as physicalism. So take for instance, what philosopher and psychologist Ricardo min zoete and Professor of Psychology, Paulo, moderato say, with regards to the neurosciences, they argue that they are not metaphysically innocent. And they say and this is very important, empirical data needs to be interpreted from the

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perspective of some premise. And that's why there's no point giving you the different variations of the empirical and your neurobiological studies and approaches that tried to explain consciousness in the mind and the brain is kind of irrelevant. Why? Because all of them are based on a premise on a philosophical premise of physicalism. And if you could show physicalism is not true, or it's not adequate, then it's irrelevant, or it's neither here or there with regards to discussing the kind of, you know, scientific nuances of these empirical approaches or these neurobiological investigations concerning the brain and the mind. Also concerning this, you have Professor ante

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Ronseal, he makes an interesting point, he says, however, it is useful also for empirical scientists to be aware of the different philosophical alternatives, because every empirical theory also necessarily involves some sort of implicit philosophical commitments. The overall empirical approach that a scientist takes to consciousness is guided by his prior philosophical commitments or intuitions about the nature of science and the nature of consciousness, whether he is aware of such commitments or not. Also, you have the Professor of Philosophy Rex Wilson, he posits that neurosciences explanation of consciousness is based on assumption, that inner subjective conscious

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experience can be reduced to neurobiology.

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So what is this assumption? What is this premise? In a nutshell, it's physicalism. And just to repeat physicalism, generally speaking, is the philosophical approach to consciousness, the brain, the mind, that basically says that consciousness and the mind can be reduced to, in some way, or identical to in some way to physical processes, or physical stuff. Now, before I provide some general arguments, why physicalism is false. Let's explain, again, why neuroscience on its own fails to actually understand the mind with regard to the hard problem of consciousness. I remember, neuroscience is mainly a study of correlations. But these correlations cannot tell us what it's like

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for a particular conscious organism or person to have a specific inner subjective conscious experience. Remember, if we were to map out all the neural chemistry in the brain, or the neurochemical firings or the neurobiological activity, it will not follow that we know what that particular person is experiencing what that particular person's inner subjective conscious state is and what it's like to be in that state.

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It's very clear, this is a logical issue here, right? You may have all the neuro chemistry mapped out. And you can correlate to someone's inner subjective conscious experience. But just because you have the neuro chemistry mapped out, it doesn't follow, you now know what it's like for that person to have that inner subjective conscious experience.

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Even if they were to express it in words like I'm hot, or this tastes creamy, or this is sweet. It still doesn't follow you now know what it's like for that person to have that inner subjective conscious experience. Why? Because words are vehicles to meaning and meaning is a representation of that subjectivity. But you don't know what that subjectivity is. You may have your own subjectivity or your own inner subjective, conscious experiences with regards to words like creamy and hot and sweet, but it doesn't necessarily follow that they are the same experience. So just like what Professor Thomas Nagel argued in his famous essay in the 1970s, concerning what it is like to be a

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bat, he basically argues that we cannot explain inner subjective conscious experiences with the third person, language of science, because inner subjective conscious experiences the first person fact and it has first person language, and you can't explain that with the third person language of science. Now, it's important to know that just because neuroscience has been relatively successful, and we appreciate this and we respect the neuroscientists, and we accept many of their findings and the discoveries and

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We appreciate that it's helping us improve our lives and Dr. Andrew Huberman is one of them, right?

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But just because of the successes of neuroscience, it doesn't now mean we have to blindly adopt a metaphysical assumption, the metaphysical assumption of physicalism. And we can't now say that now, neuroscience with this false assumption, or this inadequate assumption, has to be the starting point with regards to a full explanation of the brain in the mind. And this is interesting because Manzo, to moderato. They basically postulate that despite neurosciences aim of explaining the nervous system and how it works, it doesn't logically follow that the hard problem of consciousness is going to be addressed. And what they maintain is that neuroscience must show how inner subjective

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conscious experience is linked to neurobiological processes in an adequate way. And it should not be used as an unquestioned starting point. And to make the claim that Dr. Andrew Huberman does, the brain in the mind is the same thing that the same thing. And to make the claim that neuroscience with its philosophical baggage is the starting point is the unquestioned starting point is basically neuro mania. And interestingly, philosopher, he's an atheist, by the way, philosopher, Raman Tallis, he actually articulates this very well. He says, if we could obtain a complete record of all neural activity, and we were able to see the firing state of every individual neuron, would this advance

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our understanding in the slightest, for this to be the case, one thing at least would be necessary, we would have to be sure that neural activity we observed was in some strict sense identical with consciousness, we need to move on from the technical limits, and methodological muddles of scan based cognitive neuroscience to the conceptual indeed philosophical problems neuro mania ignores, and Mendota and Madras to actually argue this point very well, they summarize this point very well. They say there is a big difference between the experimental validity of neuroscientific research as such, and the unwarranted mental ontology it conveys. So let me summarize why physicalism failed

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with regards to the hard problem of consciousness, which is related to the idea of the mind. And there are two things I want to articulate. The first one is

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under physicalism physical processes, and I mentioned this before, but it's important to retreat. physical processes or bits of metaphysical stuff are blind and unconscious, meaning there is no intentional force directing them anywhere. They're not aware of themselves and not aware of anything outside of themselves. They are not about or of something. In other words, they don't have intentionality.

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So how can we claim the inner subjective conscious experience, which seems to be intentional, meaning it has intentionality, it's about something our consciousness is of or about something. And there seems to be an intentional force with regards to our conscious experience, right? How can that arise from seemingly cold blind, non conscious physical processes to claim that inner subjective conscious experiences arise from Blind non conscious, physical stuff of physical processes of physical phenomena, is like saying if someone picks up a cold life, the stone and rubs it for half an hour, you're gonna have butterflies emerging. But we know from a cold, lifeless, nonconscious

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stone, you're not going to have butterflies emerging, no matter how much you rub it. So from this perspective, physicalism fails as an adequate philosophical or metaphysical explanation for the hard problem of consciousness. Another reason why physicalism fails. And we've mentioned this before, but it's important to reiterate this is that if you think about physicalism, and many conceptions of physicalism, many of them basically argue that the more we know about the brain and the related physical processes, and even the kind of complex causal connections, we will eventually know what it's like for a specific conscious organism or a human being, to have an inner subjective conscious

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experience, but it is totally false. We've already mentioned this, if you get a human being who has had an inner subjective conscious experience, and you map out their brain, you map out all the new chemical activity, the neurobiological activity, that electrochemical activity, and you correlate it to that specific experience. How does that now follow we know what it's like for that human being to have that specific inner subjective conscious experience. We will not know at all, even if they express it in words, even if they articulate it in words. Remember, words are vehicles to meaning and meaning is a representation of that subjectivity but we haven't experienced their subjectivity

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their inner subjective consciousness

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appearance. Now, what many forms of physicalism may have to do is to deny the fact that we have inner subjective conscious experiences. But with all due respect, that is denying what makes us human and is denying a first person fact. So here's a smackdown argument concerning Dr. hoomans physicalist. Assumption number one, neuroscience assumes physicalism to be true. Number two physicalism cannot address the hard problem of consciousness. Number three, therefore, neuroscience cannot address the hard problem of consciousness. Therefore, you cannot say the brain and the mind are the same thing. Just because you claim to understand the brain. And to say that they are the

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same thing. And you could use these words interchangeably. You are ignoring the hard problem of consciousness, or you're firstly, assuming that the brain or neuroscience can explain the hard problem of consciousness. And we know that is not the case because neuroscience assumes physicalism to be true, which is the metaphysical thesis is a philosophical assumption. And we've shown that philosophical assumption is not adequate in explaining in a subjective conscious experience with regards to the hard problem of consciousness. So let's conclude. Dr. Andrew Huberman has claimed that the mind and the brain are the same, will require Huberman to show that physicalism is true.

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Yet this requires philosophical investigation, and not neuroscientific exploration. Remember, neuroscience is based on this philosophical assumption of physicalism. So whoever needs to be clear about the philosophical baggage that he is carrying, and he needs to justify the false philosophical assumption of physicalism. Because he makes the claim that the brain and the mind are the same. But the mind also refers to inner subjective conscious experience. And inner subjective conscious experience can also relate to the hard problem of consciousness, and physicalism cannot address that adequately. So he needs to show how that could be the case if he really believes that neuroscience

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solves this problem, or he believes that the brain and the mind can be used interchangeably and that the same thing, but he can't do such a thing, because physicalism is one of his assumptions behind that assertion and physicalism cannot adequately explain, in a subjective conscious experiences cannot answer the two key problems of the hard problem of consciousness. And that's why it'd be very hard for Dr. Huberman to even try to do this because we already explained why physicalism fails to address the hard problem of consciousness. And since neuroscience is based on a physicalist assumption. Therefore, neuroscience also fails to explain the brain and the mind therefore, Dr.

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Huberman should not and cannot make the claim that the brain and the mind are the same thing and they can be used interchangeably. Now, I know in the philosophy of the mind, because I did this for my postgrad. I did it for my dissertation. With regards to consciousness and related topics. There's lots of nuances and academic nuances. So this is just like a kind of summary. And in future videos, I'm going to be unpacking various physicalist conceptions with regards to the mind and the brain. And we could unpack the kind of academic nuances in these future videos, God willing, insha Allah but for now, thank you very much for listening and watching and Allah bless every single one of you

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as Salaam Alaikum Warahmatullahi Wabarakatuh