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Steve_Zissouu t1_ja4e4hn wrote

It sounds like Gregory Berns doesn’t really understand Nagel. Showing that dogs feel affection for their owners is in no way a counterexample to his argument. Nagel thinks that no matter how many FMRI’s you have about some state x, you still won’t come to know what it’s like to be in that state x. That’s entirely compatible with Bern’s claim about learning that dogs feel affection through fMRI. No idea why Berns thinks he’s shown anything to discount Nagel shrug


Top_Net_123 t1_ja4ourx wrote

Also, the whole point of the bat example is that we know it uses sounds and reflections of the sounds (ultrasound I think) to see. We know it because we acquired external knowledge about bats, but the concept of seeing through ultrasound feels extremely alien to us humans, we can’t imagine what this would feel like.

Affection on the other hand is a concept we surely understand. Oh and by the way, I wouldn’t need a neuroscientist to understand that dogs feel affection to their owners.


kompootor t1_ja4w807 wrote

I am in the sciences but I've read into philosophy quite a bit. One important thing I've learned, after quite a long time, is that whenever I'm reading something, and I'm ready to object that "Physics proves that's incorrect!", then I'm in the process of missing the point.

For those passing by, everyone's referring to Nagel's famous essay on the predictive limitations of the connectivist model in the NMR era vis a vis Chiroptera.


KinglySnorlax t1_ja4llxu wrote

Berns fails if I’m not mistaken to understand that Nagel argued we’d never known how an entity conceives as itself being itself.


TheOvy t1_ja6z6bd wrote

It was a rollercoaster of a headline to read. After the first sentence: "oh shit, I'm about to have my mind blown!" After the second sentence, "ah hell, he probably hasn't even read Nagel."


MonsieurMeowgi t1_ja79ctz wrote

We have no way of knowing that what I see let's say in terms of color is what you see, but we do know that the structures that are interpreting that information are the same or very very similar between you and i, so we can infer a similarity in what we're seeing. Same is true with affection in dogs etc. We're all mammals.


NotObviouslyARobot t1_ja8chcn wrote

There actually is a way to know/feel what you, or other humans see in terms of color. It's called painting/art.

Even if you're trying to be 100 percent representative, your individual perception introduces itself Claude Monet did this deliberately, showing others how he perceived the world. Information goes through your eyes, is processed by the seeing "you" and then goes out through your hands.

With regards to Nagel's bat, you'd have to find a medium both we, and bats, are capable of interacting with on an abstract level. This may not be possible, not for any philosophical reasons, but simply because bats don't appear to engage in creative pursuits.


Mustelafan t1_ja9m120 wrote

Your example still falls prey to the problem of inverted spectra. Hypothetically, two people could have phenomenal experiences of sight and color that are exactly opposite of each other, and if these experiences were otherwise isomorphic (the relationships between each color still proportionally the same) they could produce the exact same work of art but both percieve it differently.

Regarding bats, though blind humans are apparently capable of some form of echolocation, there's no way to know if their phenomenal experience of echolocation is the same as how bats experience echolocation. If their brains and brain activity are sufficiently similar we might reasonably infer that that's the case, but it's probably impossible to ever say for sure. Same with dogs; we can reasonably infer that dogs experience affection, but who can say whether the subjective feeling of affection is the same for dogs as it is for humans? This is where Mr. Berns has failed to properly address Nagel's question.

I might say affection is a sort of sweet feeling. You might say it's more red, to someone else it's gold or a feeling of levity. A dog might consider affection savory or warm. We all have experienced affection, but we may all experience it differently.


NotObviouslyARobot t1_jabe551 wrote

The inverted spectra problem isn't a problem for the example I gave.

The hypothetical humans in the problem do not exist.

Real, flesh and blood humans exist.

Even if two real humans have isomorphic relationships with color, and try to paint the same thing, they'll make choices in how they use color. When creating art, not making choices is not an option. Their subjective experiences mean they won't make the same choices.

They'll choose colors in different orders. They'll mix paints differently. There will be minute motor differences. They'll perceive something, translate it to their own inner world, and then transport it out again via fine motor skills & paint.

In the final product, they -won't- have produced the same work of art, because their subjective humanity ensured that their processes would not be isomorphic. At the same time, they will have communicated details of their inner subjective experience, in an objective fashion--using a known medium. Even if you train the artists, or the elephant artists, this process is going to happen.

We've defined objective reality via consensus--and the sheer body of evidence surrounding the average experience of what redness is, is well-established. It can -feel- different from person to person & this difference can be readily communicated.

Nagel's Bat is a hypothesis designed to be untestable & immune to evidence.


smaxxim t1_ja7wee1 wrote

I guess all the confusion comes from the word "know". We are, actually, don't know what it’s like to be us, we feel what it’s like to be us, we feel our feelings, we don't "know" them. Feel something it's not the same as "know" something. So Nagel should have said: "you can't feel what a bat is feeling". With that, I guess everyone can agree.


Nahbjuwet363 t1_ja5uxqy wrote

Neuroscientist proves that he can’t even prove what it is like to read Thomas nagel


cdn27121 t1_ja4lgan wrote

This is exactly what Nagel wasn't trying to say. We can measure/read what something is but not how it feels. It's like reading a lasagne recipe and thinking you can imagine how it tastes for another person.


songwritingimprover t1_ja546o8 wrote

Nagel was saying that we can't have experiential knowledge of what it is like to be a bat, we don't have access to the qualia of a dog. Just as one human doesn't have access to the qualia of another human.

Empirically showing that dogs have feelings/emotions doesn't show that Nagel was wrong about this. It's something completely different


Strato-Cruiser t1_ja4xiog wrote

fMRIs are neat but they have limits. They simply show activation of areas of the brain. What they can’t do is tell us how that activation and how that brain is constructing a perceiving information. To draw a parallel like, since many people experience X when Y region of the brain in activated in situation Z; then if an animal shows the same region activated it must be like our perception. I think this is a wrong conclusion to draw.


maritimelight t1_ja6c2tx wrote

Scientists almost always betray complete misunderstanding--or a only shallow comprehension--of core philosophical issues when they make these claims. Like, who is that dude who built an entire public intellectual persona based on his ability to sell his inability to grasp the naturalistic fallacy? Sam Harris?

That and the replicability crisis have made me seriously sceptical about contemporary scientists' intelligence and integrity. These people do so much damage to philosophy and their respective field in the process of making these click-bait claims. Students in STEM should be required to take epistemology and philosophy of science classes in undergrad. Maybe that would help, I dunno. Probably not. Ignorance has shown itself these past few decades to be more influential and resilient a social force than education.


quixologist t1_ja4vnqv wrote

Not to say it’s entirely apples and oranges, but putting “feelings of affection” in the title is already anthropomorphizing this to such a degree that I can’t take it seriously. Dogs and humans might share some cortical similarities, but a dog won’t be able to relate to running on two legs, and I can’t relate to wagging a tail. The “what-it’s-like-ness” is still elusive.


acfox13 t1_ja4wer2 wrote

I wonder how Jaak Paksapp's work on affective neuroscience fits into this?


AngryNawhalsAss t1_ja560j1 wrote

That's bollocks. A part of the brain lighting up on an fMRI can show no such thing, even if it is the case that do have such feelings.


noejegspiste t1_ja6hjmh wrote

Also, I don’t think we need an fMRI to prove that a dogs affection is genuine


SpiritOfFire013 t1_ja6mkfo wrote

Wait, was it ever in question that dogs don’t love us? Science just out here waisting time. Where’s my damn hover board.


jliat t1_ja74189 wrote

> For example, his own fMRI studies on dogs have shown that they can feel genuine affection for their owners.

Made my day, having owned three. Next up fMRI studies on their owners show the same...

And as this is a philosophy sub, I think Wittgenstein said something to the effect even if lions could speak English we would not be able to understand them.


Ma3Ke4Li3 OP t1_ja46zdo wrote

Abstract: Thomas Nagel famously argued that no amount of knowledge about physiology could, even in principle, tell us what it is like to be a bat. Gregory Berns is an animal neuroscientist who argues that Nagel’s thesis is demonstrably wrong. For example, his own work with dog cognition and emotion has demonstrated, beyond a reasonable doubt, that dogs' relationship to their owners is not simply linked to food rewards.


Mustelafan t1_ja4z6mw wrote

Example #136,742 of a scientist misusing their authority as an expert of a scientific field to assert they've disproven an influential philosophical concept that they don't understand. This is the equivalent of an idealist philosopher saying they've disproven evolution by natural selection because animals only exist as impressions in the mind and thus can't be said to physically reproduce or die, or something.


DigitalDiogenesAus t1_ja5e5c2 wrote

I know what it is to be a TV because I can see moving pictures and know they are made of pixels.


i875p t1_ja5zg0d wrote

It's kind of hard to understand how things like this keep happening. Nagel's argument basically boils down to something like "we, as human beings, are physiologically quite different from bats, and therefore it's very likely that we'll never know how a bat experiences things from the 1st person perspective". It is as science-friendly as philosophy can get.


ImmoralityPet t1_ja6fcco wrote

Neuroscientists and bad philosophy: the most iconic pop-philoosphy duo!


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MonsieurMeowgi t1_ja799se wrote

But scientists love to act like we're not animals even though we clearly are.


plssirnomore t1_ja7iutf wrote

I already knew that without doing a test


smallusdiccus t1_ja9sw5a wrote

I don't agree with Nagel, but I think Berns is missing his point. Nagel argues that experience itself its a different and independent form of knowledge only acquirable by the subject experiencing it. Experience manages to escape from the cold data scientific knowledge provides because of that point. Imagine if we could describe every aspect of a new discovered color (amount of nanometers present in its wavelenghts, how it affects the different photoreceptors of each animal that encounters it, which part of electromagnetic waves it absorbs and which ones it reflects, etc.) then we would theoretically know this color, every component that shapes it, but we still wouldn't get the effect, this new and different type of knowledge that Nagel was refering to, that we'd get if we saw the color, if we experience it. So if neuroscience can tell us how is like to be an animal, Nagel would just respond that that knowledge only describes what it is to be an animal but we could only get how it is to be an animal if we were that animal in question, which is a new form of knowledge itself that science cannot essentially reach.