[Marxism] Materialism and the will. (Was: (no subject))

Les Schaffer schaffer at optonline.net
Tue Oct 20 18:07:04 MDT 2009


David Picón Álvarez wrote:
> Nonsense, 'will' is an incoherent idea.
>
> The mind is a particular organisation of matter in motion. What does it mean 
> to speak of a will? The mind follows all the laws of matter in motion 
> (physics) and its internal development is entirely characterised and 
> described by those laws.


even a hard-bitten reductionist like moi finds this last sentence 
incomprehensible.  now if you substituted molecular biology and 
biochemistry for physics you might be able to salvage the thought, but 
biologists don't talk about laws of matter in motion like physicists do, 
cuz physics is too dumb and crude for their work. as an aside, biology 
students in my introductory physics classes almost uniformly (and 
rightly so) find the subject dry and boring, except when i get up and 
dance and make a scene.

'bout the best you can say is that nerve impulses propagate around in 
concert with laws of matter in motion. i've been working with a student 
for the last year on topics in nerve pulse propagation and there is some 
beautiful physics and chemistry in there ... check out how the molecule 
in the upper right corner of this page functions:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Voltage-gated_potassium_channel
    also see:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/NaKATPase
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ion_channel
    
http://nanobiologynotes.blogspot.com/2006/02/ion-channels-gates-in-cell-wall.html

the voltage-gated channels in particular are believed to be responsible 
for the ability of neurons to send signals near-losslessly down a 
neuron's length, whereas sans these channels, pulses initiated at one 
end of a neuron could not travel very far down the "wire". note too we 
just skipped over the whole subject of evolution/development of these 
structures and function.

after that, you're over the edge and falling into the great darkness 
below (physics wise).... neuroscientists work their asses off just 
trying to make sense of the pulse patterns they see on the nerves, given 
certain stimuli. they can build complex pattern recognition programs to 
correlate these patterns with said stimuli.  but i never hear anyone 
talking about the laws of matter in motion with respect to these 
patterns, mainly because -- i suspect -- they are in the pre-Galileo 
era, looking for a *description* of motion (function) that a Newton 
might try to throw a few apples at. i don't see many apples thrown at 
the beautiful blinking lights in the fMRIs ... its mainly about 
correlation right now, when i am full of wrath (that's a tip of the hat 
to Eli) this chunk of brain lights up like a xmas tree.

so, yes, ideas from physics find their way into low and mid-level 
neuroscience (nerve pulse propagation, synapse physics, complex system 
dynamics, emergence, bla bla bla)... but there is a great article in the 
book The New Physics with a section heading "Why Biology is not Physics" 
which i'll quote for you when i get home if you promise to write a book 
report on the material (that's a joke) ... 

upshot: don't go blaming the brain on us (physicists).


Les

p.s.  there's a nice little graphic movie of the voltage-gated channel 
process somewhere on the web, but i cant find it right now.




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