• Tris Mamone wrote a new post, Where Does the Brain Store Long-Ago Memories? 3 years, 4 months ago

    By Simon Makin

    When the now-famous neurological patient Henry Molaison had his brain’s hippocampus surgically sectioned to treat seizures in 1953, science’s understanding of memory inadvertently received per […]

    • I do not know much about neuroscience, but I am thinking about storing events in our brain which become memory. Who says we are storing them?… I don’t know what does it mean to store them? I mean it makes more sense that we have made neural connections regarding some events, and when we have in present an similar or same event we remember it because of lighting up of existing neuron paths that formed itself the first time this event occured. By their re-ignition perhaps we create this sense (in present) of deja vou (vu?) or memory. Perhaps, then, when this neuron paths are damaged or broken it is naturaly we do not have reminiscent of it or as said, no memory. New one events make new connections, “new memories” (memory has only sense when compared with present). I have not tried to read about treatments of mice in labs, or I would become upset also hahaha. Anyway, this storing of events seems to me more, that it is something not so fixed, but more changeable,… just reminded of Elisabeth Loftus who demonstrated so many time how our memory is something very fragile and not fixed in some storage in brain.

    • I have been critical of Wittgenstein – although he is considered the foremost philosopher of the 20th Century by many worthy and serious people; so it is possible that I have missed a few things. But one thing I do appreciate is his almost comical insistence that thoughts are not in our heads. That is one idea that has opened up a lot for me. I see the brain differently now, and feel justified in asking the following question: if memories are stored, can they be found? Are they literally stored, like apples in a crate? What does that actually mean? And is love to be found in our hearts as well – or is that not all mere metaphor? (Moreover, we rarely remember anything the way it really happened, and often think we remember things that never happened at all! So how can a memory of something that never took place be stored?) That aside, there is undoubtedly a correlation between the brain and our thoughts – memories included.

    • Dan

      if memories are stored, can they be found?

      Yes but split up. Nor do we know specifically yet how to put them back together. Cognising works with split up information. The qualities in my aunts head of seeing my dad are a synthesis of quite separate facts, to whit, “unknown person, could be a threat” and “looks like my brother John”, “the Chinese down by the docks kidnap people for a white-slave trader”, and “the Chinese do cheap copies of things” netting the final result, this man is a “cheap Chinese copy of my brother”. The amygdala fault in my aunt’s brain, locating the necessary recollection of “known, safe” for my dad and failing because of topical disease results in very strange new synthetic memories to best use available (even childhood) memories to patch something workable together.

      Memories recalled are taken out and updated every time with new tagged inferences and semantic and episodic/biographical knowledge/memories where appropriate. This keeps memories up to date and integrated with the new stuff and makes them more retrievable (more fault tolerant) offering new ways of retrieving them. This is a key activity as we age and cell death takes chunks out of some part of the mesh that actually constitute the fabric of memories.

      Memories are more like spiders’ webs than apples. They are in effect hyper dimensional in their linkages to each other and without clear boundaries. Forgetting someone’s name doesn’t mean the name is not in your head (it is nowhere else however you wish to interpret) just that that route to it is fritzed. There are nearly always other routes from another web.

      On W. Thoughts are in heads though cognitions are contingent and will be both embodied and situated. Your phrasing is needlessly Chopra.

      Though a scouser, I think the descriptive writing is poor.

    • I like that comment, Phil. I truly see how complicated it all is, and yet I got a glimpse of something. It is easy to fall into the trap of forming an almost visual image of a memory or a thought as a single compact unit of matter, like a jelly bean or a grain of sand (in the brain somewhere), or whatever – and then reject that image. Not very scientific. I wish I had never read one word of W, by the way.
      Who’s descriptive writing is amusing yet poor – mine or W’s (or both)?

    • Dan

      Who’s descriptive writing is amusing yet poor

      The writer of the Scientific American article, was not sufficiently evocative of what is going on in my view. The hippocampus is wrongly suggested on one occasion to be a repository when it is rather more an complex emotionally driven indexing machine and gateway. Likewise I’m not sure the amygdala is not its more primitive cousin now just specialising in friend/foe/don’t know judgement and acting as gateway rather than repository as the article suggests again. Its physical limits are rather debatable. It may be very primitive in its origins being a generator of action for the olfactory bulb if something literally smells wrong (or right), life’s first friend/foe detector.

    • Phil,

      You have my misspelled word (who’s) up there.

      You unwittingly alluded just now to a comment I recently made in a discussion with you (on the Dennett thread). You wrote this: “It [the amygdala] may be very primitive in its origins being a generator of action for the olfactory bulb if something literally smells wrong (or right)…”

      I had written that certain words like Monism have a “smell to them” and that I tend to stay away from them.

      Perhaps your use of that expression was an unconscious allusion to my immortal words, as nothing – particularly a phrase or comment penned by me – is ever forgotten; there is only that which we cannot recall, or summon forth, at any given moment. (“We” does not include those who’ve suffered an injury to the brain – where I guess at least most of this stuff “takes place.”)

      Olgun, getting philosophical now are you? Well, as my father used to say, you could do worse.

    • …the philosophical version of what I am saying is that thoughts are not formed in the head but already exist in the universe and we just tune into them…

      Olgun, this remark about thoughts is admittedly hard to comprehend, but I don’t dismiss it, and would be interested in hearing more. I think you may be on to something – and I am not being condescending or patronizing. I think we tend to dismiss half-formulated theories or ideas too prematurely. This is very injurious – particularly to children; we do them (and others) a disservice and ourselves a disservice.

      By the way, there is a wonderful early novel by Herman Melville called Mardi. It’s an unusual novel; quite amusing and also dream-like and intensely philosophical. One of the characters is pontificating about the subject of thoughts and after he is accused of stealing someone else’s ideas he responds by saying that thoughts have no owner; that they do not originate with us; moreover, he says, the one who had said it first could just as easily be said to have stolen it from him.

    • maria melo #8 …only that some have more “tools” to acess what is

      You have reminded me about so called inteligence, actually. To me this word “inteligence” doesn’t mean much, but too many people like to add this word to a people who have finished university or to politicians, or to some authority. Like they are automaticly inteligent for that hahaha… and by that word they mean something more worth (they think it means knowledge). To me this ability is something unstable in every one of us, and depends a lot on our feelings. One day you can be quite uninteligent (because you feel down), but the next day if someone happen to measure your inteligence, you can be the most inteligent person in the world…because as it happens that day you have heard from the person that you have been in love with, that she is in love with you also. hahaah… . This thing you have mentioned “have more tools” , is key difference, in my opinion, by wich someone can express what is “stored” in our mind. Acces, yes!! 🙂 And this acces depends a lot upon our feelings, and not upon amount of “stored” info, I think. For example, in the beginning of the nineties I become manic-depressive and I have lost a lot of memory, I even couldn’t remember what I was meaning to say while saying it hahaha… but it didn’t have anything to do with my “storage”, because it was full of knowledge, but the acces to it was blocked by feelings, my “tools” were useles at that time. So when you say

      some have more “tools” to acess what is stored…

      I think you have touched a core. …And if I understood you properly.

    • Modesti

      I become manic-depressive and I have lost a lot of memory, I even couldn’t remember what I was meaning to say while saying it hahaha… but it didn’t have anything to do with my “storage”, because it was full of knowledge,

      Two of my best and cleverest friends are schizophrenic, now, well controlled by drugs when needed.

      This conditon shares much with bipolar disorder and may just be another manifestation of the same underlying tendency.

      One theory of schizophrenic psychotic episodes where folk seem to have odd cognitions is that they cannot access their semantic memories so well. Theses memories comprise our model of the world, how it is, and how it works. My friend became amazed that a flower bloomed whilst its pot was bone dry. This became a miracle. He could not recall that succulents (plants with fat waxy leaves that retained water) existed to survive droughts. A woman was shocked by the sprinkler on her lawn creating rainbow colours and thought the government had put something in the water. Brains make stuff up when there is a deficit. The newly blind hallucinate wildly (Charles Bonnet Syndrome). My increasingly deaf ears, whistle.

      These blocks to memory access are only temporary and reversible, but they are also astonishingly common. The schizophrenic find great comfort in religion, it providing a simple explanatory algorithm to regenerate any and all lost semantic memory. Goddidit.

      My good friend whilst I was visiting him in hospital explained why the nurse was looking at her day book then going to see other patients in turn. God, via the sunlight periodically falling on the book’s pages, was instructing the nurse on what to say and give to each of the patients. (The sunlight rose and fell with the passing clouds, but was too obviously functional for my friend. The prosaic fact that the book contained reminders of medications was forgotten.)

    • Dan

      words like Monism have a “smell to them”

      Not for me. Intuitions are personal and may have any sort of root.

      Daniel Kahneman rightly points out that our speedy heuristic judgments are often more reliable than those more considered. BUT those deeply considered may be better yet if we have a good understanding of our own cognitive biases, sufficient knowledge and good rigorous thinking habits. Scientists would otherwise work like those archetypal financial traders, barking answers after a quick scan of the numbers….

    • Dan

      No. Things are forgotten without retrieval when enough of the ways in are lost. Or the memory has been updated out of any reasonable recognition of the original events. Worse, things we think we should have remembered (details of this or that) are very often never remembered. They never survived the transition from short-term to long term memory. Or even the duff (prosaic apparatus) simulation is stored, that space-filling dummy guess to occupy the place where input data hasn’t even survived the pre-conscious triage into consciousness.

      This latter is revealed in the psychology experiment showing how little real information exists in our conscious stream, so never even getting to the possibility of storage.

      Test subjects (students) are asked to get an application form to take part in a test (this one!). They go into the office and ask the young guy behind the counter for the form. He ducks down to get it and after a moment another young guy pops up to hand it over. Most don’t notice the swap. The insane amount of potential data inbound every second is subconsciously triaged and most discarded before conscious apprehension. The prosaic apparatus (this day dream simulation of what is happening, always the same as last time like this e.g. archetype spotty youth) plugs the gaps. Then a further (conscious) evaluation using cultural tests retains some scraps of this.

      This is essential for energy cost reasons. Just for structural maintenance of the brain’s basic fabric 8% of our daily energy input is needed. This is why “use it or lose it” works ferociously, hitting those on marginal or erratic energy inputs the worst. A further 12% is used to actually think or process data in any way. Again hitting the marginally nourished very badly, but also encouraging the preference for heuristic thinking over formal inferential/cortical processes and ditching much sense data substituing dummy space filling data (always the same). Hard thinking IS exhausting. Our cortex is a huge gamble by evolution. Using it the more so. My waistline is testament to my commitment to it.

    • “Things are forgotten without retrieval when enough of the ways in are lost.” Phil

      Many things must certainly be irretrievable. But how can we know that beforehand? It is interesting how many repressed or forgotten recollections can be brought to consciousness after years and years of apparent non-existence. It is like it is stored somewhere.

      Words like Monism have a smell to them, I said. So do movies and books. You can often judge a book by its title and a movie too, as Dr. Jonathan Miller once said. But intuitions such as this are highly deceptive as well.

      Olgun (14), I must confess that I honestly cannot decide if you are being serious or not, as posted comments are often tone-deaf. The universe thought it? I said you might be on to something; it may be that you are not on to something too. I really can’t say, am perplexed now. Nostradamus?

    • phil rimmer #16 My friend became amazed that a flower bloomed whilst
      its pot was bone dry. This became a miracle.

      Yes. Who knows how many “miracles” of religion are products of people brain chemistry making this mess hahaha… Well, I think a lot (putting aside deliberates lies and fabrications). hahaa…

      The schizophrenic find great comfort in religion, it providing a
      simple explanatory algorithm to regenerate any and all lost semantic
      memory. Goddidit.

      Yes. It reminds me that is probably vice versa…there is a hypothesis (in lack of a better word) that all faith and later religion were based upon schizophrenic occurrences by individuals, shamans, people with OCD, etc. I am sure we all know that here. 🙂 In Egypt, and the early stone-age societies, mental illness was regarded as magical or religious in nature. Higher concentrations than average of Dimethyltryptamine (DMT) in blood streams make someone schizophrenic (but not only taht). It seems that culture is a sort of a filter how to comprehend it. In Amazon rainforest they are known as shamans, in modern world they are schizophrenic. As I read somewhere: In the Amazon Rainforest, there are shamans, and there are no schizophrenics. In New York City, there are schizophrenics, and there are no shamans. hahaha… Nice. But I was trying to say that Robert Sapolsky explained it nicely that 4 most important religious rituals equal four major OCD compulsions (cleansing the body, preparing the food, getting in and out of important places, numerology). And if If obsessive compulsive person “guess” the real moment in social events, these people can be (and are) raised and honored by the Community.

      God, via the sunlight periodically falling on the book’s pages, was
      instructing the nurse on what to say and give to each of the patients.
      (The sunlight rose and fell with the passing clouds, but was too
      obviously functional for my friend…

      Oh… Sad.

      Anyway, this problem of access is interesting.

    • Olgun #5

      Thanks for the link. Article is very interesting!

    • Modesti.

      Sapolsky. Yes! I post this fairly often.

      It proved very useful to my friend, he tells me. It led to him writing a play which he darned well needs to finish!

    • Dan

      It is interesting how many repressed or forgotten recollections can be brought to consciousness after years and years of apparent non-existence.

      Some link is found by chance. Repression is often the subconscious adoption of the CBT “trick” to not think about unpleasant things. When you feel you are stumbling in to the outer reaches of a nasty web, go to a thinking habit of pleasant things or safe or happy spaces. (The religious know all about this, with their sky lover and his swanky pad.) This stops the creation of ever more recent associations and tags to find it. Its straight forward and very effective.

      The other thing to be aware of is that these can also be synthetic memories or scraps brought together that seem to fit. I’m terrible with faces. I often conflate pairs of people if they have enough similar attributes. (Faces are a real deficit of mine. Thinks….ah my aunt…I wonder if there is a genetic component. Also my amygdala under-performs on forming strong friend/foe tags….)

    • Phil,

      Schopenhauer presented a suggestion. Everyone has had the experience of trying to remember something and not being quite able to. He said that when this happens one should take a few minutes and try as hard as one can to remember – and then rest. Repeat. Then rest and forget about it. It’ll be “whispered in your ear.” I’ve tried this. It worked a few times, if I recall, and maybe didn’t work once or twice. There’s something to that and there’s a theory behind it – which escapes me.

      Try it sometime.

      How do we know we’re not dreaming now? (Kidding.)

      (I just found a book by Pinker among my late father’s many books! There’s a bookmark in it. He didn’t get very far. The Blank Slate. Know it?)

    • I’m absolutely sure S is correct on memory retrieval. My subconscious does all the heavy lifting but I need to to keep it fed.

      Myself, the information I’ve lost is a name, a book title, a paper or article or even a word. I try and remember or find any extra association, (or if I referenced it before in a piece) and google it. Many times a day I will search let us say “Rimmer, Dawkins, X, Y” and find the article reference or another linked reference to add. Or maybe I’ll search my huge, deep email account. Doing this straight away (as we now can) helps build even tougher memories as extra tags are recalled or new information added. Putting stuff out there in the new free searchable super cortex is transforming the way we can continue to perform and improve into what should have been our dotage.

      You may come to love Pinker for the Blank Slate. It is a very cogent and evidenced argument for innate abilities (possibly parlayed into knowledge?).

      This is why he appeared in my list of Kant, Schophauer, thingy, Chomsky and PInker.

      But then revisit my comment and neuroconstructivism, which see. He is no neuro-psychologist and we know more since that book.

      (thingy= Fodor

      Second search result using “Rimmer Dawkins, Kant Schopenhauer Chomsky Pinker”. Took 15 seconds, including reading the excerpted post. And the extra reminding tag…nativism.)

    • phil rimmer #22

      Oh, yes that is the one. Very nice lecture from Sapolsky.

    • Olgun

      The Robert Epstein article at #5 has many good points and he understands quite a bit about neuro-psychology but he tries way to hard to preserve specialness for human cognitions. Further in trying to make the point that brains are not like computers he rather underestimates how computers are increasingly like brains, using fuzzy logic, self generated complex behaviours through evolutionary learning processes. Also he totally underestimates how kludged brains are being half a billion years in the making and never able to do anything but innovate on the existing substrate the equivalent of having limited address space, limited energy usage, never going back to rewrite the bios, stuck with DOS 3407592.1111537. This differentness from a computer using split up memories and cognition fragments may not serve the genes as well as a computer were it possible. What best serves memes and human culture is quite another matter. I’m happy with our fuck up of a brain because I don’t know how it could be better without losing some human attribute or other.

      Statements like this

      McBeath and his colleagues gave a simpler account: to catch the ball, the player simply needs to keep moving in a way that keeps the ball in a constant visual relationship with respect to home plate and the surrounding scenery (technically, in a ‘linear optical trajectory’). This might sound complicated, but it is actually incredibly simple, and completely free of computations, representations and algorithms.

      are simply untrue. This is an algorithm, a simple one this time, because a simple one works. Flies manage to fly in a straight line by keeping the sun at a constant angle to their travel. Its ok for light sources 93 million mile away but for a light bulb 9 inches away it sends it round in circles. Nor is this algorithm so simple to do that computationally. The four neuron slug uses those four to do trigonometry to tell it which way its oriented from skin pressure.

      True Hawking gets it wrong as only an aspie physicist can. Penrose fails to understand the existing capacities of the brain. But too many psychologist and even neuro scientists don’t have the capacity to understand the actual data processing requirements. Memories are stored in the brain, they are just compound with different parts having different historical locations. Memories are compound because they aren’t a single byte of information. And there are no address spaces and look up tables or databases because the data is self indexing. Yet we are building brain components. The hippocampus no less. Memory gatekeeper. It’ll be inadequate and scarilly dehumanising at first, but it’ll get better.

    • Olgun 27

      Melville wasn’t presenting (through his character) anything that could be called a theory…

      Your comment simply reminded me of part of a memorable exchange (between several characters in the novel who proceeded to pontificate away while on an excursion aboard a little boat). The character who made the statement was kind of an Oscar Wilde type character, even though he was a native, the “chief”, of an island in the South Pacific; moreover, Melville had them all speak in English, and employed those highly inconsistent aspects deliberately for literary purposes. There was a jocular and highly speculative – even fanciful – quality to many of that character’s remarks – and to the novel itself.

      “Melville wanted to exploit the “rich poetical material” of Polynesia and also to escape feeling “irked, cramped, & fettered” by a narrative of facts. “I began to feel . . . a longing to plume my pinions for a flight,” he told his English publisher.”

    • Olgun #14 She can only put together what is possible in this universe
      so we can only put together thoughts that are possible in this
      universe and its rules. We can then evolve a brain that tunes it to
      all possible actions and localise them to personal expierience and
      even imagine possibilities to the edge of the universe. …The
      universe has already formed the terrain. We, and everything else just
      follow the contours.

      I like this. 🙂 If I understood properly hahaha. 😉 We as humans evolved tracing this laws of the Cosmos (termodynamics laws) and there are sort of rules how we work. We constantly need energy to work,…and our thoughts also. They also follow the laws of thermodynamics. We are the organisms that form ourselves using the energy with obligatory excretion of waste into the environment (faeces). And all things in Cosmos use energy changing at the same time gradually its shape. So I agree when you say our brain tuned itself to a Cosmos (energy laws). If I understood you corectly, I agree with notion that we are equipped with all possible actions but we localise them depending on concrete situations (and imaginary ones, since we are only animals who have tv in our head hahaah; we can imagine and act upon those imaginations – you can imagine sex scene and have an erection; a concrete action, haha, etc.)

      And I liked this sentence “We, and everything else just follow the contours”. Yes. I now you didn’t mean some strict rules like ten comandments haha, but general layout. So, our thoughts also obey laws of energy since they move themselves around by electrical impulses. Example… you imagine sex scene (sorry but now I am stuck with it haha), and you want to masturbate but you can do that imediately because you are among people, so you have to stop raised energy (it was imediately raised by our autonomic nervous system- it isn’t optional) and postpone it. But the energy laws says that energy MUST preform an action, MUST transform itself into another form (in this case it would be repetitive mechanical work of your hand, heating of body or temperature lost, and there is probably some light emiting that we can not see ). Energy always must transform itself into 3 forms, mechanical work, temperature and light. 😉 But since you couldn’t preform that work and transformation of energy imediately you have to block it with frontal cortex. Meanwhile, during the day, someone forgott to give you something that you ordered and you explode. Exaggerating. Why? Because energy that didn’t transform itself into usual form rested inside and became burden an pressure and exploded in first ocasion possible (yelling and waveing hands -mechanical work, heating up -raising temperature, at the same time). Oh, hell I am being too long. Anyway, when you say that there is existing frame in which our nervous system works I think I get it. Our nervous system follow thermodynamic laws as every thing in this Cosmos, and it can not be different – only specific because the situations in our lives are specific. Have I understood you right or I have gone comletely in different direction? hahaha

    • Olgun,
      sorry about that exampe haha and perhaps clumsy coment…here was some children interrupting me. This sentence you wrote and it made me think: “I come to think that the visual cortex is where anything is possible (as in dreams)”. It motivated me to think how pictures pop up when we remind ourselves of something. I haven’t come up with answer yet haha.

    • Olgun,

      I don’t understand W. I only said that his insistence that meaning is not to be found or understood by dissecting or studying the interior of that pulpy mass called the brain has, or may have, some merit.

      I think he was, by far, the worst, most overrated philosopher that ever lived. I may change my mind or may not.

      I would not recommend him.

    • And I would recommend W even though he was one of the biggest show-off, wanker-philosophers in his youth (though at least he played down the Tractatus in later life). He got some later stuff wrong, too (colour) and he comprehensively misunderstood how neuro-science would proceed with the rigor of mathematical models rather than those tricky things words. (He would have loved the work of a philosopher like Paul Churchland.)

      His crowning achievement though is to make us understand how the might-bes of metaphysical concepts like “will” or whatever can never be proven by the use of words alone. Language if it is to have any analytical merit must be skinned back and skinned back from any polysemy to minimise risk of misdirection and to best be thought of as signs amongst others, pointing at the signed thing (as it may exist in some form or another) and not muddled with the thing. This lack of clarity with words means that unlike in mathematics proofs positive are never possible.

      Many philosophers like W think he thereby broke philosophy (or like Dan, tried to), but others like Karl Popper think he just broke off the end bit, the ability to form reliable conclusions. Popper thought that this still allowed philosophy to generate and propose new metaphysical concepts (like a conceptual Colour Space where a planar topology of contiguous experience can map our real world experience of colour mixing or the Noumen as the substrate of reality or “Will” as a universal principle of all action) and sign many putative conclusions. It will only be in a practical demonstration of these metaphysical concepts that confidence can be got in the reality of these things. (The mathematics of colour spaces is known and may one day be demonstrated in the retina or visual cortex neurology. The Noumen may prove adequately congruent with the outside-space, outside-time properties of Quantum Reality. A Universal Principle of all action may very well be in the myriad different ways to express the second law of thermodynamics, even in our own heads where we might normally call it “will”.)

      The fly probably has the algorithm…Smell the air. Rotting smell find the smell and eat if not fly away. Fly far enough away for a new odour environment, eg a minute/ 50feet. Stop and do a random scout sniffing. Nothing? Then fly in the same direction, same angle to the sun/light for one minute. Random scout.

    • W did make a valuable contribution to the theory of memory, in his famous work Philosophical Investigations. I can’t find the sentence and there is no index, but he said something to the effect that a memory is essentially no different than something we imagine might take place in the future. Now isn’t that profound? That’s just a tidbit. His writings are replete with gems just like that.

    • Ollie #38

      I think you are indeed wrong. Much of the detail I put in is not relevant to the basic comments but are there to show f’rinstance what a new metaphysical concept might be and how it may be proved a reality. (Actually understanding, say, “Colour Space where a planar topology of contiguous experience can map our real world experience of colour mixing” is totally not needed. But it might give you a feel for what these things can be.)

      Polysemy = many meanings

      I hope the fly account makes sense. Its the most likely reason they behave like that. Brains and the behaviours they generate are first and foremost about managing movement efficiently and safely. Most movement is first about food/energy, then self-preservation then sex. Which reminds me. I need me tea.

    • Olgun #37

      Thanks for the link. 🙂 I shall look it up. Perhaps there is an insight why and how pictures pops up when reminding of something and they are perfectly synchronized with feelings, but not in dreams.

    • Phil, Olgun—

      Metaphysical “truths” can only be established (if at all) as negative knowledge! The insight that physical causes can never explain anything or everything entirely, an insight established by critical philosophy (as opposed to dogmatic bullshit), is limitative in nature; critical philosophy establishes the precise nature and limits of human knowledge. Scientists who study cognition (knowledge) need to focus on that more, I think. When physical explanations are not capable of fully explaining something, such as time before time or space after space, then we are left, for the time-being at the very least, with the non-physical (“metaphysical”) as a logical alternative, as a necessary consideration.

      Of course if one believes (or thinks) – and is unwavering in that belief (or conviction)– that everything is and must be of empirical origin then there can be no room whatsoever for transcendent speculation.

    • Dan

      The insight that physical causes can never explain anything or everything entirely, an insight established by critical philosophy (as opposed to dogmatic bullshit), is limitative in nature; critical philosophy establishes the precise nature and limits of human knowledge.

      Which philosopher best espouses this idea and where? Which scientists have suffered from this?

      There are no metaphysical truths, but in a more profound way than the fact that science has no absolute truths only strongly evidenced theories, or rather, never-fail-so-far-theories. When performing experiments scientists are generally pleased when newer theories survive a disproof but tend to be glum when older theories remain stubbornly whole. There are metaphysical proposals, abstractions that come after or beyond a (seemingly or more) known thing in some way adding to it. But they are always abstractions. Sometimes such a proposal can shimmer into a tractable existence, perhaps with a little smartening up of its original description.

      Only by sculpting away to find the seemingly knowable can we find the residual shape of suspected unknowns. Of course we have no idea of unknown unknowns. Until that first matrix glitch, the matrix has no relevance.

      The comments on space and time are simply wrong in their conviction. Quantum reality where cause and effect are mirrors and time doesn’t flow but in some sense topically oscillates and distance is meaningless for entanglement, may well spawn any number of space-time bubbles. Such comprehension as we have into the hows? and our parochial little whys? is mainly the result of cultural thinking tools like logic and mathematics (ever expanding). If we look at our current ease in discerning the varieties of infinities we can differentially order and confer properties to, we can see how the once unimaginable can become by these new thinking tools tractable and even familiar.

    • Phil

      “Which philosopher best espouses this idea and where? Which scientists have suffered from this?” P.R.

      I don’t know which scientists if any are suffering over this; but I do know that every article I read is about what we know and how or why we know it; nothing about what we cannot know and may never be able to know – given (what I think are) the natural limitations of the human brain.

      Which philosophers? Really? Some questions, as Trotsky said, answer themselves – but here’s a hint: Schhhh…, Kaaaa….

      I put truths in quotes.

      Space. Kids like to ask what is beyond space. Damned good question! We are dealing with something inconceivable: infinite space and finite space. Mr. K presented the very same question in his critique of dialectical illusion, as the first antinomy of pure reason.

      (Speaking of Mr. K – as in Kite – did you ever talk to your neighbor and school mate the ex-Beatle?)

      Quantum schmantum! (Sorry.) What can you tell me about the end of space or the beginning of time? Nothing!

    • Dan

      I don’t know which scientists if any are suffering over this;

      Yes you do. You identified a group…

      Scientists who study cognition (knowledge) need to focus on that more, I think.

      Before or outside of space-time is a question we long ago realised was poorly framed. We can ask of existential modes other than our experienced space-time and come up with rich hypotheses. Of the five leading cosmogenies, three seek to base their ideas in this broader existential mode, and the others don’t say no, just no comment.

      I understand there are larger and smaller infinities and infinitessimals and am unperturbed. Newton and Leibnitz saw the latter as tractable and built the greatest ever mathematical tool from it.

      For the tenth time and truly the last. Scientists took Schopenhauer to heart. They understand the base fabric of reality is in no way sensible and in no way can be expected to yield to common sense. The preaching is done and dusted.

      Populist accounts struggle because most folk won’t invest in the new understandings because it is expensive. Creating the impression of understanding that needs to precede personal education must depend only on ideas susceptible to common sense and common sense is only one step removed from Goddidit as an effort saving “cheat”.

      I was too young to go to Aunt Mimi’s, but my sister popped down the hill often enough to get her 45s signed.

    • Phil,

      I must reply, and then I must be going, as Groucho said.

      Listen. I am not preaching; I answered your question; and I understand that scientists took these matters to heart; but your insistence that the question concerning an end or beginning of space or time is a poorly framed question does not make any sense. If you were able to travel through space and never cease moving – and that is possible to imagine, is theoretically possible – you would always have space in front of you. You could never reach the end of it, and you must know that that’s true. Whatever space-time is, and I have no idea what it is, it does not nullify the question; it (space itself) cannot possibly be gotten rid of; so long as you are looking or feeling outwards with your physical senses you will always be confronted with perceived space in front of you.

      Space-time is abstract and removed from actual experience. Space is concrete and real.

      I am the last one to appeal to common sense; common sense (philosophical) counter-arguments are, in most cases, abhorrent to me. I am appealing to reason.

    • On space-time you have appealed to common sense and quite parochially so. Space remains infinitely traversable yet may be closed. You may sail the oceans holding a straight course east or west at 60 degrees south for ever and ever and ever. Well…

      I understand that scientists took these matters to heart

      No. From your post you don’t think scientists got it, most particularly not the cognitive scientists.

      Dammit, Dan. Others are reading this. Posting with informed confidence or a signaled tentativeness requires the appropriate language.