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Philosophers

Mortimer Adler
Rogers Albritton
Alexander of Aphrodisias
Samuel Alexander
William Alston
Anaximander
G.E.M.Anscombe
Anselm
Louise Antony
Thomas Aquinas
Aristotle
David Armstrong
Harald Atmanspacher
Robert Audi
Augustine
J.L.Austin
A.J.Ayer
Alexander Bain
Mark Balaguer
Jeffrey Barrett
William Belsham
Henri Bergson
George Berkeley
Isaiah Berlin
Richard J. Bernstein
Bernard Berofsky
Robert Bishop
Max Black
Susanne Bobzien
Emil du Bois-Reymond
Hilary Bok
Laurence BonJour
George Boole
Émile Boutroux
F.H.Bradley
C.D.Broad
Michael Burke
Lawrence Cahoone
C.A.Campbell
Joseph Keim Campbell
Rudolf Carnap
Carneades
Ernst Cassirer
David Chalmers
Roderick Chisholm
Chrysippus
Cicero
Randolph Clarke
Samuel Clarke
Anthony Collins
Antonella Corradini
Diodorus Cronus
Jonathan Dancy
Donald Davidson
Mario De Caro
Democritus
Daniel Dennett
Jacques Derrida
René Descartes
Richard Double
Fred Dretske
John Dupré
John Earman
Laura Waddell Ekstrom
Epictetus
Epicurus
Herbert Feigl
Arthur Fine
John Martin Fischer
Frederic Fitch
Owen Flanagan
Luciano Floridi
Philippa Foot
Alfred Fouilleé
Harry Frankfurt
Richard L. Franklin
Michael Frede
Gottlob Frege
Peter Geach
Edmund Gettier
Carl Ginet
Alvin Goldman
Gorgias
Nicholas St. John Green
H.Paul Grice
Ian Hacking
Ishtiyaque Haji
Stuart Hampshire
W.F.R.Hardie
Sam Harris
William Hasker
R.M.Hare
Georg W.F. Hegel
Martin Heidegger
Heraclitus
R.E.Hobart
Thomas Hobbes
David Hodgson
Shadsworth Hodgson
Baron d'Holbach
Ted Honderich
Pamela Huby
David Hume
Ferenc Huoranszki
William James
Lord Kames
Robert Kane
Immanuel Kant
Tomis Kapitan
Jaegwon Kim
William King
Hilary Kornblith
Christine Korsgaard
Saul Kripke
Andrea Lavazza
Christoph Lehner
Keith Lehrer
Gottfried Leibniz
Jules Lequyer
Leucippus
Michael Levin
George Henry Lewes
C.I.Lewis
David Lewis
Peter Lipton
C. Lloyd Morgan
John Locke
Michael Lockwood
E. Jonathan Lowe
John R. Lucas
Lucretius
Alasdair MacIntyre
Ruth Barcan Marcus
James Martineau
Storrs McCall
Hugh McCann
Colin McGinn
Michael McKenna
Brian McLaughlin
John McTaggart
Paul E. Meehl
Uwe Meixner
Alfred Mele
Trenton Merricks
John Stuart Mill
Dickinson Miller
G.E.Moore
Thomas Nagel
Otto Neurath
Friedrich Nietzsche
John Norton
P.H.Nowell-Smith
Robert Nozick
William of Ockham
Timothy O'Connor
Parmenides
David F. Pears
Charles Sanders Peirce
Derk Pereboom
Steven Pinker
Plato
Karl Popper
Porphyry
Huw Price
H.A.Prichard
Protagoras
Hilary Putnam
Willard van Orman Quine
Frank Ramsey
Ayn Rand
Michael Rea
Thomas Reid
Charles Renouvier
Nicholas Rescher
C.W.Rietdijk
Richard Rorty
Josiah Royce
Bertrand Russell
Paul Russell
Gilbert Ryle
Jean-Paul Sartre
Kenneth Sayre
T.M.Scanlon
Moritz Schlick
Arthur Schopenhauer
John Searle
Wilfrid Sellars
Alan Sidelle
Ted Sider
Henry Sidgwick
Walter Sinnott-Armstrong
J.J.C.Smart
Saul Smilansky
Michael Smith
Baruch Spinoza
L. Susan Stebbing
Isabelle Stengers
George F. Stout
Galen Strawson
Peter Strawson
Eleonore Stump
Francisco Suárez
Richard Taylor
Kevin Timpe
Mark Twain
Peter Unger
Peter van Inwagen
Manuel Vargas
John Venn
Kadri Vihvelin
Voltaire
G.H. von Wright
David Foster Wallace
R. Jay Wallace
W.G.Ward
Ted Warfield
Roy Weatherford
C.F. von Weizsäcker
William Whewell
Alfred North Whitehead
David Widerker
David Wiggins
Bernard Williams
Timothy Williamson
Ludwig Wittgenstein
Susan Wolf

Scientists

Michael Arbib
Walter Baade
Bernard Baars
Leslie Ballentine
Gregory Bateson
John S. Bell
Mara Beller
Charles Bennett
Ludwig von Bertalanffy
Susan Blackmore
Margaret Boden
David Bohm
Niels Bohr
Ludwig Boltzmann
Emile Borel
Max Born
Satyendra Nath Bose
Walther Bothe
Hans Briegel
Leon Brillouin
Stephen Brush
Henry Thomas Buckle
S. H. Burbury
Donald Campbell
Anthony Cashmore
Eric Chaisson
Gregory Chaitin
Jean-Pierre Changeux
Arthur Holly Compton
John Conway
John Cramer
E. P. Culverwell
Olivier Darrigol
Charles Darwin
Richard Dawkins
Terrence Deacon
Lüder Deecke
Richard Dedekind
Louis de Broglie
Max Delbrück
Abraham de Moivre
Paul Dirac
Hans Driesch
John Eccles
Arthur Stanley Eddington
Gerald Edelman
Paul Ehrenfest
Albert Einstein
Hugh Everett, III
Franz Exner
Richard Feynman
R. A. Fisher
Joseph Fourier
Philipp Frank
Steven Frautschi
Edward Fredkin
Lila Gatlin
Michael Gazzaniga
GianCarlo Ghirardi
J. Willard Gibbs
Nicolas Gisin
Paul Glimcher
Thomas Gold
A. O. Gomes
Brian Goodwin
Joshua Greene
Jacques Hadamard
Mark Hadley
Patrick Haggard
Stuart Hameroff
Augustin Hamon
Sam Harris
Hyman Hartman
John-Dylan Haynes
Donald Hebb
Martin Heisenberg
Werner Heisenberg
John Herschel
Art Hobson
Jesper Hoffmeyer
E. T. Jaynes
William Stanley Jevons
Roman Jakobson
Pascual Jordan
Ruth E. Kastner
Stuart Kauffman
Martin J. Klein
William R. Klemm
Simon Kochen
Hans Kornhuber
Stephen Kosslyn
Ladislav Kovàč
Leopold Kronecker
Rolf Landauer
Alfred Landé
Pierre-Simon Laplace
David Layzer
Benjamin Libet
Seth Lloyd
Hendrik Lorentz
Josef Loschmidt
Ernst Mach
Donald MacKay
Henry Margenau
James Clerk Maxwell
Ernst Mayr
John McCarthy
Warren McCulloch
Ulrich Mohrhoff
Jacques Monod
Emmy Noether
Abraham Pais
Howard Pattee
Wolfgang Pauli
Massimo Pauri
Roger Penrose
Steven Pinker
Colin Pittendrigh
Max Planck
Susan Pockett
Henri Poincaré
Daniel Pollen
Ilya Prigogine
Hans Primas
Adolphe Quételet
Jürgen Renn/a>
Juan Roederer
Jerome Rothstein
David Ruelle
Tilman Sauer
Jürgen Schmidhuber
Erwin Schrödinger
Aaron Schurger
Claude Shannon
David Shiang
Herbert Simon
Dean Keith Simonton
B. F. Skinner
Lee Smolin
Ray Solomonoff
Roger Sperry
John Stachel
Henry Stapp
Tom Stonier
Antoine Suarez
Leo Szilard
Max Tegmark
William Thomson (Kelvin)
Giulio Tononi
Peter Tse
Vlatko Vedral
Heinz von Foerster
John von Neumann
John B. Watson
Daniel Wegner
Steven Weinberg
Paul A. Weiss
John Wheeler
Wilhelm Wien
Norbert Wiener
Eugene Wigner
E. O. Wilson
Stephen Wolfram
H. Dieter Zeh
Ernst Zermelo
Wojciech Zurek
Konrad Zuse
Fritz Zwicky

Presentations

Biosemiotics
Free Will
Mental Causation
James Symposium
 
William R. Klemm
William R. ("Bill") Klemm is a professor of neuroscience at Texas A&M University. He has written several books on the brain and mind, of which his most important for information philosophy is Making a Scientific Case for Conscious Agency and Free Will (Academic Press, 2016), a summary of evidence that humans have free will. He has a Ph.D. in neuroscience from Notre Dame, so is well positioned to look at problems from both a scientific and philosophical perspective.

Klemm's main thesis is that consciousness is something happening in our neural networks, specifically in what he calls circuit impulse patterns with the acronym CIP. He writes...

The ultimate holy grail of science may be discovering the mechanisms of conscious agency. The enigma may be unsolvable. What follows below, however, is at least a preliminary explanation of how consciousness could reduce to brain function and, moreover, gain the capacity to “do things.”

Let us consider how sensory and motor realizations are represented in the brain. First, we must emphasize that sensory and motor realities are not literal realities inside the brain, but rather are abstracted and represented in the brain by patterns of nerve impulses in specified neural circuits. Such circuit impulse patterns (CIPs) are clearly the basis for unconscious processes involving sensations, feelings, and movement commands.

Making a Scientific Case for Conscious Agency and Free Will, p.31

Klemm also sees the CIPs as the basis for conscious processes,

My position reduces to one of certain neural activity patterns having executive control that can act as an agent of will because it is capable of the necessary facilitation/inhibition influence over decision making circuitry. This is the means by which the neocortical executive control circuitry functions as an autonomous avatar. This still leaves open the question of whether the avatar’s control can be freely exerted. But, at a minimum, we are not forced to reject free will on the grounds that there is some sort of dualistic “conscious mind” floating around the brain that directs willed choices.

ibid., p.48

Here Klemm is criticizing the "dualist" idea, which goes back to René Descartes, of something immaterial as the basis of consciousness and particularly of free will. Klemm is a strong materialist and believes the mind can be understood entirely in material terms.

Klemm believes strongly in free will, but his argument resembles the materialist reductionist models of many free-will deniers. Klemm's material mind is modeled on the computer, using many computer metaphors such as electrons flowing in integrated circuits, storage, rebooting, algorithms, and code. By opposing immaterialism, Klemm defends himself from perhaps the most common objection to free will, that it depends on something immaterial, think of the spirit or soul of many religious supporters of free will.

But information is immaterial. It is neither matter nor energy, though it needs energy to be communicated (Klemm's impulses in the neural circuits) and matter to be embodied (stored in the "online hard drive" of Klemm's mind model).

Anytime we are awake, the conscious avatar is active (on-line). When asleep, the avatar is stored in the “hard drive" of synaptic weightings in the set of circuits that contain the capacity for regenerating the impulse patterns that represent the conscious self. That self may undergo subtle changes as a result of each day’s experiences, and these in turn modify the impulse patterns of self and may produce lasting changes as those patterns are stored in modified synaptic weightings.
ibid., p.49

Klemm is correct that there are "patterns" in our brains. They are our "ideas." Information is best thought of as the arrangement of the material particles in any "information structure." To extend the popular (but flawed) metaphor that man is a machine and the brain is a computer, ideas are often described as the (immaterial) software in the brain's (material) hardware. And Klemm might agree with this.

He illustrates his model, starting with patterns in information structures...

The avatar might be thought of as a virtual being that is rebooted each time a sleeping brain awakens. But it is not virtual. It is real, just as patterns of electrons flowing in computer circuitry are real, materialistic processes. And like electrons in integrated circuits, nerve impulses can do things. Those impulse patterns are a code, a code that if repeated enough to alter synaptic weightings, can change the very circuits from which it is being generated. In other words, the conscious mind can change its mind.
ibid., p.50

In Klemm's diagram, we see immaterial information is the source for both conscious and unconscious actions. This is correct, but it is a bit more complex than simply saying the "nerve impulses can do things." The information is obviously communicated along the neural pathways. But this does not make the CIPs themselves Klemm's "conscious avatar."

The key idea in free will is the agent's mind making choices between alternative possibilities, only some of which are ever actualized. The existential status of these unactualized possibilities is quite controversial, dismissed as merely immaterial "ideas" in a purely material world, often attacked as discredited "metaphysics."

Klemm describes "top-down" decisions as conscious mind operations that produce voluntary results. He says they have a degree of freedom in selecting among "alternative options" (p.44). These options have been "programmed by experience," he says (p.97).

So far, so good, but "programmed" suggests a programmer writing instructions. It is enough to show that diverse past experiences have been recorded, i.e., stored (not programmed). Klemm is correct that the options are "encoded," likely as the "synaptic weightings" of the neural networks and are thus available alternatives for consideration as actionable options in the agent's current situation.

In our model of the brain as an experience recorder and reproducer, each option is a stored past experience, including all of the associated sensory inputs along with the emotional reaction to that experience. A past experience is reproduced, one might say "replayed," whenever something in the current situation resembles something in that past experience.

Donald Hebb said "neurons that fire together wire together." We suggest that neurons wired together by past experiences will fire together when any part of the wiring complex is stimulated by something in the current experience.

A vast number of past experiences may be regenerated, giving us the "blooming, buzzing confusion" of William James "stream of consciousness" and the audience members in the "Theater of Consciousness" of Bernard Baars' "Global Workspace Theory."

Notice that Klemm's alternative options are pure information (Klemm sees them as "abstract patterns," which is correct). But the patterns are "embodied" in the matter of the neural network, else they would not be "available," as he calls them, to provide the options under consideration during a decision.

Klemm knows that some options might not always "come to mind," a random element that adds the indeterministic element that prevents actions from being "predetermined." And Klemm knows that thinking often "imagines what does not exist" (p.63). This is the essential aspect of creativity, which Klemm says "by definition is not predetermined." He says "generating a creative idea is an act of will, and I would argue comes close to being prima facie evidence for free will" (p.65). This is excellent.

Creativity gets to the heart of the much larger question of how new information is created in a universe in which information is constantly being destroyed by the inevitable increase in disorder and entropy. This is the central problem of information philosophy.

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