Re: Non-sensory experiences

From: J. R. Molloy (
Date: Sat Nov 10 2001 - 08:40:32 MST

From: "Webb, Steve" <>
> If such an experience were strictly the result of, say, a flood of
> hormones within the brain, I should be able to reproduce the experience
> simply releasing these same hormones in the same amount.

That *might* qualify as an emulation or phantasm of the experience, and it
*might* feel like a real experience. The only way to find out would be to
conduct the appropriate experiments. There is some evidence, from "phantom
limb" mirror experiments, that the brain can associate remembered sensory
events with nervous activity to produce the illusion of sensation. Amazingly,
the phantom limb sensation disappears when patients successfully imagine that
their phantom limbs are no longer attached.

> Indeed, there
> is evidence that certain emotional states, particulary mystical
> experiences, can be induced by low-level electromagnetic stimuli applied
> to the brain. But something seems missing in the "eureka!" case --
> would I have the experience that I'd just made some great discovery even
> though I wasn't thinking about anything in particular?

Yes, that's called an emotional hallucination, and is not a real experience.

> Even if we accept that "government" and "freedom" are artificial
> constructs of sensory input, these concepts can apparently be
> manipulated without further sensory input to produce new emotional
> states, and even other such constructs. I find the labeling of these
> constructs and their manipulation-sans-input "emotional hallucinations"
> overly pejorative. If these experiences can produce insights that may
> be utilized in the external world, they are useful.

Perhaps so, and if these experiences can *not* produce insights that may be
utilized in the external world, then pejorative of sufficient potency to
dispel them are apropos.

> So you are willing to accept that there can be experiences that are not
> directly associated with any *external* stimulus, whose direct cause is
> internal (e.g., discovering a conceptual association),

Naturally, an internally generated sensory event is nonetheless a sensory
event. This in no way postulates the presence of "non-sensory" experience.

> so long as we do
> not try to separate the internal cause from the resulting sensory
> experiences?

Separating causes from results is not at issue here. The term | sensory
experiences | is redundant, because there is no empirical evidence of any kind
of experience other than sensory ones. Experiences may involve one or several
sensory events, in combinatorial blends or as discrete inputs. Experiences
require sensation as (analogously) rainbows require color.

> In that case there doesn't seem much to argue against. I
> don't know if the biofeedback resulting from an internal cognitive event
> can be separated from the event, or even whether there's any point in
> trying. But there remains, it seems to me, an important distinction
> between internally- and externally-generated experiences. I thought
> that was the point of labeling some experiences as "non-sensory" -- to
> indicate that their source was internal rather than external.

No, I don't think the point of (mis)labeling some experiences as "non-sensory"
is to indicate that they are generated internally (i.e., within the body). The
experience of a stomach ache is generated internally, but that doesn't make it
"non-sensory." I think the point of mis-labeling some experiences as
"non-sensory" is to invoke supernatural causation, which can then be used to
advance further philosophical speculation. It is an unscientific (not to say
dishonest) tactic, and a subtle outcome of having deluded oneself.

--- --- --- --- ---

Useless hypotheses, etc.:
 consciousness, phlogiston, philosophy, vitalism, mind, free will, qualia,
analog computing, cultural relativism, GAC, Cyc, Eliza, cryonics, individual
uniqueness, ego, human values, scientific relinquishment, malevolent AI,
"non-sensory" experience

We move into a better future in proportion as science displaces superstition.

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