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Master_Pedant
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28 Apr 2009, 8:25 pm

I recall reading about the deductive justification of our "peering into" others minds. It was in a rather introductory book on the Philosophy of Mind, concerned primarily with the Mind-Brain Problem, but occasionally delving into other issues.*

Sticking out in my long term memory is how this book describe the paucity of deductive support we have for claims as to what others are thinking. An example provided was of someone stubbing their finger with a hammer. ** They may shout in pain and many people would infer that the individual is going through immense pain, the cause of their shouting.

Yet how did we ascertain this fact? The passage went on to discuss that we may have had similar experiences, felt similar sensations, and then came to the conclusion that since we felt pain in that incident therefore others go through a similar internal experience. The shouting is causally related to the internal feeling of pain, our observation of it confirms the person is enduring immense pain.

But, as the book proceeded to explain, how do we really know this? What deductive support is there for such a belief? We are assuming that the person has a similar internal mental state to our own. What if they do not and, therefore, lack a similar experience of pain? What if pain is not causally related to their shouting at all?

We could question the person and hear a response that would go like this:

Quote:
Questioner: Why are you shouting after stubbing your finger with that hammer?

Shouter: I felt a pain sensation after the hammer slammed against my finger. When I feel pain, I am emotionally moved to shout.


This is not the exact passage, as I do not have the book readily at hand (which I read probably a good two years ago). But it conveys the general gist of the passage.

Now, this has got me thinking. As a physicalist*** I hold mental states dependent on objectively measurable neurobiological processes. I hold if the actual neural processes are somewhat similar and the response is somewhat similar, than the actual brain state is at least has some of the same internal qualities and be categorized under an intersubjectively defined concept such as "a sensation of pain". I hold that we can at least have abductive support that such individuals are going through said feelings (or other mental states) that are of the same category (i.e. a feeling of pain, a feeling of grief) as ones we are familiar with. I do not hold that the mental states of others are inherently unknowable.

But this has got me drawing some associations as of late. As a generalization, it is said that most people with Asperger syndrome or High-Functioning Autism lack an ability to empathize or a theory of the mind. The task of "putting themselves in someone else's shoes" is said, or not-so-subtly implied, in some accounts to be a defining characteristic of the condition. Of course, the writers may simply be referring to relative emphasizing ability. Sure, people with Asperger's know others feel anger or what not, but they are nowhere near the centre of the bell curve for empathy skills, so may go the autism Writer’s reasoning.

But I am wondering if all this talk of "mind blindness" in Asperger syndrome and High-Functioning Autism is simply talk of the inability to relate our own mental experiences with neurotypical. Neurotypicals are probably "mind blind" of the details of other people's experiences and idiosyncratically think of the experiences of others as more similar to their own than they really are. They "idiomorphize"****. Their minds are roughly similar to others so this act goes off usually without trouble or gross misinterpretation, most neurotypicals have experiences similar enough to one another to provide an appropriate frame of reference and interpretation for each situation.

People with Asperger Syndrome or High-Functioning Autism have their own unique experiences. Hence, if the idiomorphically try to interpret the minds of neurotypicals, they are doomed to failure and deemed deficient in a "theory of mind".

I have come to realize that this idea of mine is not too original. This page on the half-satirical Institute for the Study of the Neurologically Typical website illustrates some elements to this idea. As well, I recall reading an web page on Asperger syndrome in which someone with the condition discussed how they empathized well others diagnosed with Asperger's.

So I have come to think, is the seeming inability to empathize really a deficiency in a theory of mind or is it simply that the mind we use is a reference point operates too differently from the statistically average (neurotypical) mind to offer meaningful comparisons?


ENDNOTES

---------------------------
*Out of sheer and complete indolence, I have given up looking for the book so as to provide you with the publication information. If I find it at a latter time, I will make sure to incorporate it into this thread.
** I know I, for one, can not relate to this owing to my sheer and colossal mechanical ineptitude which has provided me with a profound disinterest in the area.
*** I have not given the philosophy of mind much thought recently. My own version of physicalism is somewhat idiosyncratic; it contains both multiple realizability (a functionalist concept) and emergence (an emergent physicalist concept).
****If coining a term alluding to anthropomorphize does not seem too pompous.



Sand
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28 Apr 2009, 10:12 pm

As someone who has not been diagnosed I am not sure I can speak for AS people but there seem to be similarities i my feelings to that of Temple Grandin who is definitely autistic. I focus on her because she has a reputation for being able to empathize extremely well with animals and design environments which confirm her theories. What puzzles me is why should mental attitudes in animals be so available to me and average humans are such a difficult problem. I find no sympathy for human strivings for wealth and power in overwhelming quantity nor do I find fantasy constructions in religious beliefs in any way convincing. There are many devout people here so I suppose that is not something special for NTs but logic and reason seems to play a larger part at this site than at other sites I have visited.



Master_Pedant
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28 Apr 2009, 11:00 pm

Sand wrote:
As someone who has not been diagnosed I am not sure I can speak for AS people but there seem to be similarities i my feelings to that of Temple Grandin who is definitely autistic. I focus on her because she has a reputation for being able to empathize extremely well with animals and design environments which confirm her theories. What puzzles me is why should mental attitudes in animals be so available to me and average humans are such a difficult problem. I find no sympathy for human strivings for wealth and power in overwhelming quantity nor do I find fantasy constructions in religious beliefs in any way convincing. There are many devout people here so I suppose that is not something special for NTs but logic and reason seems to play a larger part at this site than at other sites I have visited.


As a “Verbal Logic Thinker”* according to Temple Grandin’s tripartite of the varieties of high functioning autistic thinking (Verbal Logic Thinker, Visual Thinker, Pattern Thinker) I cannot rely on first hand experience to assert this. However Temple hypothesized that many high functioning Autistics can relate to animals because they think in terms of pictorial associations. The statistically average person tends to ponder in linguistic terms with vague imagery.

NOTE
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* Of course, nobody has externally categorized me as such. This is purely a self-evaluation, with little intersubjective verifiability.



Awesomelyglorious
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28 Apr 2009, 11:28 pm

Hmm.... I would actually think that our mind blindness would actually be a function of a strong introverted lean. We aren't as interested in other people, ergo we do not see them as well. It can definitely be in part a lessened similarity I suppose, as there is the issue of a disconnect in ideas of proper functioning between ourselves and NTs.

I dunno, it does remind me of this post on a site called "Less Wrong"
http://lesswrong.com/lw/dr/generalizing ... e_example/

Which attacks people for extrapolating from their self-provided example.

In any case, I don't think the issue is likely just our extrapolation from ourselves in a similar manner to NT action, but rather is a substantive difference. Could a possible test for your theory be the stability of social relations between autistics vs the stability of social relations between NTs? Or is autism to be taken as variation causing factor due to the presence of obsessive interests?



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28 Apr 2009, 11:58 pm

Awesomelyglorious wrote:
Hmm.... I would actually think that our mind blindness would actually be a function of a strong introverted lean. We aren't as interested in other people, ergo we do not see them as well. It can definitely be in part a lessened similarity I suppose, as there is the issue of a disconnect in ideas of proper functioning between ourselves and NTs.

I dunno, it does remind me of this post on a site called "Less Wrong"
http://lesswrong.com/lw/dr/generalizing ... e_example/

Which attacks people for extrapolating from their self-provided example.

In any case, I don't think the issue is likely just our extrapolation from ourselves in a similar manner to NT action, but rather is a substantive difference. Could a possible test for your theory be the stability of social relations between autistics vs the stability of social relations between NTs? Or is autism to be taken as variation causing factor due to the presence of obsessive interests?


I'm going to throw in to my "proto-hypothesis" one of those clauses that made Popper gasp.

The difficulty for people on the Higher-Functioning end of the Autistic/Pervasive Developmental Disorder spectrum is because they don't meet like minded people early enough. In the long-term, without any sucess at extrapolating from their own thought processes to those of others, they give up.

Comming to think of this, my idea may explain an interesting fact about extremely pictorical thinkers with HFA (such as Grandin). It explains how they can relate to non-human animals much more when compared to the average person: because their own internal mental processes are similar (i.e. highly pictorial). This explanation of mine is in no way meant to be denigrating to highly pictorial HFA, they are leaps and bounds above non-human animals in terms of the sophistication and rationality of their pictorial reasoning. But I find such an explanation highly interesting (actually, I sort of adopted this idea from Temple Grandin herself, who presented in in "Thinking in Pictures". I am simply using her thesis in the context of my own little [well, sort of adopted it from the ISNT] proto-hypothesis regarding the theory of the mind/empathy).

But a great testing ground for this idea would be some place like Orion Academy. I would expect a greater deal of relating between people at that institution, given that all are verbally talented (and visual-spacially weak) thinkers (with Asperger's or Nonverbal Learning Disability). Of course, there may be intervening variables to fret about (one being that the institution teaches social skills). Still, the idea is interesting if somewhat preliminary and difficult to test at the moment.



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29 Apr 2009, 12:54 am

One point I have never seen much investigated is that most recognized philosophers have based their discussions and speculations on linguistics and since linguistics is embedded with all the peculiarities of grammar and traditional usage which, to a huge degree, has little or no congruence to reality, hey are led off into idiotic pathways that are mosly fantasies. Visual thinking is much more involved with perceptive reality and much less subject to unrealistic speculation.



Awesomelyglorious
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29 Apr 2009, 11:28 am

Master_Pedant wrote:
I'm going to throw in to my "proto-hypothesis" one of those clauses that made Popper gasp.

The difficulty for people on the Higher-Functioning end of the Autistic/Pervasive Developmental Disorder spectrum is because they don't meet like minded people early enough. In the long-term, without any sucess at extrapolating from their own thought processes to those of others, they give up.

Comming to think of this, my idea may explain an interesting fact about extremely pictorical thinkers with HFA (such as Grandin). It explains how they can relate to non-human animals much more when compared to the average person: because their own internal mental processes are similar (i.e. highly pictorial). This explanation of mine is in no way meant to be denigrating to highly pictorial HFA, they are leaps and bounds above non-human animals in terms of the sophistication and rationality of their pictorial reasoning. But I find such an explanation highly interesting (actually, I sort of adopted this idea from Temple Grandin herself, who presented in in "Thinking in Pictures". I am simply using her thesis in the context of my own little [well, sort of adopted it from the ISNT] proto-hypothesis regarding the theory of the mind/empathy).

But a great testing ground for this idea would be some place like Orion Academy. I would expect a greater deal of relating between people at that institution, given that all are verbally talented (and visual-spacially weak) thinkers (with Asperger's or Nonverbal Learning Disability). Of course, there may be intervening variables to fret about (one being that the institution teaches social skills). Still, the idea is interesting if somewhat preliminary and difficult to test at the moment.

Neither of us have research, however on further reflection, I disagree with your idea, because people with autistic-ish issues seem to have issues with mirror neurons, which facilitate social relations. This would prevent better social relations with any being, as it reduces the responsiveness to other beings. This would prevent your theory from being true while promoting my theory.

Now, perhaps you have a theoretical way out, but I think my idea would be favored.



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29 Apr 2009, 11:37 am

Sand wrote:
One point I have never seen much investigated is that most recognized philosophers have based their discussions and speculations on linguistics and since linguistics is embedded with all the peculiarities of grammar and traditional usage which, to a huge degree, has little or no congruence to reality, hey are led off into idiotic pathways that are mosly fantasies. Visual thinking is much more involved with perceptive reality and much less subject to unrealistic speculation.

You mean language? (I am not sure linguistics is ideal to describe what you are speaking about, as it involves language comparison) And that they base their constructions upon these language-based claims? That makes some sense I suppose. I'd guess that you might like the Pragmatists more than typical analytic philosophers who use the weird logical constructions. In any case, I would bet that a lot of fantasies are partially driven by fantastic realities these people think are true, and those are hard to out and out attempt to invalidate.



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29 Apr 2009, 11:41 am

Awesomelyglorious wrote:
Master_Pedant wrote:
I'm going to throw in to my "proto-hypothesis" one of those clauses that made Popper gasp.

The difficulty for people on the Higher-Functioning end of the Autistic/Pervasive Developmental Disorder spectrum is because they don't meet like minded people early enough. In the long-term, without any sucess at extrapolating from their own thought processes to those of others, they give up.

Comming to think of this, my idea may explain an interesting fact about extremely pictorical thinkers with HFA (such as Grandin). It explains how they can relate to non-human animals much more when compared to the average person: because their own internal mental processes are similar (i.e. highly pictorial). This explanation of mine is in no way meant to be denigrating to highly pictorial HFA, they are leaps and bounds above non-human animals in terms of the sophistication and rationality of their pictorial reasoning. But I find such an explanation highly interesting (actually, I sort of adopted this idea from Temple Grandin herself, who presented in in "Thinking in Pictures". I am simply using her thesis in the context of my own little [well, sort of adopted it from the ISNT] proto-hypothesis regarding the theory of the mind/empathy).

But a great testing ground for this idea would be some place like Orion Academy. I would expect a greater deal of relating between people at that institution, given that all are verbally talented (and visual-spacially weak) thinkers (with Asperger's or Nonverbal Learning Disability). Of course, there may be intervening variables to fret about (one being that the institution teaches social skills). Still, the idea is interesting if somewhat preliminary and difficult to test at the moment.

Neither of us have research, however on further reflection, I disagree with your idea, because people with autistic-ish issues seem to have issues with mirror neurons, which facilitate social relations. This would prevent better social relations with any being, as it reduces the responsiveness to other beings. This would prevent your theory from being true while promoting my theory.

Now, perhaps you have a theoretical way out, but I think my idea would be favored.


The fact that people like myself and Grandin do have relationships with animals better than with humans is not theoretical. It is something we experience directly and cannot be denied.



Awesomelyglorious
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29 Apr 2009, 12:11 pm

Sand wrote:
The fact that people like myself and Grandin do have relationships with animals better than with humans is not theoretical. It is something we experience directly and cannot be denied.

Well, I didn't take it as substantive. Unless we can prove that people with autism are better with animals, there isn't much of a case based upon this, particularly unless we can actually separate AS interest driven ability from just natural autism, or ability gains from just being extremely pictoral. For example, Grandin is also highly interested in animals, this will give her much better ability at understanding them, and she is also very pictoral(above the NT average, but I am not sure how many standard deviations away)

In any case, I do not experience your relationship with animals directly. I am not pictoral so much as I am verbal, so to me, this theory seems weird. In fact, Master_Pedant admitted that pictoralness was a factor. In any case it is true that neither theory can out and out discredit the other, but part of that is issues with testing the theories.



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29 Apr 2009, 12:30 pm

Awesomelyglorious wrote:
Sand wrote:
The fact that people like myself and Grandin do have relationships with animals better than with humans is not theoretical. It is something we experience directly and cannot be denied.

Well, I didn't take it as substantive. Unless we can prove that people with autism are better with animals, there isn't much of a case based upon this, particularly unless we can actually separate AS interest driven ability from just natural autism, or ability gains from just being extremely pictoral. For example, Grandin is also highly interested in animals, this will give her much better ability at understanding them, and she is also very pictoral(above the NT average, but I am not sure how many standard deviations away)

In any case, I do not experience your relationship with animals directly. I am not pictoral so much as I am verbal, so to me, this theory seems weird. In fact, Master_Pedant admitted that pictoralness was a factor. In any case it is true that neither theory can out and out discredit the other, but part of that is issues with testing the theories.


Obviously two cases do not form much of a survey. I am mostly pictorial in thinking but I'm not too bad with words.



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29 Apr 2009, 12:37 pm

Sand wrote:
Obviously two cases do not form much of a survey. I am mostly pictorial in thinking but I'm not too bad with words.

You also identify with sea birds, which surprised Ouinon, as he didn't even think of that. So, it does not seem odd to think of you 2 as being outliers to *some* extent, perhaps not enough to invalidate this theory, but whatever.



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29 Apr 2009, 1:00 pm

Awesomelyglorious wrote:
Sand wrote:
Obviously two cases do not form much of a survey. I am mostly pictorial in thinking but I'm not too bad with words.

You also identify with sea birds, which surprised Ouinon, as he didn't even think of that. So, it does not seem odd to think of you 2 as being outliers to *some* extent, perhaps not enough to invalidate this theory, but whatever.


Funny, your reply jarred me as I thought Ouinon was female. I looked it up and discovered I was right.



Awesomelyglorious
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29 Apr 2009, 6:38 pm

Sand wrote:
Awesomelyglorious wrote:
Sand wrote:
Obviously two cases do not form much of a survey. I am mostly pictorial in thinking but I'm not too bad with words.

You also identify with sea birds, which surprised Ouinon, as he didn't even think of that. So, it does not seem odd to think of you 2 as being outliers to *some* extent, perhaps not enough to invalidate this theory, but whatever.


Funny, your reply jarred me as I thought Ouinon was female. I looked it up and discovered I was right.

I am not good at gender. There are very few posters I remember as females, and the ones I do are ones where it is obvious. I usually assume masculinity.

In any case, I apologize to Ouinon.



Master_Pedant
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29 Apr 2009, 7:57 pm

Awesomelyglorious wrote:
Master_Pedant wrote:
I'm going to throw in to my "proto-hypothesis" one of those clauses that made Popper gasp.

The difficulty for people on the Higher-Functioning end of the Autistic/Pervasive Developmental Disorder spectrum is because they don't meet like minded people early enough. In the long-term, without any sucess at extrapolating from their own thought processes to those of others, they give up.

Comming to think of this, my idea may explain an interesting fact about extremely pictorical thinkers with HFA (such as Grandin). It explains how they can relate to non-human animals much more when compared to the average person: because their own internal mental processes are similar (i.e. highly pictorial). This explanation of mine is in no way meant to be denigrating to highly pictorial HFA, they are leaps and bounds above non-human animals in terms of the sophistication and rationality of their pictorial reasoning. But I find such an explanation highly interesting (actually, I sort of adopted this idea from Temple Grandin herself, who presented in in "Thinking in Pictures". I am simply using her thesis in the context of my own little [well, sort of adopted it from the ISNT] proto-hypothesis regarding the theory of the mind/empathy).

But a great testing ground for this idea would be some place like Orion Academy. I would expect a greater deal of relating between people at that institution, given that all are verbally talented (and visual-spacially weak) thinkers (with Asperger's or Nonverbal Learning Disability). Of course, there may be intervening variables to fret about (one being that the institution teaches social skills). Still, the idea is interesting if somewhat preliminary and difficult to test at the moment.

Neither of us have research, however on further reflection, I disagree with your idea, because people with autistic-ish issues seem to have issues with mirror neurons, which facilitate social relations. This would prevent better social relations with any being, as it reduces the responsiveness to other beings. This would prevent your theory from being true while promoting my theory.

Now, perhaps you have a theoretical way out, but I think my idea would be favored.


Well, my first highly fanatistical verbal feat of sophistry would be to claim that any study indicating a correlation between social relations and mirror neurons used statistically average (or neurotypical) subjects as the object of "socially relating to". Therefore, any such studies would only indicate that mirror neurons are required to empathize with neurotypicals (who have a likewise tendency to use mirror neurons in social relations).

But there are two factors which make my theoretical manoeuvre less than desirable:

1) I am not extremely knowledgable on all recent work in cognitive neuroscience.
2) I will grant that it is much more parsimonious for the same basic units, which have been statistically correlated with socially relating in most people, to hold true for neurologically atypical individuals.

So we are again left at a relative stalemate, perhaps with you gaining a slightly upper hand.

Still there seems to be too close a correlation between highly pictorial HFA and a knack for relating with animals to simply result from intense interests in animals.