A Mind for Madness

Musings on art, philosophy, mathematics, and physics

Consciousness Explained 1

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Sorry this took so long, but I kept reading further in hopes of getting to something more meaty to talk about before my first post on this subject. I’m through 3 chapters and it has essentially only been basic definitions and a few thought experiments.

My first comment is that I always forget that I’m not actually interested in philosophy of consciousness. What I associate to phil. con. (my abbreviation from here on out) is not what the typical philosopher associates to it. I tend to view all of philosophy through the lens of philosophy of language. So I usually start form some sort of premise about how language is more primary and fundamental than consciousness. Now lets try to figure out how it is that language brings about consciousness. Of course, this is not at all how the book goes about it. In fact, I think the opposite assumption is implicit here. So needless to say, the book isn’t as interesting to me as I would have hoped.

The one argument that was presented right at the beginning that I had heard before but forgotten that was pretty interesting was about debunking the “brains in a vat” idea. Basically this goes back to Descartes who wanted to know if there was any way we could tell if we actually existed or if our brains were bodiless in a vat somewhere and scientists were just stimulating certain neurons to make us think we were people (well, so Descartes’ description was a little different, but this is the modern Matrix-esque interp). Essentially we don’t have to go through the trouble that Descartes went through to debunk this possibility. The standard sort of pragmatic argument is that it just isn’t possible for any reasonable interpretation of the term “possible”. The amount of computer power needed to do this would encounter a combinatorial explosion for even the simplest experience of the world. Thus, it is not possible we are being tricked (so before a torrent of arguments fill my replies, I watered it down, try to fill in the details yourself before arguing).

Other than that the only sort of important terms that might show up in later posts have to do with phenomenology. All of chapter 3 is essentially devoted to this. Essentially it is a method of philosophy of consciousness developed by Husserl that tried to remove subjectivity. I really don’t want to go into this much, since I feel like it won’t play much of a role later and it is giving me flashbacks of my 20th century philosophy class when we had long tedious arguments about the method of “bracketing”. Overall, what you should know is that it played a huge role in influencing major philosophers and schools of thought on philosophy, but in general is highly criticized and probably has been overtaken by neuroscience studies and interpreting them.

My one complaint so far is that the results of thought experiments (which play a major role in this book) are very skewed by leading questions. I don’t doubt that the visualization of X was harder than Y, but coming to that conclusion before asking, “Wasn’t visualization of X harder than Y?” would have been more convincing for your argument. I’m not sure if any were that bad, and I should look a specific one up, but I don’t really feel like it now.

My guess is that the next chapter is on a rejection of Husserl’s phenomenology, and then hopefully it will get into some of the crazy things our brain’s do from a neuroscience perspective. That could make things more interesting.

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Author: hilbertthm90

I am a mathematics graduate student fascinated in how all my interests fit together.

2 thoughts on “Consciousness Explained 1

  1. Still it can be some kind of living computer made out of neurons :) Or quantum. Or something else :)

    (Cannot resist to comment it. The idea of “brain in a vat” or Martix always fascinated me).

  2. Consiousness is believed by the founders of psychology as the ability to feel sense and think. I think therefore I am, but there is something deeper to consiousness, we can only perceive a small part of our world eg. a dog can hear audio high pitch noises. The light spectrum has greater waves than we can percieve. An interesting event of out of body experience has a woman dying on the operating table who was blind from birth, being able to see the dr from above. Seeing different colours and the discriptions that one would conclude were a soul. The soul or spirit are an overlooked avenue of understanding consiousness, giftedness such as cervonts who are able to percieve numbers, dates and details incomparable to the norm are another interesting instance of consciousness. Twins and the way they can communicate are yet another. The total spectrum of animal life and their perceptions in comparison with a rock or a computer demand a expression of interest in this area. Life after death and peoples beliefs are yet another area that include a God that created us. Surely this is a fasinating area to extract information of consciousness, from I think therefore I am to the great I AM. Even dymentionality is a relatively interesting avenue of attack when dealing with consciousness, to deal with this time and space need to be addressed. Socioligy and group thought, mass hypnosis and group consiousness are needed to be addressed. I am very interested in this area of consciousness, why am I here? What is this thing called life, where are we going? What is the answer to life the universe and everything? (don’t answer 42) Sleep and dreams, drugs giving altered states of consciousness could also be addressed. How can we communicate with one another, but not to some other life forms.

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