I enjoy challenging my beliefs, especially the calcified ones. I knew before starting this book that Chalmers would challenge my philosophic materiali...moreI enjoy challenging my beliefs, especially the calcified ones. I knew before starting this book that Chalmers would challenge my philosophic materialism, and in a slightly self-punishing way I wish he would have done a better job. He is a brilliant man, and plays in a fucking panpsychic-themed band, and is one of the people I wish were in my circle of friends, but my margin notes became increasingly hostile before abandoning this book altogether.
This quote (from a recent Atlantic article wherein Steve Paulson interviews neuroscientist Christof Koch) encapsulates why I did not finish the book:
Interviewer: "There are plenty of very smart scientists and philosophers who say we will never crack the fundamental mystery of how matter turns into mental experience. For instance, the philosopher David Chalmers has talked about the "hard problem of consciousness." He says subjective experience is fundamentally different from what biology and physics can tell us. And he believes that science will never be able to bridge this divide between mind and matter. Do you disagree?
Koch: Well, if you look at the historical record of philosophers, it's pretty disastrous. This is little acknowledged. Lots of people from 150 years ago said the same thing about life: "You shall never understand what life is. It requires a special force, élan vital." It didn't turn out to be true. The laws of physics describe life. Roughly 200 years ago, famous philosophers said we'll never know what stars are made of. That was 20 years before they discovered spectroscopy, and of course they realized you can analyze the elements out of which stars are made. So I'm profoundly skeptical when philosophers tell us, once again, what we'll never know. Science has a spectacular record of understanding the universe. Yes, right now it's a hard problem. For its size, the brain is by far the most complex system in the known universe. There's no guarantee that we'll understand it. Our cognitive apparatus just might not be up to it, but in principle I don't see any reason why we should be unable to understand it. Just because some philosopher doesn't get it doesn't mean we shall never know this. It's ridiculous. But a lot of people are very happy about that message because, for various reasons, they don't really want to understand things in the way science does." (less)
I'm told the argument for the controversial standpoint is compelling, but what are the benefits of de...moreHere's where I am while reading the introduction:
I'm told the argument for the controversial standpoint is compelling, but what are the benefits of defining consciousness in this way? What is the actual benefit of pointing to a specific time period and saying, "That's when." I realize (to bestow a non-conscious entity with intention) a theory supported by evidence doesn't have the well-being of the human race "in mind", but how is Jaynes' premise beneficial to science? Defining consciousness so narrowly has implications, and are these implications less bad than saying my little kitten is conscious? I personally think defining ANYTHING is important, but also subjective. So maybe evidence can point to defining it in several different ways. What do we do? Where do we go from there? Maybe I'll feel better when I finish the book. (less)
I can now intelligently debate with my friend who thinks Terminator-esque robots will take over the world. I would tell him so right now, but he doesn...moreI can now intelligently debate with my friend who thinks Terminator-esque robots will take over the world. I would tell him so right now, but he doesn't have email or Facebook...
Waiting to see in the coming years if the research supports these ideas. The basics are there, but the splooging (to borrow a computer programming term) requires evidence, and he admits that.
I wouldn't recommend this to someone who hasn't studied the brain a little bit. More technical than, say, Pinker. Good for me, bad for most people. (less)