Re: Modern Physical theory as a basis for Ethical and Existential Nihilism

From: Stathis Papaioannou <>
Date: Sun, 01 Feb 2004 23:35:14 +1100

On 30 January 2004 Eric Hawthorne wrote:
I really think that to get a good grasp on this kind of issue, one has to
"get over ones-self". Step outside for a moment and
consider whether you "feeling conscious" is as amazing or inexplicable as
you think. Consciousness may very well just be
an epi-phenomenon of a self-reflection-capable world-modelling representer
and reasoner such as our brains.
Minsky's society of mind idea isn't fully adequate as a consciousness
explanation, but it makes inroads.
Some of the most exciting work in this area IMHO is being done by the
neurologist Antonio Damasio. Here is a
review of his book on the topic of the feeling of consciousness:

What I think you are saying is that the experience of consciousness is just
the result of certain physical processes in the brain. This is of course
true; how could it possibly be otherwise? It should in theory be possible to
map each distinct mental state to a corresponding brain state. Also, if you
used this knowledge to reconstruct a particular brain from raw materials,
the resulting entity should be conscious in the same way as the original
was. The problem, however, is that even though you might know every detail
of the brain, you cannot know what it actually experiences unless you can
somehow connect it to your own brain. For example, if the owner of the brain
you are studying sees a red flash, you might know down to to the level of
individual atoms what changes this produces in the brain; you might even be
able to "read" the brain, scanning for neuronal activity and deducing
correctly that the subject sees a red flash. However, it is impossible to
know what it feels like to see a red flash unless you have the actual
experience yourself.

So I maintain that there is this extra bit of information -subjective
experience or qualia - that you do not automatically have even if you know
everything about the brain to an arbitrary level of precision. Moreover, it
cannot be derived even in theory from the laws of physics - even though, of
course, it is totally dependent on the laws of physics, like everything else
in the Universe.

E-mail just got a whole lot better. New ninemsn Premium. Click here
Received on Sun Feb 01 2004 - 14:35:21 PST

This archive was generated by hypermail 2.3.0 : Fri Feb 16 2018 - 13:20:09 PST