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Still chipping away at the sense of self

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From New Scientist:

However, the more that is discovered about consciousness, the less obvious its role appears to be. For example, measurements of brain activity reveal that muscles and brain areas prepare for an action, such as a reaching out for an object, before we are even aware of our intention to make that movement. As noted by the psychologist Jeffrey Grey and others, consciousness simply occurs too late to affect the outcomes of the mental processes apparently linked to it.

So where does this powerful sense of self come from? We suggest it is the product of our … More. (You have to pay to read the article.)

Don’t pay; such efforts are virtually always uninsightful. After all, they would be world news if they weren’t.*

That’s principally because the core readers are not interested in knowing what the subject under discussion, the self/consciousness is really like, but only in knowing how to fit it into an existing naturalist and reductionist frame.

That doesn’t work, of course. But there isn’t really anything else they can do. If there were, they wouldn’t be who they are doing what they are.

We are, however, informed in advance that “Consciousness evolved for the greater good, not just the self.”

“Greater good?” No one ever achieved totalitarian power over others by saying that he wanted to promote the “greater bad,” only the “greater good.”

One hopes that the folk at New Scientist are happily oblivious to the authoritarian/totalitarian assumptions underlying such an idea: One’s consciousness is not one’s own, private and independent, perceptions of the group one finds oneself in after all. Rather, it is something that randomly “evolved” to serve the group’s needs. As all the other group consciousness units “evolved.”

When people honestly believe things like that, they drift toward understanding civil liberties as mere license and denigrating traditional liberties like freedom of conscience.

At any rate, we can be sure of one thing: Pop science will be there, ready and eager to help, with suitable insights such as “how the brain creates the illusion of the mind,” etc.

*It’s a bit like going to see the “penguin boy” at the circus freak show. You know he’d be world news if it was true. He is just some unfortunate who could have made good use of a world class pediatric hospital. So what are we doing here anyway?

Note: Re claims about consciousness occurring “too late to affect the outcomes of the mental processes apparently linked to it,” consciousness includes the summation to oneself of decisions taken, but is clearly not only that.

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6 Replies to “Still chipping away at the sense of self

  1. 1
    Robert Byers says:

    Its impossible for us to make actions without intent.
    What this shows, I think, is the power of the memory. the memory clicks in the intent so fast its as if we didn’t have the intent or the “brain ” wiring doesn’t record it. yet its just the fast moving memory. Simple.

  2. 2
    Popperian says:

    One hopes that the folk at New Scientist are happily oblivious to the authoritarian/totalitarian assumptions underlying such an idea: One’s consciousness is not one’s own, private and independent, perceptions of the group one finds oneself in after all. Rather, it is something that randomly “evolved” to serve the group’s needs. As all the other group consciousness units “evolved.”

    One hopes that News is oblivious to the fact that by setting up false dilemmas, News actually justifies the very things News rallies against. Specifically, News is claiming that if we are mistaken about our folk ideas of consciousness, morality and knowledge, there can be no morality or knowledge!

    But it’s unclear why News would expect us to get our ideas about morality and knowledge right in the first place. Furthermore, to argue that we must have got it right or “bad things will happen” is an argument from undesired consequences,

    However, the question is moot because we already know our folk ideas are mistaken. For example, we know our sense of touch in 3-D space does not actually come from our fingertips. They only generate nerve impulses, which are electrical crackles that our brain interprets as sensations in specific positions in space. Nor do we actually touch anything since we are repelled by the strong nuclear force. So, we do not experience anything for what it really is.

    Now imagine arguing that life can have no meaning unless our folk idea of touch is true because it happens to play a key role in a specific theological commitment one holds.

  3. 3
    Silver Asiatic says:

    Popperian

    I notice you insert the word “folk” before any and every concept that you want to dismiss. You could say, for example, “our folk concepts of logic” or “our folk ideas of truth”.

    But you use those very same folk notions in promoting and defending your own worldview.

    So, we do not experience anything for what it really is.

    As above, you used those folk notions to arrive at your conclusion and are trying to convince us using the very same folk ideas.

  4. 4
    Box says:

    Popperian is the typical average folk materialist.

  5. 5
    Popperian says:

    SA:

    I notice you insert the word “folk” before any and every concept that you want to dismiss. You could say, for example, “our folk concepts of logic” or “our folk ideas of truth”.

    First, “folk” has a specific meaning, and is synonymous with our “common-sense” ideas of things. So, I’m not merely using it a derogatory way.

    Second, I do not want to dismiss these concepts because they represent way a person can experience their world. For example, the earth appears flat when you look at it from a particular perspective. To dismiss this view would be to deny that people actually have that experience. IOW, you seem to have confused criticizing these ideas with dismissing them completely.

    The earth can be round, yet people can have the experience that it is flat.

    But you use those very same folk notions in promoting and defending your own worldview.

    Given that I’ve asked why News, or anyone else, would assume our folk views of morality and knowledge are true, it’s unclear why I would use them to promote or defend my views. Specifically, the “folk” or “common sense” view of knowledge is that it is justified true belief. However, I do no hold such a view. Nor do I use it to promote that view.

    For example, my “view” of knowledge is that it grows though conjecture controlled by criticism. This is not a common-sense view of knowledge. Furthermore, this is reflected in my above question, in that any “common-sense” idea we have would start out as a guess, which we would then criticize. For us to get it right the first time, some other assumption is made, such as all knowledge comes though the senses, or that it’s possible to infallibly identity and interpret an infallible source. I would not ask these questions if I held those “common sense” ideas.

  6. 6
    Barry Arrington says:

    Popperian @ 5:

    For example, my “view” of knowledge . . .

    has led you to the conclusion that it is good to split open a little boy’s face and extract his brain while his heart is still beating and then sell the brain like a piece of meat.

    So your view of knowledge has made you evil. You should change your view. I doubt you will.

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