Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Nobody has the slightest idea how anything material could be conscious. Nobody even knows what it would be like to have the slightest idea about how anything material could be conscious. So much for the philosophy of consciousness. - Jerry Fodor

H/T: Ulrich Mohrhoff

1 comment:

Wim Borsboom said...


What follows is a part of a conversation that I recently posted on my blog (Free by Nature)that relates to the simultaneous presence of the "aspects" of matter & consciousness in any "unit of existence."

Is this useful for discussion here on this blog?
Awaiting your response,


From my blog:
Ted: I was thinking about nested paradoxes. It appears to me that the initial and original paradox of existence is the one of the apparent opposition to consciousness of material reality. In addition though, the way I see it, it is not just a simple opposition as I believe that consciousness is nested within matter even as it is the opposite of it.

Wim: You say "apparent opposition" and, indeed, that opposition is in appearance only, meaning that that is how it may appear to the person who has reasons to interpret it that way!
Seeming appearances are always produced by incomplete sensorial data gathering and incomplete data appreciation, thus bringing about incomplete and often erroneous descriptions of reality.
As far as trying to understand the relationship between consciousness and materiality while starting out from the assumption that they are opposites, I am all for a different approach. What if we consider "consciousness" and "material reality" in the same manner as science considers particles and waves? True, at some point in the history of science particles and waves were considered paradoxical but now they are not seen as a paradox anymore, let alone a "nested paradox". If they are anything, they might very well be side-by-side aspects of a 'something' that is greater than the amalgamation of any aspects that may have been observed of that greater wholeness.
Too bad that most 'aspects' are often no more than fragments of relative information - relative as any information depends on how, when, with what and who (!) gets sensorially informed.
(Of course we need to remind ourselves that scientific measuring tools are an extension of our sensorial information gathering faculties.)
My point is that when we look at just these two aspects: materiality and consciousness, (matter and psyche ?) that we may want to consider that - just like particles and waves - that they are neither paradoxical nor opposites of each other. That we tend to do treat them as paradoxical or opposites may just be due to a long and unfortunate habituation that was acquired over the ages by most of humankind. Wasn't it after all mostly religious and/or moral coercion that dis-empowered most humans to do full-hearted justice to either material or mental healthy living or both? Didn't it depend on which religious or philosophical bent one adhered to, that either matter or psyche (or both) were considered to be corrupted or corrupting?
Ted: Stuff or vibrations, matter or psyche, I don't think we can understand how we are aware of the basic particulars of the world.
One possible answer to this is that we are not aware of the world at all but only of our mind and that this mind creates the appearance of the material world while it concludes that that material world therefore is maya, illusion. This has the advantage that a nondual or monistic view can be achieved by stating that everything takes place inside one's own head. Other minds can then be seen as a function of one's own mind. Pfff... scary!!!
Luckily the initial fascination of such a theory fades before a deluge of counter intuitive implications.
Hmm... How do we deal with the difficulty of accepting something other than the material? If we take the brain as an item of reality, how can it and how does it 'secrete' consciousness?

Wim: Again, what if we would consider "consciousness" and "material reality" in the same manner as science looks at particles and waves? I don't see a need to think that brain matter "secretes" consciousness or, as it is sometimes also stated the other way around, that consciousness one way or another produces apparent materiality.
Just as particles do not 'secrete' waves or waves do not produce particles, we can similarly recognize that matter does not 'secrete' consciousness nor that consciousness gives rise to apparent matter!

Ted: Well, no matter what, so far I still see matter and mind as a sortof nested paradox. The one producing or, if not that, at least holding within itself the opposite of itself!

Wim: About that nesting. Could it be that your "nesting" idea - at least the way you use it here - that it could be a remnant of a previous adherence to dualism? A bit of 'closet dualism' perhaps?
To guide you away from that, maybe taking a look at a poem I posted here recently will help. "When Identities are Identical"
Although in this poem I use a language filled with dualistic notions, I am pointing at a creative non-dualistic process in which one aspect in the creation of a clay vessel - form - does not subsequently produce its seeming opposite - void. *
Instead, I'm attempting to show how form-void are arising simultaneously and contiguously, and similarly the seeming dualities of 'I-You', 'tranquility-action', 'sound-silence', etc.
What I'm clarifying in the poem is that there is a certain simultaneity happening with the arising of form-emptiness during the creative process of molding a clay vessel. And although time is a necessary dynamic in this creative process (as it is in any creative process) the linear sequentiality of time is NOT involved at all in the simultaneous arising of form-void!
What I am suggesting is that by the same token one can recognize that matter and consciousness also arise simultaneously and contiguously in 'whatever-all-this-is', this Pratītyasamutpāda, a Buddhist term describing the world consisting intirely of "Interdependent Arisings."
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Prat%C4%ABtyasamutp%C4%81da .
Ted: Be that as it may, and I will look deeper into this as I feel that I'm starting to grasp that contiguous simultaneity that you are talking about. Hmm... I do understand how you use the particle-wave example as a possible model. But anyway, so far I'm still seeing matter and mind having a causal connection to each other, it could be matter over mind or mind over matter, I don't know. However it may be, I don't think we can know how it can be so. Maybe it is just so! But then, what does that say about the nature of matter?

Wim: It might not be the nature of matter nor for that matter the nature of consciousness that makes them appear to you the way you see them. They might just appear that way to a humankind whose original human nature has become so dis-empowered that it eventually became de-natured and lost its ability to accept the simple self-evidence of it all!
* It is not for nothing that the Heart Sutra's mantra is, "Form is Emptiness, Emptiness is Form" For a discussion on this see "The Story of the Bowl.