Re: [-empyre-] free will and determinism

The Voices in my Head tell me that on 11/22/03 10:33 AM, Joel Weishaus at wrote:

> Henry:
> I'd say that consciousness is not overlaid on top of particles, this doesn't
> make sense. 

How does it not make sense to you? I don't agree with him either, but his
argument makes sense to me.

>But that what we call consciousness is an unintentional product
> of the quantum world. A "bi-product."

That's Penrose's argument. Frankly, I think it's a weak argument, as it
would assume that consciousness is a kind of field regardless of animacy -
thusly, rocks think? We don't think so. Dennett and Kurzweil take positions
(as Lanier notes) that dispense with ontology as they dispense with
consciousness. I think they actually have a stronger case, but I think that
their position on consciousness in no way suits the strong AI position.

I think Ramachandran et al have the right bend: consciousness is an effect
of the brain as it interacts with the world. With the brain as PART of the
world, the world is conscious, but insofar as there are parts of the world
without brains (Bush Admin's foreign policy, for instance) consciousness is
(obviously) not evenly distributed among living things, much less nonliving
things. Viruses are not as aware as cats or chimps. All are more aware than
a hydrogen atom.

To stipulate consciousness as something separate from the material is to
engage an essentialist metaphysics, which I feel is unwarranted and
unnecessary. However, the opposite, reductivist materialism, subsumes yet
denies its own binding to the vagaries of the brain's language center. They
want to reduce things to matter, but they demand their theory about it as
well, and with a thoroughgoing reductivism, you must "go all the way" which
they can't do, because then they have to reject the ontology of their own

On a more personal level, I wrote this to another list:

"Even if Ramachandran is correct, and the mind is just a kind of optical
illusion cooked up by the brain to ride herd on the unconscious automata
that permit consciousness to exist; who cares? It's all we've got, and in
the end, it's one of the very few things that really matters in the course
of a human life. And THAT is why Art Matters. "

Since a human life is the only one I'll ever have, then WHAT I DO with
consciousness matters a lot more than WHAT IT IS (or isn't). This doesn't
denigrate the efforts of those people who spend their time with finding out
what it is, at all, because finding out what it is is a kind of what one is
doing with it. It's just that as an artist who is engaged in making the
stuff, my job is to use the mind in a focussed and conscious way, so that
these issues can be visible, but their visibility is rather variable, always
depending on the intent of a given work.

If it wasn't that way, I'd be a neuroscentist. And I'm reeeeally not
interested in climbing that hill, as it only occupies one particular
interest of mine, and hardly a central one at that.

Ummmm, I seemed to have rambled off into the weeds again....

Wife and daughter say "DADDY! It's time to go to the PARK!!!"

More later...

my very best to all empyreans,


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