point of view: a modern nihilism

Presents the author's evolving views of the best current positions on certain core philosophical and psychological problems. These positions together suggest a skeptical or nihilist perspective modified by evolutionary psychology and contemporary philosophy that embraces our desire to live as best we can and the relative and psychological reality of values, free will and other phenomena while recognizing limitations on their foundations and our understanding. The below makes no claims to originality for most of the ideas expressed, drawing on a range of mostly unreferenced texts (which will be familiar to philosophers and psychologists working in this area). Readers may want to start at the bottom with the first entry. - Marc Krellenstein (personal info here)

June 12, 2005

5. Brains are conscious but we don’t know how.

Consciousness is a puzzle. It seems the brain alone gives rise to consciousness — there is no good evidence for a soul or for irreducible pieces of consciousness making us self-aware — but we don’t understand how the brain does it and probably never will, as least as it applies to our experience of qualia, the particular sensations of sound, color, pain, etc. No matter how much brain function we can imagine understanding, and no matter how tightly correlated that function is shown to be with the minutiae of these experiences, there appears to be an irreducible ‘explanatory gap’ between the most we can ever say about neurons or electrical fields in the brain and the tangible experience of reality. How does anything we can learn or theorize about the brain explain the particularities of the raw sensations we feel? Suggestions that certain physical or structural states are simply identical with these experiences and explain them as completely as they can be explained are as unsatisfactory and seem as incomplete as claims that the universe originated from nothing and there is no more to be said about the matter. (This ‘mysterian’ position regarding consciousness was first discussed at length in McGinn, 1989. See also Krellenstein, 1995.)

No Comments »

No comments yet.

RSS feed for comments on this post.

Leave a comment

Powered by WordPress