Nature of Consciousness
Parisi & Watson
niche at AMERITECH.NET
Sat Jul 24 10:59:05 CDT 1999
From: Greg Goode <goode at DPW.COM>
To: ADVAITA-L at LISTS.ADVAITA-VEDANTA.ORG
<ADVAITA-L at LISTS.ADVAITA-VEDANTA.ORG>
Date: Friday, July 23, 1999 9:30 AM
Subject: Re: Nature of Consciousness
>At 07:02 PM 7/22/99 , Parisi & Watson wrote:
>I'm not asking anyone to _make_ the materialistic assumptions;
>>I'm just pointing out that consciousness as the medium of all human
>>experience is not a deciding point between materialistic and other
>>assumptions, including Vedantic ones.
>Maybe I'm not sure what you mean by "consciousness as the medium of all
>experience." In advaita, consciousness is the medium, the sum and
>substance of everything. Could you restate that sentence in different
>words so I can understand it better?
I am pointing out that everything any person has ever experienced or felt
must necessarily have come to him/her via the medium of human consciousness.
I am also pointing out that this fact remains inescapable even under a
totally materialistic set of assumptions, in which the physical organism
constitutes the entire person. Everything we experience is mediated by
consciousness, even if consciousness has no reality except as an artifact of
the nervous system. Therefore this quality of being the universal medium of
experience cannot be used as an argument that consciousness preceeds the
organism - much less that nothing exists apart from consciousness.
>So, for Advaita, there would be no brain outside of consciousness, for
>there is something that is not the brain which sees the brain. According
>to your statement of consciousness being the medium of all human
>experience, how would you interpret the existence of the brain, or anything
>else, such as apples and schoolbuses?
The dependence of consciousness on the brain is obvious and beyond question,
as anyone can easily demonstrate with a hammer or a bottle of gin. The
reverse is far from being equally obvious. To answer your question, I would
return to my original statement. All mental states are produced by the
nervous system, including sense experience, but the survival value of sense
experience indicates that it bears at least some similarity to what is 'out
there.' We know about apples and school buses only because we have observed
them, which means that they have entered our consciousness by means of sense
experience. Our experience of them was produced by our nervous system as
stimulated from outside by physical objects acting on our sense organs,
which are specialized conduits to the brain. In Western philosophy, this
view is called critical realism.
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