Nature of Consciousness

Greg Goode goode at DPW.COM
Thu Jul 22 13:26:15 CDT 1999

>>Robert wrote:
>>>We can observe not only succession, but dependence.
>>We *infer* dependence.  We observe actions, movements, meter readings, etc.

>I believe you are mistaken here. It's commonplace in neurology to infer the
>function of a certain area of the brain by observing the changes and
>disabilities in people who have suffered accidental injury there. Is that
>such a leap?

It's NOT a big leap, it's quite natural, commonplace like you said.  But
didn't you also just say "infer"?   Because that is what neruology does in
brain mapping.  Function is inferred to relate to brain area, chemistry,
etc.  But the dependence itself is not really observed.  In some way it is
very different from meter readings and measurements, for it has no color,
size, shape, duration, extension, etc.  Can we really say it has these
things?  It's rather an abstract relation *between* observables.  Small
point really.

>You make a convincing case for what has become a strong current in Western
>philosophy over the past several decades: that science deals with
>substantive claims about things that make some detectable difference, while
>metaphysics deals only with empty ideas that are devoid of any testable

Yes this is a big issue in Western philosophy, but it can be simplified for
our purposes by saying that in metaphysics, testing can be done by
Gedankenexperimente, thought experiments.  Adopt a metaphysical view.  How
do the conclusions accord with the rest of our knowledge, including
empirical, philosophical, analytic, mathematical findings?

>But in any case, how does invoking the word metaphysics get around the
>problem that I mentioned?

Just invoking the word, no help at all.  It's a matter of what you demand
to take for granted.

>To repeat: consciousness is obviously the medium
>of all human experience under any set of assumptions, including
>materialistic ones.

But you weren't ready to adopt just ANY set of assumptions, you said that
some approaches were too complicated.  Let me remind you of our interchange
in a previous post:

   Greg wrote:
   >In metaphysics, we question and investigate the
   >concepts of brain, person, states and consciousness
   >themselves.  We don't take these concepts or their
   >definitions for granted.

   Robert replied:
   Excuse me, but you're making this too complicated.
   I simply asked how a living human being can have
   any mental (or other) state in the absence of
   brain physiology. Living, conscious people have
   functioning brains, and these brains cannot be
   arbitrarily excluded from our understanding of people
   and their mental states. Brain physiology is _always_
   a key element in any mental state of a living person.

If you want to take the following concepts for granted or demand to keep
them as assumptions,
  -living human being
  -mental state
  -consciousness and awareness, maybe waking state
  -brain physiology
then you can't really say what is the case under ANY set of assumptions.
You are being restrictive in your assumptions.  The difference between
materialism and advaita will give you vastly different results when it
comes to the above concepts.  These particular assumptions seem to
correspond with those of science.  Metaphysics does not take any of these
for granted, but investigates them.  To paraphrase Nisargadatta, it's like
science talks about about making bread vs. pizza vs. dinner rolls, and
metaphysics talks about the nature of wheat.

>otherwise, about the primacy of consciousness from this (as you say)
>inescapable fact? I'm not just arguing, I'm really asking you for an answer.

A good answer would be, Investigate these very things.  There is a lot of
good support on this list for that kind of enterprise.  Take a close look!!



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