[Advaita-l] The Foundations of Adhyāsa - 7 (Western Perspectives) (Part I)
sjayana at yahoo.com
Fri Oct 26 11:40:43 EDT 2018
(Continued from previous post.)
An early Western philosopher who recognized that Perception cannot be explained by material entities was Leibniz:
Most of Leibniz's arguments against materialism are directly aimed at the thesis that perception and Consciousness
can be given mechanical (i.e. physical) explanations. His position is that perception and Consciousness cannot
possibly be explained mechanically, and, hence, could not be physical processes. His most famous argument against
the possibility of materialism is found in section 17 of the Monadology (1714):
“One is obliged to admit that perception and what depends upon it is inexplicable on mechanical principles,
that is, by figures and motions. In imagining that there is a machine whose construction would enable it to think,
to sense, and to have perception, one could conceive it enlarged while retaining the same proportions, so that
one could enter into it, just like into a windmill. Supposing this, one should, when visiting within it, find only
parts pushing one another, and never anything by which to explain a perception. Thus it is in the simple substance,
and not in the composite or in the machine, that one must look for perception.
Furthermore, by means of the soul or form, there is a true unity which corresponds to what is called the *I* in us;
such a thing could not occur in artificial machines, nor in the simple mass of matter, however organized it may be.”
Modern treatments of Consciousness include the term “QUALIA”, which refers to precisely the kind of sense-perceptions considered by
Sankara and other Advaitins: the colors of a rainbow, the smell of coffee, etc.
A present-day philosopher working in this area is David Chalmers, who has done much to highlight the Hard Problem of Consciousness.
His paper, “Facing Up to the Problem of Consciousness” is a classic paper in this regard, which has stimulated increased interest in
the topic. A collection of arguments, both for and against the position taken by Chalmers (he too postulates the existence of a new
non-physical entity to account for sense-experience), can be found in the book, “Explaining Consciousness: The Hard Problem”.
Scientists are now engaged in determining “Neural correlates of Consciousness” – mapping exactly which neuron “fires” when one
sees a red color, tastes sugar, and so on. Steven Weinberg, a Nobel laureate in Physics, has considered the Problem of Consciousness
to be an important one in his book, “Dreams of a Final Theory” (pp. 44-45).
(To be Continued)
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