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Tuesday, October 25, 2011


I have read many books regarding the notion of consciousness---what it is; why it is; how to explain it; how to explain it BETTER---and on, and on. I tend to concur with ideas advanced by anthropologists and evolutionary biologists--along with a few notions of my own:
I do not find consciousness daunting, or mysterious, or difficult to understand. It evolves with, and within, species (see: Dawkins, Gould, et. al.) Everything which now lives has evolved a level of consciousness, higher or lower, depending upon one's point of view. Anything now extinct KNEW something, if only on the level of a reptillian brain---or less.

My advice is this: Read thinkers such as Dawkins, Gould,Dennett, Combs---even Dossey and LeShan. Then consider any alternative point of view YOU may have. This is not a difficult subject. It is nothing so mysterious as academicians try to make it. But they do have an image to uphold.

But Dawkins doesn't believe consciousness can be explained, and Combs offers mystical explanations grounded in transpersonalism. He says that consciousness isn't materially reducible and that it's connected to the larger cosmos. He also described Dennett's Consciousness Explained as 500 pages of tortuous symbolic reasoning. My take on Dennett is that he evades the problem altogether, using 500 pages of tortuous reasoning to do it. I don't know anything about those other two.

I'm not a big fan of Dennett either.

But if we stipulate that there's something difficult to explain about the relation between neuronal interactions and properties of consciousness, it doesn't seem to me to follow that a mystical mode of explanation is therefore required. If someone were to convince me that a mystical/supernatural explanation were necessary, it also wouldn't follow (for me) that God should take preference, as an explanatory principle, over any other type of supernatural explanation.

Interesting post!

Allan Combs began his journey in education as a physics major at Ohio State University. That journey was soon derailed and he took, as they say, a different path. As you may know, Dawkins, Dennett and Christopher Hitchens have all given their personal views on religion---none of them particularly supportive. All of that aside,and regardless of whether Dawkins (or anyone else) believes consciousness can (or needs to be) explained, it (consciousness, that is)appears to evolve with the human psyche. As Ken Wilber might say: and just so.

Maybe, just maybe, that is the secret hiding in plain view that so many thinkers belabor and fuss about in tomes of 4 or 500 words or so. As I indicated to Jon in an email, we all have our favorites. If we factor God out of the equation, then consciousness is only another possible outcome of evolution and its driving force, natural selection. Isn't chance a wonderfully mysterious demon?

You might be interested to know I just posted "What is mind?" on my blog which is laying out a new unified theory of psychology. I agree that there are aspects of consciousness that are mysterious (what I call the engineering problem of consciousness), but that when we consider what we know about the mind, we are closing in on the problem. Here is the link to my post

I have not found much that impresses me in the arena of unified theories, but I'll give your post a look.

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