15 views on Consciousness

(1) The classical split: Consciousness as a matter of the soul.. (but found in the pineal gland), in the old but still pervading dualism [Descartes].

(2) The neurobiological approach: Consciousness as emergence (whatever free miracle that means!) studied through the neural correlates of visual awareness [Koch]. Dismissing centuries of deep thought about the issue by means of showing off a complex network of neural connections that aims at intimidating anyone not familiar with the macaque visual system anatomy. A pragmatic approach which degrades consciousness to visual perception, at the same time that excludes necessary forces from other disciplines.

(3) The antiscientific reaction: Consciousness, yes, but never via scientific means (from ultra-reductionism and physicalism to the other side of the duality. There we all lose, and not to gain much in return).

(4) The pseudo-Maya argument: Consciousness is illusory [Dennett]. But then the door, my car, my wife, water, and everything is illusory too. And so, what insights do we learn from tagging them as an illusion apart from selling a few illusory books, perhaps wasting many illusory people’s reading time and cutting a few more trees from the illusory forests?

(5) The hard problem: Consciousness as a hard problem [Chalmers]. It looks very real! It looks very hard! So, face the bull, you chicken! An effort to grant consistency with science while departing from materialism, employing the notion of supervenience, and feeling at ease with a bit of dualistic salt and pepper. Admirable (rhetorics?) indeed!

(6) The progressive layers: Consciousness unfolding in levels. A serious approach [Damasio]: the proto-self (or homeostasis: I can breath and so don’t die), core consciousness (or feedback: I am aware of what I just did, and so I can tell myself from the world), extended consciousness (memory, prediction and my tendency towards timelessness) and collective consciousness (willing to die for my family, for my ideals, for my country, etc.. still very much in progress. In fact, may so-called human beings barely make it to level two..).

(7) The anthropological/historical perspective: Consciousness after bicameral men’s mind stopped doing what the voices told them to do [Jaynes]. Making the back-to-the-future exercise is always educative because, no matter how incredible this may sound, homo sapiens did not have iphones, democracies, fridges, nor most of what we see and do now, for most of their past existence. The rear-view mirror does not feel like the windshield, does it?

(8) The driver-vs-reporter experiment: Conscious decision comes later than the ramping of neural activity of that decision [Libet]. It is a remarkable finding. Perhaps puzzling. But, it makes sense, no?, since there are many possibilities but, at each moment, there is only one actuality, one determination… [let us invoke Whitehead’s help]

(9) The linguistic remark: Consciousness as the metaphor of the day: maps of consciousness (middle ages), layers of the subconscious (when geology was fashionable), reacting chemical components (when chemistry ruled the scientific thought), steam that needs to be released to the conscious (as the industrial revolution shined with trains), conscious computers (when we started using them all day long), consciousness as -well, some claim is– a network (in the era of internet and social media)… So, let us be humble and not think we got it right now, and the other poor ignorant people were just using petty images (cause that is how our mind works! [let us invoke Bergson’s help]). Or, the world is made of language [watch McKenna’s youtube videos]

(10) The holistic view: Consciousness already present in the atom [Bailey]: the rock is aware of the ground as it hits it. In fact, the metaphysical 3rd Law [Descartes] said it so clear that we missed it: action-reaction awareness all along!

(11) The AI fuzz: Consciousness in machines [Kurzweil]; and the singularity point, and the ultimate reverence to the computer mono-myth [talk to Campbell]…, and the recent quite good movie called ‘Transcendence’, etc, etc. We pretend we are so afraid of (or, alternatively, so excited about) machines taking over, that we do not realize that speciation has always taken place. So, evolve or stagnate! One more remark: yes, deep blue beated Kasparov, but very few computers can move like a child does. Embodied consciousness it is, after all!

(12) The QM buzz: Consciousness from unintuitive effects (microtubule quantum mechanics) or weird new laws (the quantum-gravity omelette) respectively [Penrose, Hameroff]. Why not? In fact, QM was one of the greatest conceptual and experimental leaps of the last century. We still simply do not wish to embrace it. We love science as long as it does not interfere with our belief system. We prefer billiard balls and molecule conformational changes than wave-function collapse and true uncertainty. May the nausea (noise) become real?

(13) The psychedelic trip: Consciousness and its manyfold states revealed directly through the drug experience, in particular, via mushrooms [McKenna]. Don’t be scared. All civilizations have their favorite drugs (which reveal what is important in them): ours has coffee breaks (caffeine to be alert and productive; ultimately, we are post industrial revolution fleshy machines), beer sessions (alcohol to disinhibit our wrapped up egos a little bit), chocolate (sweets to compensate for our unmet need for tenderness) and cigarettes (where thanatos finds a handful doses a day of habitual expression). Let me rephrase this: some drugs cause psychotic behavior in those who not take them.

(14) The dark pool of light: Consciousness as “what the fuck is this?” and Existence [Grossinger]. Dark Pool of Light is a personal, honest and monumental journey through the neuroscience, psycho-spiritual and psychic ranges about the crisis and future of consciousness. A light goes on, a light goes off, and that was not even a light…, Richard says to paraphrase modern science’s view on “the” topic.

(15) The spiritual evolution: Consciousness understood in the East. Joder! Yes, people beyond Istanbul said interesting things before we even knew how to make bread… Why do we systematically ignore the incommensurable tradition of India, China, etc? Bollywood and rice is more than the average academic knows about them… Sat-Chit-Ananda as Force-Consciousness-Bliss  [the Upanishads & Sri Aurobindo]. Kind of an upgrade to the Father-Son-HolySpirit trilogy, don’t you think? The Force that dynamizes Nature, Self Consciousness of the Absolute, and Delight of Existence (most likely I did not get it perfectly right; sorry for that). Merge the Vedas with the evolutionary synthesis of SriA and we have the greatest and most obvious realizations of all: consciousness is existence evolving for its own delight. And, as a corollary: man is a transitional being (i.e. if you are against creationists, then why don’t you embrace Darwin’s future prediction?). What is it? Ready (it sounds scary)? The Supramental Manifestation upon Earth.

 

 

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