Showing posts from August, 2015

The elevator pitch of a world in consciousness

(Updated 1 September 2015)

It strikes me how often discussions about the nature of reality get muddled in misunderstandings arising from concepts. Words like 'mind,' 'consciousness,' 'subjectivity,' and even 'world' can evoke all kinds of unintended meanings, depending on the listener's background, expectations, prejudices and proclivities. 'Isms' like 'idealism' and 'panpsychism' are even worse, since they hopelessly attempt to package, in only a few letters, the meanings of disparate and complex ideas that have taken many books to expound on. As a result of this conceptual pollution, we get caught in a dangerous web of words that make simple, self-evident arguments look tortuous, complex and even implausible.

Ideally, I would love to do away with words and convey meaning directly, through some form of telepathy. But until we figure out a way to do that, I'm afraid we're stuck with words. The best we can then hope to…

Mind and Brain: A skeptical look

Below is my presentation at the Alzheimer Symposium 2015 last June in Amsterdam, with corresponding blurb. Enjoy!

Perhaps no other disease has a more fundamental bearing on our sense of identity and the nature of mind than Alzheimer’s. It wreaks havoc with the human psyche and one’s sense of self by corrupting the brain. Precisely for this reason, Alzheimer’s raises one of the oldest questions in history, investing it with a renewed sense of urgency: What exactly is the relationship between mind and brain? Surprisingly, in what is called the ‘hard problem of consciousness,’ no one in science or philosophy today has any idea how brain metabolism can lead to conscious experience or our felt sense of self. Yet, we operate under the assumption that it somehow does, for the correlations between brain function and subjective experience are overwhelming. In fact, Alzheimer’s disease is a particularly compelling instance of such correlations, wherein destruction of brain tissue fundamentally…

The heart of the matter

A few hours ago, I had a lively and productive dialogue with Canadian author and filmmaker Jean-Francois Martel, which is now episode 6 of my Inception Dialogues podcast. See the video below. As my regular readers know, Martel and I exchanged criticisms through our respective blogs in the past couple of months. See, for instance, this article. However, this latest dialogue helped both of us notice more commonalities between our respective positions than we had realized before.

One particular topic, however, deserves further elaboration than what was discussed in the dialogue. Martel considered it the heart of our disagreement: one hour, 2 minutes and 25 seconds into the video, he refers to my four-point argument against materialism, as discussed in my earlier book Why Materialism Is Baloney. The four points consist of increasingly inflationary statements about reality that are entailed by materialism. Here they are:

Your conscious perceptions exist;The conscious perceptions of other l…