Location: Darmstadt, Hessen, Germany

I'm a sort of creative person, seeking the meaning of life . Hard to capture the essence of the mind/brain/soul - but I delight in arguing with ultra-materialists on consciousness. Ah! the smell of a rose and its redness, the smell of a fine wine, a sunset, - great stuff, and all subjective. Oh yeah and actually am Scorpio by 4 hours according to expert astrologer friend - blogger auto-star-sign system missed the fact that I'm on the cusp. Though I agree with Casius when he said "the fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars, but in ourselves, that we are underlings".

Thursday, March 17, 2005

Philosophical musings 2

I don't buy the argument that because bees and others see in UV or IR or even x-ray, and we don't perceive at these wavelengths directly then the world we see with our 5 or 6 senses is not the one that 'exists'. That would imply that we get at Kant's Ding-an-sich or noumenal reality by the back door of blindness in these wavengths. Too cheap. No, as we have machines
to extent our sensorium to those wavelengths and can either view the sensorily gifted aninmals as additonal sensing machines or allow them a slice in the subjective pie. Also reminiscent here of the Pinker/Malik debate - Pinker points out that:
"Some theorists believe that there are indeed certain questions that humans are incapable of answering because of our evolved nature. Our minds evolved by natural selection to solve problems that were life-and-death matters to our ancestors, not to commune with correctness or to answer any question we are capable of asking. We cannot hold ten thousand words in our short-term memory. We cannot see ultra-violet light. We cannot mentally rotate an object in the fourth dimension. And perhaps we cannot solve conundrums like free will and sentience."
Malik sees things very differently - he points out that we have solved all kinds of problems:
"from the structure of DNA, to the physical composition of the sun despite our evolutionary legacy, not because of it. It is true that the development of science requires mental skills, many of which are evolved adaptations, but science has enabled us to go well beyond those adaptations. We can do science only because we can transcend our evolutionary heritage and act as subjects, rather than as objects"
i.e. we transcend our 5 or 6 senses and 'get at' the 'world out there' more fully thereby. Or alternatively could say we just dreamt up additonal wavelength realms to conquer later via constructs of the subject - so it could all be idealist still. On the recent evolution of skilled language - it reminds me of other claims that we only recently acquired colour vision
because Homer described the 'wine dark sea' - that was due to a mis-reading of the classics. Also, bees have full colour vision for flowers and we had them as primates for fruit - almost certainly in full technicolour for about a million years. Similarly, the cave artists of Lacaux and Altamira were cognitively on the same level as us - drawings (in colour) of shamans
frolicking around in animal masks imply full linguistic ability, and even transpersonal levels of consciousness. Hominid skulls lend themselves poorly to reconstructions of Broca's and Wernicke's areas, and certainly the last 100,000 years has shown fully anatomically modern humans: the very explosion of fantasy and inventiveness around the time
of the cave-art revolution implies that around then it really clicked for language, art and general intelligence. Since then it's been steady progress with inventions - hardly the achievement of Wernicken grunters. The cold war drove CIA and KGB to excesses of fantasy in terms of mind control - but you have to first define a mind before you control it. Even hypnotism can't really go against the grain of Schopenhauer's will. Of course if you brutalise someone enough you can conditon them to react a la Pavlov out of fear. But there will always be a corner of their being that resists the brutish conditioners - just like Rhita in
Greg Bear's 'Eternity" resists the attempts of the Jarts to encapsulate her mentality in their 'matrix'. Apropos, I take issue with Schopenhauer shifting the subject into the representation box and highlighting will as the main aspect of being: the Upanishads that he borrowed from got it righter than he did. And these ancient Indian philosophers were debating subtleties of consciousness thousands of years ago - and they were no more narcissist than the moderns. I.e. the current consciousness 'craze' is not a feature of the modern accumulation of
scientific knowledge nor does it owe everything to the late lamented Crick - it is rather a reaction against the dark age of stifling behaviourism: James' Principles of Psychology or the Upanishads are once again fully modern - the former because after James Behaviourism led to
ruthless suppression and censorship of the 'subject' lest the more 'scientific' 20th century psychology be accused of unscientific introspection; we are only now picking up where James left off. Now the scales have fallen from people's eyes again and the Behaviourist/AI/positivist emperor has indeed no clothes. It's a bit like the end of the cold war where people admitted that communism a la Stalin was not all it was cracked up to be, and that the Russians rellay loved their children too (incredible tothink that that was ionce a revolutionary lyric of Sting's). After all, neuroscience will only ever highlight the neural correlates of the easy problem. The hard problem remains and people just re-state it in myriad ways. But it makes interesting reading to get different people's 'take' on it. If German uni training is as in the Egyptian priesthood, Metzinger is one of the high priests of the Mainz temple university. Note that he does put on an interesting display - e.g. one of his Spiegel bits:
- quite colourful but despite the waffle his position is still as homuphobic as indicated by Sutherland.
He is quite prolific though - here a list:


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