Freedom from Blog

Don't call it a comeback . . . .

Friday, January 18, 2013

"[N]o mystical energy field controls my destiny[.]"

Reading through the new issue of the NYRB but fixated on this review of a new book by Thomas Nagel, largely on the (intuitive) impossibility of reconciling materialism and consciousness/subjective experience.

As anyone reading this almost certainly knows, I am a materialist of the first order and a non-believer of the uber-first order (that is a thing now). So I found Nagel's non-theistic musings on teleology somewhat perplexing. Just at the level of logic (which may, or may not, actually govern the Universe), how do you have a telos without [an entity] imposing the telos? It's a design without a maker, yes? I can understand theistic teleologies, but this is a design too far!

As for my part, I think that we just don't know enough about how the brain works to say (as Nagel apparently does) that we can never explain my subjective experience of consciousness by way of neurons. Maybe we can't do this, ever. The human brain is very complex, and organic (analog) not silicon (digital). But I have yet to see (remotely compelling) evidence that my subjective consciousness resides outside of the neurons I carry around in my brain-cage (i.e., skull). The decline of that gray matter causes the loss of that subjective experience, memories, etc. So the subjective experience is clearly tied to, if not directly reducible to, with modern neuroscience, brain functions.

To shake me of this, you'll have to show me a ghost. A disembodied consciousness of a formerly embodied mind. Hell, I'm feeling charitable. I'll go for this: A ghost (i.e., mind) that was never, ever in a body. That would do.

And, yes, I just asked to be haunted.

And one more, provocative, point -- that old belief in the resurrection of the body, is that really about resurrection of the brain? Resurrection of the storehouse of memory? Because as we grow older, we find that what we really want isn't to have the body of an 18 year old, but the memories, the brain states that we had at younger points in time?

This post has been updated (additions only).


Post a Comment

<< Home