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On The Warrior Prophet posted 22 June 2004 in Philosophy DiscussionOn The Warrior Prophet by TakLoufer, Candidate


I'm a semi-regular/lurker at the ASOIAF forum and just recently bought a copy of TDTCB. I'm currently a third of the way through and so far I really like it. It's on par with Martin, IMO, though the style is much different.

Anyway, I just came across this thread and it touches on a topic that I am greatly interested in (the mind-body problem and ontology in general) and I feel the need to put in my $0.02.

I used to be a hard-core materialist atheist (no doubt as a result of years spent in an oppressive Christian environment) though I never really considered the full implications of this metaphysic. My interest in the mind-body problem began when I began some personal research into the nature of consciousness. I've read Dennett, Searle, Chalmers, Penrose, and others . . . and I felt even more confused than before I started my research.

While neuroscience has explored many of the correlates of conscious experience (such as: when a this part of the brain does this, we feel pain), but this doesn't even remotely explain how or why this occurs. The correlation is arbitrary because the brain states don't contain "pain" or "the taste of peanut butter" . . . they are subjective, while brain states are objective.

John Searle argues that the brain generates consciousness the same way the stomach digests food. Consciousness is what brains do. Or that consciousness emerges from insentient matter the same way water emerges from H2O. This satisfied me for a while, but as I read more, I realized that this analogy was erroneous. Digestions occurring in a stomach or water emerging from molecules are constitutive (to borrow a term used by David Ray Griffin)emergent phenomena and can (exhaustingly) be reduced down to mechanical interactions. Consciousness, OTOH, can only be a correlative emergent phenomena because brain states do not intrinsically contain the sensation of seeing red or the sensation of having a nail driven through ones foot; but are merely correlated with each other.

This problem became an obsession. My worldview was at stake and I was annoyed that an answer eludes me. Hell, an answer still eludes me, though I know more than I did before.

Also, in the course of my research, I came across studies in psi-phenomena. It started when I read Dean Radin's Conscious Universe and I was surprised that the evidence is, well, to me, scary. I always thought concepts such as telepathy, precognition, and psychokinesis was nonsense that only crackpots believed, but the evidence has been repeated over and over again in experiements by "believers" and "skeptics" alike. Type "ganzfeld" or "autoganzfeld" into google for some papers on telepathy experiments. I'm not saying these phenomena exist (though the evidence suggest as much), but the evidence is much stronger that I previously believed. Though beware of the new age crap.

If psi does exist . . . well, I don't know. It would seem consciousness extends beyond the brain (as psi is the mind transcending space and time) and not the epiphenomenal side-effect of deterministic neural activity.

As for an answer to the mind-body problem, I think a few theories hold water better than others:

1) The Penrose-Hameroff Orch-OR theory. This theory argues that the microtubules in neurons interact with the fabric of space-time itself (the Plank scale) to produce experience. Consciousness is the foundation of reality. For more information, read The Emperor's New Mind and Shadows of the Mind by Roger Penrose; or just go to Stuart Hameroff's site at <!-- m --><a class="postlink" href=""></a><!-- m -->

2) Whiteheadian Panexperientalism: This is similar to Penrose and Hameroff's theory, except it's more general. The universe is composed of experience. All matter contains basic awareness (though not consciousness). For more information, read David Ray Griffin's Unsnarling the World Knot and Alfred North Whitehead's Process and Reality. I've been told that Whitehead's philosophy is similar to Heidigger's (they were contemporaries), though I have yet to read him.

3) Mental Monism: In some ways this is similar to panexperientalism, except that mental monism says that the entire objective world is nothing but a fiction attached to sensory experience. Basically, reality is a very coherent dream with rules (ex. gravity) and is maintained by some larger mind (a metamind). The universe has all the "substance" of a really vivid dream: none at all. I realize this seems insane, but computer programmer Peter B. Lloyd makes a good argument for it. His website is <!-- m --><a class="postlink" href=""></a><!-- m -->. He has also written a book called Consciousness and Berkeley's Metaphysics If I were a betting man, I'd bet up to $100 that this theory is the closest to the truth. It sounds insane at first, but his arguments are the strongest I've come across.

Some would say this opens the back door for God and an afterlife, though personally I feel that any "God" (metamind?) is not even remotely anthropomorphic in nature and that personalities are, by their very nature, limited and temporary(*). My guess is that at death our personalities "defocus" into the universal consciousness or whatever, like a drop in a ocean losing it's individuality. That's not really that bad. It sure beats being an epiphenomenal side effect.

(*) - Though there is some good evidence suggesting personalities can sometimes survive death (Immortal Remains by Stephen Braude is a evenhanded apprasal of the evidence), I'm undecided on the issue. view post


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