In Consciousness Explained, Daniel Dennett, writes, "Human consciousness is just about the last surviving mystery. . . Consciousness stands alone today as a topic that often leaves even the most sophisticated thinkers tongue-tied and confused. . . . With consciousness . . . we are still in a terrible muddle. . ." Neither Dennett's reductionist approach nor David Chalmers' non-reductionist approach have thus far provided the pivotal concepts needed to resolve the question of the nature or origin of human consciousness. However, Dennett provides a touchstone for testing Chalmer's innovative out-of-the-box conjectures.
In The Conscious Mind, David Chalmers introduces the notion: qualia - phenomena where subjective processing is accompanied by ineffable aspects of conscious experience (which apprehends the redness of red, the beauty of mathematical forms, love, the selfness experience). Indeed, qualia are in the eye of the beholder: the beholder's perceptual experience, the beholder's subjective experience, and the beholder's conceptualization of esoteric attributes of the experience. Dennett presents an argument against qualia; that the concept is so confused it cannot be put to any use or be understood in empirical ways; that qualia do not constitute a valid extension of physical experience.
While refuting qualia, Dennett extols memes which are pregnant ideas and cultural items putatively transmitted by repetition in a manner analogous to the biological transmission of genes. Dennett, sees memes as a units of selection, which persist across generations like genes. He posits a neural Darwinism where meme evolution can even account for the origin of morality and explain religious belief and adherence to it (Darwin's Dangerous Idea and Breaking the Spell: Religion as a Natural Phenomenon, also by Dennett)
Dennett attributes the seeming transcendence of consciousness beyond its neural network containment as the "tricky illusory theatrics of consciousness." Dennett's analyses of consciousness places much faith on what constitutes accepted scientific truth and dogma; on huge collections of reproducible experimental data, but not on imaginative thought about what the data might mean or ultimately signify. There is a large body of accumulated physical and neurophysiological data that virtually cries out for imaginative reinterpretation to break the logjam which is blocking blanket acceptance of the transcendence of human consciousness.
In My Universe - A Transcendent Reality Alex Vary offers an imaginative reinterpretation of the empirical data Dennett esteems and contemplates. Vary proposes a paradigmatic framework and some new concepts which can help explain the seemingly transcendent nature of human consciousness. What Vary proposes are akin to 'tools of thought' advocated by Dennett in Consciousness Explained and should serve at least for discussion and elucidation purposes.
Vary presumes that consciousness is an attribute of a reality that preexists its localized foci in self-aware human or their neural networks. Dennett dismisses the notion of such selfness existing before birth as a fiction, ". . . an organization of information that has structured your body's control system (or, to put it in its more usual provocative form, if what you are is the program that runs on your brain's computer), then you could in principle survive the death of your body as intact as a program can survive the destruction of the computer on which it was created and first run." Dennett characterizes the notion of an automaton's or a computer's assumption of transcendent consciousness as a hankering for immortality; as if a computer program could hanker for self-perpetuation, or anything beyond its ken. Dennett shrugs off the dilemma by declaring "as with all the earlier mysteries, there are many who insist - and hope - that there will never be a demystification of consciousness."
- Publisher: Little, Brown US (14 November 1991)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0316180653
- ISBN-13: 978-0316180658
- Product Dimensions: 16.5 x 3.2 x 24.1 cm
- Boxed-product Weight: 885 g
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