a reply to: FlySolo
While I wont jump to the conclusions you have - the holographic universe idea - I can basically see how compelling it is to see consciousness as
something that is 'additional', cut off from conventional explanation by a so-called 'explanatory gap' that boggles our imagination because the
very thing we need - objective distance - to study consciousness is.....consciousness itself. Thus, a paradox, a riddle, a solution with no outlet.
I'm much more in line with the growing field of enactive cognitive science where mind isn't thought of as "in the head" but as dispersed,
embodied, and really causally dependent on the conditions which it results from.
Take your self. Do you think it is yours? In a way, your mind is "locked" in your head, but when you actually trace out the origins of your
development you can see that a) self is a DEVELOPMENTAL process, and b) that the developmental process is intrinsically related to other minds.
This is somewhat akin to the fact that the oxygen in our planets atmosphere is a result of the photosynthesis of plants. But plants would not have
emerged were it not for the favorable ecological conditions when cell life first emerged. In essence, then, life and mind, as Francisco Varela, Evan
Thompson, Alva Noe and other philosophers stress, are fundamentally "non-local" phenomena, involving MULTIPLICITIES that co-evolve over time, and
over time, new complexities emerge, and really, with mankind, a new ontology. If all of physical reality before was causally dependent on the original
conditions of the big bang - an arrow that could be said to go this way --> , with human beings, self awareness enables an opposite trajectory: a
"tracking" of what the self is made of and what it does; originally this was nothing more than a utilitarian necessity of living in a difficult
environment; physiological evolution enabled us to 'rise above' and stand bi-pedally, allowing us to use our hands, which, as the philosopher
Raymond Tallis points us, was probably highly implicated in the evolution of our embedded and self-referential style of thinking: when the hands are
before you as hands are before us, one begins to relate to ones body as separate from what one thinks. So even our thinking in itself is not some
distinct ability from our body: our thinking and our body dialectically evolved.
Now think of the uniqueness of the human mind. Human Beings today are not exactly the same as human beings 200 years ago, or 2000 years ago, or
200,000 years ago. As our cultures become more complex and as our understanding of reality increases, so too does the 'self' and its experience of
itself change. Each person alive today conceptualizes his existence in a manner similar to, but also slightly different from thinkers of the past.
I do not think the mind can be reduced to the brain, but obviously, the brain is functionally and structurally related to consciousness. This
conclusion is indisputable; neuroscience as well as clinical neurology has demonstrated one-to-one correspondences between certain mental or emotional
abilities and a part of the brain; vision is thus associated with the back of our heads; hearing with the sides; spatial and sensory integration with
the upper parts and executive thinking with the frontal lobes. And further discriminations along even more subtle lines can be made out within each
region and probably within each neural fiber.
But does it go even further? That's questionable. The brain may be organized structurally and functionally in specific ways, but as neuroplasticity
shows, neurons in one region (the visual cortex, say) are not fundamentally different from neurons in another region (auditory cortex), as the former
region can invade the latter or vice versa, as in people born deaf or blind. Thus, blind people will have an expanded hearing and feeling capacity, or
deaf people will have better vision.
This also teaches us another lesson, The brain DOES impose limits upon us. Being blind actually opens you up to a richer auditory and tactile world, a
world that us normal people wont be able to experience with augumenting our neurological hardware.