I have profiled myself saying that my main interest is the ontological status of the self.., so.. although the transhumanist is taking a break, it’s got to be time for a little chat about this mystery..
I was studying psychology for a while, but got completely stuck pondering this mystery. I felt that an exam in the psychology of personality should be more than just about individual traits, the developement of personality and other similar boring questions, and ought instead to tackle THE most intriguing question of all head on: Is the self /consciousness REAL, meaning independant of any physical setup, or is it “just a bunch of neurons“..
Like Sue Blackmore , I started out being completely confident that it was only a matter of time before credible evidence would emerge, to the effect that the self /consciousness is a lot more than “nothing but..”, – but – alas – like her, the deeper I probed into this mystery, the more sceptical I became..
In this process, I have dismissed the philosophical position of “idealism“, – the belief that consciousness is THE fundamental fabric of nature, and philosophical materialism / physicalism has always appeared to me to be an utterly absurd belief. I mean, – what is the point of a universe not knowing it is a universe.. , and, – indeed, – unaware of existing at all ?!
I am not a dualist either, – I simply dislike the idea of a playground for God and Angels, the spiritual realm, and a less subtle, material world for lesser creatures.
The Blue Brain Project is an attempt to create a synthetic brain, and I was listening to the director, Henry Markram, explaining the ideas behind this amazing project : A Brain in a Supercomputer
Actually I found his talk surprisingly boring, but then, at the end of the talk, he suddenly suggested that “The Universe may have evolved the brain to see itself, to become aware of itself“..
Now THAT is the kind of talk that is pleasing to my ears and – indeed – my “heart and soul”, and, in particular, when it comes from a top-scientist ! – This idea poses, of course, a number of questions, like, for instance: how would the Universe, being initially unaware of itself, know it was a good idea to evolve the brain, in order to.., etc. ??
Ok, – a baby, not even yet born, “knows” too, that it must develope and expand the brain, you may say.., – no mystery there.., – but are we not implying PURPOSE here, for the Universe as well as for the baby..
I’m stressing this point, because it is the position of most scientists /physicalists, that life happened by CHANCE, and that it is without purpose, at least in any deeper sense, other than each part, – say, an arm, – being functional, in relation to the whole.. , in accordance with the theory of evolution.
As you can understand, I DO NOT believe life happened by chance and that it is without any deeper purpose. I totally reject nihilism , and view consciousness as being hardwired into the fabric of nature.
My position, then, is that neither mind nor matter is exclusively fundamental, and that one is not dependant on the other. Rather, – existence is of a unified, intertwined, psycho-physical, or, – if you like, – physico-mental, – nature.
To be continued.. – In the meantime, watch A Brain in a Supercomputer: