Wednesday, 19 February 2014

Writing about philosophy of mind is way hard!

I'm finding writing about certain aspects of philosophy of mind deeply frustrating. Not in a bad way, but I'm increasingly puzzled as to why I almost always fail to get across the point I want to make. This point has been described in the philosophical literature, and in my view it challenges any view of the mind which isn't simply physical and reductionist. It has been labelled 'self-stultification', which basically means putting yourself in a position where you can't justify what you are saying. It's so simple, and yet I find it incredibly difficult to get people to see that this point even exists. An example is the issue of quantum consciousness. For bizarre reasons, some people (even respectable scientists) think that consciousness must have a quantum aspect, and yet this makes no sense at all, as there is no evidence that such a quantum aspect is needed, and so the reason for this belief must somehow arise from some subjective aspect of consciousness. But this is nonsense for two reasons: 1. How could anyone possibly know what a 'quantumy' aspect of experience actually felt like? 2. Quantum effects don't even contribute the kind of information that could possibly lead anyone to think "Woah! That thought felt really quantum!". So, even if quantum effects were present, they could not be reason for the thought "consciousness is quantum". "Quantum consciousness" is a self-stultifying position; it's self-defeating, because the thing can't be the reason for belief in the thing.

This is not a difficult concept, and whether or not certain ideas of philosophy of mind are true or not, it's certainly an issue that needs to be considered. And yet I struggle again and again to get the idea across.

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