HERESIARCH

A collection of other people's writing

In the chapters that follow, I will attempt to explain consciousness. More precisely, I will explain the various phenomena that compose what we call consciousness, showing how they are all physical effects of the brain’s activities, how these activities evolved, and how they give rise to illusions about their own powers and properties. It is very hard to imagine how your mind could be your brain - but not impossible. In order to imagine this, you really have to know quite a lot of what science has discovered about how brains work, but much more important, you have to learn new ways of thinking. Adding facts helps you imagine new possibilities, but the discoveries and theories of neuroscience are not enough - even neuroscientists are often baffled by consciousness. In order to stretch your imagination, I will provide, along with the relevant scientific facts, a series of stories, analogies, thought experiments, and other devices designed to give you new perspectives, break old habits of thought, and help you organize the facts into a single, coherent vision strikingly different from the traditional view of consciousness we tend to trust. The thought experiment about the brain in the vat and the game of psychoanalysis are warm-up exercises for the main task, which is to sketch a theory of the biological mechanisms and a way of thinking about these mechanisms that will let you see how the traditional paradoxes and mysteries of consciousness can be resolved.

Posted on October 1, 2008