Monday, January 06, 2014

is consciousness universal?

scientificamerican |  I grew up in a devout and practicing Roman Catholic family with Purzel, a fearless and high-energy dachshund. He, as with all the other, much larger dogs that subsequently accompanied me through life, showed plenty of affection, curiosity, playfulness, aggression, anger, shame and fear. Yet my church teaches that whereas animals, as God's creatures, ought to be treated well, they do not possess an immortal soul. Only humans do. Even as a child, to me this belief felt intuitively wrong. These gorgeous creatures had feelings, just like I did. Why deny them? Why would God resurrect people but not dogs? This core Christian belief in human exceptionalism did not make any sense to me. Whatever consciousness and mind are and no matter how they relate to the brain and the rest of the body, I felt that the same principle must hold for people and dogs and, by extension, for other animals as well.

It was only later, at university, that I became acquainted with Buddhism and its emphasis on the universal nature of mind. Indeed, when I spent a week with His Holiness the Dalai Lama earlier in 2013 [see “The Brain of Buddha,” Consciousness Redux; Scientific American Mind, July/August 2013], I noted how often he talked about the need to reduce the suffering of “all living beings” and not just “all people.” My readings in philosophy brought me to panpsychism, the view that mind (psyche) is found everywhere (pan). Panpsychism is one of the oldest of all philosophical doctrines extant and was put forth by the ancient Greeks, in particular Thales of Miletus and Plato. Philosopher Baruch Spinoza and mathematician and universal genius Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz, who laid down the intellectual foundations for the Age of Enlightenment, argued for panpsychism, as did philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer, father of American psychology William James, and Jesuit paleontologist Teilhard de Chardin. It declined in popularity with the rise of positivism in the 20th century.

As a natural scientist, I find a version of panpsychism modified for the 21st century to be the single most elegant and parsimonious explanation for the universe I find myself in. There are three broad reasons why panpsychism is appealing to the modern mind.

9 comments:

DMG said...

Hey CNu, long time. How have you been? Is your blog the only one left standing?

BigDonOne said...

BD is quite pleased to note that Subrealism appreciates the similarity in brain function between dogs and humans.

All dogs are one species, canis familiaris, and all humans are one species, homo sapiens. Based on 700 years of historical dog breeding technology, any dog breeder can confirm that trainability (ability to learn and respond) is a heritable trait and varies with breed (dog breeds are analogous to human races), That's the reason police K-9 trainers prefer IQ-160 German Shepherds rather than IQ-75 Pit Bulls. The former train easily and can be depended upon to reliably follow commands, while the latter will revert to genetic (frequently violent) behaviors regardless of training. This is analogous to human schooling and corresponding SAT scorz among races,

BigDonOne said...

BD is particularly interested in how DV's son is doing after all those boxing lessons and competition DV blogged about. This is rather analogous to training a genetic pit bull to bite people....(see our next comment below)

CNu said...

lol, look what the snowman dragged in! Ed Dunn, UBJ, Cobb, Spence - plenty cats still at it.

I'm doing well, been spending a lot of time with the Vidalia/Lansing penitentiary alumni association in the weight room at the YMCA - getting all swole up for the apocalypse. How bout yourself magne?

Your boy DeeVee busy peddling health tonics and vegan stuff in ATL - http://geteov.com/how-can-eov-help-me-2/

DMG said...

Ha! Glad to see some people are still going at it. I've peeked in on your blog a few times over the last couple years. Out of boredom I went to look up DV's old spot and couldn't find it. I'm out in Philly these days. I'll try to pop in every once in awhile.

DMG said...

Under his "real" name too. Wow.

CNu said...

Don't be a stranger, oh, and, how many bottles of EOV did you order?

Uglyblackjohn said...

@ DMG - the days at deevee's playground were hilarious. SeeNew, you found DeeVee?

CNu said...

Happy new year Uncle John! How many bottles of EOV you gonna order? Mebbe B-mont needs to host a DeeVee event? https://www.google.com/search?q=chef+ahki&tbm=isch&tbo=u&source=univ&sa=X&ei=-e7LUvCJJMSRqQGug4DIAg&sqi=2&ved=0CCoQsAQ&biw=1600&bih=728#imgdii=_

The MSM Is Accidentally On-Purpose Throwing In The Towel On Biden

kunstler  |    “Biden’s most important achievements may be that he rescued the presidency from Trump, resumed a more traditional style of...