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machine brains

Michael Edelman mje at mich.com
Tue Feb 9 08:24:33 EST 1999

William Thomas wrote:

> I agree with Michael, however in my original message I was just laying out
> some rhetorical questions to point out that brains, organisms, and quasi
> organisms all function quite comfortably without any need for consciousness.
> The thing I really wanted to stress was not to get hung up on what is or is
> not conscious when thinking about designing a brain because:
> A.   The soul, or consciousness, if real, is separate from the brain. This
> is obvious, because there is no structural difference between our brains and
> the brains of major primates that would account for the function of a soul.
> Now, if the soul crowd was interested in dishing out consciousness and souls
> to all the primates, it would be a different story, however I don't think
> they are ready to do that.

If you're equating "soul" with concisousness,  well, it's certainly clear that
humans aren't the only ones with conciousness. But "soul" is a metaphysical
concept, ill-defined and not really available for analysis, even compared to
something as vague as "conciousness". Hence I don't think it's a terribly
productive line of inquiry.

Conciousness itself may be a seperate thing from brain- the strong dualist view-
but then you're back into metaphysics again. I don't think it's something that
exists apart from the organism, but rather a property that arises simply given a
complex enough organism. How exactly that happens is the big question. I suspect
it is a consequence of an organism's ability to plan- i.e., to create an
internal model of the world and its place it it- but that still involves a lot
of question begging.

-- mike

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