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machine brains

Michael Edelman mje at mich.com
Mon Mar 8 09:54:53 EST 1999

Malcolm McMahon wrote:

> On Fri, 05 Mar 1999 14:14:42 GMT, ZZZghull at stny.lrun.com (Jerry Hull)
> wrote:
> >>>
> >>>Which makes consciousness part of what?
> >>
> >>God? Why does it have to be a part of anything, for that matter, why
> >>can't it be just another part of the universe which "just is", like a
> >>photon or an electron. Not everything is made of something.
> >
> >Everything is made of something;
> No, only composite things are made of something. Elementary particles
> are not. What's an electron made of?

Quarks. And quarks in turn may be made of simpler constructs. All of the physical
world may in turn be a complex wave superimposed on the background of space and
time itself. The jury is still out on this one ;-)

But then, I don't think of "conciousness" as a part of something- other than
being a part of the individual- but as a property that arises from the
interaction of other structures.

>  if they were made of nothing they wouldn't be
> >anything.  The puzzle is the relation between conciousness and mind, on your
> >view.  Why suppose, as you seem to, that consciousness is not mental?
> Because it's not really _like_ any kind of mental processing. Thinking
> is something we _do_, consciousness is something we _are_.

An arbitrary distinction, perhaps. "Thought" is a very general term. Thought is
what mediates mind. Mind is the sumtotal of all are thoughts, both those
available at the level of concious awareness as well as those below. Is
respiration a part of mind? It's centrally mediated, as are many reflexes.

But yes, a unique conciousness is what seems to differentiate us as individuals
from one another. Take a number of people communicating electronically, as we are
doing here. There is no evidence of a body here, no voice, no gesture- only a
symbolic exchange between minds. We still percieve the discussion as being
between a number of distinct and unique entities.

> > Is consciousness yet a third thing, in addition to minds
> >and bodies?  I mean, the metaphysical problems in this area are in part
> >taxological, so the denial of a connection between consciousness & mind only
> >seems to make them worse.
> Yes, but consciousness exists, requires explaning and is not adequately
> explained by the mind.

 I don't see this. For one thing, we haven't even explained "mind", so it's
asking a bit much to have mind explain conciousness ;-).

Michael Edelman     http://www.mich.com/~mje

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