Feb. 26th, 2013

xenophanean: (Xha)

(Note also that I've stopped smoking, and so am quite irritable.)

Gah, Self Anti-Realists are stupid, and increasingly dominant. (For the links NS will annoy you about logins, but will let you log in and look without paying)

1. http://www.newscientist.com/article/mg21729052.300-the-self-the-one-and-only-you.html. That the mind processes lots of information and plays all sorts of tricks... erm this might make sense of some optical illusions if we err... say the self is an illusion. Lots of assumptions. Why must the self be a one-point thing, a centre to the mind, maybe it's an agglomeration of lots of different processes within. We really don't know yet. Doesn't deal with the problem that there is clearly a perceiver*.

2. http://www.newscientist.com/article/mg21729052.400-the-self-you-think-you-live-in-the-present.html. Oh for fuck's sake, of course we don't live exactly in the present. I don't think anyone thinks we're magical God-ghosts any more, we're taking time to process information. We're clearly some kind of mechanism. What's this got to do with anti-realism of self?

3. http://www.newscientist.com/article/mg21729052.500-the-self-trick-yourself-into-an-outofbody-experience.html. Oh no! We work out our sense of location using physical senses, not magic ghost energy! Also, because we're not a magic ghost, we don't know exactly where we are!

4. http://www.newscientist.com/article/mg21729052.600-the-self-why-are-you-like-you-are.html. Much more interesting, the idea that the self is effectively our brains producing a character profile for themselves to help them get on with others. Sounds vaguely plausible, and an interesting theory (and it's very much just a theory). Doesn't deal with the perceiver problem, and why's this profile doing all the weird thinking and stuff? Maybe self and identity aren't the same thing? Lots of questions, but at least they're interesting ones.

5. http://www.newscientist.com/article/mg21729052.200-the-self-when-the-self-breaks.html. Also interesting stuff, however it's mainly talking about losing self, which whilst of relevance to the study, does rather suggest there is one in the first place.

6. http://www.newscientist.com/article/mg21729052.700-the-self-what-are-we-to-do.html "Oh, gone is self like free will before it!". Only the elimination of free-will isn't successful either (god-ghosts going to heaven doesn't work, so any model of free-will fails? I don't think so). Make sure to actually give a more than half-arsed attempt at at least demonstrating, (ideally actually bothering to falsify? anyone?) something before you say you've won.

I really think this field of study is more an exercise in professional psychological nihilism rather than any real attempt to find out what's going on with our apparent consciousness. I get especially annoyed when commentators attack a two-hundred years dead argument**, and think they've destroyed a modern concept. I'm prepared to accept some pretty wild things about what my consciousness actually is***, however, as literally all things are predicated on the fact that we are perceiving, one should probably make sure one has an pretty water-tight argument before saying one has demonstrated that actually we aren't. I also find the optical illusion arguments to be trivial curios being used to attempt to fully describe the attributes of a complex, and ill-understood system. It's a bit like saying the monitor flicker on a BBC microcomputer shows that actually there isn't a processor anywhere, because sometimes the image is gone.

Because something that's apparently clearly present, but doesn't fit your theories, it doesn't mean that it doesn't exist (though it's possible that it genuinely doesn't). There's a good likelihood that you don't quite understand everything yet. More looking, less grand announcements.

* I'm willing to accept that there's not, if a good description of how the illusion works is provided. (Also, who or what is perceiving the illusion?)

** that we're not actually ghosts in a machine, who'll go to heaven, we're part of the machine (or some sort of weird resultant effect).

*** I'm totally happy that it's nothing like what it looks like. I don't think it must be continuous, indeed, I suspect it isn't; I may well be a series of deluded flashes of universe processing.


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