Be the first to write a review. Drawing on mythology, psychology, religion and science, as well as past-life regression and near-death experiences, Peter Novak explores the nuances of what really happens to the soul after death. Eastern and Western philosophies have disagreed on this point for centuries. After ten years of intensive investigation, his conclusions are a ground-breaking blend of east and west, explaining how this division may have arisen and how it is likely to be resolved.
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Learn More - opens in a new window or tab Any international shipping and import charges are paid in part to Pitney Bowes Inc. Learn More - opens in a new window or tab Any international shipping is paid in part to Pitney Bowes Inc. Learn More - opens in a new window or tab. Related sponsored items Feedback on our suggestions - Related sponsored items. Consciousness and Science Fiction Paperback or Softback. What we would like to know about Hal, or for that matter, about any other alleged conscious beings from our spouses to pet cats, is whether he possesses "insides" like ours, or whether he is merely an empty automaton, just "going through the motions.
Unconscious beings—including us during interludes of deep sleep or coma—possess only outsides. Cal Poly consciousness theorist James T. Culbertson calls such examples of helpless sentience "paralyzed conscious robots. If you push such a robot, it falls over—a type of response it shares with all other inanimate objects—but this simple ballistic behavior gives no clue whatsoever to the presence of an ongoing conscious experience inside the tumbling robot.
More complex behavior than the act of falling off a shelf could suggest the presence of inner life, but it seems to me that no conceivable robotic behavior could ever prove beyond a doubt that the robot actually possessed insides. Suppose we expand the computer's repertoire of inputs to include sight, hearing, touch, as well as taste and smell. Let's give the machine a pleasant synthetic voice and a humanoid body with a full range of expressive gestures including the ability to shed tears and cover the whole thing with warm and responsive artificial flesh.
Certainly if the original Turing teletype machine could convince certain gullible humans that there was a human being inside the box, then a Turing humanoid, with its wider range of ways to simulate the expression of human feelings, could seduce even more folks into thinking that the talking doll with the polyurethane skin was actually having inner experiences.
The question of pretty robots aside, how do we know that other human beings are conscious? Like the situation with the Turing teletype or humanoid, the only clue that we have to the presence or absence of consciousness in another human being is how that being behaves. I know that I myself am conscious via an undeniably direct and immediate revelation. But what about my neighbor?
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Could it be that he is just going through the right motions but there is actually nobody at home? Philosophers call the question of how to decide whether your neighbor is a soulless robot or a sentient being "the problem of other minds. You probably suffer from a variant of this illusion: the belief that the world revolves around you. When I look at my own experience I do indeed appear to be located at the center of the world, a bright focal self full of intense sensations and feelings, compared with which the rest of the world seems drab and devoid of feeling. If other such centers of intense sentience exist, as suggested by indirect evidence, then the Grand Illusion must be discarded as a kind of mirage, a seductive but ultimately unreliable guide to reality.
The Grand Illusion resembles a certain optical illusion called in German Heiligenschein, or "holy halo. Your head will seem to be surrounded by a blaze of white light. But the shadows of your companions do not glow; only your own head seems to be blessed with the holy halo. Famous sixteenth-century Italian artist Benvenuto Cellini viewing his solo halo in the grass took this phenomenon as a sign of his own genius.
The light shines only around my head, not around anybody else's. Likewise my direct experience of my own awareness, contrasted to my very indirect appreciation of other people's experiences, not to mention nonhuman forms of experience, tends to make me feel alone in the world, isolated in solo reverie. Because our experience of our selves is so intense, our experience of others so weak by comparison, many of us have at least flirted with accepting the Grand Illusion as plain fact, believing, at least for a time, that only one conscious being exists in the world, namely me, and all other creatures are soulless zombies.
Philosophers call this presumed illusion solipsism. The few people foolish enough to act out this belief are labeled "sociopaths" by the criminal justice system, which punishes them for their totally self-centered behavior no matter how strong the philosophical arguments they might muster for their pontifical position.
Since a society of solipsists is a contradiction in terms there can be only one solipsist in the universe , all societies necessarily reject the Grand Illusion as a guide to human conduct. Social conventions aside, though, how can an individual like me logically escape the solipsistic fallacy and establish to my own satisfaction the existence of other minds? Bertrand Russell once said that solipsism is completely irrefutable but boring: we should just ignore solipsism in favor of less defensible but more interesting models of mind.
But the existence of other minds should be based on better criteria than escape from boredom. In particular can the guy next door pass the Turing test by performing some public act that only conscious beings are able to do? Can he actually do something to prove to me that he has insides like my own?
In the first half of the twentieth century American psychology was dominated by the behaviorist movement. The behaviorists rejected traditional introspective psychology as sterile and unscientific, as little more than a disconnected collection of stories and anecdotes, more literature than science.
Both as an antidote to introspective vagueness and in the style of the so-called hard sciences of physics and chemistry, the behaviorists proposed to create the world's first truly scientific psychology out of external data alone, without resorting to unreliable subjective reports.
The behaviorists believed, at least as a working hypothesis, that whatever might go on "inside" an organism was irrelevant to a scientific explanation of that organism's behavior. They proposed to treat all organisms, including humans, as black boxes, hoping to discover objective laws relating the box's inputs stimulus to the box's behavior response without ever having to include the box's "experiences" as a factor in their calculations. Since it ignores what seems to be the most important feature of human life—namely what it feels like from the inside—the behaviorist approach to human psychology seems doomed from the outset.
One could imagine that certain automatic reflexes might be handled by this simplistic approach, but whole ranges of complex human behavior would simply remain incomprehensible to behaviorists. Traditional introspective psychologists were highly motivated to overturn the behaviorist program by discovering some sort of consciousness-essential behavior. The introspectionist's goal was a sort of Turing test in reverse, in which the introspection test is given to humans not robots. Whereas the Turing test asks for some sort of robotic behavior that will convince a person that the robot is a kind of human being, the antibehaviorists sought a kind of human action that would convincingly show that a human being is more than a robot.
Behaviorism is now passe, having been replaced by other fashions in psychology: awareness- and body-centered therapies such as gestalt and bioenergetics, and a fascination with altered states of consciousness such as dreaming, meditation, and hypnosis. Although psychology has returned to a more "humanistic" orientation, it is important to realize that behaviorism was never refuted.
In particular, no enterprising antibehaviorist was able to come up with a type of behavior for whose explanation consciousness was essential. Although they failed in their attempt to bring all psychology into their camp, the behaviorists succeeded in calling attention to a crucial weakness in experimental psychology.
In fact, for the science of consciousness behaviorism's most enduring legacy might be this: we now know that the tools of twentieth-century science are powerless to verify the presence of consciousness in human beings—the one system in the universe that we know with certainty possesses it. The behaviorists in effect issued a challenge to modern experimental science to come up with an objective way to measure the presence of subjective experience.
So far science has utterly failed to meet this challenge. Suppose an electronic device such as the tape recorder that stored the brain-wave signals produced the same pattern of electrical signals as a dream-state electroencephalogram EEG. Would we conclude from these signals that the tape recorder was dreaming? An important side effect of our inability to measure the presence of consciousness is that there is no scientific way to verify that a system is unconscious.
Thus the commonsense belief that stars, rocks, and atoms are unconscious has no real scientific basis and should rightly be regarded as groundless superstition. The belief that matter is "dead" has the same experimental status as the opposite animistic belief that matter is "alive. The major barrier to the development of a true science of consciousness is our lack of any objective way to tell whether a given chunk of matter is conscious or not. At present our only sure means of assessing the inner life of certain forms of matter is by introspection and by inference.
I know—without any doubt: Cogito, ergo sum—that I am conscious via immediate revelation, a direct insight compared to which all other forms of knowledge are secondhand and indirect. If present-day science finds itself powerless to validate my private insight into the real nature of things, so much the worse for science. Second, I surmise, not entirely certain, that you are conscious too, because 1 you behave like me and 2 you have a similar biological origin.
Your outsides and your history are much like my own, so that I imagine that your insides are similar too. But computers, or even handsome soft-skinned robots, no matter how well behaved, have a life story radically different from my own. It's a big jump to infer from its behavior that a robot is conscious, while a human being acting exactly the same would surely be judged to be acting from an experiencing center. Experiments to Detect Inner Experience Although we presently possess no objective test for the presence of awareness in matter, the possibility of devising methods for the detection of subjective states does not appear to be entirely unthinkable.
I can imagine at least three ways that subjective states could become accessible someday to scientific scrutiny. As evidence for the notion that consciousness is a localized brain function, we observe that large portions of the cortex and other segments of the central nervous system can be removed without loss of consciousness.
Suppose moreover that whenever a person is awake not asleep, comatose, or "absentminded" this crucial portion of the brain emits a distinctive purple glow. Unlike electrical signals, which are produced at all times, this glow occurs only in association with conscious experience. Suppose that further research shows that although the purple glow is physically identical to ordinary light, its production cannot be explained by normal electromagnetic mechanisms. In order to fit the purple glow phenomenon into physics, scientists must invoke a previously unsuspected new force linking light and the inner life, a link that mystics have metaphorically celebrated for centuries.
It goes without saying that experimental evidence for purple glow or any other special physical manifestation of awareness is nil. Alternatively, instead of ordinary light, conscious entities might signal their presence by emitting new kinds of elementary particles cogitons? Cogitons might be detectable by physical means or they might interact only with other conscious beings, leading to a new class of particle detector. Thus the human mind would act as a sort of psychic Geiger counter. The "purple glow," "cogiton," or similar phenomena would represent a simple and direct answer to the behaviorist challenge.
These phenomena are or would be, if they existed types of physical behavior uniquely associated with consciousness and with no other physical process. The presence of such phenomena would open consciousness human and otherwise to examination via the same objective methods that have been so successful in the physical sciences. Purple-glow physicists might even detect the purple glow in inanimate systems and draw the conclusion scientifically based, not mere prejudice that stars, rocks, and atoms are conscious.
Mental Telepathy It's possible that consciousness produces no unique physical signature but that its presence can be detected by certain human beings who might be called "empaths. Or they may sense the presence of awareness in other beings indirectly as an "aura" or "chi flow," a certain visual impression invisible to ordinary people. The aura may not objectively exist in the sense of being detectable by suitably placed physical instruments. Instead these private signs of the presence of consciousness may be self-induced modifications of the empath's visual field, resembling somewhat the studio-induced captions on a live TV image, a co-option of the empath's visual field for the presentation of a nonvisual type of information.
Since this kind of consciousness detection is indirect and depends on the subjective report of another human being, one may be reasonably skeptical of an empath's reports. However, confidence in the empathic method would increase if several independent empaths agreed among themselves and with EEG measurements concerning the exact moment when a target patient recovered from a state of general anesthesia. One can imagine empaths sensitive only to human forms of awareness who can sense a paralyzed person's call for help or empaths who have expanded the range of their "sixth sense" to embrace animals, or even computer mainframes.
Alan Turing himself recognized the weakness of his famous Turing test as a reliable diagnostic instrument for consciousness, and, somewhat in desperation, suggested that if a computer could exhibit extrasensory perception, then we might believe that it possessed an inner life. One of the major drawbacks to the use of human empaths as consciousness detectors is that they would probably not be sensitive to nonhuman forms of mind.
For instance, a being's internal pace of events, what might be called its "inner tempo," must be quite different for the mind of a giant sequoia, a snowshoe rabbit, or a salmonella bacterium. If we plan to assay the awareness of our computers with mental telepathy, we will face a problem similar to that of talking with divers whose speech frequencies have been speeded up by their breathing mix. We will need at the very least a method of pacing the inner tempo of human minds to the corresponding tempo of their nonhuman sentient partners.
However, once inner rates are matched between beings, there remains the problem of making sense of a completely alien set of inner experiences. Mind Links The most direct and convincing proof that another human being, animal, or computer is conscious would be actually experiencing for yourself what that other being is feeling, with a quality and intensity comparable to your own selfconsciousness. The sharing of another person's inner life, not by inference, empathy, or analogy but by merging of the two insides into a new type of co-conscious experience, would certainly constitute powerful evidence for the presence of inner experience in that other being, no matter what that being's outward behavior might be.
To determine whether your newly constructed robot is conscious or not, connect your self directly to the machine's "interior" with a "mind link. Unlike telepathy, which presumably operates in some mysterious mental realm accessible if at all only to a few skilled empaths, the mind link would be a purely physical connection, open to everyone, as public as the telephone. The mind link's invention would solve the problem of other minds in the simplest possible way, by making the presence and contents of other minds publicly available in a manner as direct and undeniable as the presence and contents of your own mind.
The Searle Test for Artificial Awareness Philosopher John Searle at the University of California at Berkeley holds that "the only way to tell if a physical system is conscious or not is to be that system. The Searle test for inner life seems at first glance to be just another recipe for solipsism: "I'm conscious; I don't know about you.
Suppose we want to know whether silicon computer chips can support a style of inner experience like our own. Searle proposes a test for silicon-based awareness that involves replacing his brain's neurons one-by-one with silicon chips that perform the same function. Searle tacitly assumes that we know what the "function" of a neuron is.
At the end of this replacement process, John's skull, once the containment vessel of a meat brain, is now completely filled with computer chips. This new computer passes the Searle test for consciousness not if John merely says that he is self-aware, but only if he truly feels that he is conscious. At a recent conference on the scientific study of consciousness, Searle described three conceivable outcomes of his replacement test for silicon-based awareness.
First, the test could succeed: his new chip brain would produce behavior equivalent to the external activity produced by the old Searie meat brain. More important, the chip brain also would produce an inner life indistinguishable in quantity and quality from his old experiences. Second, the operation could leave John totally paralyzed, devoid of any behavior but possessed of a normal flow of inner experience. He would hear the doctors expressing regret over the apparent death of the Searle brain but the inner Searie could not tell them that he was still alive.
Third, as more and more of Searle's meat brain was removed, he would feel a gradual diminution of his inner life but his body would persist in its usual behavior. I feel fine. The operation was a success. An "empty" Searle zombie would get up from the operating table. In this third case, after it returned to the university, the Searle zombie would find itself in the unusual position of unconsciously giving lectures on the subject of consciousness, certainly not the first time a university professor gave a lecture on a subject of which he had no firsthand knowledge.
Every science has its own circumscribed subject matter, its body of experimental facts, and its array of theories to explain those facts. The new science of consciousness will also have its proper scope, its crucial experiments, and its explanatory theories. The scope of the fledgling science of consciousness is the inner life of human and nonhuman beings.
The difficulty of performing experiments on the inner lives of beings other than myself is one of the main barriers to establishing a firm factual basis for a science of inner life. About the inner life of nonhuman animals we know very little; about the inner life of nonbiological beings we know absolutely nothing. Imagine being a worm in the ocean that possessed only one external sense—the sense of hearing.
What kind of a physics could such a being create from its varied auditory experiences? No astronomy, no optics, no theories of electrical or magnetic phenomena. No chemistry, mechanics, or geology. Probably the best theory of the world that this single-sensed being could muster would be a musical insight into the nature of vibrations. Like those of this ear-logical marine worm, our experiences are limited to only one kind of awareness—the human kind—in only one body, with only indirect access to that same kind of awareness in other bodies.
Our limited access to other minds severely restricts the kind of facts we can collect about the variety of inner experience that might exist in the world. As the poet William Blake sang: "Who knows but every bird that cuts the airy way, Is an immense world of delight, closed to our senses five? Dissatisfied with the usual variations on the theme of ordinary life, many men and women have pursued methods of extending the familiar human form of consciousness into realms far distant from ordinary life. In some cultures the business of "consciousness expansion" is an honored profession.
The persistent ingenuity that some humans have shown in inventing techniques for altering awareness suggests that the urge for inner exploration is as fundamental a drive in human beings as the urge to explore new physical frontiers. Whatever other kinds of minds may need, the craving for self-transcendence seems to be a prominent feature of the human style of awareness.
The Division of Consciousness: The Secret Afterlife of the Human Psyche
Commenting on the human need to escape the ordinary, Aldous Huxley claimed that the natural rhythm of human life is routine punctuated by orgy. After the experimental difficulty of measuring the presence of inner experience in other beings, the next major barrier to creating a true science of consciousness is the lack of an adequate theory of how beings manage to gain consciousness and lose it.
What is actually happening when I fall asleep? Theories of Inner Experience It is not that we possess bad, partial, or flawed theories of the inner life. We have no such theories at all, even bad ones. Instead we possess only vague fantasies, philosophical hunches, and speculative, untestable guesses. Make no mistake: we are in the kindergarten, sandbox stage of consciousness research. We have a long way to go before we can call what we know about the inner life a "science. Scientists can say that the phlogiston theory of combustion is wrong because they have a modern theory of heat by which it can be judged and found wanting.
However, presentday science is not in a position to judge claims of spirit communication, out-of-body experiences, reincarnation, telepathy, and other unusual styles of awareness systematically since it does not possess a theory of ordinary consciousness, let alone its variations. At this stage of our ignorance, scientists like everyone else must appraise these unusual mental experiences from their own cluster of amateur notions. Long before the hundred-odd chemical elements were isolated and named, the ancient Greeks devised a rough picture of the world's fundamental constitution appropriate to their limited knowledge.
They considered the world to be made up of four elements: Earth, Air, Fire, and Water, while the heavens contained a fifth element, Ether or "quintessence" not present on earth. It is ironic that our present picture of matter recognizes none of the ancient categories as truly elemental. Today's chemist regards more than one hundred substances as elemental. Particularly important "letters" in the chemist's alphabet are hydrogen, oxygen, nitrogen, carbon, and phosphorus, the five elements most essential for life. The physicist digs deeper, breaking the chemist's elements into more fundamental parts.
In what is called the Standard Model, present-day physicists are able to describe all known physical phenomena conscious phenomena are explicitly excluded from the scope of physics correctly with only three types of fundamental particles. The first step toward a true theory of consciousness is to construct a rough map of the intellectual territory that we intend to explore.
At this stage our maps of mind will be at least as crude as the Greek five-element picture of the world, hut one must start somewhere. At first glance the world seems to consist of two kinds of phenomena: mental experiences and physical objects. The sixteenth-century French philosopher Rene Descartes called these two categories res cogitens thinking stuff and res extensa extended stuff—stuff that occupies space. The Greeks dubbed these two basic essences "psyche" and "physis" , from which we derive psychology, the science of mind, and physics, the science of matter.
Given such a two-component world, it is easy to work out and make up names for all the logically possible relations that might exist between mind and body. Dualistic Models of Consciousness A dualist maintains that mind and matter are essentially different kinds of essences each with its own laws and manner of existence. In this materialistic age, dualists are often accused of smuggling outmoded religious beliefs back into science, of introducing superfluous spiritual forces into biology, and of venerating an invisible "ghost in the machine.
At this stage of mind science, dualism is not irrational, merely somewhat unfashionable. In epiphenomenalism, matter is the real substance of the world and mind a mere byproduct completely subject to matter's motion. Matter and mind interact but the interaction is a strict one-way street with mind as slave, matter as master.
In this view, mind is like the light that goes on when you throw the matter switch. The switch controls the light; the light never controls the switch. There is probably no better motto for epiphenomenalism than that of the nineteenth-century Dr. Vogt: "The brain secretes thoughts like the liver secretes bile. To a wholehearted animist every material thing is alive and possesses a soul, which rules its external behavior. A philosophically minded animist might justify his belief by appealing to the behaviorist discovery that no conceivable human behavior can reveal with certainty the presence of an inner life in another person: from the outside human beings appear to be "mere things.
Therefore, it seems plausible that many other apparent things—trees, rocks, stars, and spiral nebulas—may possess similar insides. The animist is an open-minded soul who is willing to grant the gift of inner life not only to humans and so-called higher animals but to every arrangement of matter in the known universe.
From our experience as embodied beings, we know that body states can powerfully influence our states of mind. Likewise intentions that seem to originate in the mind can control the body's movements. It seems, at least in the case of humanstyle awareness, that neither matter nor mind dominates the mysterious partnership that gives rise to our external actions and internal experiences.
This evenhanded form of dualism in which mind and matter mutually influence one another is called interactionalism. Critics of dualism have questioned how an entity that has no spatial location can interact at all with a body that occupies space: how does the mind find its body? Although we know of matter only secondhand through the mediation of our senses, we have managed to develop an elaborate mathematical understanding of this indirectly known essence, an understanding that extends from the tiniest elemental quark to the entire universe.
On the other hand, although our experience of consciousness is direct and unmediated, we possess no equivalent physics of mind, no elaborate conceptual structure that mirrors the rich mix of inner experiences enjoyed by human beings. Our fledgling mind science—psychology—has produced only fragmented accounts of particular aspects of human personality and seems far from achieving a comprehensive model of consciousness that is explicit enough to connect conceptually with our very detailed model of matter.
When matter interacts with mind, just what kind of entity is it encountering? A good dualistic model of the mind would not only describe the nature of mind-in-itself, essentially a map of the soul, but also take up in great detail those attributes of matter, those qualities of soul, that permit these two fundamentally different aspects of the world mutually to affect one another.
Monistic Models of Consciousness Monism, like dualism, is of three main types, depending on which of the two primary essences is elevated to the status of grand monarch. In materialism, matter is all that there is. Democritus, the early Greek atomist, said it best: "By convention sour, by convention sweet, by convention colored.
Afterlife - Wikipedia
In reality, nothing but atoms and the Void. But, for the materialist, mind has no special status: it is just one of matter's possible attributes, on a par with momentum, energy, and center of gravity. In his splendid book The Psychobiology of Mind, William Uttal, a modern materialist, declares: "Mind is to the nervous system as rotation is to the wheel. Reductive materialists believe that virtually any mechanical motion results in some kind of inner experience.
Just as all particles possess momentum and energy, so all particles possess a bit of inner life. For such broad-minded materialists even atoms are conscious, although the inner experiences of such simple mechanical systems would be minuscule compared to the inner lives of human beings.
However, the materialist holds that inner life does not exist as a separate immaterial soul, but is a purely mechanical property that at present we lack the tools to measure. Ardent materialist Thomas Henry Huxley, Aldous Huxley's grandfather, predicted that just as heat was discovered to be nothing but a form of mechanical motion the mechanical equivalent of heat is 4.
Emergent materialists also believe that consciousness is a wholly mechanical property of matter, but that only very complex systems possess it. To an emergentist, consciousness is less like the attributes momentum and energy—properties common to all mechanical systems—and more like the attribute "capable of producing speech," possessed only by certain special mechanical systems speech synthesizers, tape recorders, radios, parrots, and so forth as well as by human beings, like the ability to produce speech, the capacity to enjoy inner experience arose through the action of biological evolution and, on this planet at least, is unique to human beings and their close relatives on the evolutionary ladder.
Since consciousness is a strictly mechanical, although very complex form of motion, there is no barrier, in principle, to building machines whose quality and quantity of inner experience equal or exceed our own. When asked whether he believed that machines could think, legendary cybernetic pioneer Claude Shannon replied: "You bet. We're machines, and we think, don't we? These mind monists argue that our most direct and unmediated experience of the world is entirely mental in character.
In contrast, the existence of a material world is inferred in a convincing but wholly indirect manner from evidence presented to our consciousness. The existence of inner experiences is undeniable, but to an idealist the existence of an external world is not so certain. The dream state is an often cited example of an internal experience that convincingly simulates an external reality that simply does not exist outside the mind. The most famous idealist was probably George Berkeley, an Irish bishop for whom the California university town was named.
That this pragmatical, preposterous pig of a world, its farrow that so solid seem, Must vanish on the instant if the mind but change its theme. Idealism seems a foolish intellectual pastime in a materialistic age such as our own because it dismisses as illusory the material sphere in which we have made our greatest cultural progress, without offering any practical program for advancing our knowledge of the world.
On the other hand, idealism suggests the possibility of developing a wholly mental science based on the manipulation and observation of states of consciousness rather than states of matter. Some Eastern thinkers claim that such a mental science already exists. If the material world, as the idealist claims, is like a movie being projected from a mental "projection booth," then scientific mastery of the projection mechanism could render our vaunted physical sciences superficial and irrelevant. In an essentially mental universe, the entire physical world would be reduced to the status of a movie: Matter as Maya: The Only Game in Town.
Neutral monism attempts to strike a balance between the extreme claims of both materialism and idealism. The neutral monist posits the existence of a single substance possessing both mental and physical attributes. An example of such a double-duty entity in science is the electromagnetic field, first described by Scottish physicist James Clerk Maxwell in the latter half of the nineteenth century.
Before Maxwell, electric and magnetic forces were considered separate entities each with its own laws. Looking deeper, Maxwell showed how electricity and magnetism could be understood as interrelated manifestations of a single electromagnetic field. Maxwell's discovery was the first instance of the unification of two separate physical forces into a single description, a trend that continues today as physicists search for a grand unified theory GUT that will unite all of nature's fundamental forces under a single banner.
In the other materialistic models of mind, a system's inner life is entirely determined by the motion of matter. In a certain sense, it is that motion, just as sound is a vibration of air molecules. In the neutral monist account of reality, matter and mind are interdependent aspects of some more comprehensive kind of substance that includes them both as special cases. The neutral monist model predicts that a purely physical account of the world must be factually wrong when it attempts to deal with systems that possess a substantial conscious component, just as a purely electrical account of charged-particle motion will fail whenever magnetism enters the picture.
Neutral monists look to a truly unified field TUF physics? In one form or another these ideas determine how people all over the world regard their lives, the people around them, and their ultimate destinies. More than dusty philosophical hypotheses, these conceptual models of mind form the core assumptions of the world's great religions. Under the guise of religion, each of the four major models of mind—dualism, idealism, neutral monism, and materialism—has attracted large numbers of believers whose lives are guided largely unconsciously by these philosophical assumptions.
Although some of these positions may seem quaint or preposterous, each of them can claim millions, and in some cases billions, of followers. Judaism, Christianity, and Islam emphasize the importance of the individual human soul, which they consider to be separate from the body. In these dualistic religions the body is generally seen as inferior to the soul if not downright evil.
Many dualists believe the soul to be immortal, surviving the body's eventual death and decay. Although differing greatly in details, these dualistic creeds generally agree that the soul's goal is to escape matter's menial constraints and seek union with God, who is in some unimaginable sense a Person like us. Hinduism and Buddhism view the material world as a kind of illusion.
Although they differ concerning the strategies one should follow to become aware of the illusion, and what one should do or not do once one has pierced the veil of Maya, these religions basically agree with the idealistic Bishop Berkeley that the world is more like a sleeper's dream than a solid atomic drama.
Like the philosophy of neutral monism, Taoism is based on the belief that the world inside and outside consists of one substance called the Tao, the "Way" or the "uncarved block" from which all phenomena both mental and physical draw their existence. Mind, matter, the self, and external objects are not separately existing entities but are incomplete aspects of the single Great Way viewed from a limited human perspective. The Taoist's task is to discover the presence of this Way in herself and to learn to live in harmony with the Way's meanderings. Materialism as a hypothesis forms an important part of the scientific enterprise; materialism as a "religion"—an unreasonable faith in reason itself—is another matter.
Atheistic materialism is an active unbelief in God, soul, afterlife, or any other spiritual concept that cannot be completely anchored in a model of the world made solely of matter and ruled by the impersonal laws of physics. The materialist's goal is to pursue happiness stoically in whatever forms he finds agreeable until death definitively ends his quest.
Because these philosophical positions are woven so deeply into religious thinking, new discoveries in the science of mind are likely to challenge many deeply held religious beliefs. Experimental facts concerning the existence and nature of the afterlife would be particularly revolutionary. Criteria for Consciousness Theories A good theory of consciousness must be more than a plausible story or philosophical language game. The enormous success of the physical sciences provides us with high standards by which to judge candidate theories of the world. In particular the partnership between mathematical theory and sophisticated experimentation has given physicists a solid basis for their claim that they really "understand" the material world at every scale from the whole universe down to the smallest quark.
The fact that physics theories are expressed in mathematical language does not mean that a theory of mind must also be expressed mathematically. Bertrand Russell once said that our physical theories are mathematical not because we know so much but because we know so little: it is only the world's mathematical properties that we have been able to discover.
Isaac Newton, who more than any other man was responsible for developing the idea that the material world is governed by rigid mathematical laws rather than the whims of the gods, had to invent a new field of mathematics calculus in order to calculate the motions of the moon and planets. Perhaps some future Newton of mind science will also need to invent entirely new theoretical techniques appropriate for describing the essential features of the inner life of conscious beings.
How will we recognize a good theory of consciousness when we see it? I propose that we score fledgling models of mind according to how clearly, explicitly, and correctly they deal with twelve important questions. How can I objectively determine the presence and quality of mind in material configurations other than my own brain? A good mind model should tell us how to build real mind links or show us what part of the optical spectrum to scan for the awareness-specific "purple glow.
The importance of establishing ways of directly contacting other minds cannot be underestimated. Without this ability, the experimental side of mind science will be severely restricted. With this ability, the science of consciousness, based not on analogies and plausible guesses, but on a growing body of experimental facts about the inner lives of sentient beings other than us, will truly begin.
The success of matter science has ousted us from the cozy medieval geocentric world into an almost inconceivably vast universe filled with innumerable stars, galaxies, and strange cosmic objects. Material science has numbered the chemical elements, broken them down into parts, and further analyzed these parts into truly elemental particles. Science has completely surveyed the physical universe and finds it filled with an immense variety of material forms. But what of the mental realm? Is nature's inner life as rich and various as her outer behavior?
Is my heart a conscious being? My hand? Is the earth not only a self-organizing mechanism as James Lovelock's "Gaia hypothesis" supposes but also a conscious being with feelings, perceptions, and a certain freedom of action? Is the earth, in short, a person like me? Will advanced mind links someday allow us to communicate directly with the "soul of the earth"? What can we say about the inner life of atoms? A good theory of consciousness, either by supplying us with an experimental method for answering such questions or by providing absolute theoretical specifications for the presence of awareness in material systems, should allow us to construct a "geography of the mind," a mind map as rich in detail as the New York Times Atlas of the World, illustrating the major centers of awareness in our little corner of the material world.
Until we have a better notion of the true extent of the world's inner life, we are like geologists holding one stone or biologists looking at a single living specimen. How can we construct machines that possess insides like ours? Because we have learned how the kidneys work, we can make artificial kidneys that perform the same vital function. Once we know how the brain produces or hosts consciousness, we should be able to manufacture beings that enjoy inner experience, or augment our own lives with synthetic forms of awareness. If, as the monists claim, matter and mind are one, then we can construct an artificial mind out of ordinary matter.
Dualists, on the other hand, believe that mind comes from "outside" to inhabit matter. In that case, the best we can expect a theory of consciousness to do would be to tell us how to build a maximally attractive dwelling for eventual habitation by external sentient entities. If you wanted to build a conscious robot—like Hal , for instance—what sort of parts would you order? And who would supply them: an electronics shop, a biology tank, a physics lab, or some new specialty shop stocking wares at present inconceivable?
What feature of matter determines the quantity of a being's conscious awareness? It is a common experience to find it difficult to pay attention to more than one thing at a time, and not every detail of that thing can be simultaneously held in mind. There seems to be an upper limit to the amount of attention we can muster.
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In states of sleep, coma, and general anesthesia this attention rate drops to zero, and we lapse into a state correctly called "unconsciousness"—no inner experience whatsoever. A good theory of consciousness should explain how consciousness is extinguished: how sleep, coma, and deep anesthesia are produced in the human brain and in other sentient systems , how awareness is reestablished after such unconscious interludes, and what physical or spiritual parameters determine the magnitude of our "conscious data rate. What material mechanisms determine the subjective length of the "present moment"?
Once these quantitative questions are answered, we can then apply artificial awareness techniques to literally "expand human consciousness" in both the temporal and the datarate dimensions. What determines the quality of conscious awareness? How in the world is the smell of cinnamon produced? The color green? The sense of vertigo, the taste of peppermint, and the sound of music? How can mere matter feel pain and pleasure, fear and anticipation? Do there exist new colors, tastes, completely novel senses, emotions, and modes of being that we may be potentially capable of experiencing, but that our present biological makeup does not support?
What are the dimensions of "experience space"—the realm of all possible experiences open to a conscious being? Some people Douglas Hofstadter, author of Godel, Escher, Bach, for one believe that the essence of consciousness is the ability to self-reflect. Others Immanuel Kant comes to mind put moral and ethical abilities in first place. It seems to me, however, that these features are luxuries possessed by our familiar human form of awareness. Such features would not necessarily be present in primitive, memoryless forms of inner life.
A good consciousness theory should be able not only to account for the qualities of inner life available to beings more primitive than us but to allow us to extrapolate to higher forms of awareness not yet experienced by human beings. How does matter "pay attention"? Besides the crude distinction between outer behavior and inner life, it seems plausible to make a second distinction between the active and passive qualities of inner life.
Although it surely contains some active elements such as the focusing of attention, the process of perception seems to serve a primarily passive, receptive function. Perception is something that happens to us; the perceptual field floods us with surprise, with sensations mostly not of our own making. A good theory of awareness would explain the phenomenon of active attention: its "motion" from one experience to the next against a background of passive, unattended-to, automatic activity.
One of the most striking features of our human style of consciousness is its unity. Even in pathological cases of multiple personalities, only one personality at a time takes control. The mind's felt unity is all the more surprising when we look at the brain, which is not a one-operation-at-atime machine like a computer but a massively parallel processor in which millions of interconnected events are going on at once.
Perhaps there are "crowd minds" somewhere in the world that experience several flows of awareness simultaneously, but humans seem to have been put together with decidedly one-track minds. Related to this human singleness of being is the familiar "sense of self," the feeling that one enduring being is enjoying these experiences, a being who changes somewhat from moment to moment, and from day to day, but remains in essence the same person. Beliefs concerning the nature of the self range widely, from the Christian idea that self is an immortal being to the Buddhist claim that self is nonexistent, a mere illusion.
A competent theory of mind should explain the human mind's singleness of being in the midst of the brain's multiplicity of functions and resolve as well the vexing question of selfhood: is self an illusion or not? How can we best describe an embodied being's inner traits and range of possibilities? What is the essence of personhood? A good mind model should generate a theory of personality—both human and robotic—based not on external behavior but on the structure of the material or spiritual processes that support the inner experiences that form personality and character.
How many ways can inner experience be organized into relatively autonomous units? Just as question 5 asks for a catalog of possible experiences, so we should also ask for a catalog of possible ways these experiences can be structured into wholes. For instance, can dual or triadic beings exist whose inner lives are organized around more than one central core? What are the conditions necessary for forming a "person" out of isolated inner experiences?
What is the material basis for personhood? Associated with the sense of self and personality is the notion of "free will. A good theory of consciousness should be able to resolve the free will question by revealing the ultimate causes of our willed acts: do these causes reside solely in matter or do they originate in an immaterial soul?
What does it really mean for an action to have psychological rather than material causes? Do willful acts violate the laws of physics? No altered state of consciousness is more drastic and inevitable than that which accompanies the body's death and dissolution. Speculations concerning the fate of the inner life at the moment of death include absolute extinction, entry into an afterlife, merging with a larger Mind, or reincarnation into another body.
A theory of consciousness would be manifestly incomplete if it could not resolve on scientific rather than religious or philosophical grounds the important question of what actually happens to the mind when the body ceases to exist. Many parapsychologists claim that the mind can both sense and influence the material world and other minds outside the usual sensory and muscular channels.
These alleged extrasensory powers include telepathy, psychokinesis, clairvoyance, psychometry, distant healing, and distant influence of other minds. A good model of inner life would provide both a framework for understanding such phenomena and an explanation for why humans are able to exercise such useful powers only very infrequently. From a scientific point of view, a theory's most desirable feature is its falsifiability: a good theory makes bold predictions that could turn out to be wrong.
On the other hand, a bad theory makes vague predictions, forecasts that cannot be put to the test, or comes up with an explanation no matter how the experiments come out. Concerning the existence of extrasensory powers, the emergent materialism mind model takes an admirably bold and falsifiable stand: it predicts that all such powers are utterly nonexistent. Rival models of mind that have room for such powers have not been developed to the point where they can set testable limits to the mind's alleged extracorporeal reach. Although ordinary awareness is abundant, undeniable, and readily accessible, crucial tests of rival mind models may be better carried out in the rarefied realm of these extrasensory extensions of ordinary experience.
Science accounts for the abundant variety of lifeforms on this planet by a process of natural selection operating on population diversity created by genetic variability: only the fittest survive. This evolutionary perspective teaches us that only biological traits that have survival value will endure the rough-and-tumble genetic lottery.
Consequently we must ask, What is the survival value of consciousness? How did the possession of an inner life compared to existence as a skilled but wholly unconscious automaton aid our ancestors in their struggle for existence? At what point on the evolutionary scale does consciousness emerge? The most important feature of a good theory of consciousness might not be how well it explains presently known or half-suspected properties of human awareness but its disclosure of previously unknown, or even undreamt of, phenomena that have remained invisible for thousands of years, obscured by our own ignorance and lack of imagination.
As the science of physics matured, it disclosed hundreds of new particles, physical effects, and invisible realms of being, and it continues to do so. We should demand no less of a scientific theory of inner life. We should expect mind science to open our eyes and hearts to unexpected possibilities of being, expect it to surprise us in magnificent ways that we could never have foreseen. Compared to our knowledge of the physical world, our understanding of consciousness is minuscule.
The major drawback to a science of the inner life is the stubborn fact that consciousness is invisible: we cannot see, hear, feel, or taste it. Since science is based on knowledge gained through the senses, consciousness is publicly accessible only indirectly. The behaviorists could even boldly deny the existence of consciousness, and science, to its shame, could not prove the behaviorists wrong.
Though there is no known behavior that is consciousness-specific, we do know by private revelation that consciousness certainly exists. Novels, plays, poetry, opera, and other works of art explore in rich detail what it's like to be a human-style conscious being. Even science is not entirely powerless to gain accurate information about the inner life of humans and some animals. Using indirect methods, ingenious psychologists have been able to map certain major features of human awareness, uncovering a body of objective facts about subjective experience.
Chapter Two inside: landmarks of inner space consciousness from prominent The soul may be a mere pretense The mind makes very little sense So let us value the appeal. Of that which we can taste and feel. To redress conventional psychology's alleged overemphasis on intellect, the formerly neglected body was treated to courses of bioenergetics, deep tissue work, dance therapy, martial arts, and various styles of massage.
A popular practice at that time was "sensory awareness," which involves reacquainting yourself with your body by systematically focusing total attention on one body part at a time.