My New Blog: The Mystery of Consciousness, and Why It Matters

I’ve just begun a new blog dealing with deep puzzles about the nature of consciousness. Here’s the first posting:

This is the first entry of a new blog dealing with deep puzzles about the nature of consciousness. I will be exploring issues that will be addressed in more detail in my forthcoming book, Your Living Mind: The Mystery of Consciousness and Why It Matters to You. My main focus will be the question of whether it is possible that conscious experiences are brain events.

If you are already convinced that the mind is wedged in between our ears, don’t be too sure that this is obvious. The puzzles involved are far more profound than I realized when I first immersed myself in this issue in the early 1990’s. How could a sensuous experience – the tingle of a caress, the scent of lilacs, the sight of day-glo orange – occur within a brain? Some brilliant scholars have concluded that we can never answer this question satisfactorily.

The basis of their skepticism varies according to their theoretical orientation. But they all agree that it is extremely difficult to show that sensory experiences are brain activities in a way that makes this understandable. Their pessimism involves more than just the worry that consciousness and neural dynamics are too complicated for us to grasp at this time. They believe that understanding how perceptual experiences occur within the brain is virtually impossible in principle, either because experiences do not occur within the brain or because we can never understand how they could.

This blog will wrestle with the remarkable issues associated with this conundrum, trying to show how the conscious mind could, in principle, exist within the brain.

I would appreciate candid feedback about my ideas, partly because I realize that communicating clearly about consciousness is remarkably difficult. Whenever you read something in this blog that seems muddled or confusing, please let me know. I hope you will find value in The Mystery of Consciousness, and Why It Matters.

Roger Christan Schriner

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6 thoughts on “My New Blog: The Mystery of Consciousness, and Why It Matters

  1. The mind who is ever curious may expand the same thought than the previous thought that was inhabited. I feel that there more to the mind than the physical, a thought may be, “It’s a brain, I can see it, but how does it think?” Science may explain it through neuron connecting links to other nodes. The thought expands even further, “Well, okay, somehow electricity that is encased within a water container(skull) produces a thought and sensations?”

    Sorry, this made no sense.

  2. I’m pretty sure the physiology of mind has been studied a lot already. It is not simply the brain at work, but all the connections to the sensory organs and their “staging areas” where associations are stored and probably replayed. Oliver Sacks is a neurologist who has written several books, including “The Man Who Thought His Wife Was A Hat”. If you’ve seen the movie, “Awakenings”, with Robert Deniro and Robin Williams, it is based upon events Sacks wrote about (I think Williams plays Sacks). There are a number of programs on the Science channel about the mind as well. A General Psychology 101 textbook would give you an overview of perception and probably list a number of other resources.

    • Thanks for those ideas, Marvin. I’ve read 50+ books and hundreds of articles about philosophy of mind, but it’s always good to hear people’s suggestions.

  3. Lately I have been thinking that human consciousness may not be identifiable in the brain, but instead be something like the brain in a state of occupation by a non-physical, extra-dimensional entity with the power to attach and live within the brain and possibly other parts of the soma (eg. the gut with its ample supply of Serotonin) according to this simple analogy. It may be like a candle flame which is neither wick nor wax but burns to emit light and heat as it consumes wax via the wick with the support of ignition temperature and oxygen. Certain cells , like the candle wick, may be a receiving mantel for this non-physical entity.

    This idea was inspired by Dr.Ethan Alexander’s story

    • Some follow-up questions, Richard: Is the extra-dimensional entity itself conscious? If not, what is it that enables a non-conscious entity plus a non-conscious brain to be conscious? If so, what accounts for the consciousness of the extra-dimensional entity?

      • My thought was that the extra dimensional entity is consciousness itself that wakes and sleeps in the body. Of course, this is merely a speculation based on my religious faith involving the traditional concept of the soul.

        The question doesn’t stand up to logic which would always seek to uncover another layer of awareness behind the one in question.

        This reminds me of the story about that question Bertrand Russell once took during a lecture to a women’s club in London when he was a young philosopher.

        After discussing unfathomable scope of the universe and old lady in the back demanded attention by banging her cane on the floor.

        “You must understand,” she said, “everyone knows the earth is flat and rests on the back of four giant elephants all standing on the back of a giant turtle,”

        Russell replied, “very good Madame, but what’s the turtle standing on.”

        The old lady quickly retorted, “Very clever young man, but it turtles all the way down.

        – a story related by Stephen Hawking

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