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Talk about consciousness

Recent accounts of consciousness show we've very different ideas of what it consists of. To help us understand it better, shouldn't we all adopt the same set of terms? Here’s what I suggest:

Review of "Free Agents" by K.J Michell

 I’m currently concerned with how well our existing concepts equip us to discuss consciousness and free will.  Dr. Michell promises to help out:

A purely reductionist, mechanistic approach to life completely misses the point… basic laws of physics that deal only with energy and matter and fundamental forces cannot explain what life is or its defining property: living organisms do things, for reasons, as causal agents in their own right… I present a conceptual framework that aims to naturalize the concept of agency by grounding the otherwise vague or even mystical-sounding concepts of purpose, meaning, and value. The truth is that, far from being unscientific, those concepts are crucial to understanding what life is, how true agency can exist, and what sorts of freedoms or limitations we actually have as human beings.

How successful is he? That’s what my review will focus on. Full review...

Sapolsky's "Determined" reviewed

I believe in consciousness equipped with free will. Dr. Robert M . Sapolsky doesn’t. Our difference runs deep. Sapolsky: “I haven’t believed in free will since adolescence.” At that age I remember believing in free will enough to explore ways of amplifying it. So, on the matter of free will, we both care.

But should you? Two decades ago, of two dozen humanists I queried, three claimed they didn’t have free will, another three (not including me) claimed they did. Three quarters of those present, though, cared so little as to have no opinion. So, no, like most people you probably don’t care.

But Sapolsky is intent on making you care:

This book has a goal—to get people to think differently about moral responsibility, blame and praise, and the notion of our being free agents. And to feel differently about those issues as well. And most of all, to change fundamental aspects of how we behave.

Full review:

Define "evolution of consciousness"

I launched this site 12 years ago to help the humanities inject meaning into our new origin story—that we evolved. Why did I think the humanities should be concerned? Because an overriding complaint today is the absence of meaning in modern life. For that we look to the humanities, not the sciences.

Through the writing of over 100 articles for the site since, I've narrowed my focus down to two issues.

  • First, the humanities’ main concern must be not just with evolution itself but with the evolution of consciousness. Keywords are both “evolution” and “consciousness.” We must equip ourselves to define both, and how they relate.
  • Second, if we are to define consciousness in terms of evolution, do we have concepts up to the task? If not, how could we come up with the concepts we need?

Full article:

"Children of the Genome"

At last I've boiled my message down to 40 pages. How life differs from non-life. How evolution works. Mind, creativity, consciousness. The genome, conscious, able to think living creatures into existence. Species as thoughts in a genome's mind. Crazy? Maybe. But everything accounted for. See right sidebar.

Triadism: accounting for mind evolving

Don't most of us experience having minds? Yet our school textbooks tell children they originated through purely physical processes (the modern synthesis). Because, I say, writers of those textbooks don't experience mind, well, not minds like ours. In a series of five posts I outline a triadism that can account for mind and consciousness evolving. More...