Mission: to clarify, debunk, and question the concept of consciousness”/>
@ K. 2000 09 23
A big subject.
Consciousness is another thing we’re so proud of without having a clear idea of what it is. Neither do we have a clear idea of its limits. I’m merely going to jot a few ideas on the latter. I ask this question: “How can a creature which claims to be conscious verify the claim without also verifying what there is to be conscious of?”
The first thing you need is a second perspective [Link to be restored]. We see that the Hellenes lived in a world of land, water, islands, more water, more land. Now we fly over the eastern Mediterranean, take satellite photos, make better maps. We see the Peloponnesis here, Turkey there, the sea connecting them or separating them depending on whether you have marine competence. Our consciousness of the area has many more reference points, a far greater variety of perspectives. In this respect, our twentieth-century consciousness of the geography is superior to Homer’s or Aristotle.
People have long sought a second perspective. God sees what you do, knows what you think. Santa too knows if you’ve been bad or good. Uncle Sam has eyes everywhere.
But even if all this were true, if Santa did know if we’ve been bad or good, if Uncle Sam had optic fibers in our rectum as well as in our bank, what does Uncle use for a second perspective? Well, he can use Santa. Santa uses God. Santa is only Saint Nick after all.
But that still leaves us little better off than the Hellenes with their cosmological problems; OK, Atlas holds up the world: what holds up Atlas? In other words, what does God have for a second perspective?
When God takes us for Judgment, we presume that we’ll have a better perspective on ourselves, the mortal coil sloughed off. How would Judgment Day be any better than night court if we were all still screaming our viewpoints. No, we presume we’d have a better perspective, God’s own perspective: that the damned would see, acknowledge, and honor their damnation; the saved would properly value their salvation.
Perception’s a tool that’s pointed on both ends.
Thomas Harris, Red Dragon
Which still just moves us from the world to Atlas’s shoulders. The joke has it that the seeker asked the holy man such questions.
“The strong man stands on a turtle’s back,” answered the holy man. But the seeker then asks the holy man what supports the turtle. “It’s turtles all the way down,” snaps the holy man.
“Turtles all the way down” is far from a satisfactory answer. Neither is it likely to be true.
Right here on earth, right here (2000 09 23) in the final four months of the Twentieth Century, we have a choice of second perspectives. We have Hubbell’s observations and theory. We have an atmosphere free telescope in his name. Even the telescope itself has a series of perspectives: it can expose the film (the diode, the whatever it exposes) from one side of the earth’s orbit, wait six months, and expose the “same” view from the other. Our maps get better: which still leaves the question of how many turtles there are.
If a Hellene said, “I know Athens. I know the Peloponnesis. I know Syracuse. I know the sea between,” I “know” what he’s talking about: I believe him. If he says, “I am conscious,” I don’t know what to think: other than what I’ve just written.
My example is physical. That is, it’s geographical. Then I refer to a cosmological example, also physical: “world,” strong man, turtle … But people in our time know better than any shaman or wizard how minuscule a part of the cosmos physical reality is. Is a neutrino “physical”? Is experience? Is thought? Is time? …
My Macroinformation Project [Link to be restored] is in the midst of developing my recommendation for a study that would clarify this somewhat: possibly as much as it’s possible to clarify it. Macroinformation cannot be perceived or pursued without a better classification system for existence [Link to be restored]. What do we mean my “world”? Is it physical? To what extent? How does it relate to time, to mass, to a whole series of things? Which set is the larger: the universe, or the cosmos? How does the latter relate to time, to mass, to a whole series of things? Is there any set greater than the cosmos? Does it include actual things only? or also possible things? Does it also include impossible things?
Until we can answer some of those things, until our answers have been rechewed and redigested, talk about consciousness is no more impressive than the Lakota sense that a few nomads were “the People” or that a section of high plains was “the world.”
And God’s consciousness? I see him having exactly the same epistemological problems we have. Two year olds, the lot of us.
May the dark ignorance of sentient beings be dispelled.