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On Consciousness, A series of conversations between Riccardo Manzotti and Tim Parks


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On Consciousness, A series of conversations between Riccardo Manzotti and Tim Parks

I. NOVEMBER 21, 2016
Consciousness: What Is It?

http://www.nybooks.com/daily/2016/11/21/challenge-of-defining-consciousn...

II. DECEMBER 8, 2016
The Color of Consciousness

http://www.nybooks.com/daily/2016/12/08/color-of-consciousness/

III. DECEMBER 30, 2016
Does Information Smell?

http://www.nybooks.com/daily/2016/12/30/consciousness-does-information-s...

IV. JANUARY 26, 2017
The Ice Cream Problem

http://www.nybooks.com/daily/2017/01/26/consciousness-the-ice-cream-prob...

V. February 22, 2017,
AM I the Apple?

http://www.nybooks.com/daily/2017/02/22/consciousness-am-i-the-apple/

Phenomenal externalism suggests that the phenomenal aspects of the mind are external to the body. Authors who addressed this possibility are Ted Honderich, Edwin Holt, Francois Tonneau, Kevin O'Regan, Riccardo Manzotti, Teed Rockwell and Max Velmans. Another radical form of phenomenal externalism is the view called the spread mind by Riccardo Manzotti.[9] He questions the separation between subject and object, seeing these as only two incomplete perspectives and descriptions of the same physical process.[34] He supports a process ontology that endorses a mind spread physically and spatio-temporally beyond the skin. Objects are not autonomous as we know them, but rather actual processes framing our reality.[35]A more radical and sophisticated explanation was proposed by Roger Bartra with his theory of the exocerebrum. He explains that consciousness is both inside and outside the brain, and that the frontier that separates both realms is useless and a burden in the explanation of the self. In his Anthropology of the brain: Consciousness, culture, and free will (Cambridge University Press, 2014; originally published in Spanish in 2005) he criticizes both externalism and internalism.

May be Continued ......

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On Consciousness, A series of conversations between Riccardo Manzotti and Tim Parks

VI. March 16, 2017: The Mind in the Whirlwind
Riccardo Manzotti and Tim Parks

Manzotti : Let me put it another way: in the room we have a whirlwind of physical states. This whirlwind contains a lot more than a human being could ever perceive—atoms, neutrinos, photons, quarks, strings, quantum fields; a huge range of possibilities. When the body comes into the room, its sensory capacities carve out one possible subset of that whirlwind. Or, looked at the other way round, one possible set within the whirlwind finds, relative to the body, a suitable causal path along which to roll. So the table and the apple are born! My body brought them into existence in the sense that it selected them and only them from the whirlwind. Entirely ignoring all kinds of other stuff.

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This is the Seventh in a series of conversations on consciousness between Riccardo Manzotti and Tim Parks:

VII. April 20, 2017: Dreaming Outside Our Heads

Riccardo Manzotti and Tim Parks

In fact, if consciousness is located in that single point between the ears then logically it must be concocted at that point, since any distance implies a time lapse. The object, which we all know is at least milliseconds away, cannot be identical with the experience in my head. So the experience must be a representation.

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This is the Eighth in a series of conversations on consciousness between Riccardo Manzotti and Tim Parks:

VIII. May 11, 2017: The Body and Us

Riccardo Manzotti and Tim Parks

Manzotti: Of course. But you take my point. The body’s perceptual apparatus, eyes, ears, nervous system, selects which object becomes your experience, carves out a world that is you, but it does not concoct this object in the neurons in the brain. The object is out there. Your experience is out there and you with it. The body is a selector and a facilitator, not a host or a container.

......

Manzotti: Right. It’s the body that is separate from its surroundings, not us. But let me get to the second equally crucial misconception; our tendency to confuse the body with the “person,” or the self, when very obviously the self is not the body. The body gets sunburned, the self does not.

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http://www.nybooks.com/daily/2017/05/11/consciousness-the-body-and-us/

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This is the 9th in a series of conversations on consciousness between Riccardo Manzotti and Tim Parks.

IX. June 17, 2017: Consciousness: Who’s at the Wheel?

Riccardo Manzotti and Tim Parks

Parks: I see what you’re saying: my experience, which is none other than the accumulation of all the objects my body has encountered, eventually determines my actions. But I’m not altogether convinced. And my problem is this: not only do I have the impression of making decisions, cogitating, not just acting, but I also believe that I “organize” experience. That I see the world in a certain way. I hold a system of political opinions, of aesthetic preferences, and so on. So I feel that rather than being a world of objects coming together over time to determine an action, I have an inner world that determines how I organize the outer world. I don’t just act as consequence; I decide how to act, coherently.

Manzotti: Let me offer an analogy to suggest the fallacy behind your conception. We’ll stay with cars. When you drive you turn the steering wheel and, thanks to a complex yet easily understandable coupling of cogs and drive shafts, the vehicle’s front wheels turn accordingly. Is there anything mysterious between the steering wheel and the two wheels that turn? No. Just a chain of cause and effect such that given the turn of the driving wheel the front wheels have to turn.

Okay, now imagine an infinitely more complex object, a human body. The world acts on the body, but before the body is going to translate that cause into an effect, an action, a simply enormous, though of course necessarily finite, number of causal events may take place, inside the body and outside. What’s more, unlike the car, which is a fixed object when it comes out of the factory, your wonderful body can change in response to the world, it is teleologically open—so that, to give the simplest example, when you see a face a second time, the experience is different from the first time, because the first experience is still causally active in your brain, hence we have the sensation of recognition. So with this fantastically complex object, the body, we cannot conceive the whole causal chain that precedes an action (this was a favorite observation of Spinoza’s) and hence we cannot predict what action will be taken. As a result of this conceptual impossibility, we slip into the habit of inventing an intermediate entity, the self, to which we attribute a causal power. We say that I, or my self, caused this to happen. But as David Hume said, we never meet or see a self; we meet ideas, or, as I would say, objects. The self, this elusive intermediate entity that initiates action, is a shortcut, an invention, a convenient narrative to explain our complex experience.

Parks: Enough. Rather than saying I can agree with this, I’m going to wait a day or two and see what causal effect your arguments have on my now tired brain. But, to be predictable, I want to close with a challenge. You have constantly claimed that the internalist view that consciousness is neural activity has not been scientifically demonstrated. Well, can you demonstrate your externalist view of consciousness, scientifically? Are there experiments that would prove your position?

Manzotti: Indeed there are. And since, as we have seen, I am a person who loves challenges, at least of this kind, for our next conversation I will devise some experiments, which, if undertaken, will prove or disprove my hypothesis.

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http://www.nybooks.com/daily/2017/06/17/consciousness-whos-at-the-wheel/