A consciousness system

Further on my listening to philosophers and psychologists discussing consciousness and mind/body dualism. It seems to me that, in the true western tradition, we are setting up a kind of false dichotomy, an either/or that is not a necessary ontological position.

On the one hand, there appears to be a large school of mind/consciousness/brain unitarianists – consciousness is the mind, the mind is the brain and its electrochemical processes. Then we have David Chalmers who finds this unsatisfactory, but does not advocate Cartesian dualism. He compares the current position in describing consciousness to the position of physicists who discovered electromagnetism – there was no vocabulary to describe what they had discovered, it appeared insubstantial, magical, superstition, not science.

The other philosophers and psychologists do agree on the limitations of our language in the discussions of consciousness.

Something that interests me, and fits in with my own perceptions during meditation, is the expansion of the ‘physical’ basis of consciousness from the brain alone to the whole body. A much stronger abolition of dualism, but in a way that parallels other biological systems.  Biology is much more about integration than reductionism. We say that the ‘heart’ ‘does’ circulation – but the heart is not the only thing that ‘does’ circulation. A heart all alone is not much good at all, if all the valves and veins and arteries don’t work just as well.  Your stomach and bowel digest your food – but they work with other organs and vessels, and all tie together with the circulatory and pulmonary and lymphatic systems, and all of them require many parts and each other. Why should the ‘consciousness system’ be any different?

My own perceptions refuse to ‘seat’ consciousness in just one place. You can measure my heartbeat at the heart, at my wrist, my ankle, my neck. Why do we need to find one single location? Perhaps it is the nervous system, in connection with everything else. The human system, the life system. It all works together. No need to lock it into time and space at all.

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1 Comment

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One response to “A consciousness system

  1. My favourite reading on this subject, well honestly some of my only reading was an anthology published in 1981 called The Mind’s I, “Fantasies and reflections on self and soul” compiled by Douglas R. Hofstadter and Daniel C. Dennett. I was fortunate to see Daniel Dennet at a Sydney Writers’ Festival also.

    I liked it because it teased me down one path of thinking before then forcing me to abandon that path and choose another. In the end still delightfully lost.

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