Consciousness as a Problem in Philosophy and Neurobiology

Professor John Searle about consciousness.

[Humankind] the Discrovery of Ignorance. Part 1

Until the early modern period humans all over the world invested very little effort in scientific research, because they doubted their ability to obtain new medical or military or economic powers. Kings and emperors certainly gave money to education and scholarship but the main aim of scholarship in the pre-modern world was to preserve existing capabilities and not to acquire new one. The typical king gave money to priests, and philosophers, and poets in the hope that they would legitimize his rule and maintain the social order.

In the last five centuries howevers, humans increasingly came to believe that they could gain new, more and more powers by investing money and resources in scientific research.

Since cognitive revolutions, humans have always tried to figure out how the universe works. Out ancestors, thousands and even ten of thousands of years ago, put great deal of time and effort in trying to discover the rules that govern the natural world around them. So, what is so special and different about modern science?

Modern science differs from all previous traditions of knowledge in three critical ways:

  • If differs its willingness to admit ignorance. Modern science is based on the admission that we do not know everything. Even more importantly, modern science accepts that the things that we think we know, could still be proven wrong as we gain more knowledge.
  • The second unique characteristic is the centrality of observation and mathematics. Gathering observations on the world, and using mathematical tools to connect these observations into comprehensive theories.
  • The third unique feature of modern science is that it aims to acquire new powers. It uses theories in order to acquire new powers, and in particular in order to develop new technologies. The real aim of modern science is not truth, it is power.

[Modernart] Postmodern Identities. Part 1

Judith Butler and Slavoj Zizek, who are both very active and in some respects in the prime of their careers. Judith Butler started her carier with the work on French Hegelianism and her dissertation had to do with the status of Hegel in modern France. She moved on to work on gender and sexuality in a book called Gender Trouble which really was a game changer in the field of women’s studie gay and lesbian studies and queer studie as it came to be called later.

To understand gender as a historical category, however, is to accept that gender, understood as one way of culturally configuring a body, is open to a continual remaking, and that ‘anatomy’ and ‘sex’ are not without cultural framing. Undoing Gender

If gender is a kind of doing, an incessant activity performed, in part, without one’s knowing and without one’s willing, it is not for that reason automatic or mechanical. On the contrary, it is a practice of improvisation within a scene of constraint.

[Humankind] The Law of Religion. Part 4

Humanism is the belief that Homo sapiens has an unique and sacred nature which is fundamentally different from the nature of all the other animals and of all other phenomena in the universe. Humanists believe that the unique nature of Homo sapiense is the most important thing in the world and it is this that determines the meaning of everything that happens in the universe.

Liberal Humanism which believes that humanity is a quality of individual humans. According to Liberals, the sacred nature of humanity resides within each and every individual Homo sapiens. And therefore, the supreme values of the world is the liberty of individuals.

Socialist Humanism believes that humanity is collective and not individualistic. Socialists hold as sacred not the inner voice of each individual, but the species Homo sapiens as a whole, seeks equality between all humans. Inequality is the worst blasphemy (богохульство) against the sanctity of humanity, because inequality privileges peripheral qualities of humans over their common universal essence. For example, when the rich are given privileges which are withheld from the poor, it means that we value money more than we value the universal essence of all humans which is similar for everybody, for rich and poor alike.

Evolutionary humanism (the most famous representatives were the Nazis). Nazis too believed in the sanctity of humanity. They had a different defenition of humanity than the Liberals and the Socialists. The Nazis were deeply influenced by the theory of evolution, believed that humankind is not something universal and eternal and unchanging. Rather, they believed that it is a specie of animals which can evolve or degenerate in accordance with the theory of evolution. The main ambition of the Nazis was to protect human kind from the generation extinction and encourage the evolution of human kind into super men.

[Humankind] the Law of Religion. Part 2

A religion that recognizes the legitimacy of other faith, implies either that its god is not the supreme power of the universe or that it reveived from the one and only god, only part of the universal truth. “If our religion is true no other religion can also simultaneously be true.”

Dualistic religions - are religions that believe in the existence not of one supreme Good but of two opposing powers, good and evil. Dualism believes that evil is an independent power, which is not created by the good god and is not subordinate to it.

Wars, plague, death, suffer - this is God’s way of allowing for human free will. If there was no evil in the world, humans could not choose between good and evel; and hence, there would be no free will.

[Humankind] the Law of Religion. Part 1

We already read about the role of money and of empires, on this week we will focus on religion. Religion can be defined as a system of human laws and values, which is founded on a belief in a super human order. Religion must believe in a super human order which is not the product of human whims, of human agreements.

Animism is the belief that the world os populated not only by humans but also an abundance of other beings. Each of them having their own personality, needs and desires. Like trees, rocks, fairies, ghosts, demons.

Polytheism also tends to believe in all these holy rocks and trees with demons and fairies, but it also believes very importantly, in very powerful entities which they call goods. Rain god, sun god, moon god.

[Modernart] the Postmodern Everyday

When people think they’re pursuing sexual freedom, they create new categories for how you should pursue sexual freedom. New forms of identity to which you should conform even if that identity is liberatory, is outside of the main stream. But you create a new mode of being that you then have to conform to. This is Foucault’s great subject. How we, in a way, police ourselves. How we dominate ourselves by saying, oh, I am going to be a radical. And now, I have to act like the radicals act.

In other words, you conform to the image of radicalization. Some might you say, well, I am not a diseased person because I like to have sex with people of my own gender. No, no, I am not that, I am free, I am gay, or I’m a homosexual or I’m a lesbian. I am free. And Foucault says, yeah, you’re free, but now notice how we start to have to conform to being gay, being lesbian.

Why do we need always to find a new mode of conformity? A label for our freedom that comes then to repress us.

Modern man, for Baudelaire, is not the man who goes off to discover himself, his secrets and his hidden truth; he is the man who tries to invent himself. This modernity does not “liberate man in his own being”; it compels him to face the task of producing himself.

[Modernart] the Postmodern Everyday. Part 3 [Humankind] Imperial Visions. Part 3

The urge to rescue the past as something living, instead of using it as the material of progress, has been satisfied only in art, in which even history, as a representation of past life, is included. As long as art does not insist on being treated as knowledge, and thus exclude itself from praxis, it is tolerated by social praxis in the same way as pleasure.

Culture can provide us the reminders, pleasurable reminders of alternatives to this totalitarian picture generated by the Enlightenment.

Art too is used by the forces of domination.

The regression of the masses today lies in their inability to hear with their own ears what has not already been heard, to touch with their hands what has not previously been grasped; it is the new form of blindness which supersedes that of vanquished myth.

But a true praxis capable of overturning the status quo depends on theory’s refusal to yield to the oblivion in which society allows thought to ossify (костенеть).

Foucault who was a historian, a philosopher wrote about art and literature, he was an activist, he participated in the French Postmodernism, in fact was a leader of French Postmodernism. He didn’t want to find the really real, he didn’t want to find a total dialectic. He wanted to do in his work was to tell the story of progress in such a way that we would see how what we thought of was progress was actually a form of greater social control and homogenization (make uniform or similar).

Imperial Visions

When you look at the world today, how the world today in being run. You see that the world in the early 21st century is not being governed and run by a particular state of government, but by a global caste of business people, engineers, people in the academia, in arts, in the universities and so forth. These people who run the world, they increasingly have the same interests and viewpoint about the world, the same culture.

[Modernart] From Critical Theory to Postmodernism [Humankind] Imperial Visions

Human beings purchase the increase in their power with estrangement from that over which it is exerted. Enlightenment stands in the same relationship to things as the dictator to human beings. He knows them to the extent thaat he can manipulate them. Horkheimer and Adorno

Knowledge becomes the ability to manipulate things. And that, will eventually sew the seed of our own destruction. They actually see modern technology being used for mass killings, for effectient murderd, for control of people against their interest.

I really can understand, because I can manipulate. It is a big victory of enlightenment. If you can only show you understand something by your power of manipulation understanding is linked to tyranny.

Each human being has been endowed with a self of his or her own, different from all others, so that it could all the more surely be made the same. But because that self never quite fitted te mold, enlightenment throughout the liberalistic period has always sympathized with social coercion. The unity of the manipulated collective consists in the negation of each individual and the scorn poured on the type of society which could make people into individuals.

Their point is that the persistent pursuit of equality actually creates the grounds for more coercion.

The actual is validated, knowledge confines itself to repeating it, thought makes itself mere tautology. The more completely the machinery of thought subjugates existence, the more blindly it is satisfied with reproducing it. Enlightenment thereby regresses to the mythology it has never been able to escape. Michael Foucault

Scitistic ways of approaching the world are only validated by mirroring the world as it is. Rather than trying imagining the world as it might be, rather than taking critical perspective on the status quo, the positivists quantitatively orientated an enlightened mode of thinking.

Imperial Visions

Sapience instinctively divide humanity, divide its own specie into two parts, there is we and they, everybody else.

It’s very problematic to argue that empires are purely evil because empires are responsible, not only for the unification of humankind, but also for much of our culture today all around the world. Indeed, the very values that prompt many people to criticize empires, values like himan rights and democracy and self-determination, these very values were spread around the world by the empires, by the European empires.

[Modernart] From Critical Theory to Postmodernism [Humankind] Imperial Visions

Horkheimer and Adorno writing in the Nazi period what problem are they trying to address? What issue are they trying to explain?

They are trying to understand the attractions of fascism and Nazism, why the working classes don’t rebel against their owners of capital, why they don’t rebel against the massive corporations or the political parties that feed them.

They saw this really nefarious (гнусный, бесчестный) globalization as a product of enlightenment. They asw modernity and enlughtenment joining hands to create a new universal myth that entrapped us with its appeal while controlling us and diminising our freedom at every step.

Englightenment, understood in the widest sense as the advance of thought, has always aimed at liberating human beings from fear and installing them as masters. Yet the wholly enlightened earth is radiant with triumphant calamity. Enlightenment’s program was the disenchantment of the world. Horkheimer and Adorno

Techonology is the essence of this knowlegde. It aims to produce neither concepts nor images, nor the joy of understanding, but method, exploitation of the labor of others… What human beings seek to learn from nature is how to use it to dominate wholly both it and human beings. Nothing else counts.

Imperial Visions

What empire is? It is a political order which has two very important characteristics:

  1. rules over a significant number of distinct peoples, each possessing a different cultural identity and a separate territory.

  2. It has flexible borders and a potentially unlimited appetite.

It’s very common today to hear that in the long run, it is not possible to rule effectively over a large number of conquered people, that empires are doomed to failure and to collapse. The second main objection to empires is not only that they don’t work, but also that they are evil.

Empire has been the world’s most common form of political organization for the last 2500 years. Emires are a very stable, irrelatively, when compared to other form of goverments, empire is very stable form of government.

Most empires have been collapsed either because of external invasion of external enemies or because of a split within the ruling elite itself.

The standard imperial toolkit with which you build and maintain an empire includes war, enslavement, deportation and genocide.

[Modernart] the Postmodern Everyday

By playing with new devices, you understand how to us it.

We got to know the nature of calculating by learning to calculate. Ludwig Wittgenstein

A meaning of a word is a kind of employment of it. For it is what we learn when the word is incorporated into our language.

Words get meaning through use.

Is there a why? Must I now begin to trust somewhere? That is to say: somewhere I must begin with not-doubting… Wittgenstein

The difficulty is to realize the groundlessness (необоснованность) of our believing.