segunda-feira, 23 de março de 2009

On being unique

I like the way Metzinger takes "the problem" of consciousness... But I still think that, like many other authors, he is also making it harder than it needs to be. I'm pretty sure that "mind" is something material. Mind is the overall arrangement of neurons' synapses and their activity. Mind is material because neurons and synapses are material things; also, the activity of neurons and synapses are electrochemical reactions. Mind is constantly changing as we are constantly using our brain in varied forms for different problems and, also, because we are able to learn and to form new memories through out the entire life.
Because of all the above, is that I also believe in qualia. Since our synaptic connections must be somewhat organized (too) by our environmental experiences and since two people - i.e. twins - are not able to experience exactly the same set of events during their lives, it's pretty obvious that their minds are different from each other. They will function differently and it will make them notice the world in different ways. Not necessarily aberrant differently, but at least differently enough for them to make different associations while - let's say - experiencing "red".
The totality of these associations are not possible nor practical to be transmitted by means of language, because: 1. they are so many; 2. some are learned in a very subtle way; 3. some are associations that are actually hard to describe in a broader way (i.e. "I see things turning yellow when I am near fainting." or "I see things in red when I am on extreme physical pain." - or even "This music feels like violet to me..." and you don't need to be a textbook synesthete to experience this...). It is a little like poetry, you hardly will know exactly what the author was referring to with his poems, the magic of good poetry is to gather the right feelings within the reader.
The totality of these associations are not likely to be presented by any media that we know, because whatever way you try to encode your experience you'll be passing a message with pieces of information that will not be interpreted by the others the same way that you do.
As each "mind" - in its physical form as I see it - is inherently unique... So are the qualia.
There is nothing special or supernatural about it: fingerprints are - almost - unique and so is the DNA.
But there is something catchy about this thinking - the thinking that our communication is hardly perfect, specially when it comes to those things that come with first person accounts...
I believe in a form of materialistic "afterlife" where our existence on Earth continues by means of memories on the minds of those who know us. Think about it: when you are talking face to face to a person, the image that your friend sees is nothing more than the image that his brain provides to him. If he had some brain damage that could affect his color perception, you would be seen in a different way. When you are not present and your friend reminds - lets say - of your smile, the image that he "sees" is not much different from the one that he sees when he is with you. To be thought of is not much different than being present.
And it is not limited to the experience of images - or sounds, smells, or any other first hand account... You may form a "memory" about someone you never saw.
I think that it is a great way of afterliving because it does affect the world long after you are gone. Let's say that your grandson talks to his son about you and say that this conversation was of great help for his son to deal with some issue that was afflicting him. We can say that the memories of your grandson about you affected the world. Much better and much more real then any spirit or soul stuff, huh?
What is catchy about it is that the memories about you that your grandson will carry with him are his interpretations of the person that he knew. So are the memories of all your friends about you. As the same event will be described in different forms by different witnesses, the "phenomenon" of a parenthood or a friendship in one's life will be much more prone to different interpretations. It is important to have this in mind and to make some of those little efforts that are so crucial in letting people know our feelings about them. Efforts like saying:"I love you" or giving a hug. The things that we feel, sometimes with an immense intensity, like love, may be obvious for us, but not so obvious for those around us - they have nothing but our actions and our words to be aware of our feelings.
There are small neural networks in my brain representing each one of my friends and each person that I knew - personally or not - through my life. There may be even different representations for the same person! Think about those very beloved friends that for some reason spent a long time away from us. Some of them come back with a different hair cut, some new tattoos and, more striking, different on the inside, deeply changed by the experiences that they had while away.
The lesson that I take from it all is that even been a materialistic - non-dualistic - person, I have strong reasons to be good and to try to do some good whenever I am around someone else - no matter who. Those moments are the only certainty that I have of continuity of life. This continuity will not last forever. Someday we all - except a few notable individuals - will be forgotten.
I don't know if it is bad or good. There are some philosophical interpretations that credit this oblivion as the ultimate step in the individual existence. Right now I don't understand it entirely. But it is certainly something to think about.

Ps.: I must thank my friend Marina for greatly enhance this text. (:

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