Documenting the Coming Singularity

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Brain too simple to understand itself? - Cryptic Consciousness

Conscious Entities - March 21, 2009

I was thinking about the New Mysterian position the other day, and it occurred to me that there are some scary implications which I, at any rate, had never noticed before.

As you may know, the New Mysterian position, cogently set out by Colin McGinn, is that our minds may simply not be equipped to understand consciousness. Not because it is in itself magic or inexplicable, but because our brains just don’t work in the necessary way. We suffer from cognitive closure. Closure here means that we have a limited repertoire of mental operations; using them in sequence or combination will take us to all sorts of conceptual places, but only within a certain closed domain. Outside that domain there are perfectly valid and straightforward ideas which we can simply never reach, and unfortunately one or more of these unreachable ideas is required in order to understand consciousness.

I don’t think that is actually the case, but the possibility is undeniable; I must admit that personally there’s a certain element of optimistic faith involved in my rejection of Mysterianism. I just don’t want to give up on the possibility of a satisfying answer.

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