Consciousness: What is it, and Where is it Found?


This article Consciousness: What is it, and Where is it Found? published in the Sydney Traditionalist Forum offers reasons for thinking that though the brain and consciousness are frequently correlated, the brain does not actually generate consciousness. Oftentimes, the facts are not in dispute on this topic. It has more to do with their implications. When, for instance, there are cases of hydrocephalus where 95% of the brain is missing but the person has no cognitive deficits and is actually above average intelligence, the notion that brain mapping will get us very far seems slim; as does the fact of neuroplasticity where parts of the brain get repurposed after a stroke in a case of top down causation.

Placebos and nocebos seem to have mind over matter implications too and their existence was initially strongly resisted by materialist-minded scientists for that reason – meaning, they actually recognized the non-materialist possible ramifications.

Near Death Experiences also suggest that consciousness can exist without brains which is good news for anyone interested in the possibility of an afterlife. The cardiologist Pim van Lommel provides good scientific reasons for thinking that NDEs have nothing to do with residual brain activity during cardiac arrests or resuscitations. Apparently, for instance, manual manipulation of the heart during CPR is physically incapable of pumping enough blood around the body to restore consciousness, even partially.

The article ends with suggestions about the real relationship between minds and brains, and ideas about the nature and meaning of human existence.

Cur Deus Homo & Other Roman Problems: Some Quiddities

The valuable EH Looney – an orthospherean through and through, let it be noted, and so our ally and friend (witly or not), whose site I visit daily – has in a recent short post subtly erred, in three different and interesting ways. An Orthodox Christian who admires Rome with fervent intelligence, he nevertheless writes with eyes open:

The problem with Rome isn’t papal supremacy, or even the filioque, it’s that the Roman church is the cradle of nominalism. That sickness should have been condemned immediately rather than being allowed to fester long enough to create Luther and the Protestant deformation.

Also Anselm’s theory of the atonement almost totally obscures the existential nature of the paschal mystery into a legalism of the worst possible sort.

Now, there is some truth to each of these statements. Some truth; not all.

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Advaita Christianity

Advaita is Sanskrit for “non-dual.” A + dvaita is a + dual.

Christianity is non-dual. This is not to say that it agrees with Shankara’s monism; indeed, it is not to say that Christianity is monist at all. Christianity is not monist; it is pluralist.

It is non-dual in that, as it insists, there is no being whatsoever that is not sourced and ended in God. God is the being of all beings.

It might help for me to flesh this out by means of some metaphors – some exactly true metaphors, some perfect metaphors.

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Righteousness is Adaptive Because the Cosmos Is Just

The cosmos is just because it is good; and it is good because it is the creation of God, who is the Good.

If the cosmos were not just, then righteous conduct could not be well fitted to reality, and would not therefore have proven to be adaptive. There could not then be such a category as righteousness. You can’t behave rightly if there’s no such thing as a right way to behave.

The fact that evolution has generated codes of righteous conduct – of formalized moral laws – does not then indicate that morality is nothing more than a happenstantial product of iterated memetic variation under selection pressures. On the contrary, it indicates that morality is an aspect of the cosmic landscape that is prior to biological evolution, and pervasively conditions it, *so that* iterated rounds of selection by the morally ordered cosmic landscape on memetic variations can occur in the first place, and proceed to generate in organisms moral sentiments that are more or less well-fitted to their world.

No cosmic order, then no selector, and no selection.

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Moral Truths Are Necessary & Eternal

Is stealing objectively wrong?

Capital investment – saving up to make life better somehow – is not possible except where property is secure. Nor is social trust; so nor therefore is cooperation. Stealing decoheres society.

Similar considerations pertain to lying, murder, adultery: they are all the death of society as such. These are mathematically demonstrable truths of game theory.

Then morality is a department of mathematical logic. And the truths of math, logic and metaphysics are necessarily true; which is to say, that they are eternally true, and could not be otherwise.

Whatever is must be conditioned by these truths. There is no way to evade them; this is what is meant by, “God is not mocked.”

So they condition all possible worlds; so they condition our world; so they condition us.

The Impropriety of Formalist Reduction

It is a trope around here that reducing concrete phenomena to their material causes – or to their material and efficient causes – is grossly inadequate. It is false that zebras are nothing but atoms in motion; we can’t assemble a complete specification of a zebra only from a schedule of the motions of his atoms. To think that we might is the error of materialism.  

But it is worth remembering that it is just as inadequate to reduce concrete phenomena to their formal causes. Things are more than their formal specifications. The most common error of this sort these days is the description of America as a proposition nation – a congeries of ideas, rather than of people. Such are the errors of Gnosticism.  

Any adequate account of a concrete must together comprehend all four sorts of causes: material, efficient, formal and final. 

Globalism, Don Juan and the Perennial Philosophy

The perennial philosophy postulates a spiritual Source from which all being emanates; all is one. It is the contention that there is a structure to reality and this structure matches man’s interiority; his soul. There is a hierarchy of being; body, mind, soul and spirit.

One might add that if love is connection and all is one, then love corresponds to the structure of ultimate reality. In the realm of the Absolute, there are no distinctions; no individuals, no time and no space – just love.

However, I argue in Globalism, Don Juan and the Perennial Philosophy published at the Sydney Traditionalist Forum that in order for love to be made manifest in the realm of the Relative, it is necessary to love individuals; individual people, individual families and individual countries. Liberals make a philosophical and theological mistake in backing globalism which attempts to bypass the particular. This can be compared to Don Juan. A man who loves women must express his romantic love by loving a particular woman. Don Juan, however, attempts to simply bed as many women as possible, treating them as disposable nothings, which is far from love. The deracinated, rootless cosmopolitan likewise has no attachments to any particular country, community, culture or landscape and therefore loves none of them adequately, if at all.

Philosophical Skeleton Keys: Person versus Entity

The Trinity is confusing and confounding to many because almost no one who talks about it remembers to point out that persons are not entities. If you treat persons as things, then the Trinity cannot possibly make any sense. It seems to say that 1 + 1 + 1 = 1. That’s nuts. Yet that’s how almost everyone talks about the Trinity.

I learned (from Whitehead) that persons are not concrete entities, but rather characters of concrete entities. When I much later figured out that the Persons of the Trinity are not different things, but rather characters of a single thing, the logical difficulties that had bedeviled me melted away, and I worried a lot less about it.

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It’s Logoi All the Way Up

Worlds are implementations of logical calculi; or, equivocally, every world is an implementation of some logos. But no particular logical calculus is both consistent and complete. Inconsistent logical calculi cannot be implemented concretely, for it is impossible to enact contradictions. At best, we can wave our hands at the notion of an inconsistent calculus; we can’t actually *operate* with it, can’t *do* anything with it. So inconsistent calculi – i.e., falsehoods – can play no constructive role in worlds. They can play only destructive roles, as defections of consistent calculi.

Whatever is, is then necessarily an implementation of some consistent logical calculus. So, the logos of this world is consistent. But it is incomplete. It can be completed only by some more spacious calculus, that includes the logos of this world as a subdomain.

It must have been thus completed, for in no other way could we ascertain the truths that it can express but cannot itself demonstrate.

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