Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Looking for Zizek and Critchley on google, since Critchley asked an old friend to come to his defense [update Jan. 08: now published] I find this by Idiot Holbo.
Who knew? It's serendipity baby.

Conditioned response vs. computation (figuring the odds).
Taken in isolation neither conditioned response nor reason are conscious.
It's pretty simple. Both are basic functions, both are perfectly materialist (plug and play), and they're in conflict. Are human beings capable of rational calculation? Yes. Are we subject to conditioned response? Yes. Consciousness is the fog that is produced by and that surrounds, obscures and stabilizes that conflict. Consciousness is the ghostly aftereffect of material, programmed, contradictory processes that we experience as contradictory imperatives. A "self" is a manifestation of an illusory unity and order.
Dualism sucks. It's based on a dream and a lie: a "need," though one shared by many. It's illogical. And yes, compared with Zizek, Chalmers' ideas are vulgar:
Imagine that I am out hunting and am attacked by a lion. The lion claws me, leaving a deep gash in my leg. I want to run away, but the pain slows me down: my body tells me not to. If I run I will increase the injury, but of course, if I stay I'll just be killed. The choice is obvious, yet my body continues to experience a division. Endorphins and adrenaline are designed to get us out of such scrapes, but they are autonomic, very rarely if ever does the pain, or the division, go away completely. And of course machines do not feel pain.

...What separates us from computers is not consciousness, which we have had such a bad time trying to define, but the unconscious. Desire and fear, like pain, stay with us even when they're inappropriate. Yet we follow these responses as often as not even if we know that they are. Our desires/instincts/neuroses may also be contradictory, or even self-destructive. But all of them: anxiety and depression, calm or exuberance are sensory before they're intellectual. Consciousness is the state produced by the body/brain's negotiation of the conflict between conditioned response and reason. That is its beauty and why we find it so difficult to understand. We experience consciousness as one thing, but only can define it as the space between two. We experience it a as a thing ‘being’, but can only define it as the place where it exists.

The first moment of indecision is the first act of consciousness. Any creature capable of indecision is conscious.
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Such a description of consciousness also fits well with Duncan Black's analysis of the behavior of network executives. That is it fits well with what most of the people on the planet take to be aspects of human behavior, aspects to match others exhibited by Hamlet, Alexander Portnoy and Richard Nixon. It never ceases to amaze me how so many supposedly educated and sophisticated people -if still a minority- are willing to dismiss the entire history of literature, if not history itself, to replace it with a fiction worthy of Ayn Rand and the Soviet Writers Union.
I'll add as I always do, that one of the people willing to do that is Noam Chomsky.

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