Saturday, December 22, 2007

"Taken in isolation neither conditioned response nor reason are conscious."
The brain is a computer running two contradictory operating systems: a system of conditioned response and one of rational analysis: number crunching. Neither are conscious and both can be described in terms of physicalism. Consciousness is the sense of a unified decision making process but perhaps no more than that: an illusion or chimera, less the author of the act than the side effect of the struggle between mechanisms. At the very least unified consciousness is fictional. No news there for most of us. It amazes me that opponents of behaviorism [should that be of psychology itself, or self-reflection?] refuse to look at history. I suppose they defend their choice by saying the the plural of anecdote is literature. To which I respond: read Hamlet.
I choose to pretend that I have some capacity for free will, but I choose not to pretend that I can guarantee my own rationality. I choose to pretend in other words that I have the free will to make the only ethical and moral choice. And of course that choice, and the resulting development of formal adversarialism, is the basis of our justice system.

Discussions like this one on Rorty and this one on the "laws" of nature annoy me, for the same reason Toulmin does. It is simply not necessary to question Platonist assumptions about the mechanical world when all that matters is whether or not we have access to such clarity in the political one. Chapter 15 in Steven Weinberg's Facing Up: Science and Its Cultural Adversaries is titled Zionism and Its Adversaries. Its presence in this book is a function of rhetoric not science. It's a bad joke. I won't quibble about Platonism and Mathematics if others will stop bullshitting about Platonism and Politics.

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