Re: A more sciency sounding mysticism

MicroLab 2 @ SOC, UEA, UK (@)
Wed, 31 Mar 1999 11:41:15 GMT

Date: Wed, 31 Mar 1999 11:41:15 GMT
From: "MicroLab 2 @ SOC, UEA, UK" <>
Subject: Re: A more sciency sounding mysticism

1. First things first, that the self is an illusion is Blackmore's view, not
mine. In fact, that is a central part of my critique of Blackmore. You can
pretty much use free-will as a yardstick of where a theory has gone wrong - if a
theory denies free-will, or reduces everything to the atom (or whatever) then
it's bound to have gone wrong somewhere. However, I'd like to defend Blackmore
in that to think the self is an illusion is not "intellectual smugness." As I
said in my last mail, in the pursuit of knowledge, you have to make assumptions,
whether it is the existence of God, or some other form of causality - we need a
leap of faith to get both science and religion "going". But after these
assumptions have been made, it is no more intellectually smug to believe that
Christianity forms a coherent and cogent view of everything as it is to believe
in some other - for example scientific - theory. The smug ones are the ones who
don't allow you your view by dint of their theory. Blackmore isn't one of them.

2. Derek wrote:

Regarding the idea that 'the self' is a meme, it is possible to divest one's
self, eg. by engaging in Zen meditation or by taking ketamine (not
recommended), and one might behave in a 'self-less' manner (but not on this
list). What do you reckon? Is that evidence?

I think you are asking for some kind of dualism here, Derek; i.e. how can you be
yourself and not be yourself? answer: by taking ketamine, etc.
If you do define the self as "a bunch of memes" a la Blackmore, then you might
be reduced to thought experiments about a meme-less person; but how would we
know objectively whether a person under the influence of ketamine (or PCP) or
doing Zen meditation was actually meme-less? And moreover how would THEY know?
Under this assumption that the self is from memes, doesn't it take a meme to
know a meme?
I think defining the self as that which is conscious (a bit woolly, I know, but
it was good enough for Descartes) is more accurate. When you are meditating (or
on ketamine), you are still conscious, but the consciousness takes a different
form. This form might be more "memeless" than everyday thought, I don't know,
but I think consciousness is the right place to start.
To preclude anything but memes from being part of the self is a bit hasty,
because you start denying things for which their might be evidence (such as a
memeless self) because it doesn't corroborate your theory - this is what Dennett
calls greedy reductionism.

cheers, alex rousso.

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