Monday, December 08, 2008

C. S. Lewis: Some excerpts for your evening's enjoyment

From Scientific Integrity, we have an essay by mid-twentieth century British writer C. S. Lewis on why not everybody is unhappy with the idea that there really isn't a mind or a self:
Now the trouble about this conclusion is not simply that it is unwelcome to our emotions. It is not unwelcome at all times or in all people. This philosophy, like every other, has its pleasures. And it will, I fancy, prove very congenial to government. The old "liberty-talk" was very much mixed up with the idea that , as inside the ruler, so inside the subject, there was a whole world, to him the centre of all worlds, capacious of endless suffering and delight. But now, of course, he has no "inside", except the sort you can find by cutting him open. If I had to burn a man alive, I think I should find this doctrine comfortable. The real difficulty for most of us is more like a physical difficulty: we find it impossible to keep our minds, even for ten seconds at a stretch, twisted into the shape that this philosophy demands.
Also, why you must go to the people who really live an experience for expertise:
The mathematician sits thinking, and to him it seems that he is contemplating timeless and spaceless truths about quantity. But the cerebral physiologist, if he could look inside the mathematician's head, would find nothing timeless and spaceless there - only tiny movements in the grey matter. (From "Meditation in a Toolshed, 1945")
Oh, and there is also this excerpt from his essay on transposition at the Dangerous Idea blog:
But I submit that a one-for-one relation is probably quite unnecessary. All our examples suggest that the brain can respond—in a sense, adequately and exquisitely respond—to the seemingly infinite variety of consciousness without providing one singly physical modification for each single modification of consciousness.

C. S. Lewis, The Weight of Glory, Transposition, pp. 63-4.
Well, the brain is not, after all, a machine. More like an ocean, I like to say.