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Panpsychism
Posted: 27 January 2008 04:02 AM   [ Ignore ]  
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“Why I am I overwhelmed by an emotional rush when I am isolated in nature and in the presence of the wondrous beauty of the mountains? Why do I find a sea of mountain tops breathtakingly beautiful, and comforting to look at? Why do I get a feeling up there that I can only describe as magical?”

I would relate this to panpsychism. Consciousness can be seen as an emergent phenomenon composed of parts—which for want of a better term we may call “qualia”—that represent the psychic poles of bipolar entities that reach down to the very roots of the physical universe. This can work in a picture of the mind as arranged in concentric zones or circles—or “mindworlds” in my terminology.

In this picture, consciousness emerges in the inner members of a set of such concentric circles, whose outer members potentially circumscribe the totality of reality. This kind of concentric-circles view was advocated by consciousness scientist Alwyn Scott in his 1995 book Stairway to the Mind. A very similar view was propounded by the Oxford pharmacologist Susan Greenfield in her 1995 book Journey to the Centers of the Mind.

As people, we live very largely within the innermost of these zones, where the individual and personal quality of consciousness is prominent and where evolution by natural selection can work efficiently over the generations to optimize the mechanisms that enable us to rest content with these inner zones for most practical purposes. However, several experiential states cause us to break out of these zones and seek comfort in wider circles, so to speak, where of course the “us” here refers not to something separate from this cosmic cyclone of psychic zones but just to the emergent entity that tends to concentrate where the twistor winds tighter.

Psychic states that tend to cause such dilation or such a sense of the soul expanding are numerous and have numerous labels, which typically have a religious cast (since they are not well understood states). Among these are the states to which you refer, where you are isolated in nature and feel the presence of “wondrous beauty”. These states seem good for a good reason, if my analysis makes any sense here.

Think of life on Earth as an outgrowth of the Earth itself. Think of each of us as a spiralling peak (of zones on a spiky ball, the Earth) that is rooted in the Earth itself. That is, our twistor systems of psychic circles spiral right down into the planet. As our moods dilate, the psychic music that formerly consisted merely of harmonies playing in the higher circles suddenly hits great bass notes, where the “rock” music of the deeper zones is excited.

So far so poetic, or not, but where’s the science here? Well, evolution worked way, way back on our primeval ancestors to make them thrill to good prospects. Imagine the thrill when a microbe finds a food patch, or a bug stumbles on a turd, or a patriarch like Abraham sets off with his clan into the green fields of the great wide world. The soul expands to fill the space set before it, and the soul rejoices. This is the expansion of life in action, grabbing what it can and making the most of it. All this is deep in our genes.

So when you stand on a mountain and feel your soul exult, it is because somewhere deep in your soul a bass rhythm is excited that says—Space! Freedom! Opportunity! Go for it!—and triggers a cascade of pharmacological effects in your limbic system.

This is all my humble opinion, as hypothetical as it gets.

[ Edited: 27 January 2008 10:10 AM by AtheEisegete]
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Posted: 29 January 2008 11:37 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]  
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Hey gete, welcome to the forum,
Sounds a tad delusional, but then, the works are meant to be philosophical.  The authors you mention might be worth taking a look at, Scott especially, looks to be quite prolific in areas of mathematics, philosophy, and science.

If their ideas make sense to you, I say run with it…file it under: useful delusion.

Out of curiosity, how’d you come across these two authors?

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Posted: 30 January 2008 12:59 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 2 ]  
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Thanks, Isocrat, for the instant diagnosis. Take care, for behind this lies my life’s work, namely a theory of mindworlds that is world-class, so to speak.

Alwyn Scott was an author at Springer, where I worked back in the 1990s. When I told him of my interest in consciousness studies, he invited me to attend the Brain and Self Workshop at Elsinore, Denmark, August 1997. That hooked me, and I started going regularly to consciousness conferences. I met Susan Greenfield at the conference in Skövde, Sweden, August 2001. We talked about science over breakfast and she told me what fun it was to sit in the House of Lords.

However, my mindworlds idea came more from two decades of contemplation of the logical works of Saul Kripke, whom I heard lecturing in Oxford and London when he was still a hot young messiah. Together with some of the more mystical pronouncements of Ludwig Wittgenstein (whose Tractatus really impressed me) and the psychological works of William James (who talked about worlds in his reflections on religious experience), these works gave me quite a revelation when I stirred in quantum theory (especially the consistent histories approach of Roland Omnès and others, along with the decoherence story pioneered by Springer author Dieter Zeh) and post-Turing computer science (especially David Deutsch, whose views on the quantum theory of possible worlds recalled not only Hugh Everett but also Kripke). This is a rich stew.

Okay, enough name-dropping. As you see, my views are probably more than delusion. Your turn. I hope my reading of the moniker “I, Socrates” is not entirely delusional.

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Posted: 31 January 2008 03:53 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 3 ]  
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quote author=“AtheEisegete” date=“1201744751”][Thanks, Isocrat, for the instant diagnosis. Take care, for behind this lies my life’s work, namely a theory of mindworlds that is world-class, so to speak.

You’re welcome. No charge this time.  wink

Another one, on the house: Your unconscious mind revealed something to you, if you noticed gete. Reexamine your second sentence…make a few adjustments to the grammar to find the unconscious meaning: “...for behind this: lies; my life’s work…”

You post something in the New Age Beliefs section about a “theory” of mindworlds—a term known only to you because you made it up—and expect people to buy into it based on what you wrote in the initial post? Nothing personal, but you’re going to have to do better than that gete, even if this theory is “world-class” in new age “thinking” circles. Oh, and please note, gete, that my intention is not to offend you, but challenge your ideas.

quote author=“AtheEisegete” date=“1201744751”]Alwyn Scott was an author at Springer, where I worked back in the 1990s. When I told him of my interest in consciousness studies, he invited me to attend the Brain and Self Workshop at Elsinore, Denmark, August 1997. That hooked me, and I started going regularly to consciousness conferences. I met Susan Greenfield at the conference in Skövde, Sweden, August 2001. We talked about science over breakfast and she told me what fun it was to sit in the House of Lords.

However, my mindworlds idea came more from two decades of contemplation of the logical works of Saul Kripke, whom I heard lecturing in Oxford and London when he was still a hot young messiah. Together with some of the more mystical pronouncements of Ludwig Wittgenstein (whose Tractatus really impressed me) and the psychological works of William James (who talked about worlds in his reflections on religious experience), these works gave me quite a revelation when I stirred in quantum theory (especially the consistent histories approach of Roland Omnès and others, along with the decoherence story pioneered by Springer author Dieter Zeh) and post-Turing computer science (especially David Deutsch, whose views on the quantum theory of possible worlds recalled not only Hugh Everett but also Kripke).

This reads a bit like a heroin story, replete with messiahs and revelations of how you got addicted and converted to a new age belief system where you were free to invent your own theory of mindworlds by taking pieces (or chunks, in keeping with your stew metaphor) of ideas and theories that resonated with your personality in order to rationalize your own notion of a whole…well, stew.

quote author=“AtheEisegete” date=“1201744751”]This is a rich stew.

Better put on a bib…this is a messy stew.
(That said, I will slurp some of Scott’s works. They do sound intriguing.)

quote author=“AtheEisegete” date=“1201744751”]Okay, enough name-dropping. As you see, my views are probably more than delusion. Your turn. I hope my reading of the moniker “I, Socrates” is not entirely delusional.

You seem insulted by the term delusion. No need to be. We all “tell ourselves stories in order to live”* or find ideas we like, and/or that seem logical to us, and put them together to create a personal narrative of ‘how and why I exist.’ I think the one you’ve come up with sounds creative, imaginatively based in “logic” and intriguing. But delusional nonetheless…in that some of your premises are founded in meta-physics and notions like “qualia,” and “soul.”

And oops, yes, your reading of the moniker isocratic** to imply ‘I Socrates’ was, well, I wouldn’t say delusional, but an incorrect assumption. (But I like it!)

*Joan Didion, THe White Album
**isocracy: each individual has equal political power

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Posted: 31 January 2008 06:12 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 4 ]  
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I know you’re just getting going here and you gotta start somewhere, but all I’ve got so far is a Peter Max poster. Lots of us come here to hoist up our models of how the mind works if we really have one. This is like open mic night at a rock quarry. Wear some knee pads.

Mapping out something we can visualize about the mind takes more than photoshop skills. Any description that includes a component that is “beyond” or “transcendent” will hit several woo-woo filters and be cast aside as religious spam.

My ilk (I think I have an ilk) posit that all this mind-self stuff can be hammered out without resorting to souls, transcendent beyonds or having to sort out all of eternity for everybody. We have to get over our fear of the non-existent. Even such an earthy approach has little purchase with many here who are still a little stunned by religion and anything that remotely looks like it. This is a good place place to get knocked around and discover your vulnerabilities and vanities. IMHO, the rich stew will turn out in the end to be just some pretty good stew.

“Why I am I overwhelmed by an emotional rush when I am isolated in nature and in the presence of the wondrous beauty of the mountains? Why do I find a sea of mountain tops breathtakingly beautiful, and comforting to look at? Why do I get a feeling up there that I can only describe as magical?”

Next time, bring a thesaurus. In all your scenarios, the word visual is overlooked. Evolution says that our senses developed to enable meeting the needs of our survival in the face of increasing competition. Somewhere along the way, we went from “Which way did she go?” to “Wow! Look at that!”. Vision could cause endorphin releases just by looking at something. Even things you didn’t want to eat or mate with. We quickly became addicted to awe and wonder and mental experience was born.

the psychic poles of bipolar entities that reach down to the very roots of the physical universe.

 

That’s good shit. I don’t know what it means, but it’s good shit.
Brush your teeth, and come back for another spin.

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Posted: 31 January 2008 01:45 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 5 ]  
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Isocrat: “This reads a bit like a heroin story, replete with messiahs and revelations of how you got addicted and converted to a new age belief system where you were free to invent your own theory of mindworlds ...”

Never having smacked myself, I can’t really endorse this, but I kinda like the terminology of messiahs and so on. The religious tradition has given such words ripely redolent meanings, just bursting with perlocutionary promise. Anyway, I’m cool with the disinclination to get too earnest here.

Nhoj: “all this mind-self stuff can be hammered out without resorting to souls, transcendent beyonds or having to sort out all of eternity for everybody.”

Mes sentiments absoluement. But as you say, you gotta start somewhere. Let me take a day or two to launch a major new assault on the metaphysics of sempiternally subtranscendent quasisouldom. Your forum is an oasis for this thirsty traveler, so let me first drink deep of the kool-aid.

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Posted: 02 February 2008 10:04 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 6 ]  
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AtheEisegete - 31 January 2008 06:45 PM

Let me take a day or two to launch a major new assault on the metaphysics of sempiternally subtranscendent quasisouldom.

Whoa. You do have a thesaurus.

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Posted: 03 February 2008 09:58 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 7 ]  
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Nhoj Morley - 03 February 2008 03:04 AM
AtheEisegete - 31 January 2008 06:45 PM

Let me take a day or two to launch a major new assault on the metaphysics of sempiternally subtranscendent quasisouldom.

Whoa. You do have a thesaurus.

Harumph. Let’s start with a diversionary maneuver. The self is layered, as many agree, and the layers go deep, as I assert. A good axiom for panpsychists is that subject and object are equal and opposite. Any object presents a set of “phenomenal” surfaces that form bricks in the walls of the circles of any subjects for which it is an object.

So, to the maneuver. As a warm-up exercise, to get used to stretching the self beyond everyday bounds, I could do worse than repeat a heavy artillery barrage I fired at an irritating Presuppositional Apologist (this is a kind of Christian fundamentalist) on another Sam Harris thread (hosted by the Washington Post and Newsweek). I fired it to get his mind out of his god fixation by trisecting his god and pounding the pieces. Fasten your seat belt, here goes.

P.A.: “The authority is that God, our Creator, has spoken and revealed Himself to us. To make sense of life, of origins, of truth, of logic, of morals, of the uniformity in nature, of personality, God is the only explanation. All the other explanations cannot make sense of these things.”

This confuses three things that when disentangled reveal insights that enable us to make progress here:

Soia, the self of introspective awareness, speaks and reveals the self to us.

Goof, the god of our fathers, makes sense of life, origins, morals, and personality.

Bopp, the being of physical phenomena, makes sense of truth, logic, and the uniformity in nature.

These three entities are tied in a knot that invites precisely the confusion displayed above.

Soia, the self of introspective awareness, is an organizational consequence of the interaction of a hundred billion neurons connected via a hundred trillion synapses, where each neurons regularly fires rhythmic bursts of millisecond spikes to its neighbors in the human neocortex. Soia develops and deploys language and reveals facets of personality and character within folds of re-entrant circuitry that creates levels of reflexive awareness. Humans can easily make mistakes when attributing speaking voices and characterizing selves, and the human relation to Soia is generally unstable and ringed with paradox.

Goof, the god of our fathers, is a genetically anchored focus of purposive striving that results in concentric circles of selfhood and value. The outer circles define life and species identity, inner circles define family and kin, and the innermost circles define an organismic self analogous to the self of the immune system, within which self cells are genetic clones. Genes have cooperated to replicate for several billion years and have grown increasingly efficient at playing complementary roles in ever more complex organisms over evolutionary time. The phenomenology generated by genes for striving purposefully can be seen by humans as godlike, but in any case provides a good foundation for Soia.

Bopp, the being of physical phenomena, is the mysterious source of the intelligibility of physical phenomena, where arbitrarily exotic configurations of energy in spacetime apparently admit of arbitrarily deep mathematical modeling, all constrained by layers of logic built on an ontology that supports a reasonable concept of truth. The question of how far the inner coherence of the physical universe reaches is still under investigation and may reveal new surprises, but it is already evident that physical reality as we now understand it provides an ample foundation for Goof and therefore a good foundation for Soia too.

This trinity suffices to outline an explanation for all previous theology and metaphysics and therefore to provide a definitive explanation for all practical purposes that need concern us. A huge convoluted network connects and surrounds these three entities in our species’ collective mindworld. At the periphery of this network is utter ineffability.

End of artillery barrage. End of diversion. End of post.

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Posted: 04 February 2008 05:42 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 8 ]  
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This confuses three things that when disentangled reveal insights that enable us to make progress here:

Why do you say three?

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Posted: 04 February 2008 09:31 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 9 ]  
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Nhoj Morley - 04 February 2008 10:42 AM

Why do you say three?

Astute question—I can see I need to be in driving-on-ice mode here. The choice of three is a rhetorical device, to awake memories of the, ahem, holy trinity. In fact the number is rather arbitrary, since the rag-bag of phenomena the trio “explains” is huge and lacking any obvious ordering principle.

Actually, the physicist Paul Davies made a similar crude division of physics into the physics of the big, the small and the complex. That stayed in my mind, since Bopp is big, Soia is small, and Goof is complex. But this is not a precise mapping, just a vague similarity.

All this is, as I said, a diversion. The cutely diverting idea here, for me, is that of Goof as a manifestation of human genocentricity. What this nasty phrase means is as follows. The fact that we are, as Richard Dawkins puts it, lumbering robots dedicated to the replication of our genes, so apparently subversive of religion, finds its most vivid expression precisely in the religion Dawkins (may we call him Dick?) excoriates so mercilessly!

To be more exact, the shimmering ideal beyond the individual, beyond personal life and death, is a godlike “strange attractor” (to sneak in a term from nonlinear dynamics) that people use to celebrate cooperation and altruism, and to push for “family values” in politics. All this is highly suggestive to a scientist in the Dan Dennett mould.

My panpsychist mindworlds hobby horse is beyond all this, but once I saw Goof I thought it worth a pause for a bit of evangelizing for good ole Dawkins fundamentalism: Goof is great and Dawkins is his prophet!

If I can’t shake this habit of dropping names I may as well be bold about it. How about you drop a few? Then I know how much I can skip.

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Posted: 04 February 2008 11:19 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 10 ]  
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Just so’s you know: If this keeps up, I will be joining this thread, as they say, “in earnest”.

Why?

Because we LIKE you! Not that this is the Mickey Mouse Club, or anything.

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Posted: 04 February 2008 02:49 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 11 ]  
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I can’t bring myself to review the thread in detail.  I feel overworked.  But I do have some reading suggestions re panpsychism.


Thomas Nagel suggested in his book, The View From Nowhere that panpsychism might be true.  Also, much more recently, Galen Strawson has been defending the view that physicalism entails panpsychism.  He has a collection of his own work and some of his critics called Consciousness and its Place in Nature

These are just philosophers, of course. But if you haven’t read them and you are interested in panpsychism and the philosophical arguments for and against, then these would be good resources.

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What do I care for a hell for oppressors? What good can hell do, since those children have already been tortured? And what becomes of harmony, if there is hell? I want to forgive. I want to embrace. I don’t want more suffering. And if the sufferings of children go to swell the sum of sufferings which was necessary to pay for truth, then I protest that the truth is not worth such a price.
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Posted: 05 February 2008 03:41 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 12 ]  
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AtheEisegete - 04 February 2008 02:31 PM

[ In fact the number is rather arbitrary, since the rag-bag of phenomena the trio “explains” is huge and lacking any obvious ordering principle.

So, already, you’ve pulled one out of your hat. Here’s your chance to defend the hat. What reference point can you conjure up for the rest of us from which we can assess your concentric layer scheme?
I agree with three. We all have three hats.

We have, in this thread, both been painted as six kinds of hogwash to many of the regular patrons. You might want to put on a chin guard. I will stand firm that there are in fact three kinds of hogwash.


Sorry to be brief, but the boss says if I don’t get this thing done the earth will fall out of its orbit and plunge into the sun. Perhaps some name droppings later.

Have a safe day.

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Posted: 05 February 2008 03:46 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 13 ]  
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Salt Creek - 04 February 2008 04:19 PM

Just so’s you know: If this keeps up, I will be joining this thread, as they say, “in earnest”.

I’m quite capable of bussing a table myself, but if you want to bring in the bulldozer, I can understand the temptation.

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Posted: 05 February 2008 09:20 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 14 ]  
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Nhoj Morley - 05 February 2008 08:41 AM

Here’s your chance to defend the hat.

Or, as Phil Connors said to Rita in Groundhog Day, “Be the hat.”

Nhoj Morley - 05 February 2008 08:41 AM

I will stand firm that there are in fact three kinds of hogwash.

I would put it in the following way: There are three components of hogwash, namely, the x, y, and z components (in a Cartesian scheme) or the r, theta, and phi components (more appropriate for the concentric, layered scheme). Linear transformations are available for converting between the two.

Obviously, the Cartesian scheme is often adopted by blockheads like me.

[ Edited: 05 February 2008 09:29 AM by Traces Elk]
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Posted: 05 February 2008 10:28 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 15 ]  
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Well, waltercat, since you mention Thomas Nagel and Galen Strawson, I guess I better go to it. Nagel’s view from nowhere is a neat phrase for a fascinating phenomenon, namely the attempt in classical science to defocus the subject altogether, as if to rise above all that finitude and achieve lift-off to higher realms. One of the last traces in classical physics is the observer in relativity (special or general), who traces a proper timeline and serves as a reference for velocities and accelerations.

Things got much hairier in quantum mechanics, which after the pixie dust settled revealed entanglement landscapes in which truth itself became relativized. Roughly, in a quantum multiverse with uncountably many branches, our trajectory carves out a big and growing entanglement of “classical” truths surrounded by superpositions (we carve out a “consistent history” in the Roland Omnès version of the story). As we entangle with stuff, it falls out of superposition. It’s like when we open the airtight catbox to find Schrödinger’s cat to be alive or dead, made classical, fixed. Anyway, the observer took a bow.

So, how is it with Nagel’s view? Strictly untenable, I say. This goes with the logic of my mindworlds, but let’s take it slowly enough to be sure we’re on the same page. At best, we can approximate “suprasubjectivity” asymptotically, and in effect this is the quest in classical science. Einstein, bless him, got as near as anyone, with his view that time was a persistent illusion, but he never grokked quantum mechanics and it subverts his sempiternal block universe. By the way, Brian Greene glossed the block as a sliced loaf, where we subjects experience successive slices as we crawl along our little timelines. The sting in the tail is that you can slice the loaf every which way, depending on how fast you go!

Anyway, this does relate to the issue, because Einstein got much of his certainty about time from his Princeton chum Kurt Gödel (on whose amazing logical theorems I wrote a distinguished Oxford thesis half a life ago). Now Gödel also inspired Douglas Hofstadter to rave on at book length about “an eternal golden braid” that he reprised last year in his charming memoir I am a Strange Loop.

This is a metaphor I can run with! We are strange loops in the Gödel sense. Subjective time loops the loop, in a logical process I can reconstruct fairly cleanly in axiomatic set theory. And this is the logical scaffolding for mindworlds. On which more later.

But back to Galen. In fact, his recent writings inspired me to call this thread Panpsychism. Galen is the son of a distinguished Oxford philosopher whose books I studied with admiration, er, half a lifetime ago. But he has some wits of his own, and his extravagant outpouring on panpsychism in the Journal of Consciousness Studies (later published as the volume to which you, waltercat, refer) amused me. I am a longtime subscriber and contributor to the journal - in fact I have a 20-page contribution in the January 2008 issue.

I have to quibble. Galen is no physicist, and he has no chance in tarnation of carrying through his project without a lot of support from physics, particularly the quantum variety. The rock-star philosopher David Chalmers, a couple of whose recent “End of Consciousness” parties in Arizona I enjoyed no end, especially when we created new verses for his signature contribution to philosophy, the zombie blues, has a more realistic appreciation of the enormity of this enterprise. For his approach, which gets deeper into math, Kripke logic and information theory, I have great and enduring sympathy.

So thanks for the word, Galen. Anyway, this litle message has grown so long I shall let it be my contribution for the day. Indirectly, I think, we are approaching the holy of holies, where an infinity of mindworlds swirl in a holistic quantum space ... What the Bleep?!

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