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Stephen E. Robbins
- Publié sur Amazon.com
This book is a collection of 31 chapters, each contributed by different theorists. Only a few, I would say, are by prominent, standard names in the consciousness field. Overall, imho, the vast proportion are interesting contributions, certainly over 80% (depending on one’s interests – mine being the hard problem/physics/mystic), and that is a lot of material given the size (800pp) of the book. Reviewing a book of 31 different authors/chapters presents its challenges. Here is an attempting-to-be-brief try.
While the chapters proceed in alphabetical order, by author, they seem to fall in four categories:
1. Discourses focused heavily on the analysis of quantum mechanics, its general implications for our understanding of the physical universe, the curious relation to consciousness all this implies, and perhaps a (small) foray into the consciousness subject itself. These (11 by my count) generally comprise some of the most interesting and remarkable discussions and reflections and would make the book worth it in themselves.
2. Forays into the hard problem of consciousness (6 chapters by my count). As solutions to the hard problem, these are weak, though none fail to provide interesting observations, facts and arguments.
3. Integrative discussions of the mystical (or cosmic consciousness, or yogic writings) with the problem of consciousness. These chapters (4 by my count) are also unique, interesting and valuable (two especially).
4. Miscellaneous (10). These range from discussions on the need for self-observational methods, speculation on the insolvability of the problem of consciousness, musings on broader systems of consciousness, and more.
The Quantum Chapters/Comments: It is remarkable how the quantum subject is capable of so many different views, perspectives, new insights and general mining. I will note a few here, starting with Grandpierre’s chapter which is a great discussion of quantum theory and leads to the best conjecture (or opening, shall we say) I have yet seen, given the understanding of the quantum framework he lays out, on how consciousness could control matter, i.e., the problem of voluntary action – how we will to lift our finger. Cochran gives an interesting discussion of Pauli and Kepler re imagination. Johnston does a very interesting dismantling of the near-biblical notion of wave-particle duality, bringing us right back to a wave model. (I would recommend trying to find Jacob Kessler’s self-published “The Energy of Space” (1962) for an even wider/deeper move to a wave interpretation.) Craddock and Kaczynski give a great discussion of classic computational approaches vs. quantum re the brain, and the enormous power of computation the brain may actually have. (Unfortunately they show little recognition of the possibility that the Turing notion of computation, no matter how quantum, may not hold the answer at all.) Lucille and Pepin also add a great discussion, to include incorporating the abstruse observations of the great intellectual/mystic, Franklin Merrill-Lynch.
The Mystical Integrative Discussions/Comments: The coolest chapter is by Brazdu, who describes the mystical development and experience of “witnessing awareness,” where - I will attempt to restate - one has identified with the cosmic Self and from this level of Being observes one’s egoic self and its transforming pattern. This concept itself is obviously not new, what is, is Brazdu’s interesting argument that this is a natural evolutionary stage, and that supporting/explaining this experience is where the science of consciousness (with supporting physics) must ultimately head. Also of great interest is Bursa’s attempt to deal with Zen insights and the notion of the union of subject and object. It is unfortunate in this subject/object unity discussion (and this is the case in at least another chapter) that the only way these theorists can deal with this is via the notion that the subject (observer) creates “external” reality. Unknown to all these authors, apparently and unfortunately, is the theory of Bergson (Matter and Memory, 1896), for whom, “subject and object, in the their distinction and their union, must be treated in terms of time, not space.” This theory assumes both the existence of external reality and the union of subject/object without descending to the current temptation to hold that the observer supposedly generates reality. Unfortunately again, Bergson’s statement (re subject/object) is likely obscure to the book’s authors - there is little actual discussion across the chapters on time (save Sobottka’s on “The arrow of subjective time”), a subject with which consciousness is inextricably united. This comes to roost in the hard problem discussions.
The Hard Problem Chapters/Comments: Baer, while filling his chapter with interesting observations, nevertheless ends up with the brain supporting an “internal model” that looks like the external world, e.g., in the brain is a little model of my kitchen with its brass pots, pans, stove and white curtains - as I look at it right now. Given we see only neural-chemical flows in the brain, the “here the magic happens” required for the emergence of this internal image/model is pretty enormous – and subtly unaddressed. The position is heavily discredited in philosophical circles. But Hameroff et al. essentially replicate this stance in their chapter, where in their descriptions of the goings-on in the microtubules of the neurons, again we find the “here the magic happens” as the image of the external world (somehow, by vague magic) arises. Chopra et al. follow on, arguing that “qualia are the building blocks” of our experience - this with no explication of what this actually means, on where the qualia come from or how the brain would “use” their qualia-blocks. Hameroff, I would note, at least trying on this (in another paper, not in this book), saw qualia as virtually little atoms inside those microtubules, just waiting to be configured to look like the external world (I suspect this notion still underlies his chapter in this book). What these “atoms” would look like for qualia that are defined only over time, that are functions of time, especially for dynamic form – Valerie Hardcastle’s “gently waving curtains,” “the conductor waving her baton,” “the patrons shifting in their seats,” or twisting falling leaves, or spinning cubes vs. slowly rotating cubes, or buzzing flies vs. flies slowly flapping their wings like herons (i.e., a change of time scale) – is extremely problematic. What could “form qualia” (awaiting in the microtubules) possibly be? Would these have to exist for every possible scale of time? In any case, all the theorists in this category would have greatly benefited, again, from Bergson’s elegant solution – holographic to boot already in 1896 - to the origin of the image of the external world
In sum, many good chapters and discussions, just very weak when it comes to the actual solutions to the hard problem.