Monday, March 29, 2010

And that physicist has a point...

In the exchange I posted below, the theoretical physicist says something to the effect of "I have never heard a good definition of conciousness."

 He has never heard a good definition of the the state of being conscious.  Of course language is like this - all definitions are ultimately circular until referenced outside of the language - "That thing over there is a rock!"

But consciousness itself has no external referents - when the Buddha said "I am awake" we could not, in and of itself, tell that apart from other mental states externally.  True enough, there are externally measurable phenomena coincident with reports of consciousness or awareness, but we're not able to externally, purely objectively replicate awareness - only phenomena associated with it. Maybe the robot is sentient.  Maybe you are - you probably seem to be in person, I'd wager.  The subjective and objective spheres are interdependent, as the Identity of the Relative and the Absolute.

The goal of Zen practice is not to go too deeply into what awareness or consciousness is, and that's not a useful  awareness philosophy in the original, Socratic sense of the meaning of philosophy - Socrates himself had always said he had no learning himself. to impart (reminds me of Lin-Chi).  It's very largely about showing up and acting skillfully in the world, rather than prattling about "superpositions of possibilities."

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