Friday, October 08, 2010

What's going on in the brain?

Psychologist Steven Pinker writes that the question of consciousness can be divided into the Easy Problem (how do we switch between conscious and subconscious information processing?) and the Hard Problem (how does all this neural activity give rise to what we call "self" and "consciousness"?) Pinker argues this has all been solved but the details and there is no self, and really no Hard Problem, just an illusion. He then goes on (and to me this is jarringly unsubstantiated) that this knowledge creates a source for morality.
COMMENT: I'm not impressed. Knowing better how the machine works does not explain why we feel and do things not connected to the mundane processing of information. Why do we appreciate beauty? Why do we feel the need to explore spirituality? Why do people altruistically risk their lives to save strangers? And why would a certainty that there is no self lead to any moral code except "maximize pleasure inputs"?

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