Category Archives: Awareness

Can we disprove that the brain causes the mind?

Part of the problem involves explaining how we can know of other consciousnesses than our own. Say I were to remove another person’s brain. They would then be dead; does this mean that they’d suddenly lack a mind? What if they still retained their unconscious sub-mind and simply lost the ability to be conscious at all?

The only person who could absolutely verify that their own consciousness exists is him- or herself. But, in the above example, we could no longer ask our brain-less person if they were conscious and receive a response.

If we can’t perform this falsification meaningfully on another person, then how about on ourselves? Suppose now that, instead, I were to remove my own brain. No one else could be certain that my consciousness exists; could I still be, without a brain? Would “I” exist in any way that would allow me to check the status of my own consciousness? Only if I were conscious. There seems to be a circularity embedded in this approach that might render the whole matter unresolvable.

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Descartes and Musk – On Dreams and Simulation

I’ve just begun reading through a paper of Tom Campbell’s which appeared in this video [link redacted]. In this post, though, I only aim to liken the popular simulation theory with Rene Descartes’ older “dream argument”. The former states that at least some of us are living in a virtual simulation. The latter runs as follows:

Premise 1 – If I know that I am awake, then I can eliminate as false the competing hypothesis that I am dreaming.

Premise 2 – I cannot eliminate the dreaming hypothesis.

Conclusion – I do not know if I am awake.

Elon Musk seems sympathetic toward the type of conclusion above. However, Musk’s interest has been not in dreams, but in whether a given person’s reality is provably virtual or actual. Descartes’ dream argument could be adapted in light of Musk’s challenge that we don’t know whether we’re living in virtual reality (VR):

P1′ – If I know that I exist in actual (non-virtual) reality, then I can eliminate as false the competing hypothesis that I exist in VR.

P2′ – I cannot eliminate the VR/simulation hypothesis.

C’ – I do not know if I exist in actual reality (as opposed to VR).

Testing the simulation hypothesis would minimally involve two steps. The first would be running participants through VR simulations. Following, the essential question for these subjects would become: “Did you know when your reality shifted between actual and virtual?” Naturally, experimenters could not give anything away until the end of such a study for it to be meaningful. If participants were consistently aware of when their reality changed kinds, then Musk’s simulation hypothesis would not apply: for their case, it would have to be ruled out as false. On the other hand, if subjects were generally unaware of their reality becoming actual or virtual, then Musk’s simulation hypothesis would hold true.

Campbell notwithstanding, this question presently remains unresolved.

A general tool for increasing critical reflexivity and awareness

Critical-phenomenological method

“…How are people to become aware of their more destructive acts to begin with [e.g., of environmental disregard]—the fact that they, themselves, might be committing them regularly?

“The [phenomenological-critical] method can be performed mentally or verbally. Where individual privacy is of concern, the former would be preferred, and where other people can help one become aware of something less subjectively-accessible the latter would be. The step-by-step logical form I have chosen may dovetail neatly with efforts in schools to teach algorithmic thinking (e.g., through the instruction of computer programming), and it would likely prove most prudent to encourage such a habit of critical awareness from a younger age. However, the general method may just as well be practiced by any capable adult in any other realm or mode of existence.

“Naturally, people who think less linearly may find the method disagreeable, though it has been deliberately kept simple for early and general use. The method’s efficacy will also covary with individual differences in temperament, personality factors, attention-distributive tendencies, motivation, and health conditions, and would require appropriate adaptation for non-English speakers” (Sood, 2016).