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May 30, 2011 / theslowblitz

A short examination of consciousness

A watch cannot dismantle itself, to observe its own workings. Man has been blessed with a mind capable of watching itself, but there are limitations to what it can observe without dismantling itself. How does this thought lead to that, and what leads to that though in the first place? How can this questions be asked without tearing apart the man?

A clever man cuts open another man’s head, and finds that which creates ‘red’, but he cannot feel the ‘red’. He knows the spectrum which is ‘red’, but he cannot imagine it, having been born colourblind. What is ‘red’? There is no answer. He cannot perceive that which makes him perceive; to attempt so would be to dismantle the clockwork which makes him tick.

Let me make it clear: the mind does not exist in a realm of its own. It is every part real, lest it remains disaffected from the real. Should we tickle the same part of the clever man as the man he has cut open, he too would perceive ‘red’ as he has been made to perceive. This red is not the same as the red before, as neither man is the same. But if the man were twins, then their experience would be equivalent.

We would like to perceive these experiences as different, as per our nature, but such is not the case. Were I to place them in separate rooms, each painted wall to wall with the same shade of red, with the same lighting, the same light would enter their eyes, would trigger the same parts of their minds through the same pathways. Matter leading to mind, and matter being the same, how can their experiences be but equivalent?

The mind exists in the real, it exists in matter. As such we must draw a chain of cause and effect from mind to matter. There is change as light refracts into our eyes, and change as light triggers electric impulses within our brain, but what then? What separates the mind from the charge? At this point, I can only conclude one thing: consciousness is an illusion, risen from our perception. We cannot sense this because we would have to take apart our very sensibilities to do so.

What of a bat? It is the same as us, perceiving the world. But it has been structured differently, not to sense red but to sense hardness and texture, as its senses have developed to do. It’s subjective experiences are beyond our imagining, but what it represents is one and the same.

There will be flaws in its perception, as there are in ours, and that might indicate a schism between the mind and the real, but the gap is not but a flaw in structure itself. We are imperfect beings, rising out of evolution. We are only as wise as we need be, and that is unavoidable. That is truth. 

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