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The Curious Illusion of Consciousness
Wednesday, Apr 13, 2011 , 5:00 PM – 7:00 PM
The time is US Pacific Time
Consciousness is said to be the greatest mystery facing science, and the core problem is dualism. From early childhood most of us feel as though we are a separate entity that inhabits our body, has a stream of conscious experiences, and acts of its own free will. Yet this is all delusion, according to Susan Blackmore. The brain is a massively parallel system with no central place where such a self could be, no need of one, and no way in which it could affect its brain.
Blackmore tells us, dualism has failed again and again, in philosophy, in science, and also in Eastern religions. “Advaita” means non-dualism, and Buddhists practice for lifetimes to “realise of non-duality”. Susan's thirty-year practice of Zen has meant confronting the recurring tendency to think that “I” exist as something separate from the experienced world. Working with such koans as “Am I conscious now?” or “Who is asking the question?” weakens this allure.
Most theories of consciousness, Blackmore suggests, try to explain the wrong thing. They may seek some particular brain function, area or process, or hope that the neural correlates of consciousness will reveal what “gives rise to” consciousness. I suggest that consciousness is not that kind of thing. The real question is why we are so deluded and whether we can throw off the illusions of self, consciousness and free will. Susan Blackmore suggests that this is not only possible but essential if we are going to make any progress in understanding consciousness.
Audio downloads of all teleseminars are available in the Library on this site a couple of days following the event. Live participation is a benefit of supporting membership and registration links are provided through email.