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Everything we know about the universe tells us that reality consists only of physical things: Nonetheless, just occasionally, science has dropped tantalising hints that this spooky extra ingredient might be real. Weiskrantz showed him patterns of striped lines, positioned so that they fell on his area of blindness, then asked him to say whether the stripes were vertical or horizontal.

Naturally, DB protested that he could see no stripes at all. Apparently, his brain was perceiving the stripes without his mind being conscious of them. One interpretation is that DB was a semi-zombie, with a brain like any other brain, but partially lacking the magical add-on of consciousness.

Chalmers knows how wildly improbable his ideas can seem, and takes this in his stride: The consciousness debates have provoked more mudslinging and fury than most in modern philosophy, perhaps because of how baffling the problem is: McGinn added, in a footnote: McGinn, to be fair, has made a career from such hatchet jobs. But strong feelings only slightly more politely expressed are commonplace. Not everybody agrees there is a Hard Problem to begin with — making the whole debate kickstarted by Chalmers an exercise in pointlessness.

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Are You An Anarchist? The Answer May Surprise You!

Daniel Dennett , the high-profile atheist and professor at Tufts University outside Boston, argues that consciousness, as we think of it, is an illusion: This is the point at which the debate tends to collapse into incredulous laughter and head-shaking: Chalmers has speculated, largely in jest, that Dennett himself might be a zombie.

But everybody now accepts that goldness and silveriness are really just differences in atoms. However hard it feels to accept, we should concede that consciousness is just the physical brain, doing what brains do. Look at the precedents: Or take life itself: Light is electromagnetic radiation; life is just the label we give to certain kinds of objects that can grow and reproduce. Eventually, neuroscience will show that consciousness is just brain states. Solutions have regularly been floated: But the intractability of the arguments has caused some thinkers, such as Colin McGinn, to raise an intriguing if ultimately defeatist possibility: After all, our brains evolved to help us solve down-to-earth problems of survival and reproduction; there is no particular reason to assume they should be capable of cracking every big philosophical puzzle we happen to throw at them.

O r maybe it is: Koch concedes that this sounds ridiculous: Besides, panpsychism might help unravel an enigma that has attached to the study of consciousness from the start: Growing up as the child of German-born Catholics, Koch had a dachshund named Purzel. The problem is that there seems to be no logical reason to draw the line at dogs, or sparrows or mice or insects, or, for that matter, trees or rocks.

Which is how Koch and Chalmers have both found themselves arguing, in the pages of the New York Review of Books, that an ordinary household thermostat or a photodiode, of the kind you might find in your smoke detector, might in principle be conscious. The argument unfolds as follows: Explanations have to stop somewhere.

The panpsychist hunch is that consciousness could be like that, too — and that if it is, there is no particular reason to assume that it only occurs in certain kinds of matter. It is the argument that anything at all could be conscious, providing that the information it contains is sufficiently interconnected and organised.

But in principle the same might apply to the internet, or a smartphone, or a thermostat. The ethical implications are unsettling: Anarchists believe that power corrupts and those who spend their entire lives seeking power are the very last people who should have it. Anarchists believe that our present economic system is more likely to reward people for selfish and unscrupulous behavior than for being decent, caring human beings. Most people feel that way. And is there really any reason to believe this?


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When you can actually test them, most of the usual predictions about what would happen without states or capitalism turn out to be entirely untrue. For thousands of years people lived without governments. In many parts of the world people live outside of the control of governments today. They do not all kill each other. Mostly they just get on about their lives the same as anyone else would.

Of course, in a complex, urban, technological society all this would be more complicated: In fact, we have not even begun to think about what our lives could be like if technology were really marshaled to fit human needs. How many hours would we really need to work in order to maintain a functional society — that is, if we got rid of all the useless or destructive occupations like telemarketers, lawyers, prison guards, financial analysts, public relations experts, bureaucrats and politicians, and turn our best scientific minds away from working on space weaponry or stock market systems to mechanizing away dangerous or annoying tasks like coal mining or cleaning the bathroom, and distribute the remaining work among everyone equally?

Five hours a day? Nobody knows because no one is even asking this kind of question. Anarchists think these are the very questions we should be asking.

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Because if you take these moral principles to their logical conclusions, you arrive at anarchism. If you really took it seriously, that alone would knock away almost the entire basis for war and the criminal justice system.


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The same goes for sharing: But an anarchist would point out: That only serves the interests of people in power, who want us to live in fear of one another. In fact, total free will is the very basis of daily living. Whether it was the caveman three thousand years ago or you today, the human being has been free to decide what to do in a given situation. So where does that leave free will? Is free will a tool for self-evolvement?

Is it a device for the human being to accept responsibility for his actions? Or is it merely a notional boon which is worthless in daily living? Balsekar discusses the issue threadbare in his crisp and lucid style and comes up with amazing insights which could forever change the way you perceive your free will.

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Kindle Edition , 30 pages. Published July 11th by Zen Publications first published July 1st To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up. Lists with This Book. This book is not yet featured on Listopia. Nov 13, James Becker rated it it was amazing.

This book comprises the essence of what I love about Ramesh Balsekar. There is a lot of wisdom here—It's not perfect, of course, but it's very difficult to argue with his logic. Essentially, Balsekar admits that the concept of Free Will is necessary to engage in the day-to-day activities of one's life: However, he makes it clear that, in the end, we do not actually have truly free will.

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For exampl This book comprises the essence of what I love about Ramesh Balsekar. For example, a person who is never exposed to Aristotle will never become an Aristotle historian. All people, from birth, develop into the person they are mainly due to their surroundings and circumstances, none of which any one of us chooses.