Monday, August 29, 2016
Thompson on consciousness and materialism
A short quote from Waking, Being, Dreaming:
"I describe a dialogue on this question I had with the Dalai Lama at his refugee home in Dharamsala, India, and I explain the basis in Buddhist philosophy for the Dalai Lama’s view that consciousness transcends the brain. I argue, however, that there’s no scientific evidence to support this view. All the evidence available to us indicates that consciousness, including pure awareness, is contingent on the brain. Nevertheless, my viewpoint isn’t a materialist one, for two reasons. First, consciousness has a cognitive primacy that materialism fails to see. There’s no way to step outside consciousness and measure it against something else. Science always moves within the field of what consciousness reveals; it can enlarge this field and open up new vistas, but it can never get beyond the horizon set by consciousness. Second, since consciousness has this kind of primacy, it makes no sense to try to reductively explain consciousness in terms of something that’s conceived to be essentially non-experiential, as fundamental physical phenomena are usually conceived to be. Rather, understanding how consciousness is a natural phenomenon is going to require rethinking our scientific concepts of nature and physical being" (33-4).