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Anatta and neuroscience

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  • Joop
    Hallo all Not that it surprised me but more and more neuroscience comes to the same conclusion as the Dhamma: the self is an illusion Here some
    Message 1 of 6 , Dec 25, 2005
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      Hallo all

      Not that it surprised me but more and more neuroscience comes to the
      same conclusion as the Dhamma: the 'self' is an illusion
      Here some Amazon-information about the (what I heard) best
      neurophilosophical book about it

      Metta

      Joop


      Being No One : The Self-Model Theory of Subjectivity
      by Thomas Metzinger

      Paperback: 711 pages
      Publisher: The MIT Press (September 1, 2004)
      ISBN: 0262633086

      Book Description
      According to Thomas Metzinger, no such things as selves exist in the
      world: nobody ever had or was a self. All that exists are phenomenal
      selves, as they appear in conscious experience. The phenomenal self,
      however, is not a thing but an ongoing process; it is the content of
      a "transparent self-model." In Being No One, Metzinger, a German
      philosopher, draws strongly on neuroscientific research to present a
      representationalist and functional analysis of what a consciously
      experienced first-person perspective actually is. Building a bridge
      between the humanities and the empirical sciences of the mind, he
      develops new conceptual toolkits and metaphors; uses case studies of
      unusual states of mind such as agnosia, neglect, blindsight, and
      hallucinations; and offers new sets of multilevel constraints for the
      concept of consciousness. Metzinger's central question is: How
      exactly does strong, consciously experienced subjectivity emerge out
      of objective events in the natural world? His epistemic goal is to
      determine whether conscious experience, in particular the experience
      of being someone that results from the emergence of a phenomenal
      self, can be analyzed on subpersonal levels of description. He also
      asks if and how our Cartesian intuitions that subjective experiences
      as such can never be reductively explained are themselves ultimately
      rooted in the deeper representational structure of our conscious
      minds.


      Finally.The monster can be tamed.

      This book is very hard to review. There are many reasons for this.
      One is that I may be biased: I think this may be the most important
      book written about consciousness in the last couple of decades. Then
      there is the fact that the book is enormous in scope, (and not far in
      size either- it is 650 pages long), brilliantly written and argued,
      and succeeds in doing something few other related books do. Reading
      this book makes you feel that consciousness has been explained. It
      makes you feel that the monster has been tamed, that progress can be
      made, that those who believe there can be no sensible exxplanation
      for consicousness are just wrong. Now in reality, it is not obvious
      that consciousness HAS been explained. But one feels like it has. And
      this is why I think this book is superior to Daniel Dennetts
      ¨Consicousness explained¨, arguably the book regarded as the most
      significant and influential philosophical contribution in the field.
      After reading Dennett, few believed consicousness had been explaied.
      Even few felt like it had. This book is unique, and I believe it is a
      matter of time until its impact is made apparent.

      Metzinger wanted to show that the self can be explained in
      subpersonal terms, using representational analysis. He quickly
      noticed that since Selves are usually consicous entities, that he
      would first have to do this for consciousness. Imagine that. Having
      to explain consicousness to try to explain the self. And so, the book
      could be seen as divided in two. First, a theory of consicousness,
      and second, a theory of the self. I am by far more impressed with the
      former, although undoubtedly the latter is extremely interesting as
      well.

      Before proposing a number of theorethical entities supposed to play
      the explanatory role, Metzinger carefully analyses the conceptual
      tools necessary to understand the problem, and formulate solutions.
      Thus, he analyses the concepts of representation, mental model,
      phenomenal presentation, etc. His account is also almost completely
      positive; that is, he almost does not stop to defend his ideas, or to
      analyse other philosphical theories. He focuses on arguing step-by
      step for a conceptual edifice that may lead to the explanation of
      phenomenal states in terms of non-phenomenal objective relations.
      This part of the book alone seems to me to be one of the strongest
      formulations of a representational theory of mental states.

      Metzinger, then, is able to answer the question of what makes a
      mental state a conscious state. He argues that mental states have
      representational, and these states can have phenomenal content if the
      representational states meet some constraints. Consciously
      experienced content is content of an active phenomenal model, and
      phenomenal contents are all representational. The various constraints
      are the conditions that the representational content must meet in
      order for it to be a phenomenal content. Examples of these
      constraints are globality (integration into a global whole),
      activation in a window of presence, transparency.

      The constraints are what makes these ideas powerful. Metzinger
      analyses the constraints in representational, phenomenological,
      information-processing, functional and neural-implementation terms.
      He gives what could be seen as necesary and sufficient conditions for
      a mental state to be a consicous state. He presents a theory of
      consicousness. And a very sensible, conceptually simple,
      naturalistic, and powerful one.

      After doing this, he shows how his analysis can acomodate some
      abnormal phenomenons like blindsight, agnosia, and neglect. He then
      does much of the same last steps with the problem of the self. He
      defines concepts like subjectivity, self-hood, self-models. Then he
      proposes theorethical entities like the phenomenal self model, or the
      phenomenal model of the intentianality relation, to try to show how
      the conscious self might emerge. Here too metzinger argues that self
      content must meet some constraints to be considered phenomenal self
      content. He also tests his constructs against cases like anosognosia,
      multiple persoality, lucid dreams.

      In sum, Metzinger deals with everything from mental representation,
      to content, qualia, subjectivity, intentionality, self, and does it
      in carefully ordered and convincing ways. Metzinger is a philosopher,
      and the theory is mostly philsophical. But few philsophers include
      such careful empirical and neurobiological observations. Few
      philosophers have such knowledge of the extensive literature. Few are
      as convinced of the central role that scientific objective
      theorethizing must play.

      I must repeat that it is in no way evident that consciousness is
      explained in Metzingers book. But if there is a book that will set
      the conceptual framework that leads to such an explanation, it is
      this one. It is virtually imposible to explain his ideas concisely,
      and to understand them one has to follow his discussion completely.
      Therefore, I can do not much but to recomend that anyone interested
      in consicousness read this book. The book is quite technical and it
      is fairly long, however I believe that this should not stop the lay
      reader. The book is in my opinion simply too important. I have
      reviewed close to 100 books now, most of them on consicousness. I
      have said on numerous times that such or such a book is a must read.
      This one is the one I think more closely matches that description.
    • Charles DaCosta
      Hi, How do you know the author was not a Buddhist trying to justify his or her beliefs via ... Best Regards, Charles A. DaCosta ... From:
      Message 2 of 6 , Dec 29, 2005
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        Hi,

        How do you know the author was not a Buddhist trying to justify his or her
        beliefs via ...

        Best Regards,
        Charles A. DaCosta

        -----Original Message-----
        From: dhammastudygroup@yahoogroups.com
        [mailto:dhammastudygroup@yahoogroups.com] On Behalf Of Joop
        Sent: Sunday, 25 December, 2005 16:22
        To: dhammastudygroup@yahoogroups.com
        Subject: [dsg] Anatta and neuroscience

        Hallo all

        Not that it surprised me but more and more neuroscience comes to the
        same conclusion as the Dhamma: the 'self' is an illusion
        Here some Amazon-information about the (what I heard) best
        neurophilosophical book about it

        Metta

        Joop


        Being No One : The Self-Model Theory of Subjectivity
        by Thomas Metzinger

        Paperback: 711 pages
        Publisher: The MIT Press (September 1, 2004)
        ISBN: 0262633086

        Book Description
        According to Thomas Metzinger, no such things as selves exist in the
        world: <...>
      • Joop
        ... or her ... Hallo Charles We cannot know, but I have not found anything specific remarks of him in this direction. I m glad you react to my message, but
        Message 3 of 6 , Dec 31, 2005
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          --- In dhammastudygroup@yahoogroups.com, "Charles DaCosta"
          <dacostas@P...> wrote:
          >
          > Hi,
          >
          > How do you know the author was not a Buddhist trying to justify his
          or her
          > beliefs via ...
          >
          > Best Regards,
          > Charles A. DaCosta

          Hallo Charles

          We cannot know, but I have not found anything specific remarks of him
          in this direction.
          I'm glad you react to my message, but what is your question?
          Do you agree with my statement that this is another proof that the
          anatta-theory is correct?

          Metta

          Joop

          > -----Original Message-----
          > From: dhammastudygroup@yahoogroups.com
          > [mailto:dhammastudygroup@yahoogroups.com] On Behalf Of Joop
          > Sent: Sunday, 25 December, 2005 16:22
          > To: dhammastudygroup@yahoogroups.com
          > Subject: [dsg] Anatta and neuroscience
          >
          > Hallo all
          >
          > Not that it surprised me but more and more neuroscience comes to
          the
          > same conclusion as the Dhamma: the 'self' is an illusion
          > Here some Amazon-information about the (what I heard) best
          > neurophilosophical book about it
          >
          > Metta
          >
          > Joop
          >
          >
          > Being No One : The Self-Model Theory of Subjectivity
          > by Thomas Metzinger
          >
          > Paperback: 711 pages
          > Publisher: The MIT Press (September 1, 2004)
          > ISBN: 0262633086
          >
          > Book Description
          > According to Thomas Metzinger, no such things as selves exist in
          the
          > world: <...>
          >
        • Charles DaCosta
          Hi joop, If the following statement you made is true, then yes: According to Thomas Metzinger, no such things as selves exist in the world: nobody ever had or
          Message 4 of 6 , Jan 2, 2006
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            Hi joop,

            If the following statement you made is true, then yes:

            "According to Thomas Metzinger, no such things as selves exist in the world:
            nobody ever had or was a self. All that exists are phenomenal selves, as
            they appear in conscious experience. The phenomenal self, however, is not a
            thing but an ongoing process; it is the content of a "transparent
            self-model." In Being No One, Metzinger, a German philosopher, draws
            strongly on neuroscientific research to present a representationalist and
            functional analysis of what a consciously experienced first-person
            perspective actually is."

            The remaining issue would be, does the anatta-theory agree with the
            "phenomenal self" and the "transparent self" models?

            Best Regards,
            Charles A. DaCosta

            Damsbovaenget 25
            DK-5230 Odense M
            Denmark

            Phone: (+45) 6611 2080
            Moble: (+45) 6177 7785

            Email: dacostas@...
            MSN: Charles A. DaCosta
            Skype: dacostas

            -----Original Message-----
            From: dhammastudygroup@yahoogroups.com
            [mailto:dhammastudygroup@yahoogroups.com] On Behalf Of Joop
            Sent: Saturday, 31 December, 2005 15:19
            To: dhammastudygroup@yahoogroups.com
            Subject: Re: [dsg] Anatta and neuroscience

            Hallo Charles

            We cannot know, but I have not found anything specific remarks of him
            in this direction.
            I'm glad you react to my message, but what is your question?
            Do you agree with my statement that this is another proof that the
            anatta-theory is correct?

            Metta

            Joop
          • Joop
            ... Hallo Charles About the quote: According to Thomas Metzinger, no such things as selves exist in the world: nobody ever had or was a self. All that exists
            Message 5 of 6 , Jan 4, 2006
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              --- In dhammastudygroup@yahoogroups.com, "Charles DaCosta"
              <dacostas@P...> wrote:
              >
              > Hi joop,
              >
              > If the following statement you made is true, then yes:
              >
              Hallo Charles

              About the quote:
              "According to Thomas Metzinger, no such things as selves exist in the
              world:
              nobody ever had or was a self. All that exists are phenomenal selves,
              as
              they appear in conscious experience. The phenomenal self, however, is
              not a
              thing but an ongoing process; it is the content of a "transparent
              self-model." In Being No One, Metzinger, a German philosopher, draws
              strongly on neuroscientific research to present a representationalist
              and
              functional analysis of what a consciously experienced first-person
              perspective actually is."

              You asked:
              The remaining issue would be, does the anatta-theory agree with the
              "phenomenal self" and the "transparent self" models?

              Joop: A good question; because I have not yet the book of Metzinger,
              I will answer careful, only my opinion:
              As quoted: "The phenomenal self, however, is not a thing but an
              ongoing process", there is hardly a difference between this
              description and that of the five aggregates (khandas)
              And "phenomenal self" is not a self but a label of the model (the
              theory) of Metzinger

              Metta

              Joop
            • Charles DaCosta
              Hi Joop, You argued well based on the description you had. In this case the anatta-theory does agree with the phenomenal self and the transparent self
              Message 6 of 6 , Jan 5, 2006
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                Hi Joop,

                You argued well based on the description you had. In this case the
                anatta-theory does agree with the "phenomenal self" and the "transparent
                self" models.

                Joop: As quoted: "The phenomenal self, however, is not a thing but an
                ongoing process", there is hardly a difference between this description and
                that of the five aggregates (khandas) and "phenomenal self" is not a self
                but a label of the model (the theory) of Metzinger

                My problem now is that this could be said of everything we consider real
                (even from an Abidharma prospective). Everything in existence is, in
                reality, "an ongoing process" that gives an illusion of solidness,
                perceptible-ness. All are interacting compounded entities giving rise to
                processes that we "label" as this and that.


                Best Regards,
                Charles A. DaCosta

                Damsbovaenget 25
                DK-5230 Odense M
                Denmark

                <...>
                -----Original Message-----
                From: dhammastudygroup@yahoogroups.com
                [mailto:dhammastudygroup@yahoogroups.com] On Behalf Of Joop
                <...>
                Hallo Charles

                About the quote:
                "According to Thomas Metzinger, no such things as selves exist in the
                world:
                nobody ever had or was a self. All that exists are phenomenal selves,
                as
                they appear in conscious experience. The phenomenal self, however, is
                not a
                thing but an ongoing process; it is the content of a "transparent
                self-model." In Being No One, Metzinger, a German philosopher, draws
                strongly on neuroscientific research to present a representationalist
                and functional analysis of what a consciously experienced first-person
                perspective actually is."

                <...>
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