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Why Everyone (Else) is a Hypocrite 3: Who is “I”?

02/21/2013

How does the modular mind relate to self identity? Big question. The chapter begins by criticizing the “homunculous” or “tiny brain” idea of consciousness, which Kurzban says most people reject when explicitly brought up, but still seem to intuitively accept. Unfortunately, there’s not (yet?) a discussion of what a self might be, but instead just a tearing down of our intuitive “Cartesian Theatre” “Ghost in the Machine” (there are a million phrases for this) idea of the self.

Of course Libet studies and the like are mentioned to argue against a disembodied source of conscious will. I wonder what the responses are, since these, to me, seem fairly indicative, along with other lines of evidence like split brain patients, that the disembodied soul does not exist.

Kindle Notes:

Dennett writes: The idea of a special center in the brain is the most tenacious bad idea bedeviling our attempts to think about consciousness … it keeps reasserting itself, in new guises, and for a variety of ostensibly compelling reasons. To begin with, there is our personal, introspective appreciation of the “unity of consciousness” (978).

First of all, let’s be clear. One way it can’t possibly turn out is that brain activity occurs only after the decision to move the wrist (1025).

Note: Looks like an assumption, but looking at Libet studies, Kurzban justifies this sort of huge claim.

Libet and his colleagues found that brain activity preceded subjects’ reports of their wish to move their wrist. In 1999, Libet talked about these findings, saying “In the traditional view of conscious will and free will, one would expect conscious will to appear before, or at the onset, of RP”*12 But how could “conscious will” appear before anything happened in the brain? Whatever “conscious will” is—and I agree that this is a difficult issue—we all agree that it must be physical, something that happens in your brain. The decision to move the wrist can’t be made, initially, by a nonphysical Buzzy-like entity (1029).

If everything I’ve said to this point is right, your brain, which consists of a large number of modules, has some modules that are conscious, and many, many more that are not. Many of the ones that are nonconscious are potentially very important, processing information about the sensory world, making decisions about action, and so on (1060).

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