Dear Readers,

If you are reading a copy sent to you by email, it contained an important typo.

The problem was in this sentence:

That is strong evidence, in my view, that brains and consciousness are somehow correlated, entangled, implicated, enmeshed, and perhaps affiliated, NOT necessarily causally but perhaps in ways we humans cannot even imagine.

In the email version, the word "NOT" was omitted which destroyed the intent of that sentence. I have corrected this in copies accessed through the url link:


Thanks for reading. Be well.

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I have a way to describe consciousness which is quite not "mystic" and completely rooted in the material brain-body. I would like to know everybody's thoughts about it. For me consciousness is the knowledge I have, moment to moment about myself and my environment. That includes thoughts, feelings, bodily sensations, pictures of the place I am in, estimates of distances between nearby objects, their colors, and many other attributes. These contents vary and fade rapidly and are replaced by others second after second, according to changes in the focus of my attention and other factors. This knowledge resides in my brain, partially in other parts of my body, and I see no need to attribute to it magical or universal (nondual) properties. Now, if we assume this definition, it is easy to see that consciousness must be found in other mammals and it is easily implemented in robots or other artificial contraptions. A robot may well have knowledge about its state and about its environment, and knowledge about its knowledge. Recursivity is an old and very well-known element in all manner of computing software and hardware, nothing new or magical here. Some people use the term "Consciousness" meaning a moral compass or a repository of their values, but that is another issue completely. Thoughts?

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Have you read Douglas Hofstadter's book, I Am A Strange Loop"?

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Yes, a long time ago.

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May 18·edited May 18Liked by Robert Saltzman

Hey Robert,

Thanks for the reply. If I had seen this nearer the time I might have responded in more detail, but I was on an internet break. It all feels a bit stale now and I've lost the will

I think we're talking past each other here a bit. Perhaps I misphrased my question or was too aggressive or snarky (an internet affordance I'm subject to), or maybe there's a bit of bad faith on one side or another. Your retreat to vagueness ("naturalism", which can admit quite literally anything; "somehow correlated", etc) I find dubious. Also your "I suspect you have trotted out often" is mere ad hominem. Did I claim to be a writer or to be persistently original? Your red-blooded American rugged individualism bit is also a misfire. I'm an Australian living in a rainforest hut, and when I interact, very consciously, with my wallaby and python brothers and sisters, I'm very much aware that we are made of the same stuff. And those very embodied experiences leads nowhere near consensus scientific naturalism (David Abram writes better on that than I ever could). I don't have the reference to hand, but I'm pretty sure I've heard you use the term 'emergence' wrt consciousness ad neurons, but that misuse of a term coined in complex systems theory, and terribly misunderstood/used by neuroscience, is a tell (and, yes, of both magic and superstition).

Anyway, that'll do for a quick mostly fly by comment skirting the main issue - which is that I still find your position unaccountably hospitable to an intellectually flat cultural default. I may write more in response to another article if/when I can be arsed.


PS. This is all set within the context of enjoying your '10000 things'. You're a beautiful writer. But there's nothing and no-one and no position I don't have reservations about.

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Thank you Robert, love the reply (and the topic). Inspired me to write something which I hope is of some interest.

Experience and non-experience are known. By known I do not mean some reified non-entity that I "really" am knows the absence of experience too, but rather that non-experience was present according to my recollection. I may only recall a gap, or not even that, but what is impossible to say is I did/do not know that gap of non-experience. To claim so belies my experience. We humans don't have words for what we don't know, and we do have words for everything we do.

I am and I exist. Can those be denied without using imagination? Not that I see. I don't know what my existence or consciousness is per se, but I know that it is, and I know it isn't distinguishable from me from my own vantage point.

I know experiences are ceaseless and that sometimes there are gaps when I'm not present. I know that in those gaps my mind and body and everything else by extension vanish without my knowledge or doing, and that when they return I'm none the worse for wear as far as I can tell.

I know I am awareness and that I do not ever become objects that I experience, even my body and mind. If I as awareness try to "enter" them - or anything else for that matter - I fail every time from my own vantage point. My awareness does not ever become anything else, and yet it is always present like a locus of me even though it cannot be located. My own "vantage point," whatever it may actually be, is the best I can tell about what I am even though I don't know what it actually is.

It also at the locus of the experience of anything I ever know including - I see in retrospect - the absence of objects. This says nothing about anything other than my experience, and in that sense could be said to me meaningless, but it cannot be said to be not so - at least by me. It is so, I just don't know what it is, besides having me always associated with it - right at the very center.

I know I am associated with a particular human primate animal. I know I cannot be associated with another human primate animal in the same way, though I also know by communication that what they are is what I am - whatever that is. Not the individual animal, but the generic program.

This is a both/and, zero sum world. I am awareness. I am a human primate animal. Both must be accounted for in my picture of myself if I am attempting to see myself as I am. At no time am I not both, and in being both, I also must be neither. Our ordinary experience is what "self knowledge" is.

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Thanks! An entertaining exchange while I sit here on the bank of my creek listening to the wind blow.

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I think that there is just this and anything we say about it is also just this and we do not know a fucking thing.

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