RE: MD A bit of reasoning

From: Scott Roberts (
Date: Sat Oct 16 2004 - 00:06:42 BST

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    > As you know, we agree that the MOQ doesn't provide an adequate
    > explanation of the emergence of consciousness. This Problem of
    > Consciousness is, for me, the most daunting problem of philosophy,
    > science, religion. So I'd like to focus on this question.
    > I now understand that you see your INTELLECT and Pirsig's QUALITY as
    > one and the same. But this is confusing to me because if the terms
    > are synonymous then there's no real reason to prefer one over the
    > other. Aren't you suggesting that INTELLECT is somehow a better word
    > (that is, of higher explanatory power) than QUALITY?

    I don't see the terms as synonymous, just as naming the same (non)-thing.
    Two aspects of it, one might say. I suspect that it is a temporary
    limitation of human intellect that we have the words value, quality,
    morality on the one hand, and reason, intellect, thinking, on the other,
    which for humans are two different areas of our lives. So, to use the
    semanticist's vocabulary, they have the same denotation, but different
    connotations. However, if you think about it, if the intellectual level is
    the highest (so far) level of SQ, then according to the MOQ, human
    intellect and quality *are* the same. It is just that we are too used to
    thinking of morality as a social deal, and not thinking of coming up with
    quantum physics, or The Wasteland, as moral accomplishments. I don't
    pretend to have all this straight in my head, by the way. The one thing
    that is pretty clear to me is that the most moral thing we can do is to
    improve our intellects. Meditation, in my opinion, is doing just that,
    though just plain thinking about things, or studying mathematics, or
    anything else, is also "good work".

    Anyway, I do not consider one word as better than the other. In some
    contexts, Intellect is preferred, in others, Quality.

    > If so, could you address the Problem of Consciousness from this
    > perspective? How does using the word "INTELLECT" rather than
    > "QUALITY" in describing fundamental reality provide a better
    > explanation of the evolution (or emergence, if you prefer) of human
    > consciousness?

    Well, my view is that Consciousness is another word that names the
    (non)-thing, so there is no problem of consciousness. It is materialism
    that has such a problem. (See below for my reasoning). But a rock does not
    appear to us to be conscious, nor does it show any sign of intellect -- or
    quality, for that matter. My view is that all of that takes place well
    under our radar. The best we can do is figure out the SQ (basically, the
    laws of physics), and work out a scenario more or less like Rupert
    Sheldrake's for where to place that SQ. The rock that we see has value to
    us only because it instantiates that SQ -- we can depend on it to obey
    physical law. But that is true of the rest of the universe as well: a bird
    can value it as a stable place to perch, the moon for its (tiny)
    contribution to the earth's gravity to keep the moon in orbit, etc. This
    does not mean the bird or the moon is conscious either. Just that value has
    the form of intellect: the pattern (the laws of physics), the instantiation
    (that rock's behavior), and that which connects the two, that values the

    (My reasoning on rejecting a materialist theory of consciousness is,
    briefly, that we are aware of big things, but materialism supposes that
    awareness comes about by the brain putting together a lot of little things
    (like photons or molecules). This is, in my view, impossible, since each
    little thing is separated in space and/or time from each other little
    thing. Since the brain is also composed of little things, there could be no
    awareness of anything bigger than the little things. And not even that,
    since one must have memory -- which is also, according to materialism, a
    set of little things -- to recognize a difference between awareness of a
    photon and not being aware. One can go deeper into this, for example, by
    noting that our conception of the microscopic as spatiotemporal has no
    warrant, since we are presupposing that what produces our awareness (the
    microscopic) is of the same nature as what our awareness produces (the
    macroscopic). (For an interesting discussion of how awareness might work if
    one rejects the materialist view of consciousness, I recommend the book
    "The Dimensional Structure of Consciousness" by Samuel Avery)).

    - Scott

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