Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Tell me: Who are you?

"Let your mind relax. Let your mind relax and expand, mixing with the sky in front of it. Then notice:the clouds float by in the sky, and you are effortlessly aware of them. Feelings float by in the body, and you are effortlessly aware of them as well. Nature floats by, feelings float by, thoughts float by ... and you are aware of them all.
So tell me: Who are you?
You are not your thoughts, for you are aware of them. You are not your feelings, for you are aware of them. You are not any objects that you can see, for you are aware of them.
Something in you is aware of all these things. So tell me: What is it in you that is conscious of everything?"

Ken Wilber, Boomeritis, 336 (TSFOB, 31)

7 comments:

chas said...

i like this one because it's totally free of pretension and doesn't pretend to know anything, just asks a question that seems like it should have an answer but doesn't. I guess he does assume we can actually be aware but meh i think feeling like i am aware is probably the same as being aware. or maybe being aware that i might not be aware calls into question any awareness i have, at which point i just fucked myself

Jeff said...

It's hard for me to imagine that I'm not aware. I'm sitting here trying to imagine what it would mean to say that I am not aware -- as hard as I try to believe it, there is something here that qualifies as an internal experience that I can't shake.

chas said...

while i do agree with you, people use the same rationale for the existence of god. it's hard for me to just accept that because something feels like it should be, makes it be

think about what you said as an argument for god's existence:
"It's hard for me to imagine that god doesn't exist. I'm sitting here trying to imagine what it would mean to say that god doesn't exist -- as hard as i try to believe it, there is something here that can't be explained by science that only a supernatural being could create"
Do you think that this is fundamentally different logic from yours?

if so, i think the same things that qualify for awareness in humans would apply to dogs too... when they feel hunger they are 'aware' of it and take action. As far as I know, this applies to any living organism. I don't really know where i'm going with this but I guess the whole idea that humans have some special extra something seems so unlikely to me that I can't really reconcile it with my personal belief that I have something that is ME in the metaphysical realm. I can't help but believe it, but objectively I can't explain it

Jeff said...

I think it's the same logic just applied a little worse in your example. Unless when you say "God" you essentially mean "All that is" and you omit the part about not being explained by science... because all of this can be explained by science but it cannot be *understood* by science. Just as scientists can explain what happens in the body when you experience pain, but their explanations of pain will never amount to understanding the feeling of pain.

I can't objectively explain existence because to explain something objectively is to make it clear as an object in one's mind -- however, if it's an object in the mind then, by definition, it is not the subject.

This is a mystical experience in writing. Many people claim that when you understand this fully the subject/object distinction disappears. There only IS. I favor this explanation because it best jives with the logic -- When looking at who I am, I always come to the conclusion that there is no separate self, that I am literally all-that-is witnessing itself. In other words, I just AM. And no object of the mind will explain it better than that.

...and other animals probably have inner experiences too, dogs dream so they almost certainly have an internal experience.

brutus said...

Although out of date by the standards of neuropsychology and neuroscience, in Consciousness Explained, Daniel Dennett calls the unmistakable sense of self-awareness the benign user illusion. It's the way the brain and nervous systems coalesce into a mind, spirit, identify, self, soul, etc. But from a materialist perspective, it's merely an illusion.

Jeff said...

Do you agree with the materialist perspective? Because to me, that's about the dumbest conclusion you can come to. If it's an illusion, who is having this illusion?? Somebody, something is. That somebody/something is what we are. To say it doesn't exist is material reductionism, and misses the obvious truth. The truth being that there is an internal experience happening here. A self independent of the material world is an illusion; but qualia, experience/consciousness, is not.

Dennett would say qualia is not worth talking about because it's too confused and or self contradictory to be considered -- well sorry Dennett, just because you can't wrap your head around it doesn't mean it's not there. That dude needs to stop thinking for a second and feel what it is to be alive. "Oh you're not really feeling the sun warm your face as it rises over the Atlantic... that's just a benign user illusion" he says.

This is why Ken Wilber's 4 quadrants are a useful way to look at the world. The material world (upper right) has an internal (upper left) correlate.

brutus said...

Do I agree? Sorta, yes, but I don't act upon that belief. Even if the illusion is merely a way of relating to outer reality, including qualia, then it's so utterly convincing and self-reinforcing that to deny it is pure nihilism. That said, the science and logic behind the notion that I am my body, not my mind, while difficult, is pretty convincing, too. I don't deride the argument, but it's mostly irrelevant because the illusion is so powerful.