I recently finished reading the book Out of our Heads by Alva Noë. In my lifetime I have read many books on the nature of consciousness. Noë’s book is very thought-provoking, and his critique of much of current cognitive science is cogent. One thing he tells us is that neuroscientists who hope to find consciousness inside the brain are actually looking in the wrong place. There is a joke about the guy who was looking for his car keys on the pavement under the street light even though he had lost them in the grass, because there was more light under the street light. With all the brain imaging equipment that has been recently developed, scientists are looking at brain scans for traces of consciousness. What Noë tells us is that we will more likely find consciousness by looking at the relationship between us and our environment. That is because consciousness only develops through our interaction with the environment. He says that consciousness is something that we do, rather than a thing in someone’s brain. That is why I have made the title of this little essay, “Sensing and understanding consciousness”—sensing and understanding are things that we do, and in fact, they are good candidates for being forms of consciousness.
TigerCity got me to thinking last night. I started out by thinking I disagreed with him, but now I’m not sure how much to disagree. So a good way to clear my thoughts is to write about it. He tells us that he isn’t really impressed by most of the life goals that turn other people’s cranks. Money? No. Influence? No. Ambition? Nope. Doing what you love doing? He doesn’t think so. He thinks the only logical measure of success in life is augmenting the gene pool; making babies. To be sure, and to fair, he does mention “prolonging the life of the species.” But right now, he says, he’s a failure, because he hasn’t yet “managed one sprog.”