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« Links to Past Episodes | Main | Who's Your Favourite Philosopher? »

November 26, 2012


Jim Vaughan

What a brilliant contemporary yet ancient thought experiment!
It reminds me of John Lilley, and "The Center of the Cyclone" - all those weird isolation tank experiments.

Of course in reality, there are all sorts of internal sounds, like heartbeats, blood flow in the ears etc., as well as kinaesthetic sensations. I assume even these are excluded and he is like "Tommy" (but without the pinball).

In which case, my hunch would be that the chaos engine of the brain would settle down to some kind of stable equilibrium and awareness would never be achieved. Alternatively, perhaps storms of strange attractors would sponteneously rage through the brain, sometimes passing through (for instance) the visual cortex, or sensory-motor cortex, in which case, some awareness of primitive visual forms or tactile sensations might be possible, and there would be something it was like to be that brain. That would not demonstrate a non material soul however!

Regrettably, I think in experiments on animals blindfolded from birth, even when the blindfold was removed, and with perfectly functioning eyes, they could not see. So maybe the empiricists are right! Use it or lose it...

Skylar McManus

As much as this podcast got me thinking about how special self-consciousness is, it also got me thinking about the usefulness of thought experiments.

I think that this thought experiment actually fails because, in its setup, it presupposes that God exists. Why is this a problem? Because by presupposing that an immaterial being exists (the God of Islam), it has already established what Adamson thinks its conclusion is: that it is possible that there is an immaterial soul. That is, if an immaterial being already exists, then it is at least possible that an immaterial soul exists as well, since the immaterial is not ruled out. Hence, I think the thought experiment fails to even establish that it is possible that an immaterial soul exists.

I would love to hear some feedback on this! At the very least, what I have been thinking shows that thought experiments need to be analyzed very closely.

John Corfield

Surely our self awareness emerges as we grow during childhood. It is impossible to believe that a child could grow(exist)without sense input (food and air etc). I thought we all agreed that our sense of self is an embodied sense - we do not, cannot, exist (be) without our bodies and senses. The idea of a soul is no longer needed. We do not understand consciousness but it seems to emerge from our developed brain - both evolutionarily and during childhood - there is no separate I.
I don't doubt that Adamson knows all this and much more, so I would be very interested to hear his justification for his position.

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