This blog deals with deep puzzles about the nature of consciousness. I will be exploring issues that are addressed in more detail in my new book, Your Living Mind: The Mystery of Consciousness and Why It Matters to You. My main focus will be the question of whether it is possible that conscious experiences are brain events.
If you are already convinced that the mind is wedged in between our ears, don’t be too sure that this is obvious. The puzzles involved are far more profound than I realized when I first immersed myself in this issue in the early 1990’s. How could a sensuous experience – the tingle of a caress, the scent of lilacs, the sight of day-glo orange – occur within a brain? After long consideration, some have concluded that we can never answer this question satisfactorily.
The basis of their skepticism varies according to their theoretical orientation. But they all agree that it is extremely difficult to show that sensory experiences are brain events in a way that makes this understandable. Their pessimism involves more than just the worry that consciousness and neural dynamics are too complicated for us to grasp at this time. They believe that understanding how perceptual experiences occur within the brain is virtually impossible in principle, either because experiences do not occur within the brain or because we can never understand how they could.
This blog will wrestle with the remarkable issues associated with this conundrum, trying to show how the conscious mind could, in principle, exist within the brain.
My academic and professional background:
B.A. University of Redlands in religion, philosophy, and psychology.
Doctorate in Religion, Claremont School of Theology.
M.S. in Marriage, Family and Child Counseling, University of LaVerne.
Honors thesis at Redlands on the ethical thought of theologian Paul Tillich.
Ongoing studies in psychology, neuroscience, philosophy of mind, and various spiritual disciplines.
25 years of experience as a psychotherapist.
40 years as a Unitarian Universalist minister.
20 years of membership in the American Philosophical Association, with regular attendance at conferences and colloquia.
Authorship of six books including Feel Better Now; Do Think Twice: Provocative Reflections on Age-Old Questions; Bridging the God Gap: Finding Common Ground Among Believers, Atheists and Agnostics; and Your Living Mind: The Mystery of Consciousness and Why It Matters to You.
I would very much appreciate feedback about the ideas I’ll be sharing. For one thing, I am keenly aware that communicating clearly about consciousness is remarkably difficult. Whenever you read something in this blog that seems muddled or confusing, please let me know. Thanks for your interest in The Mystery of Consciousness, and Why It Matters.
Roger Christan Schriner