Five Myths About Consciousness

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by Neil Godfrey

H/T Patricia Churchland: In the The Washington Post Christof Koch writes Five Myths About Consciousness

  • Myth No. 1 — Humans have a unique brain.

You probably know the latest understanding on that one.

  • Myth No. 2 — Science will never understand consciousness.

Never say never.

  • Myth No. 3 — Dreams contain hidden clues about our secret desires.

I’ve caught up on the “facts” about dreams. Was I one of the last to do so?

  • Myth No. 4 — We are susceptible to subliminal messages.

I hadn’t caught up with that one. That was interesting, and reassuring. It also explained why I haven’t heard anything about subliminal messages for decades.

  • Myth No. 5 — Near-death ‘visions’ are evidence of life after death.

I suspect most readers are aware of the science behind those “visions”.



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Neil Godfrey

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7 thoughts on “Five Myths About Consciousness”

  1. Myth no.4 – We are susceptible to subliminal messages.

    Hell, most people can’t see the obvious crap in the world let alone anything subliminal – MAGA for instance.

  2. I am unable to read the article because there is a paywall and I have already reached my monthly quota for free Washington Post articles.

    However, coincidentally, I am preparing to lead a discussion about consciousness in my philosophy book group. The title of the discussion is, Metaphysical Speculations of Bernardo Kastrup.

    Kastrup leans toward metaphysical or ontological Idealism. On the topic of mind and matter, he leans toward the opinion that there is only universal consciousness.

    This is a well-grounded and highly nuanced opinion that he has tightly argued in in books, academic papers, his regular essays in Scientific American magazine, and in many online videos. He explains how this is possible and how this view is more likely correct than is the view of most scientists and educated others whose views are “grounded” in materialism, physicalism, realism, etc.

    Kastrup shows how these commonly held “isms” actually are unproven assumptions in almost all cases. He cites evidence that realism has been demonstrated to be untenable.

    My handout for the discussion is here:

    Kastrup’s website is here:

    I myself find Kastrup’s thinking to be fascinating, optimistic, plausible, and in fact fun to contemplate seriously. I am open and even drawn not only to Kastrup’s arguments themselves, but perhaps more so to the implications of his hypothesis.

    But who knows? Kastrup very well could be wrong, and the conventional view that there is only matter very well could be correct. But to me, Kastrup argues a good case for his views.

    This is a rich topic that I really enjoy discussing — with people who are at least somewhat open-minded about the nature of reality.

    1. I like your handout.

      A teeny niggle, however. You refer to Spinoza as “Baruch”. I know this has become common in recent years, but it is disrespectful to Spinoza. “Baruch” was the name he was given in the synagogue, and the name under which he was cursed and rejected by the synagogue.

      Spinoza preferred, and used, the name “Benedict”. I think we should respect his choice.

  3. Yet another daft ‘scientistic’ article with contradictory content. Humans clearly do have unique brains and the author unwittingly supports this ‘myth’. If there is nothing unique about the quantity of our cortical neutrons or the type of brain cells or the size of our brains, then there is clearly something unique about how these neurons are connected.
    We haven’t worked that out yet. But even the author in his arrogant scientistic view that everything can be solved (when he discusses consciousness in myth two) would have to concede that future developments in neurophysiology will unravel what underpins this uniqueness.

    The author also comes up with a nutty claim that anesthiologists have somehow made a breakthrough in our understanding of consciousness.
    No doubt the Boston strangler had insights into the final minutes and seconds of human consciousness, but I’m not sure what that proves.

    In myth Number three he does the usual hatchet job on Freudian theory. I’m sure there is more balanced material out there. In the God Delusion , Dawkins failed to mention Freud’s Future of an Illusion. Freud also used the term ‘delusion’ in this 1927 publication. It deserved a chapter in Dawkins book, but didn’t even get a dismissive sentence. This denial of Freudian work is perhaps a form of denial.

    As for myth Number 4, the non-existence of subliminal messages, the author gets stuck on a very narrow definition. Advertising frequently uses methods that work on the periphery of our consciousness (we are not at first aware of them, but our attention is drawn to them) and they can affect our choices.

  4. Having popped into existence and…
    … subsequently having developed a capacity to relate a 20th/21st C. view of my predicament…
    … I have realized I could have popped into existence as a dog.

    The prospect for a comfortable sinecure in future is grim.
    And, statistically, not on this world as well.

    Vridar has Paypal! Smart!

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