The I Inside

Synaptic Gasp
Image by ocean.flynn via Flickr

The BBC’s Horizon is perhaps not the TV programme  it once was (some have accused it of dumbing down of late) but it can still provoke thought. Monday evenings TV outing tried to answer what exactly is consciousness albeit simplified to the question ‘Where am I? ‘. I’m not sure that anyone can answer that for certain but for me it raised an almost worrying prospect that the body influences the mind just as much as the mind influences the body.

In my own thoughts (wherever they may begin and end) I’ve probably just thought of the body as a shell for the ‘I’ inside.

I and you without a body move

The prospect that consciousness could even just  be the side effect of neurons firing in a particular way and reliant on a certain biological structure in the physical brain perhaps dents my own feeling the ‘I’ inside the body would desperately enjoy being freed from the constraints of the physical body. It sound much more like a co-dependency arrangement.

The point at which we become self aware seems related to a certain point in our development. Perhaps even at a point that the physical brain reaches a certain point of physical formation. The body may even be the one that’s really in the driving seat.

The programme also dealt cast a modicum of doubt over the notion of autonomous free will and determination. Maybe we are more at the mercy of random electrical impulses than we would like to contemplate.

For UK viewers the Horizon programme is still available for a while on the BBC iPlayer


One thought on “The I Inside

  1. If consciousness is entirely physical then cause and effect must rule the show as they do in all other physical phenomena, thus ruling out the possibility of “free” will. In that case, it seems odd that we can even conceive of the concept of free will, entertain it as a possibility, and discuss it. Or perhaps this is a strange side effect of consciousness as is the ability to think up non-existent entities such as unicorns, dragons or god.

    It ultimately depends, of course, on how you define free will. Does anyone really know what we mean by this term? I obviously cannot choose to do things that are impossible to me such as fly or breathe under water like the fish. Only certain options are open to me at any moment. How do I choose between these? All the evidence suggests that choices are made deterministically even if we do not realize this and think we have “made” the decision freely.

    Even if I somehow choose between Option A and Option B, I may still not be able to carry my intention through. For example, I may decide to marry Mary rather than Phyllis only to find that Mary has now decided to marry someone else, frustrating my choice.

    “Free will”, then, might simply be the situation that obtains when I am able to carry through a decision which I have reached deterministically. In that case, even though I feel I am having my own way, this is an illusion.

    Yet there still lurks in the back of our minds the suspicion (or is it merely the hope?) that free will exists. If ever it is finally proved that it does not, it will be as hard to convince people of it as it is to convince them that the supernatural is an illusion.

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