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Author Topic:   Atheist and agnostic views on reincarnation and consciousness
Ben!
Member (Idle past 1700 days)
Posts: 1154
From: San Diego, CA
Joined: 10-14-2004


Message 1 of 21 (345944)
09-02-2006 1:50 AM


Archer Opterix's Belief-o-Matic thread got me thinking again about consciousness and reincarnation.

For those who are materialists and believe consciousness is a by-product of matter, I have a question:

The feeling of time passing only occurs when we are "conscious"; it seems to me to be the most salient feature of consciousness. When we die, if we lose consciousness, we will also lose our sense of time. Is it possible, then, that death is simply an instantaneous blip until we regain consciousness? We may lose our sense of "I" in the process, we may start again... but the only way time can pass is if we wake up again.

I guess my question is, is reincarnation a consequence of pure materialism?

A second question relates to the nature of the "I". Seems to me "I" is a basic memory function as well as a sensation. "I" is complete only with a memory of what "I" am, and the feeling that "I" have an identiy, that "I" am "I".

When we die, we lose our sense of time. Is it meaningful to say that we become another consciousness? "I" would be unaware that "I" was different; "I would naturally feel identity in a different body.

I can't make sense of it at the moment. I can't understand the materialist view of consciousness. If the "I" were so fleeting, was a product of sensory-motor experience, then the more similar we are, the more we share consciousness. Seems identical twins would share consciousness in a way that wouldn't make sense to me or you--would they be able to perceive things that didn't flow through the body containing their "I"?

What a rambling mess. I was shooting for Faith & Belief, but if this needs to be "thrown to the dogs", then toss it into the Coffee House. And if I need to focus this post more... so be it.

Edited by Ben, : Added "and consciousness" to the title.


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AdminNWR
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Message 2 of 21 (345982)
09-02-2006 8:38 AM


Thread moved here from the Proposed New Topics forum.
  
ramoss
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Posts: 3100
Joined: 08-11-2004
Member Rating: 4.1


Message 3 of 21 (345984)
09-02-2006 9:07 AM
Reply to: Message 1 by Ben!
09-02-2006 1:50 AM


There are atheists that believe in reincarnation. However, in general, you will not find them.

In my view, 'conciousness' is an emergant property of brain activity. Stop the brain, stop the conciousness.

The 'reincarnation' of a 'soul' would not make sense to me. That new life would not have my knowledge, my experiance, and my attitudes. why call it me. Why call the 'me' a reincarnation of that person. It just doesn't make sense.


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CK
Member (Idle past 2205 days)
Posts: 3221
Joined: 07-04-2004


Message 4 of 21 (345987)
09-02-2006 9:23 AM
Reply to: Message 1 by Ben!
09-02-2006 1:50 AM


quote:
Is it possible, then, that death is simply an instantaneous blip until we regain consciousness?

I don't really follow the leap you make here - why would we regain consciousness? The "other" you describe seems to be an entirely seperate entity - it seems unconnected to "I".

quote:
We may lose our sense of "I" in the process, we may start again... but the only way time can pass is if we wake up again.

Time passes without an observer being needed or being present - all you are talking about is our measurement of it.

Edited by CK, : No reason given.


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sidelined
Inactive Member


Message 5 of 21 (346023)
09-02-2006 12:12 PM
Reply to: Message 1 by Ben!
09-02-2006 1:50 AM


Ben

is it possible, then, that death is simply an instantaneous blip until we regain consciousness?

I would say not. Since conciousness is a result of the activity of complex molecular interplay and that when deacy occurs after death the structure that supports conciousness is destroyed irrevocbly.


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Ben!
Member (Idle past 1700 days)
Posts: 1154
From: San Diego, CA
Joined: 10-14-2004


Message 6 of 21 (346039)
09-02-2006 1:40 PM
Reply to: Message 3 by ramoss
09-02-2006 9:07 AM


The 'reincarnation' of a 'soul' would not make sense to me. That new life would not have my knowledge, my experiance, and my attitudes. why call it me.

I don't think you really addressed the question I was asking, so I'll try to ask it again:

What attaches the "I" to a body or to some set of cells? Is the attachment done at the cellular level? At the neural network level? At the systems / input-output level?

Unless you think that consciousness emerges from individual cells (seems unlikely to me), then consciousness emerges from something a bit more abstract. If it emerges from something more abstract, then there's no reason why it can't arise in a different time. And if you're not conscious of the flow of time during that intervening time, then ... what of it? You have infinite time to rediscover that.

In the same sense, if consciousness is not due to having specific cells, but rather due to interactions of non-specific cells and input/output relations, then I don't see why consciousness could not be shared, why it is necessarily personal.

I didn't feel your answer addressed any of this; just asserted your position. I'd be interested to hear your thoughts on what I've said.

Thanks!


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Ben!
Member (Idle past 1700 days)
Posts: 1154
From: San Diego, CA
Joined: 10-14-2004


Message 7 of 21 (346040)
09-02-2006 1:43 PM
Reply to: Message 5 by sidelined
09-02-2006 12:12 PM


Since conciousness is a result of the activity of complex molecular interplay and that when deacy occurs after death the structure that supports conciousness is destroyed irrevocbly.

The instantiation of the structure is destroyed. What prevents there from being another instantiation? Seems to me that a materialist who believes consciousness emerges from structure is stuck believing that consciousness is not tied to only one specific hardware.


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ringo
Member
Posts: 16237
From: frozen wasteland
Joined: 03-23-2005
Member Rating: 1.9


Message 8 of 21 (346048)
09-02-2006 1:51 PM
Reply to: Message 7 by Ben!
09-02-2006 1:43 PM


Ben writes:

Seems to me that a materialist who believes consciousness emerges from structure is stuck believing that consciousness is not tied to only one specific hardware.

Then how is the consciousness "transmitted" from one hardware to the other? Is it like dumping all of my computer's data onto CD and then reading it into a new computer?


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nwr
Member
Posts: 5585
From: Geneva, Illinois
Joined: 08-08-2005


Message 9 of 21 (346050)
09-02-2006 1:55 PM
Reply to: Message 6 by Ben!
09-02-2006 1:40 PM


What attaches the "I" to a body or to some set of cells?

Why does it need to be attached? Can't it be inseparable from the body, without ever having been attached? I think it is this idea of "attached" that leads you to the idea that it could be detached and have a separate existence.

Unless you think that consciousness emerges from individual cells (seems unlikely to me), then consciousness emerges from something a bit more abstract.

I see consciousness as emerging from processes. In this case they are biological processes, although I don't think the biological aspect is essential. The processes are intimately connected to the physical survival of the body, so I don't see how one can make sense of these processes as detached.

..., then I don't see why consciousness could not be shared, why it is necessarily personal.

What's a person? If the person is a product of the processes involved in producing consciousness, then how could consciousness be anything other than personal?
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sidelined
Inactive Member


Message 10 of 21 (346060)
09-02-2006 2:33 PM
Reply to: Message 7 by Ben!
09-02-2006 1:43 PM


Ben

Seems to me that a materialist who believes consciousness emerges from structure is stuck believing that consciousness is not tied to only one specific hardware.

Consciousness requires a physical structure as well. Once the physical structure decays your consciousness is at an end. I assume you are trying to establish a consciousness seperate from the physical structure that houses it and thus open the possibilty of consciousness that can take residence in another brain with a similar structure for consciousness?


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CK
Member (Idle past 2205 days)
Posts: 3221
Joined: 07-04-2004


Message 11 of 21 (346062)
09-02-2006 2:54 PM
Reply to: Message 7 by Ben!
09-02-2006 1:43 PM


quote:
Seems to me that a materialist who believes consciousness emerges from structure is stuck believing that consciousness is not tied to only one specific hardware.

Why?

Consciousness X arises or is "attached" to Structure X - how or why does it get to or is connected to structure Y? What's the mechanism for transfer?

Edited by CK, : No reason given.


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Ben!
Member (Idle past 1700 days)
Posts: 1154
From: San Diego, CA
Joined: 10-14-2004


Message 12 of 21 (346067)
09-02-2006 3:35 PM
Reply to: Message 11 by CK
09-02-2006 2:54 PM


Consciousness X arises or is "attached" to Structure X - how or why does it get to or is connected to structure Y? What's the mechanism for transfer?

"I" includes both consciousness and memory. If we're saying the consciousness is based on the functional properties and architecture of the system, then two systems that have the similar functional properties and architectures should have "similar consciousness". How similar do they need to be to consider the consciousnesses the same?

I'm not saying "I" will be reincarnated. I am saying that we don't seem to be thinking of consciousness as a property of individuals, but of systems. If you define consciousness functionally, then there's no limitation to the number of times the "same" consciousness arises or how many intances of the same thing you can have at once.

What precisely is the argument that consciousness cannot be shared, cannot be discontinuous, cannot be instantiated in different physical systems with the same functional properties?


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Ben!
Member (Idle past 1700 days)
Posts: 1154
From: San Diego, CA
Joined: 10-14-2004


Message 13 of 21 (346068)
09-02-2006 3:40 PM
Reply to: Message 10 by sidelined
09-02-2006 2:33 PM


consciousness seperate from the physical structure that houses it and thus open the possibilty of consciousness that can take residence in another brain with a similar structure for consciousness?

Not quite. I don't want to treat consciousness that "moves" from one place to another. Rather, if you have two systems that are physically similar enough to produce similar consciousnesses, I think we're obligated to call them the same--since for materialists consciousness seems to be is defined functionally.

Then, this to me is along the lines of reincarnation, without memory of past experiences. Along the same lines, when you lose consciousness and regain it, your consciousness is in a sense 'reincarnated'. Consciousness need not be continuous.

The "I" is not reincarnated (the "I" would be tied irrevocably to the body), but consciousness seems not so fickle.


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CK
Member (Idle past 2205 days)
Posts: 3221
Joined: 07-04-2004


Message 14 of 21 (346069)
09-02-2006 3:40 PM
Reply to: Message 12 by Ben!
09-02-2006 3:35 PM


quote:
If you define consciousness functionally, then there's no limitation to the number of times the "same" consciousness arises or how many intances of the same thing you can have at once.

I'm getting confused now - how is something being "similar" the same as reincarnation which does involve (as I understand) it a unique "code" (for what of a better word) being transfered to a different system?

dfhgdfhdfhethrsthrstjrtjrthrthjrtjhrthhjrtjrtjrtjrthjrtjrtjrtjhrt
jrtjrtjhrtjrtjrtjrtjrtjrtjrtjrtjrtjrtjrtjrtjrtjrtjrtjrtjrtjrtjrtj
dfhfge4ygje5hyb9e53ymy43y5meeormgoym35hoemrog4w23ymo53mehom4w3yo4
w3myhoerm34wo2ymwo43ymhow4egmo432myo434my5oemrgo32tm4w3oymoerhmto
342myw34oymeormgow34ym4o3ymomegodmgtow4m2yo5e4myhoewmgotm43oymhtr
homboewgmt43woym5eo4mhogmdgmowetmo43wmyohmtrhomermgoew4ytm43om5yo
emrth

is similar to

dfhgdfhdfhethrsthrstjrtjrthrthjrtjhrthhjrtjrtjrtjrthjrtjrtjrtjhrt
jrtjrtjhrtjrtjrtjrtjrtjrtjrtjrtjrtjrtjrtjrtjrtjrtjrtjrtjrtjrtjrtj
dfhfge4ygje5hyb9e53ymy43y5meeormgoym35hoemrog4w23ymo53mehom4w3yo4
w3myhoerm34wo2ymwo43ymhow4egmo432myo434my5oemrgo32tm4w3oymoerhmto
342myw34oymeormgow34ym4o3ymomegodmgtow4m2yo5e4myhoewmgotm43oymhtr
homboewgmt43woym5eo4mhogmdgmowetmo44wmyohmtrhomermgoew4ytm43om5yo
emrth

but they are not the same thing.

So what are we discussing, "similar" or "the same"? because you seem to using them in an interchange fashion.

Edited by CK, : No reason given.


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Ben!
Member (Idle past 1700 days)
Posts: 1154
From: San Diego, CA
Joined: 10-14-2004


Message 15 of 21 (346072)
09-02-2006 3:43 PM
Reply to: Message 14 by CK
09-02-2006 3:40 PM


So what are we discussing, "similar" or "the same"? because you seem to using them in an interchange fashion.

I don't know. Usually when you define something functionally, things with similar functionalities produce similar results. I would guess that consciousness is graded, and that as you change the functional properties of the system, you get slowly diverging results.

That's an assumption, but that seems reasonable to me.


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