"Consciousness makes us believe that we are unique"

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In November 2015 a British psychologist Nicholas Humphrey (Nicholas Humphrey) delivered a lecture in Moscow, "The Invention of consciousness." Before the beginning of the lecture, organized by the Moscow research center of consciousness 1, he shared with Psychologies their ideas about how we got the mind and what his appearance radically changed our lives.

1. Consciousness - a product of human evolution

The simplest definition of consciousness - a state of mind, to which we have introspective access (ie can track it via introspection). I assume that this ability evolved at some point in evolution. Our brain has learned not to respond to external stimuli directly, and maintain in a virtual (imaginary) mode of knowledge of how he would react in a given situation. As a result, the brain has formed an internal observer, able to keep track of not only what is happening to us, but also our own reactions and thoughts about what is happening. The more the reaction began to occur in such an indirect, virtual mode, the harder it becomes our inner life, hidden from the casual observer. In this sense, we are the only beings who are endowed with consciousness.

"The main task of our lectures - to develop in students the ability to think critically, - says co-director of the Moscow Center for the study of consciousness, Candidate of Philosophical Sciences, Dmitry Volkov. - It is very important not only for scientists and philosophers, but also for any person. Over the past few years we have been able to organize performances in Moscow, well-known scientists and philosophers who are engaged in the mystery of consciousness. Among them, Daniel Dennet, John Searle, and now Nicholas Humphrey. We very much hope that the visit will take place on David Chalmers, one of the most highly sought-after and philosophers in the world. It was he who formulated the so-called "hard problem" of consciousness. "

2. Through consciousness we can understand others

Oversee the work of his own mind allows us to understand how it works. We can predict how it will behave. And the most important - if we can create this model of the mind, we can apply it to other people. That is, if I know how my mind works, I can make assumptions about how the mind of another person. In psychology, this is called "theory of mind". The most important part of our life - is other people. Therefore especially important for us to understand their motivation, feelings, attitude towards us and anticipate what they will do.

3. The main riddle of consciousness - our sense of reality

Our brain is filled with not only ideas, but also subjective feelings. Philosophers call this feeling the Latin word "qualia" (qualia, plural of quale -.. "What kind / sort of"). Qualia - are qualitative aspects of the experience, such as how we feel salinity or redness. We can not get an accurate idea of ​​someone else's subjective experience. Philosopher Thomas Nagel (Thomas Nagel) described it as a question, "What is it - to be a bat?" We did not get the answer to this question, even if you know all about the work of her brain. Therefore, the Australian philosopher David Chalmers (David Chalmers) described the nature of qualia "hard problem" of consciousness.

4. Explain the nature of the mind is more difficult than to study brain function

It seems that qualia are not necessary for the existence of mind. Many years ago I discovered the phenomenon of blind sight. In the laboratory, we have seen a monkey, which portion of the brain posterior cortex was damaged. The monkey was completely blind. But I noticed a very strange feature of her behavior: she could see, but did not know it. She could orient themselves in space and in time it turned out she got better and better. But she had no sense of vision. If translated into the language of philosophy: it is not there no qualia, but that does not stop her to get information about the world.

5. Consciousness gives us a sense of the value of our life

First of all, consciousness - is an illusion. This does not mean that it does not exist. I like to draw an analogy with the Penrose impossible triangle. His existence contradicts the laws of physics, but we can imagine, and even draw it. Consciousness - is a magical view that is created by the brain. But for what? My friend, the philosopher Daniel Dennet (Daniel Dennett) argues that qualia have no effect on the outside world. I think that qualia are more a work of art. They fascinate the world in which we live. Due qualia we experience self-importance and value. We attach great importance to their experiences, feelings, their unique experience. This allows us to "put your heart" in what we do. The idea that each of us has a soul, transformed all human society. Each of us creates his own universe, "the space of the soul." The main engine of our achievements - in the minds of our own uniqueness. Nicholas Humphrey - a British psychologist, philosopher, author of many articles and books, including the recently translated into Russian the book "Consciousness - pollen soul" language (Career Press, 2014).

1 Moscow research center of consciousness (MTSIS) at the Philosophy Faculty of Moscow State University was founded in 2009 by Dmitry Volkov, co-founder of the international investment holding SDVentures, and Vadim Vasilyev, Ph.D., chair of history of foreign philosophy of Moscow State University. MV Lomonosov.