Saturday, January 22

A parents worst nightmare


Our beautiful and much loved youngest daughter died today aged only 42. 

She suffered an unexpected severe seizure on Monday and subsequent cardiac arrest where her heart was only revived after 50 minutes by a team of 11 paramedics. This resulted in trauma to her brain which meant she never regained consciousness. The past year was possibly the happiest in her life and from our perspective as parents we shared many conversations about life and enjoyed her company. That relationship was more like that of a good friend than as a daughter. Her two older sisters were highly supportive of her and are of course grieving her death.  

After school she obtained a public relations degree but her real interest was in the environment which prompted her to join a privately funded bush protection organization that facilitates setting aside land as a trust for nature in perpetuity.   

She left to pursue a career in music after completing a diploma in music. During this time she performed many gigs and received awards.    

The staff at the hospital were exceptional in their approach and dedication attempting to save her life.  Rachael was inspirational to many groups and lived a simple environmentally friendly life and lifestyle.  We cannot choose when we depart from this world but that doesn't mean we are going to be very happy about it.  

During the past year she became very interested in Christ’s teaching and joined a prayer forum. Lots of questions about the ancient texts but a deepening in her own spirituality. Immediately prior to the incident she lived a healthy lifestyle and was very positive about life in general.  

Saturday, January 15

The mystery of human agency - mind theory

Does human agency exist? If so, then it brings with it an argument for a degree of freedom to reunite another side of the age-old debate of free will versus determinism. There are of course many convincing arguments for determinism. The foremost of which is the deterministic laws of nature of which we are inextricably bound, so that to argue against, we need to establish our existence moving in and out of time that is not afforded nature. That was the subject previously discussed which demonstrates our existence uniquely in respect to human beings. 

And of course there is no end of so called scientific experiments designed to illustrate the deterministic workings of the brain which “ made you do it" and therefore freedom is an illusion- see Seeing Ourselves - Raymond Tallis page 193- 198 

The real world 

The problem with all of these experiments is they do not replicate the real world. Just because we can demonstrate the brain's predisposition to make decisions subconsciously that appear to be (erroneously freely made) doesn’t mean everything is deterministic. We have an awareness of who we are and what meanings we can form by employing a variety of techniques from just thinking to introspection and its various forms such as meditation.  Our layered experiences are not confined to time, as for instance the spontaneous reactions in the experiments were in turn most likely previously influenced by prior commitments we have consciously made of one kind or another. The latter can’t be incorporated into the well-meaning scientist’s experiments. The inevitable conclusion from Raymond Tallis- Seeing ourselves is we make time and space to incorporate individual decisions which are freely made in our daily lives. In that sense we are free agents who seek cooperation with other free agents.

So that whilst we mostly react to situational circumstances instinctively, those actions inevitably will be as a consequence of previously made voluntary commitments. Even when some atrocious crimes are committed there Is often the case that latter contrition can prevail as the minds realization sheds light in the fact such acts may indeed have been perpetrated during a temporary period of insanity when highly charged emotions preclude one's usual rationality,

The mystery of our freedom as Raymond Tallis  notes should not be so surprising, since we are physical objects of a very special kind that can operate outside of nature even though we are inextricably part of it. This leads me to the next subject on transience and creating meaning and purpose. 


Saturday, January 8

The Elusive Inescapable Self- Mind Theory

Raymond Tallis introduces the self by reference to the various continuations - ego, subject or person. To add further confusion there is the question of identity, first person being and so on. But the use of the word self seems necessary if we are to engage in any meaningful philosophical discussions on the nature of human beings, notwithstanding that difficulty in defining it. What it is to be a self however will require some elaboration, beginning with defining what it isn't.

The argument goes, if you can't define it, it must be fictional. But the counter argument is wherever you go, you take yourself with you, in a kind of true sense of how we see ourselves- a matter of common sense.     

In everyday existence, Scottish philosopher David Hume dispensed with the idea by proposing human beings are a continuing entity of unfolding perceptions made up of memories.   But how would one even know that if that's all there is to human beings? How would you determine what one perception is as distinct from another? 

The classical mistake of attempting to define ourselves as subjects (as if we can step out of time) was undertaken by the enlightenment philosophers but is deeply flawed. It doesn't acknowledge the fact we are an integral part of being in the world and can't step out of that existence. Rather, we can operate in a higher order thinking that presupposes the underlying self that underpins our progress and sense of being in the world. 

Relying on the brain sciences doesn’t provide any satisfaction either. As I recall churning through the pages of the “The Executive Brain” by Elkhonan Goldberg, no mention was ever made of the word self, notwithstanding it remains an excellent book on the workings of the human brain. 


Tallis is scathing of some in the brain sciences that conclude we have a lack of mental depth and that all there are pictures constructed in our minds, representing an illusion- an elaborate hoax. Rather, what we see is possibly the best representation of the world. The fact we are aware of illusions and see the rich world for what it is goes against the idea of an illusion. There is a different world at the behest of the microscope, just as there is from the pictures beamed back to planet earth from Hubble, but the fact we are aware of such riches gives rise to the inescapable remarkable sense of self.


Indeed it would be very odd if the mind really was the brain and the self just a brain module. Page 155 the elusive inescapable self- Raymond Tallis -Seeing Ourselves.  


Other theories also fall short such as the Panpsychists proposing the mind was universally present at inception since they are unable to explain how it formed from a purely material brain. To reiterate, there are the previous arguments in relation to time. My body is unaware of that time, yet our sense of self allows us to exist in relation to being in time.  


Linas does devote some discussions on the self. So what is the self he asks on page 128 from the “I of the Vortex”: to regard the self as a very important and useful construct- but his view is it exists only as a calculated entity. In other words a convenient symbol that implies existence, but it is a category without elements.


This leads me on to the next topic - the mystery of human agency.