A few announcements

A man wearing a hat and a hooded gown writes on a wall covered with graffiti

I’ve decided to consolidate my various blogs in one place:

I’ll probably still cross-post philosophical musings here, but that will be my main online presence.

I’m also going to try out substack. For those who haven’t heard about it yet, it’s sort of like blogs+rss but you sign up by email and get posts delivered to your inbox.

Expect a magpie’s hoard of shiny bits from neuroscience, philosophy, history, music, and whatever else catches the light.

First post coming soon!


New Senses and New Selves – On Brain Implants

Implants + Internet = ImplanTelepathy™!

Batman Forever' (1995) and the Brain Drain Moment | That Moment In

Intrinsic Incompleteness: Deacon on ‘ententional’ processes

This is the first in a planned series of posts on Terrence Deacon’s book Incomplete Nature: How Mind Emerged From Matter. I’m calling it the Deactionary, since Deacon is fond of coining new terms and redefining old ones.

Deacon outlines an ambitious goal: understanding the emergence of consciousness from insensate matter. Of course, not everyone thinks that mind emerged from matter in the first place. Dualists think mind is a separate substance from matter. Idealists think matter is a subset of mind, rather than the other way round. And panpsychists think that mind is an intrinsic property of all forms of matter, so it didn’t really emerge at all.


The Deactionary: A glossary of terms from Terrence Deacon’s ‘Incomplete Nature’

Terrence W. Deacon’s 2012 book Incomplete Nature is a bold attempt to conceptualize the emergence of life and mind using a consistent ‘physicalist’ framework. I put the term ‘physicalist’ in scare-quotes because one of the appealing quirks of the book — and perhaps one that isn’t given enough attention despite a length of 500+ pages — is that Deacon wants us to add something to the list of physical things, which typically only includes matter and energy. This something is… nothing. The incompleteness in the title seems to refer to this idea: a qualified nothing or absence is central to emergence.


Are Selves Illusory? Emergent? Ubiquitous?

I was asked this question on Quora recently:

Is the self an illusion or an emergent phenomenon? I’ve read people who use neuroscience to argue for one, the other, or both simultaneously.

Here’s how I responded.

No one knows what the self is. Least of all my fellow neuroscientists! ;)

Personally, I think the idea that the self is an illusion is meaningless. I suspect it’s just a (highly misleading) shorthand for saying that people’s notions of a permanent, unchanging self are incorrect. In other words, it means that the self is not an eternal soul with permanent, intrinsic, essential properties. Instead it is a process that changes on various timescales.