What is a mind? Don’t try too hard to think about it.

“O, WHAT A WORLD of unseen visions and heard silences, this insubstantial country of the mind! What ineffable essences, these touchless rememberings and unshowable reveries! And the privacy of it all! A secret theater of speechless monologue and prevenient counsel, an invisible mansion of all moods, musings, and mysteries, an infinite resort of disappointments and discoveries. A whole kingdom where each of us reigns reclusively alone, questioning what we will, commanding what we can. A hidden hermitage where we may study out the troubled book of what we have done and yet may do. An introcosm that is more myself than anything I can find in a mirror. This consciousness that is myself of selves, that is everything, and yet nothing at all—what is it?  And where did it come from?  And why?”  —Julian Jaynes

Quoted by Yohan J. John at 3QuarksDaily

“So what is this mind of ours: what are these atoms with consciousness? Last week’s potatoes! They now can remember what was going on in my mind a year ago—a mind which has long ago been replaced. To note that the thing I call my individuality is only a pattern or dance, that is what it means when one discovers how long it takes for the atoms of the brain to be replaced by other atoms. The atoms come into my brain, dance a dance, and then go out—there are always new atoms, but always doing the same dance, remembering what the dance was yesterday.”* —Richard Feynman

Quoted by Yohan J. John at 3QuarksDaily

“The ship wherein Theseus and the youth of Athens returned from Crete had thirty oars, and was preserved by the Athenians down even to the time of Demetrius Phalereus, for they took away the old planks as they decayed, putting in new and stronger timber in their places, in so much that this ship became a standing example among the philosophers, for the logical question of things that grow; one side holding that the ship remained the same, and the other contending that it was not the same.”  —Plutarch, Theseus

Quoted by Yohan J. John at 3QuarksDaily


* And as Feynman knows better than anyone, there is no distinguishing one atom from another in quantum physics.  All protons are “instances” of a single proton wave function that covers all protons in the universe, and the identity of individual protons is an approximation that is pretty good for months or years at a time in the low energy conditions of the human body.  The same cannot be said of electrons.  All electrons are also “instances” of a single electron wave function, but individual electrons have no separate or independentexistence, even for a fraction of a second.


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