On Consciousness

Meetup type: Moderated discussion (attendees should watch the 2 videos and read the 2 articles  before the meetup)

  • Antonio Damasio: The quest to understand consciousness
    Every morning we wake up and regain consciousness -- that is a marvelous fact -- but what exactly is it that we regain? Neuroscientist Antonio Damasio uses this simple question to give us a glimpse into how our brains create our sense of self. His research in neuroscience has shown that emotions play a central role in social cognition and decision-making. His work has had a major influence on current understanding of the neural systems, which underlie memory, language, consciousness.
  • Dan Dennett: The illusion of consciousness
    Philosopher Dan Dennett makes a compelling argument that not only don't we understand our own consciousness, but that half the time our brains are actively fooling us. He argues that human consciousness and free will are the result of physical processes and are not what we traditionally think they are. His 2003 book Freedom Evolves explores the way our brains have evolved to give us -- and only us -- the kind of freedom that matters, while 2006's Breaking the Spell examines religious belief through the lens of biology.
  • Gary Gutting: Mary and the Zombies: Can Science Explain Consciousness?
    We trust science because its claims are based on experience. But experience itself is a subjective reality that seems to elude the objectivity of scientific understanding. We know that our experiences—of seeing red, feeling pain, falling in love and so forth—depend on physical systems like the brain that science can, in principle, exhaustively explain. But it’s hard to make sense of the idea that experiences themselves could be physical.
  • Gary Gutting has written a follow-up article examining the comments received regarding the above article.

The first 2 items consider consciousness a materialistic phenomenon and Gary Gutting has a non-materialistic leaning towards the subject. Another resource rooting for the latter vision is The Institute of Noetic Sciences (see their overview and vision).

Meetup charge: free, but attendees should order something for themselves from the restaurant. You can order from the self-service in the upstairs when you arrive or during our meetup.

Group's policy on RSVPs: Every member is expected to respect their RSVP for each event and keep it up to date. Two instances of non-respect of the RSVP will lead to the member being removed from the group. The waiting list is on Automatic which means that the first person on the waiting list gets in automatically, as soon as a spot opens up. If the person can no longer attend, they must change their RSVP to No as soon as possible and certainly before the meetup starts.

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  • Masood

    Also of interest (just out):
    Philosopher John Searle lays out the case for studying human consciousness -- and systematically shoots down some of the common objections to taking it seriously. As we learn more about the brain processes that cause awareness, accepting that consciousness is a biological phenomenon is an important first step. And no, he says, consciousness is not a massive computer simulation.
    http://www.ted.com/talks/john_searle_our_shared_condition_consciousness.html

    July 22, 2013

  • Masood

    Of interest:
    Lecture on June 17: Elucidating Consciousness with the Light of Philosophy, Biology, and Physics - Jennifer Goldman
    http://www.meetup.com/Montreal-Intellectual-Cafe/messages/boards/thread/35432552

    June 14, 2013

    • Rafi

      Thanks for the link. Any chance of this lecture being videos?

      June 15, 2013

    • Masood

      Hi. I don't know. And I cannot go myself either. If someone knows about this event being recording in any way, please comment. Thanks.

      June 15, 2013

  • Sundar R.

    Thanks to the moderator and the members for the wonderful discuission last sunday, it was nice meeting everyone, have a nice week ahead

    April 23, 2013

  • davidson, d.

    Good.
    Thank you Masood.

    April 21, 2013

  • teresa

    A very good exchange of ideas

    April 21, 2013

  • Vlad

    Sorry got stuck on hiking trip and could not make it in time

    April 21, 2013

  • A former member
    A former member

    Sorry. I was really looking forward to coming, but I just have too much work piled up this weekend. Looking forward to the next one.

    April 20, 2013

  • danielle r.

    Sorry I did not know my turn had come up and by now I have something else in the works... enjoy !

    April 18, 2013

  • pooneh

    Sorry, I cannot arrange my plan to come this week.

    April 18, 2013

  • Veljko D.

    Since there is a lot of people waiting, and I might be late due to other obligations, I think it is only fair to allow someone else to attend.

    April 18, 2013

  • Masood

    Hi everyone!
    I think this Manual waiting list has caused problems to the ones on the waiting list by sending too many emails, etc. I've just changed the waiting list to Automatic which means that the first person on the waiting list gets in automatically, as soon as a spot opens up. If the person can no longer attend, they must change their RSVP to No as soon as possible and certainly before the meetup starts. This will be the default setting for future meetups as well. Sorry for the many emails you received in the past days.

    April 18, 2013

  • teresa

    Hi Masood,
    I am the first on the waiting list, so if one spot becomes available please put me in automatically, it seems there is always someone faster than me!!!
    Thank you
    Teresa

    April 18, 2013

    • Masood

      Hi Teresa, sorry for the hassle. It's because the waiting list is on Manual, not Automatic, which means that all the ones on waiting list get a message that a spot has become available. Whoever responds first, gets in. I've set it to Manual, because I don't want automatic change of status of RSVP without the explicit consent/knowledge of the person. If the person doesn't show up when their RSVP is on Yes, then they may be removed from the group. That's why I've set to Manual. But, you're also right, it becomes a hassle. As you were the first on the waiting list, I've just changed your RSVP to Yes. See you on Sunday!

      April 18, 2013

    • teresa

      Thank you

      April 18, 2013

  • Frederic S.

    I won't be able to attend, I think it will make one happy person

    April 18, 2013

  • davidson, d.

    I would like to attend on Sun. if you have room.

    April 18, 2013

  • Masood

    Hi everyone!
    The room where we meet has seating for 12, but may accommodate up to 15, and that is the number you see as capacity for this meetup. Besides, 10-15 is really the maximum, if we're going to have a balanced discussion where everyone gets some reasonable air time. So, please, the ones who are on the RSVP Yes list, make sure you come, as there are now several people who are waiting to join. If you cannot come, or are not sure that you can come, please change your RSVP to No now. If somebody has an idea regarding how to manage this better to accommodate more people, please send me an email; no comments here please, as everyone's email will get flooded by the resulting discussion (hint: we need a 2nd host/moderator and an extra location).

    April 17, 2013

  • danielle r.

    thanks

    April 15, 2013

  • Veljko D.

    I'm always interested to dissect the argument from illusion... Looking forward!

    April 6, 2013

  • A former member
    A former member

    I will definitely check out all the information and be ready. Thanks for invite me.

    April 3, 2013

  • Robert

    Hi All,
    When it comes to zombies and understanding their role within the philosophy of mind, it would be hard to beat this short & very entertaining paper by Jaron Lanier entitled: "You Can't Argue With a Zombie".

    http://www.davidchess.com/words/poc/lanier_zombie.html

    I draw attention to it for a few reasons. First, it exposes Dennett's treatment of consciousness as basically ignoring and re-framing the problem to suit his own theoretical stance. Secondly, it does so by direct reasoning which takes into consideration our subjective reality -- which is after all the topic being discussed -- in a natural way. It does this without impugning neurology. Also, the line-up of articles appear to me a bit stacked with reductionism.

    Lanier is a respected software scientist and talented composer. Involved in the seminal period of the web, he has of late turned his attention towards the negative impact of the web:

    http://www.amazon.ca/You-Are-Not-Gadget-Manifesto/dp/0307269647

    April 3, 2013

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We just grab a coffee and speak French. Some people have been coming every week for months... it creates a kind of warmth to the group.

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