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Sunday, April 27, 2008

Consciousness, Rationality, the Mind, and Life

Consciousness, Rationality, the Mind, and Life

I just came back from Oxford, and I bought a book there from Blackwells called "The Private Life of the Brain" by Susan Greenfield. I must be the only pedantic person apart from Mr Sayers (my old history teacher way back in Victoria Junior College) who goes on holidays and winds up in the bookstore. The main thrust of the book was that consciousness is a continuum (yes, who disagrees with that?) and that emotions are tied to rationality, and finally, when we "let ourselves hang loose" and "let ourselves go", we are returning to an earlier, primitive, infantile state and our rationality, experiences and knowledge is put aside.


Derren Brown springs to my mind, faster than a rabbit, as well as the famous bugger who spends his whole life trying to rebut Uri Geller. I agree with Derren in that I know that some things like music, love, beauty and art are essentially non-rational, and that perhaps some things are best left to the subconscious, irrational, human part of us. Yet at the same time I would love to live in a world that is real, and live in a world in which I understand, can control certain variables, and know that it works in a particular way. I wouldn't want to worship something that I know or suspect to be false. Hence, rationality is indeed important... but I have come to a slightly different understanding now.

If the mind works as it is supposed to, meaning that it is both at once emotional and rational, then human beings are doing the best they can, given their non-propitious circumstances. It is comforting to know that we are not just chemicals or simply a brain, for that would be a really disconcerting proposition, not to mention scary and shocking, and that experiences and knowledge do play a part in keeping us rational, and making us, essentially, emotional rational people.

I find it rather disorienting and uncomfortable that I have come to find the answers, to many questions I had, here in England, when I had all the time to think in Singapore and never found any answers. Maybe it's because relaxing here in such a nice environment, and "punting" down the river near Trinity college really provokes such thoughts... or could it be that I did all the thinking when I was younger, and it's only now that I am on holiday that the parts all start clicking together and coming together to form the whole. Part by part, the massive jigsaw puzzle is slowly and surely assembled....?

The beauty of it all was that I had thought of a very elegant, refined and technical way of writing all these important thoughts on the bus. Now that I sit here at my computer, they are all coming part and I am unable to express the ideas in my head properly. Bloody brilliant.

PS To the guy who always wants to debunk Uri Geller - I have the same urges too, to tell people that they are wrong, and to correct them and disabuse them of their useless, wrong and misguided beliefs. Yet at the same time, they're entitled to their useless opinions and ideas, a la J S Mill. Come on, I know some Americans believe that psychics are real. They are the same people who believe in tooth fairies. The rest of us know that Uri Geller is a trickster. What's more important is:

Don't spoil the magic. Don't tell them how it's done, please. No one loves a spoilsport.

And aha... I wanted to write about death. Seeing that I have put the title as Life, I shall leave Death for a future post.

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