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The Self is an Illusion

Sam Harris | 6:54


 One of the problems we have in discussing consciousness scientifically is that consciousness is irreducible subjective. This is a point that many philosophers have made. Thomas Nagle, John Sol, David Chalmers, uh, and I've, well, I don't agree with everything they've said about consciousness. I agree with them on this point that consciousness is what it's like to be you.

If there's, if there's an experiential, internal qualitative dimension to any physical, Then that is consciousness and we can't reduce the experiential side to talk of information processing and neurotransmitters and, and states of the brain in our case because, uh, and, and people want to do this. Someone like Francis Krick said famously, you're nothing but a pack of neurons.

And that, that misses the fact that that half of the reality we are talking about is the qualitative experiential side. So when you're trying to. Human consciousness, for instance, by looking at states of the brain, all you can do is correlate experiential changes with changes in brain states. But no matter how tight these correlations become, that never gives you license to throw out the first person experiential side.

That'd be analogous to saying that if you just flipped a coin long enough, you would realize it had only one side, and now it's true. You can be committed to talking about just one side. You can say, That heads being up is just a case of tails being down. But that doesn't actually reduce one side of reality to the other.

And to get, to give you a, a more precise example, we have very strong third person objective measures of things like anxiety and fear. At this moment. You bring someone into the lab, they say they're feeling fear. You can scan their brains with FM MRI and see that their amygdala responses heightened. You Can you.

Uh, measure the sweat on their palms and see, see that there's a increased galvanic skin response. Uh, you can, you can, uh, check their blood cortisol and see that it's spiking. So now these, these now are considered objective third person measures of fear. But if half the people came into the lab tomorrow and said they were feeling fear and showed none of these signs, and they said they were completely calm when their cortisol spiked and when their, their palm started to.

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