About

These pages are devoted to short discussions of some of the major thinkers and theories about consciousness. The selection of topics is idiosyncratic and there are still some regrettable omissions. The pieces are meant to be brief and lively,and written from a distinct point of view (sometimes more than one point of view), and this naturally makes it difficult at times to do full justice to the views or the people under consideration. But no-one is mentioned here who I do not sincerely respect and admire, however much I may think they are mistaken on some points. Clearly the only way to get a full understanding of what someone is saying is to read their own books or papers, a course I heartily recommend.

One possible source of confusion is that some of the discussions here are presented as dialogues between two different characters. One of these, whom I think of as ‘Blandula’, after the Emperor Hadrian’s verse* addressed to his own soul, is represented by a sort of cherub, and is suspicious of reductive and materialist ideas: the other, (‘Bitbucket’, represented by an abacus) takes the opposite view. I hope this helps both sides to benefit from vigorous advocacy, but the two characters are merely figments of my imagination and I cannot supply email addresses for either of them.

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I hope, in any case, that you find something here interesting or amusing. Criticisms, suggestions, and queries about the site will be attended to as quickly as my amateurism, restricted intelligence, incompetence, sloth, and generally bad attitude to work and customer service permit.

*This is the poem: it’s carved on Hadrian’s tomb.

Animula vagula blandula,
Hospes comesque corporis,
Quae nunc abibis in loca,
Pallidula, rigida, nudula,
Nec, ut soles, dabis iocos.

This is my translation – a bit free, obviously..

My little pale and wandering soul
My body’s guest and friend,
Wherever will you go to now,
When we have reached the end?
So white and clenched now you’re outside,
No covering for you;
No body now to share some fun
The way we used to do.

10 Comments

  1. 1. Donna says:

    Peter,
    What a charming translation! Makes me smile. Thank you.
    As a writer, I couldn’t resist tweaking it {occupational hazard~!} before reposting it.
    I’ve linked to RSS, but wish you had a Facebook page!
    Anyway, here’s my version, for what it’s worth:
    My little wandering soul
    My body’s guest and friend,
    However will you go on now,
    That we have reached the end?
    So pale and naked on your own
    No covering for you,
    No body now to share some fun
    The way we used to do.

    I love your last lines best. :)

  2. 2. Peter says:

    Thanks, Donna. I’m looking seriously at Facebook!

  3. 3. Nelson Bridwell says:

    Peter:

    Charming website…Taking the most fundamental questions about life and communicating them in terms that can actually be understood.

  4. 4. Simon Hughes says:

    Hi there guys,
    An amazing website that you have here. I will be sharing with some of my intellectual friends and having many long discussions with so much food for thought.
    I don’t know how I stumbled across this page and I am so happy that I have. Maybe in future add a forum to this site so that people can discuss new threads and topics and share their own interpretation/opinions as thats what we are all so good at aren’t we. I am going to have to put a lot of head miles into some of these topics as some make sense and some need a little more research.
    Personally I would suggest against Facebook as once you post your information on their website somehow they maintain that everything that you post on their belongs to them and this can cause some drama’s for certain individuals and organisations.
    Stay hidden away like an old country town that isn’t on the major Highway and which only the people willing to do a little investigation and searching end up finding the hidden treasure you have to offer …
    That’s my 2 cents… Keep posting new and interesting information

    Regards

    Hectic_Huzee

  5. 5. george says:

    Re: bluebrain project. Computers do what they do because they are jealously protected from noise, chaos, quantum oddities, and the like, the brute facts of physical existence. In a little realm something enough like determinism rules, and algorithms may safely graze. But brains swim naked with those brute facts, which are perforce part of cogitation. How fatuous the Bluebrain project. A simulated brain puts me in mind of… a clockwork orange.

  6. 6. Venus Castina says:

    Let me know if you need a volunteer for consciousness transferal. I’ve always thought I should have been born a girl. And if the technology exists to make that dream a reality: I will happily agree to be your lab rat. Don’t hesitate to Email me and let me know when you’re ready to begin.

  7. 7. I exist, but what is I « What is I says:

    [...] Theories of consciousness abound, and like established movie stars, each has its own legion of fan boys.  One more theory to this line up would do no harm, as to whether the world needs another theory, the answer is moot. [...]

  8. 8. Thomas Cheley says:

    Dear Peter,

    I am writing from the Institute of Art and Ideas in Britain which organises an annual festival of ideas where we film every debate and talk. I just came across your website, consciousentities.com, and thought that you might be interested in a video we’ve released recently.

    Entitled “The Minds Eye: Philosophy of Consciousness and Soul”, it’s a debate discussing whether or not the idea of the soul has made a comeback. Can science explain consciousness without the presence of a soul? Participants include philosopher Galen Strawson, evolutionary psychologist Nicholas Humphrey and award winning documentary maker David Malone.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zdtB94DgI7I

    I thought this debate might appeal to you and your readers, and if you think it does it would be fantastic if you could share it with them.

    Best regards,

    Thomas Cheley

  9. 9. Peter says:

    Thanks, Thomas – good stuff.

  10. 10. Preserving the Self for Later Emulation: What Brain Features Do We Need? – Ever Smarter World says:

    [...] neurons, by leading neuroscientists Henry Markram, Christof Koch, and others, and reported by Peter Hankins on his great cognitive science blog, Conscious Entities. Ephaptic coupling is a way for neurons to [...]

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