In this episode, I have the honor of speaking with Dr. Susan Blackmore, who is a psychologist, lecturer and writer researching consciousness, memes, and anomalous experiences. She is a Visiting Professor at the University of Plymouth, as well as a TED Talk lecturer, blogger for the Guardian, and often appears on radio and television. Her book, The Meme Machine  (1999) has been translated into 16 other languages; more recent books include Conversations on Consciousness (2005), Zen and the Art of Consciousness (2011), Seeing Myself: The new science of out-of-body experiences (2017) and a textbook Consciousness: An Introduction (3rd Ed 2018).

Susan Blackmore Seeing Myself

We had a great conversation and covered out of body experiences, mind-body duality — or more accurately, monism, and more. Please enjoy this episode with Dr. Susan Blackmore.

Questions we discussed:

  1. So, where do you stand on consciousness? What is it?
  2. What are your thoughts on near death experiences and out of body experiences?
    1. You believe in life after death? Dualism?
    2. More like an NDE: how are they different?
    3. Astral projection
    4. What is happening in the brain? How do you explain these experiences?
    5. What implications do these have on our understanding of consciousness?
    6. Her advice: Enjoy the experience!
  3. In an article in Psychology Today, you discuss the notion of being conscious only when you’re aware of your consciousness, like the light in the fridge. Are we only conscious when we’re aware of our consciousness? [sleep]
    1. If not, what are we in those moments?
    2. Does brain activity change? Any other insights into this idea?
    3. Any relation to ‘altered states of consciousness’, i.e. is it a spectrum or some other direct relation?
  4. What else, what haven’t I asked you?
  5. What’s in your future, what else will you be studying or publishing?
  6. New book on Memes to follow the 1999 publication, “The Meme Machine”.

This episode is a little different from what you’ve come to expect. I recently covered the Arizona Psychedelics Conference here in my home state of Arizona, hoping to learn from the insight gained by those who work in the healing world of psychedelic therapies. I had a chance to sit down with three incredible people who work in the field and get their ideas on human consciousness, based on their personal experiences and those with their patients and clients.

Arizona Psychedelics Conference

The first segment is with Kyle Buller, the co-founder of Psychedelics Today. Kyle has a BA in Transpersonal Psychology from Burlington College where he studied the healing potential of non-ordinary states of consciousness by exploring shamanism, plant medicine, Holotropic Breathwork, and psychedelic psychotherapy. We discussed his own Near Death Experience and what he learned about his own consciousness. You can learn more about his practice at www.settingsunwellness.com.

We covered:

  • Breathwork
  • Transpersonal breathwork, Stan and Christina Groff
  • Vehicle to reach non-ordinary state of consciousness
  • Transpersonal layers, non-waking consciousness
  • NDE, and Kyle’s Experience
  • Access to new information; new view of the world; map of how the world worked
  • What is consciousness? Spirit? Body.
  • What does it mean to be alive?
  • Is the body a manifestation of a higher consciousness?
  • Non-ordinary states of consciousness, altered states of consciousness
  • The body is a receiver of consciousness, like a TV
  • Mind-body spirit connection; body experience produces emotions, mind changes
  • Cryptography of the human psyche

The second segment (at 48:50) is with Veronika Gold, co-founder, therapist, and consultant at Polaris Insight Center, San Francisco based clinic providing Ketamine Assisted Psychotherapy We also had a great conversation on her clinic’s therapies, which are important to me, as a survivor of my son’s suicide, and she also shared her insight into human consciousness.

We covered:

  • Ketamine, suicide and my story
  • Czech Republic, Revolution, Russian Invasion
  • Transpersonal Conference, Stan Grof
  • Holotropic breathwork and non-ordinary states of consciousness
  • Fundamental consciousness
  • Realization Process, Judith Blackstone
  • Non-ordinary versus Altered States of Consciousness
  • Ketamine’s insight into out-of-body or NDE

The third segment…isn’t here…I fat finger deleted it after the interview. So awful, because my conversation with Dr. Sam Ko was amazing. Dr. Ko is is a Board Certified Emergency Physician and founder of Reset Ketamine (www.resetketamine.com) in Palm Springs, CA. We really got into consciousness, layers of consciousness from the brain to human consciousness to universal consciousness. He really got me thinking and shed new light on my own perception of consciousness. I sure hope I can get back and re-do that interview.

So, please enjoy my conversation with Kyle Buller, followed by my interview with Veronika Gold.

In this episode, I had the pleasure of speaking with Dr. Elizabeth Schechter, who is an Assistant Professor of Philosophy and Philosophy-Neuroscience-Psychology in the Department of Philosophy and in the Philosophy-Neuroscience-Psychology Program at the Washington University in St. Louis. Her work centers on questions of psychological unity, with a focus on split-brain, which you can find in her book, Self-Consciousness and “Split” Brains: The Minds’ I.

We had a great conversation and covered consciousness, split-brains and the mind-body problem, and more. Please enjoy this episode with Dr. Elizabeth Schechter.

Questions:

  1. What is Psychological unity? Unity of Consciousness?
  2. Let’s get a baseline to work from here. How do you define consciousness? What IS consciousness? Mind v. Person.
    1. Duality? Physicalism? Etc.
    2. What is the relationship of a person to their mind/brain?
  3. Split Brains:
    1. Please give us a little background on what ‘split brain’ is.
    2. How does this play into your views on ‘unity’ of consciousness and psychology?
    3. Does this result in two, independent consciousnesses? (2-person claim)
    4. Perspectives versus Agents versus Thinkers? What are the differences there, and how do those differences play into understanding consciousness?
    5. In a split brain, parts of the brain are still integrated, or synchronized, right? Like vision? What else? [two separate human beings sitting next to each other would also be getting the same inputs, right?]
      1. How does that play into all of this?
    6. I’m curious about the implications of split brain and mind-brain duality. What, if any, observations have been made with split-brain patients that might shed light on that and the binding problem?
      1. Is the single ‘mind’ still bound to both sides of a split brain?
      2. Ego?
    7. Can (does) one side of the brain ask, “Something it is like to be the other side of my brain?”
      1. “I think, therefore I am” and other tests of individuality and consciousness? Have those been done, experimentally?
      2. The mirror test (animals) on a split brain subject?
    8. We can cut the connection (corpus callosum) between the two hemispheres. Can we introduce a third (artificial) ‘hemisphere’?
  4. What is a consciousness versus a person: conjoined twins, DID, split brain?
  5. What are you currently working on? What can we expect from you in the near future?
  6. In the field of consciousness (or other areas), what studies or potential breakthroughs excite you?
  7. Anything else you’d like to share?

Dr. Cassandra Vieten - The Consciousness Podcast

In this episode, I had the pleasure of speaking with Dr. Cassandra Vieten, who is the President of the Institute of Noetic Sciences and a scientist at the Mind-Body Medicine Research Group at California Pacific Medical Center Research Institute. Dr. Vieten is a licensed clinical psychologist and has been with IONS since 2001, previously serving as its Executive Director of Research.

We had a great conversation and covered consciousness, interconnectedness, spirituality and much more.  Please enjoy this episode with Dr. Cassandra Vieten.

Questions:

  1. What are your views/definition of consciousness? Universal consciousness? Mind-body, the binding problem. Survival. Etc.?
    1. Is Consciousness a primary component of the universe, along with matter and energy?
  2. I saw your video from your talk on the Science of Interconnectedness.
    1. Your team has conducted experiments on interconnectedness with some pretty incredible results? (Examples?)
      1. What criticism have you received about the experiments? Have they been independently repeated?
    2. Is ‘interconnectedness’ a shared consciousness? What are the hypotheses about how this works, physically, if that’s even a legitimate question.
    3. You mention that the body itself is interconnected (cells). How? Is that a level of consciousness? Is that an extension of that what connects us to each other?
  3. A focus of yours is spirituality in psychological treatment, correct? How, if at all, does that tie into consciousness? Is there an overlap or connection between consciousness and spirituality?
    1. In your research into spirituality, including meditation and other practices, what have you discovered about consciousness?
  4. What role does consciousness have in psychological healing, in the practice of a psychologist?
  5. I’ve spoken to a few people who study the effects of psychedelics on the brain. Often, those who experience psychedelics describe something like this interconnectedness. Have you looked into that at all? Any insight? Spirituality?
  6. What are the eventual, or hopeful, practical uses that might come from your studies, both in consciousness and psychology?
    1. Are we already experiencing those benefits, without knowing the reason? How are people using these abilities now, while not even realizing it?
  7. What are the hot studies going on at IONS, what else is coming? Pixar, VR
  8. What should we look for from your future work? Ions discovery lab; [link to it]; ions-x (moon shot); help ppl who are working toward positive change (climate, prison) and equip them with tools for transforming worldviews;
  9. What breakthroughs do you see coming, that really excite you?
  10. What else do you want to share? Get involved! https://noetic.org/community/overview


Dr. Selen Atasoy - The Consciousness PodcastIn this episode, I discussed Connectome Harmonics and neural correlates of consciousness, specifically under the influence of LSD, mindfulness meditation and dream sleep with Dr. Selen Atasoy. Dr. Atasoy’s research explores brain dynamics in different states consciousness, including sleep, meditation, and psychedelic states, as well as in psychiatric disorders, by analysing fMRI and MEG data within the mathematical framework of harmonic waves. She has extensive experience working in experimental and computational neuroscience exploring neural correlates of consciousness. Currently, she is working as a postdoctoral researcher at Hedonia Transnational Research Group, University of Oxford.

We had a great conversation.. Please enjoy this episode with Dr. Selen Atasoy.

Questions we discussed: 

  1. I often ask my guests to share their own ‘definition’ of consciousness. Given your studies, including those on LSD and the brain, what have you learned about consciousness and do you have a definition or description of what consciousness is?
  2. Let’s talk about your theory, “Connectome harmonics”
    1. First, can you give us a high level, layman’s overview of the theory and the studies behind it? 
      1. What’s vibrating in the brain, what are these waves and their substrate?
      2. You measured energy and power of the brain states using connectome harmonics, yes?
      3. You mentioned, ‘when you silence the mind, you increase the power and energy of brain activity.’ What’s going on in the brain when you ‘silence the mind’? Is that the ‘intrinsic energy’ of a brain state?
      4. You found that low frequencies decrease in energy with LSD, high frequencies increase in energy with LSD? Is that right?
        1. Low frequencies showed reduced energy > ego dissolution and emotional arousal? [default mode network — that gives more evidence to the idea that the DMN is the ‘ego’?]
        2. Higher frequencies showed increased energy > positive moods
        3. You mention that LSD appears to be activating more brain states simultaneously, that it’s a reorganization of brain states, as the brain enters ‘criticality’, that barrier between order and chaos. Example: marching soldiers > playing kids, group of people dancing individually but interacting, flexibility, organization
          1. Order and chaos of what? Harmonics? Energy?
        4. LSD shifts the brain towards criticality?
        5. What are the forces in the brain that keep it on the ‘order’ side of criticality? What happens if/when the brain passes over criticality into chaos? Is that where we see brain disorders or mental illness/disease?
    2. Using your ‘Connectome Harmonics’ model, what kind of predictions can you make? Or, how else can that modeling be applied to consciousness as you defined it earlier?
    3. You also observed the minds of meditators, right? What did you find there? Any similarities to psychedelics?
      1. What did you learn from these observations? Any surprises?
      2. Any significant differences between the two? Any significance in the differences?
  3. You mentioned in a video that you use Cahart-Harris’ fMRI data. I laughed at ‘tripping in a scanner’.  I don’t think when Timothy Leary coined ‘set and setting’ with LSD that he had going through a scanner in mind for the setting. Did anybody have a ‘bad trip’ during the experiments? If so, were any scans and observations made of these ‘bad trips’. I wonder if they crossed over criticality into chaos?
  4. What’s in your future, what else will you be studying? [psychiatry, patients] Any implications of your studies, models, and theories?
  5. Anything I haven’t asked you? Anything else you’d like to share or spread the word on?

Dr. Michael Graziano - The Consciousness PodcastMy guest this episode is Dr. Michael Graziano, Professor of Psychology at the Princeton Neuroscience Institute where he runs a lab and studies the brain basis of consciousness. He earned his PhD at PRINCETON UNIVERSITY in 1996 and is an accomplished musician and composer as well as a published author, having published several novels in addition to his published works.

We had a great conversation about his Attention Schema Theory and much more. 

We (roughly and out of order) covered the following questions:

  1. Your lab focuses on “the brain basis of consciousness.” Tell us a bit about the lab and what you guys are studying.
  2. Should we start with an overview of the evolution of consciousness? (Cambrian Explosion, nervous systems, language, tectum, etc.)
    1. Was ‘social prediction’ a big milestone in the evolution of human consciousness? (Never look a mountain lion in the eyes)
  3. How has language affected the evolution of schemas and consciousness?
  4. What is the Attention Schema Theory (AST)?
    1. Philosophers talk about Qualia (greenness, the smell of coffee). Do you say those are cases where the brain has arrived at a false conclusion? If so, can you expand on that?
      1. Does this make the ‘hard problem’ of consciousness moot? Rule out dualism?
    2. Awareness versus Attention?
      1. When you say a model is schematic, do you mean within the mind (neurons, chemicals, etc.), or of the object itself (like a basketball)? I think you mention different parts of the nervous system or brain being excited (or calmed) to create that model?
        1. What’s happening in the brain, physically, when a schema/model is created?
          1. Is there a process to store, link, categorize these models? (Cortical networks?)
          2. What kind of studies/observations have you made with these schemas?
          3. “In neuroscience, attention is a process of enhancing some signals at the expense of others. It’s a way of focusing resources.”
        2. Ego schema?
      2. Something it is like to be a bat…is that simply a matter of determining if the bat’s brain can assemble models. Can we measure that (fMRI) like we can in humans and know the answer? If it can be attentive, it can model (awareness), therefore it has consciousness?
        1. You refer to consciousness as a “lattice of cognitive and social properties”. Can you explain that for us?
    3. What experiments has your lab done on this? [dot experiment], what other experiments are in progress or coming? [hemispherical damage and awareness — thrown ball — purely physical? Attention? No awareness?]
    4. How do these schemas play into the brain’s role as a filter for the overwhelming amount of data and sensory input it has to process?
  5. Have any arguments contrary to AST given you pause?
    1. How could a non-physical, ‘outside’ consciousness affect neurons (Arrow B)? Well, if we hypothesized that they, in fact, could, what ways COULD that be possible? Are there such theories, have they been tested?
    2. Are there any experiences (qualia) that appear to contradict AST?
  6. What’s your take on other theories of consciousness: panpsychism, psi phenomena, etc.?
    1. Integrated Information Theory is a phlegm theory?
    2. I tend to come back to your way of thinking, then I’m presented with some things that can’t be explained by it:
      1. Near death experiences and other psi phenomena/experiences
      2. Dr. Dean Radin’s double-slit experiment
      3. Are these similar to social perception, like deities and ventriloquist dummies?
  7. What about dreams, hallucinations, or meditative visions? Are they models created by the brain based on other models? The brain can generate its own schema, which is not observed by the senses (awareness without attention – b/c there’s no physical component?)
    1. First, something exists (attention); then a caricature is created (awareness). What if awareness comes first? Is something then created? Is that a potential path to idealism?
  8. Given your background in music and composition, what are your thoughts on music and schemas, models, and consciousness?
    1. How do you explain creativity, a burst of inspiration, when creating music or literary ideas? [Art versus Science]
  9. You’ve also written several novels. Any of those touch on consciousness and the AST?
  10. What’s in your future, as far as studies, potential breakthroughs, books, musical compositions?
    1. Your predictions on us building a conscious robot/computer and the role of the AST in that?

My guest is Dr. Scott Husband of The University of Tampa. Dr. Husband’s primary field of study is Dr. Scott Husband: Neuroscience and Consciousness in Animalsbehavioral neuroscience with an emphasis on comparative neuroanatomy and cognition. He has studied higher-level visual processing, the role of dopamine in attention, and dopamine-hormone interactions in various species of birds.

His research goals are to contribute to the understanding of how neural circuits and neurochemistry contribute to complex perception and cognition, and to investigate brain evolution by studying the brain and the behavior of non-mammalian species.

We had a great conversation, touching on brain architecture, asking the philosophical question, is there ‘something it is like to be a human’, and the effect of language on the evolution of consciousness. Please enjoy this conversation with Dr. Scott Husband.

We discussed:

  1. How is the neural architecture of human brains both similar and different from other animal brains?
    1. Do these similarities and differences have effects on consciousness? If so, how?
    2. What role may consciousness have played in evolution, from fish to mammals to humans? At what point do different states, or layers, of consciousness appear? Is there a correlation between emerging consciousness and brain evolution (e.g. neocortex)?
  2. What can we say about brain structures and circuits and whether there is a certain requirement for consciousness?
  3. What kinds of experiments are being done in comparative cognition in other animals to try and get inside the “black box” of animal minds, and draw conclusions about their mental lives?
    1. What are your current hypotheses on the consciousness of animals? Some have it, some don’t? Which ones? Which ones are really intriguing? How about the ‘degree’ of consciousness?
    2. How is that observed or measured? What have you identified in your own work?
  4. Any special insight into the ‘hard question’ of consciousness given your studies of animals?
  5. Nagel: ‘Something it is like’ to be a bat. Maybe the question should be, “Can a bat…or a bird…or a bee…understand something it is like to be another conscious being?” Is there some kind of reflexive condition here necessary to establish that a creature is conscious?
  6. What are some of your personal thoughts and opinions on consciousness in general given your studies? Where do you stand, philosophically, on consciousness?
  7. What will you be working on in the future? 
  8. Do you see any significant outcomes or discoveries coming in the study of animal consciousness?

In this edition, I had the pleasure of speaking with Dr. Marjorie Woollacott, author of the book, Infinite Awareness: The Awakening of a Scientific Mind, which she describes as both a scientist’s memoir and a research survey on human consciousness. Dr. Woollacott was a neuroscience professor at the University of Oregon for more than three decades and a meditator for almost four. She also has a master’s degree in Asian studies.  Her master’s thesis was the foundation for her book. Her research has been funded by the National Institutes of Health and the National Science Foundation, and includes both research in neuroscience and testing the efficacy of alternative forms of therapy such as tai chi and meditation for improving both attention and balance in adults.

Infinite Awareness The Awakening of a Scientific Mind Marjorie Hines Woollacott Pim van Lommel 9781538110195 Amazon com Books

Get the book at Amazon.

We had a great conversation about her studies and experiences around consciousness, meditation, and event psi phenomena. Please enjoy this conversation with Dr. Marjorie Woollacott.

Questions we discussed:

  1. Let’s start off with your story: your meditation workshop, the Swami, and how it all played with your being a Neuroscientist.
  2. After that experience, you spent time observing your own mind during meditation. What were you able to observe? What did you learn from that?
  3. You mention that mantras help to quiet the mind, letting thoughts go, even opens the filters to the non-local consciousness.
    1. First, What is non-local awareness or consciousness?
    2. How does this relate to paranormal experiences like NDEs?
      1. I’m guessing your top-down view of consciousness would mean that consciousness is already out-of-body and these observations are merely new perspectives, filtered down into the mind?
      2. Is there a link between paranormal experience and meditation? I’m curious about meditation being a window into consciousness, into my own consciousness, into the non-local consciousness. Is it? Can we exercise, modify, improve our mind/consciousness through meditation?
      3. Is there a connection to Robin Cahart-Harris’ (et al) study of psychedelics using fMRI imaging that showed these hallucinogens actually slow down parts of the brain, actually freeing consciousness from the brain’s own filters? If so, how does that play into the top-down architecture of consciousness?
  4. So, what is your notion of consciousness, how do you define or describe it? [the melding together of ‘Western science’ and ‘Hindu teachings’ on consciousness — how did you reconcile those two?]
    1. You mention that, ‘All this is consciousness’ — can you expand on that?
    2. How does it emerge in an individual, conscious being?
    3. What about the ‘ego’? Thoughts on that? ‘Self’ is an illusion?
  5. You’re a panpsychist? What does panpsychism mean to you — I hear a few different definitions.
    1. You’re also an idealist, believing that the mind creates reality? 
  6. You describe how our nervous system filters all the input it receives, that it must do this. The brain also filters a greater consciousness, non-local awareness (infinite awareness)? Can you expand on that?
    1. Can we access this non-local awareness?
      1. How does the brain filter this?
      2. What’s available to us if we don’t filter it? Can we turn the filter off?
      3. Aldous Huxley’s, “Doors of Perception” — the mind filters the greater consciousness and is opened by psychedelics/mescaline. Any thoughts on that? [turns out he might’ve been wrong, according to Carhart-Harris’ findings.]
  7. [given top-down design model] Does consciousness survive death? Does it change form, or does it persist?
  8. What do you think about how neuroscience is taught in our universities? Have you seen an evolution of these studies and teaching in the universities as a result of your experiences and those of others? (DOPS)
  9. In your own studies and in the study of consciousness/awareness/meditation, what about future discoveries or advances excites you?
  10. What else will you be working on?
  11. Anything else you’d like to share? Academy for the Advancement of Postmaterialist Sciences: https://www.aapsglobal.com/

In this episode, I had the pleasure of speaking with Dr. Bernardo Kastrup. Bernardo has a Ph.D. in computer engineering with specializations in artificial intelligence and reconfigurable computing. He has worked as a scientist in some of the world’s foremost research laboratories, including the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN) and the Philips Research Laboratories (where the “Casimir Effect” of Quantum Field Theory was discovered). He has authored many academic papers and books on philosophy and science. Three of his most recent books, available at online booksellers are: More Than Allegory, Brief Peeks Beyond and Why Materialism Is Baloney.

Please enjoy this conversation with Dr. Bernardo Kastrup, where we dive into that notion that Materialism…is baloney.

Questions:

  1. How has your background in Computer Engineering and Artificial Intelligence affected your views on consciousness?How have your studies of consciousness and idealism affected your notion of AI and AC?
  2. What is the difference between artificial intelligence and artificial consciousness?
    What do you think it would take for a computer to have what you call ‘private inner experience’? Possible? The hard question applies to computer consciousness as well as human consciousness?
  3. You have papers and videos and a book on breaking down the materialist argument(s). What is the most common argument for materialism and how do you counter that?
    Can we review the argument about psychoactive drugs?
    Do your counter-arguments to materialism also apply to dualism, since you’re removing the material part of the mind-body duality?
    You say it’s a mistake to say that science explains or supports materialism. Is that correct? Can you explain why that’s a mistake?
    What are your thoughts, if any, on integrated information theory (IIT) and how it measures consciousness in the brain, postulates a physical substrate of consciousness?
  4. As an idealist, how do you avoid solipsism? Or, do you?
  5. What is your opinion of ‘unconsciousness’?
    The self/ego and reflection, you say, ‘amplify’ consciousness. You also mention Robin Carhart-Harris’ psychedelic studies as decreasing brain activity. Is the ‘unconscious’ state a baseline condition of consciousness?
    What are your interpretations of Robin Carhart-Harris’ psychedelic studies, that brain activity slows down or reduces during psychedelic experiences?
    What IS ego/self?
    What implication does that have on the notion of dreams (or hallucinations)?
    Can you please tell us more about the ‘collective unconscious’ and how it generates reality?
  6. You mention (in Scientific American), that “subatomic particles are the “pixels” of experience, not necessarily of the experiencer.” What is the difference between the experience and the experiencer? Does an experience exist independently of the experiencer?
    Your analogy of pixels and pixelated images to experience, can you explain that for us? Would you mind running that analogy for one’s experience of, say, the color red? Also, to your analogy to the whirlpool?
  7. You mention that the universe, as a whole, can be conscious – is mental. Can you explain or expand on that?
    There is something it is like to be the universe, as a whole? I have as much of a hard time with that as I do a stone.
    Particles are affected by our observation. We can’t know of particles behaving independent of our observations. Therefore, the Universe is a product of our minds — idealism. Do I have that right?
  8. Where do you stand on the survival of consciousness after death?
    The body is the localization of consciousness? When the body dies, it de-localizes? Does it maintain memories, or are memories the function of (the image of) the brain?
    Where do you stand on psi phenomena, especially near death experiences? [Ed Kelly wrote the afterward for your book?]
    Newly added, what about the emergence of consciousness?
  9. In your own studies and in the study of consciousness, what about future discoveries or advances excites you?

This week, I had the pleasure of speaking with Dr. Keith Frankish, a European philosopher and writer. I was first introduced to Dr. Frankish’s theory by David Chalmers’ keynote speech at The Science of Consciousness. The theory is Illusionism. Do we have consciousness or does it SEEM as if we have consciousness? Dr. Frankish is an Honorary Reader at the University of Sheffield, a Visiting Research Fellow with The Open University, and an Adjunct Professor with the Brain and Mind Programme at the University of Crete. His focus is primarily in philosophy of mind, but he has interests in many areas of philosophy.

Please enjoy this conversation on Illusionism with Dr. Keith Frankish. Oh, and there’s a bonus ‘far out’ question at the end on illusionism’s potential role in the brain as a portal to a greater consciousness. I came away from that conversation with a new perspective. Again, please enjoy this edition of The Consciousness Podcast with Dr. Keith Frankish.

Illusionism: As a Theory of Consciousness  edited by Keith Frankish

Questions:

  1. When did you come into Illusionism and how did you get there?
    1. In layman’s terms, what is ‘illusionism’?
    2. What about the ‘illusion problem.’ What is the ‘illusion problem’?
    3. So, you’re not a zombie?
  2. You mention that phenomenal properties (qualia) are illusory, that we have a subset of (distorted) information required to really understand the phenomenal experience, that we ‘misrepresent’ those experiences. Can you expand on that notion?
    1. We don’t have phenomenal experiences, we ‘seem’ to have them. Where or how does the ‘seeming’ happen? [that’s the illusion problem?]
  3. It seems that phenomenal experiences are tied to our own interpretation and introspection (what it is like) of our sensory states, which would rule out dualism, no?
    1. Is illusionism mutually exclusive from dualism? That feels like an odd question. We’re talking about consciousness, that it’s an illusion…but, even if it’s an illusion, is it separate from the brain/body?
    2. Is ‘consciousness’ the illusory experience? Chalmers said that: ‘If this is an illusion, then the illusion is consciousness.’ It starts to feel like a contradiction to me. Am I getting part of this wrong?
    3. There is not a line between ‘seeming to have’ (illusionism) and ‘what it is like to have’ (realism). If I understand, those are one and the same experience. Do you see any way for that line to be drawn or discovered? What could be the discovery that causes illusionism to break down?
    4. What about the ego? How does that fit into Illusionism? As you state, Humphrey proposes that consciousness enriches life, adding interests and goals. Is that where/how ego/self emerges?
    5. You state that, “Evolution couldn’t set it up so that brain states really have qualia.” Why not?
      1. Evolution has created qualia that seem to be real, even though they are not (Pain?). What is the mechanism behind this? Can you shed some light on the emergence of these illusory qualia? Where do they come from? [again, illusion problem here?]
      2. How tightly tied to sensory states is the illusion? Is there illusion outside of these state? For example, can there be multiple layers of illusion, illusory qualia derived from other (even multiple) illusory qualia?
    6. What are your plans, with illusionism or new theories, for the future?

Far Out Question:

  1. It’s almost like these illusions (qualia) are simple representations of extremely complex functions presented to us (introspection) as a way to help us understand (Dennett’s computer icons, Rey’s cartoon, etc.). Others have proposed that the brain is a portal, filter to a larger consciousness. I can see a common concept here: that the brain (or something?) is filtering reality or a greater consciousness in order to enrich, or even make possible, our experiences, or lives.
    1. Could these illusions be a middleman between the dual mind and brain, that the mind is actually another level above what we have been describing as consciousness (the illusion)?
    2. Will these illusions continue to evolve in passing the torch gradually over to the ‘full consciousness’?
    3. Maybe some have been born without this illusion generator, without the filter, and have gone insane or become geniuses (cosmic consciousness) given access to this larger consciousness or flow of information and experience?