This week, I had the pleasure of speaking with Dr. Michael Nahm, and the topic was Terminal Lucidity, a term he coined. Terminal Lucidity has implications in end-of-life experience, Near Death Experience, and provides insight into human consciousness. Dr. Nahm is a Biologist and studied Zoology, Botanics, Genetics, and Palaeontology. Learn more about his thoughts, ideas, and studies at www.michaelnahm.com.

Please enjoy this edition of The Consciousness Podcast with Dr. Michael Nahm. And listen past the end for a ‘far out’ discussion on psychedelics and Terminal Lucidity.

  1. Questions:
    The topic today is a term you coined, Terminal Lucidity. Can you tell us what that is and why you’re drawn to it?

    1. For those who have not observed or studied Terminal Lucidity, what is that experience like for the patient and for the family or friends who are there for that moment?
      1. How common, statistically, is Terminal Lucidity? Some hospice care nurses even tell families to expect it. Is what they describe different from actual ‘Terminal Lucidity’ due to the non-impairment of those patients’ brains?
        1. In terms of doing studies, is it common enough that using cameras, EEGs or MRIs could provide some insight? It’s probably not that simple. This is very difficult to study, isn’t it
      2. This has been observed even in patients with meningitis, brain tumors, Alzheimer’s disease or strokes. Can you tell us more about that? I find that interesting, given the physical damage that has occurred to those brains.
      3. Is there a correlation to the affected areas of the brain (temporal lobe in Alzheimer’s, other sections in brain tumors) even neuronal damage and this lucidity? If so, where do you think this moment of clarity originates?
    2. How have your studies of Terminal Lucidity affected your idea of the nature of the mind, consciousness overall?
    3. You mention that the mind, even memories, is not generated by the brain, “that the brain functions as a kind of filter or transmitter organ.” This gets right at the hard problem of consciousness. What are your thoughts, observations, hypotheses on what’s going on there with the mind/brain? How do you see the brain as this ‘filter’ or ‘transmitter organ’?
    4. I’m curious about the mind/brain ‘hard problem’ in many of these cases but especially of the 91-year-old stroke victim. The mind/brain problem seems to be mostly concerned with how, or even does, the brain create the mind or allow the mind to connect to the body. In this case, it almost appears as though her mind was able to overcome physical, neuronal blocks (a stroke) to facilitate muscle movement and speech that were physically impossible, or at least no longer controlled by her nervous system. Can you expand on that? Am I getting that right? How could that be possible?
    5. You have collaborated with NDE experts like Drs. Greyson and Kelly and their colleagues at UVA. How does Terminal Lucidity tie into the NDE experience? [timing, before death] Deathbed visions.
      1. What is your opinion on survival of the mind/consciousness after death?
    6. There’s a time element to the cases of Terminal Lucidity, from a couple weeks to minutes before death. Sorry if I’m going way out there, but…[what is time to a dying mind, what is time to consciousness]…is it possible that somebody with a normal/healthy brain/mind, who dies a sudden death, like from an accident or an aneurism or a massive heart attack, might also have his/her own Terminally Lucid experience (clarity)?
    7. Where do you see further study of Terminal Lucidity taking you, what are the long-term possibilities with your studies? Terminal Lucidity scale.
      1. Do you think there’s a possibility of holding a person in this state once it presents itself? [psilocybin/lsd]
      2. …in the treatment of Alzheimer’s patients?
      3. …in helping families, doctors and families during those last moments?
    8. Is there anything else you’d like to share? Is there anything that I haven’t asked that you’d like to discuss?

Far Out Question: Psilocybin reconnecting the networks; can that happen with a released chemical in the brain connected to the knowledge of pending death? Goes around damaged areas of the brain?

This week, I had the pleasure of speaking with Dr. Bernard Kobes from my Alma Mater, Arizona State University. Dr. Kobes has been an Associate Professor of Philosophy at ASU since 1986, where he has been recognized with numerous awards. We covered everything from what-it-is-like consciousness to the emergence of consciousness in both individuals and in species to the morality and ethics of uploading one’s consciousness into a computer.

Topics we covered include:

  1. How do you define consciousness?
  2. Tell us about your seminar, Philosophy of Mind: Consciousness, and its topic: Metaphysical aspects of an apparent tension between dependence of consciousness on the physical brain and body, and the novelty of consciousness relative to the physical.
    1. What is that dependence of consciousness on the physical brain and body? How does this relate to your idea of dualism/physicalism?
    2. Does this explore the binding of the mind to the body?
    3. Does consciousness emerge from the physical layers of the brain/body? What is ‘emergentism’?
    4. What about weak and strong emergence? What is that, and what is your view on this?
    5. You describe consciousness (what-it-is-like consciousness) as one of the layers. What are the layers? At what point do the layers move from physical to metaphysical/phenomenal?
      1. How do the Mary and archangel arguments help explain this?
      2. How is emergentism a form a dualism, or is it?
    6. The physical closure principle (every physical event that has a cause has a sufficient physical cause): how does this play into dualism? Do you accept this?
    7. Panpsychism: you argue that panpsychism is not plausible, because of the ‘combination problem’. Can you explain/expand on that?
    8. You reject substance-dualism. What about property dualism? Maybe provide an explanation of each if pertinent.
    9. Regarding your “thoughts and conjectures about distinctively human forms of consciousness, based partly on a lecture given at ASU on February 1, 2018, by the paleoanthropologist Ian Tattersall,” can you give us a quick synopsis on your ideas regarding the evolution of consciousness in humans, including any key points you find particularly interesting?
      1. What about Block’s notion of ‘access to consciousness’. What do you mean by that?
        You’ve discussed emergence of consciousness as related to an individual mind/brain. What are you thoughts here on the emergence of ‘consciousness’ in a species, in humans?
    10. What is “constitution of consciousness”?
    11. Do you see any breakthroughs coming in the study/understanding of consciousness?
    12. Is one’s consciousness something, like knowledge and wisdom or muscle development, something that one can exercise/improve/expand upon?
    13. In addition to what we’ve discussed, is there anything else you’d like to bring up and/or discuss?

This week, I had the honor of speaking with Dr. Uriah Kriegel. Dr. Kriegel is a research director at the Jean Nicod Institute in Paris, where he heads the “Consciousness & Self” team. He works mostly in philosophy of mind and metaphysics, but is also interested in cognitive science, metaethics, epistemology, early analytic philosophy, and a number of other research areas. He received his PhD from Brown University in 2003, whereupon he started teaching at the wonderful philosophy department at the University of Arizona, where he was tenured in 2010. He moved to Nicod in 2012.

It was a fascinating conversation, where we touched on topics from the Awareness Principle to eating one’s brain to learn what chocolate tastes like (hint: you can’t do that) to Arizona’s connection with Asthma to being ‘nobody’s dog!’  

Go buy Uriah’s books on Amazon:

Subjective Consciousness: A Self-Representational Theory

The Varieties of Consciousness (Philosophy of Mind)

The Sources of Intentionality

And many more!

Some topics covered:

  • Manifest image of the world versus the scientific image of the world
  • One can’t eat your brain as you eat chocolate and know what chocolate tastes like
  • Does consciousness fit into the scientific world?
  • The Awareness Principle: can we be wrong about our awareness of our awareness?
  • The Scientific Theory of Everything and Reflexive Awareness
  • Are dreams an exception to the Awareness Principle?
  • Memories aren’t an essential part of consciousness.
  • Meditation, dreaming and allocating your awareness resources
  • Is all consciousness intentional? What the heck does that mean, anyway?
  • The near-perfect correlation between the physical brain and consciousness
  • Does Arizona cause Asthma?
  • Morality, Consciousness and Free Will offer similar challenges — will the Humanities help us find our reason for being, our purpose in life?
  • Undiscovered building blocks of consciousness