Sunday, November 18, 2007

Are Sensations Irreducible or Are They Complex?

Marvin Minsky, Interior Grounding, Reflection, and Self-Consciousness (originally published in Brain, Mind and Society, Proceedings of an International Conference on Brain, Mind and Society, Graduate School of Information Sciences, Brain, Mind and Society, Tohoku University, Japan, September 2005):

[S]ome people ... think that the qualities of such sensations [such as the sensation of a color such as "red"] are so basic and irreducible that they will always remain inexplicable.

However, I prefer to take the opposite view—that what we call sensations are complex reflective activities. They sometimes involve extensive cascades in which some parts of the brain are affected by signals whose origins we cannot detect—and therefore, we find them hard to explain. So, I see no exceptional mystery here: we simply don’t yet know enough about what is actually happening in our brains. But when you think enough about anything, then you see this is also the case with everything.

Minsky is one smart cookie.
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