Thursday, January 22, 2009

First person vs third person

There are always two parallel (different yet complementary) descriptions of the objective world namely the first person and the third person account. Behaviorists believe that the first person account is not required implying that consciousness does not exist. However, this can not be correct. For example, I may see a picture and experience a certain kind of emotion that can not be described by a third person. Philosophers call this conundrum the riddle of qualia or subjective sensation.

As V.S. Ramachandran says, "This need to reconcile the first−person and third−person accounts of the universe (the "I" view versus the "he" or "it" view) is the single most important unsolved problem in science. Dissolve this barrier, say the Indian mystics and sages, and you will see that the separation between self and nonself is an illusion—that you are really One with the cosmos."

Einstein on consciousness

A human being is a part of a whole, called by us 'universe', a part limited in time and space. He experiences himself, his thoughts and feelings as something separated from the rest... a kind of optical delusion of his consciousness. This delusion is a kind of prison for us, restricting us to our personal desires and to affection for a few persons nearest to us. Our task must be to free ourselves from this prison by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature in its beauty.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

What is Self?

Vilayanur S. "Rama" Ramachandran, in his book, Phantoms in the brain, writes,

During the last three decades, neuroscientists throughout the world have probed the nervous system in fascinating detail and have learned a great deal about the laws of mental life and about how these laws emerge from the brain. The pace of progress has been exhiliarating, but—at the same time—the findings make many people uncomfortable. It seems somehow disconcerting to be told that your life, all your hopes, triumphs and aspirations simply arise from the activity of neurons in your brain. But far from being humiliating, this idea is ennobling, I think. Science— cosmology, evolution and especially the brain sciences—is telling us that we have no privileged position in the universe and that our sense of having a private nonmaterial soul "watching the world" is really an illusion (as has long been emphasized by Eastern mystical traditions like Hinduism and Zen Buddhism). Once you realize that far from being a spectator, you are in fact part of the eternal ebb and flow of events in the cosmos, this realization is very liberating. 

Advaita Vedanta Books

When I was in USA, my friends and I started the Sanskrit Documents Site. Though I volunteered and translated some documents, I am no longer actively involved in coding. It is probably still the best site for the sanskrit documents. For advaita vedanta, you can look at the links under Shankara. Two other sites that provide extensive books on advaita vedanta (for free) are the sites on Adi Shankara and Bhagavan Ramana Maharshi

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Multiple Personality Disorders

In medicine, much can be learned from exceptions rather than from a routine study. Multiple Personality Disorders was made famous in the book, Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde, in which two personalities inhabit the same body. Recent medical researcg shows that these two personalities may exhibit even widely different physical characteristics. For example, while one personality would be diabetic, the other personality would test normal for sugar. Similarly, while one personality is short-sighted, the other personality is long-sighted. Though these two personalities inhabit the same body, how does the body exhibit different physical and chemical characteristics in each personality? What is the role of mind over matter?

What is Life?

Schrödinger concludes the final chapter on his book, What is Life, with philosophical discussions on free will, and human consciousness. He concludes each individual's consciousness is only a manifestation of a unitary consciousness pervading the universe, which is the goal of Advaita Vedanta.