Report on First Meeting

Tuesday, March 19,1996, 6 - 9 pm. Eight in attendance.

As promised the first meeting was devoted to a report on the book "Consciousness Explained" by Daniel Dennett.
Did Dennett 'explain' consciousness?
Answer: Yes, for those who already hold his views; no for the others. Adherents agree, opponents don't!
A very short way into the presentation enthusiasm and interest in the topic couldn't be contained. It burst forth into an animated deliberation among all present.

Much discussion of philosophic dualism: the belief that mind and matter are distinct from each other. Most present believed mind - or consciousness - is the expression of a purely physical process i.e. reducible to matter.

In defence of the minority, Roger kindly offered to give us a symposium on Gurdjieff and Ouspensky for our April 17 meeting. Receiving the news that Rachel will attend a major international conference on consciousness Roger generously deferred his presentation in favor of one from Rachel.

Says Rachel:
I am attending a conference in Tucson, Az. during April 7th- 14th. It is entitled 'Working Towards a Scientific Model of Conciousness'. The topics can be found at:

Many of the topics may be of interest to this study group. If anyone is interested in a particular one, or recognizes a name or a speaker who they feel is particularly interesting, please let me know.

Rachel (

Marvin responds:
I expect that Rachel will be able to tell us who the current authorities are in the field. It seems to me that the notable speakers, Dennett, Koch, Penrose, Chalmers (PL 11), the Churchlands (PL 9 and 11) . . are in the Plenary (PL) Sessions.

Seems from my reading, that current thinking about brain function (consciousness) invokes neural darwinism: (Edelman: TNGS = Theory of Neuronal Group Selection, W.H. Calvin: Darwin Machine, Dennett: many drafts) the idea that notions reside in populations (of what, nerve activity?, synapses?) which vie with each other for cerebral survival. The 'fittest' invade our conscious perception.

Questions: How is neural group selection effected? What do microtubules (Crick, Koch) have to do with it - if anything? The answer might be found from Churchland PS. "Our friend the microtubule" (PL9)
More questions: What exactly is the 'hard problem'? Is it real?
What does 'noetic' mean?

For me, 'qualia' - subjective experiences - needs no explaining beyond this: that they are how the biochemistry manifests itself. So I am not too interested in those (Searle?) who dwell on qualia. Nor in 'higher consciousness', the lower kind being enough of a mystery for me. I get the impression that the stuff that I would avoid is in PL 12 and PL13. Among the ducks are many quacks.

March 1996
Marvin Chester

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© m chester 1996 Occidental CA