Mind vs. Matter or Matter, Life, and Mind as 3 Autonomous but Related Layers of Reality?

Marcelo Gleiser in “Mind And Matter: Confessions Of A Perplexed Soul” on the NPR blog 13.7 Cosmos and Culture:

To facilitate things, let’s say that mind is a faculty that conscious, intelligent beings have, the ability to think, feel and reflect about the world and the subjective experiences it presents. It is then legitimate to ask whether other animals have minds or whether machines can one day have them too. This is a key aspect of the debate, since the mind-body problem has traditionally split the line between two sides: Mind is a property of brains that reach a certain level of cognitive complexity and hence a state of matter; or mind is not matter — it is something that can’t be reduced to how the brain works.

Of course, this kind of mind-matter dualism dates back at least to Descartes, something that nowadays is mostly not seriously considered, at least by cognitive neuroscientists. …

What we call the world happens inside our brains, teased from the outside or from the inside. (Dreams are worlds within, with arbitrary physical laws and narrative rules.) A key question to be answered is whether consciousness needs organic matter to sustain it or whether it can exist merely through electronic circuits. Of course, we all like to think that circuits will do it, that it is a matter of time before we build an intelligent, conscious machine. But we don’t really know whether that’s even possible, do we?

Liah Greenfeld in Chapter 1, “Premises,” of Mind, Modernity, Madness:

…the recognition of the tremendous world of life as an emergent phenomenon proves that such improbable new autonomous worlds are possible. And this, in turn, suggests that experiential reality which is conceived of since the beginning of the Western philosophical tradition as having only two aspects, the real or material and the ideal or spiritual (both or only one of which may be considered essential and autonomous), may be approached from an altogether different perspective. Reality may be imagined as consisting of three autonomous but related layers, with the two upper ones being emergent phenomena — the layer of matter, the layer of life, and the layer of the mind. This opens the way to the scientific investigation of the mind.

 

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