Friday, August 31, 2007

The Unsteady Mind

"Little by little, he should come to rest,
With the intellect firmly held.
His mind having been established in the Self,
He should not think of anything.
Whenever the unsteady mind,
Moving to and fro, wanders away,
He should restrain it
And control it in the Self."

Bhagavad Gita 6.25–26. From Winthrop Sargeant, tr., The Bhagavad Gita (State University of New York Press: New York, 1994) 296–97.

One with the Universe

What did the Buddhist say at the hot dog stand?
- Make me one with the universe.

"Take the common hallucinogenic experience of losing our separate self, or becoming one with the universe. This may seem, to some, like mystical hogwash, but in fact it fits far better with a scientific understanding of the world than our normal dualist view. Most of us feel, most of the time, that we are some kind of separate self who inhabits our body like a driver in a car or a pilot in a plane.

Driverless truck in the movie Duel.

Throughout history many people have believed in a soul or a spirit. Yet science has long known that this cannot be so. There is just a brain that is made of the same stuff as the the world around it. We really are one with the universe.
This means that the psychedelic sense of self may actually be truer than the dualistic view. So although our normal state is better for surviving and reproducing, it may not always be best for understanding who and what we are..."
- Helen Phillips & Graham Lawton, New Scientist November 2004.

Self-inquiry reveals that there is a self, but it is not particulate or separate from world stuff. Some would call that a 'spirit' or 'soul' but these words suggest something different from the world - dualistic thinking.

Hallucinogenics may suspend the ego self temporarily and so give a sense of being one with the universe;
however, they shift awareness into the superego, a state as far from reality as the ego.

Sunday, August 26, 2007


"How can people know when their desires are authentically their own, conditioned as they are by identity, habit, culture, and all of what Haskell calls 'the numb, repetitive past'?"
TLS June 2, 06

Thursday, August 23, 2007

To have or to be?

"The fear of death comes
from the idea of owning life,
of experiencing it as a possession."

"The mode of being exists
only in the here and now...
the mode of having exists only in time:
past, present and future.
In the having mode we are bound
to what we have amassed in the past:
money, land, fame, social status,
knowledge, children, memories."

-Erich Fromm
Fromm was a German-Jewish-American social psychologist whose brand of socialism rejected both Western capitalism and Soviet communism, which he saw as dehumanizing and bureaucratic social structures that resulted in a virtually universal modern phenomenon of alienation. He became one of the founders of socialist humanism, promoting the early writings of Karl Marx

[the having mode also drags awareness
into the not-yet-existing future
in which we aspire to have these things.
By dwelling in the not-yet-existent
we become ourselves non-existent.
We defer the being we could enjoy
in the here and now.]

Tuesday, August 21, 2007


People generally believe that without ownership of mind a person would cease to be a person, but personhood is not destroyed when the acquisitive ego is dispelled. Analogously, space is not destroyed when a pot is smashed.

According to the writers of the Upanishads and other Sanskrit texts, the universe does not just feature personhood, but it is a person, called Purusa or Purusha (the words 'person' and 'purusa' are very similar. I wonder if they have a common Proto Indo-European origin). In the Svetasvatara Upanisad, Purusa is described as being "everything in existence, everything that was and everything that will be". The human mind has forgotten that this is its true source of personhood.

The Impersonal or Transpersonal
Charles Upton has commented that, to the Western mind, the idea of an Absolute Self beyond individual 'persons' is difficult to accept. The term 'impersonal' denotes something inferior to personhood. He prefers to describe the Absolute Self as 'transpersonal'.
"God is indeed a Person, but if we say He is only personal, we are in danger of implying that He is no more than we conceive Him to be, of imprisoning Him on our human level of understanding, of denying that He opens out 'behind', onto the Infinite. But of course we do the same thing in our habitual ways of seeing other people, and ourselves; we treat others as if they were no more than our ideas of them, and ourselves as if we were limited to our own shifting self-images. We forget that all persons are, precisely, personal faces of the Transpersonal Absolute: if, like God, we were not also more than persons, we would not be persons at all."
- Charles Upton, Parabola, Summer 2008

Sunday, August 19, 2007


Cohen states that if “ownership requires separability of what owns from what is owned, then self-ownership is impossible”. His interpretation of the “self” invoked by the thesis of self-ownership is that the term is reflexive; the “self” signifies that “what owns and what is owned are one and the same, namely, the whole person”. Thus to say that “A enjoys self-ownership is just to say that A owns A”. There is no “deeply inner thing” that is owned. If “self-ownership” refers to a whole person in the sense that there is no distinction between the owner and his property, so that what is owned cannot be separated from the owner, it follows that the property cannot be alienated.

Friday, August 17, 2007

The Amesha Spentas

Zoroaster, detail, The School of Athens by Raphael

Zoroaster, or Zarathustra, the prophet and poet of ancient Persia, is now almost universally accepted by Iranists to have lived in the 9th/10th century BCE. His message of a single beneficent God called Ahura Mazda, probably influenced Judaism, and echoes the idea of a single, otherless Self, found in the Upanishads of India.
The monotheistic teachers have striven to draw the attention of humanity to the central truth of existence - that there is only one Self. They recognised that it was difficult for people to grasp the concept that the gods they worshipped were aspects of a single Self within. Multiplicity was distracting people from the path of realising this single Self.
However, Zoroaster's One God is not a dull monolith, but has different aspects responsible for the unfolding of different areas of Manifestation. He called them the Amesha Spentas (beneficent immortals) and they are comparable to the archangels of Creation in Judaism. In common with the system of seven Chakras, each with a presiding deity, found in ancient Indian Yoga philosophy, there are seven Amesha Spentas (six emanations plus their origin - Ahura Mazda - making a heptad)
There are similarities between the qualities of the Amesha Spentas and those of the deities of the Chakras. In praise of these aspects of the Divine, Zarathustra wrote a collection of hymns called the Gathas, an old Persian word closely related to the Sanskrit 'gita', meaning 'song'.

The qualities of the Chakras according to Sahaja Yoga are:

1)Mooladhara (Base) Chakra - earth, innocence, wisdom
2)Swadisthana (Pelvic) Chakra - fire, creativity
3)Nabhi (Navel) Chakra - water, sustenance, balance, prosperity
4)Anahata (Heart) Chakra - air, love, security.
5)Visshuddhi (Throat) Chakra, - ether/sky, communication
6)Agnya (Brow) Chakra - light, forgiveness, mind.
7)Sahasrara (Crown) Chakra - integration, union.

The Zoroastrian Amesha Spentas are:
1)Ameretat ("not dying") Rules over Plants. Personification of immortality.

2)Asha vahishta ("excellent order") Fire element. Personification of the 'best truth' and protector of the physical and moral order on earth.

3)Haurvatat ("wholeness"). Water element. Personification of perfection. She brings prosperity and health.

4)Aramaiti ("devotion") Earth element. Personification of holy devotion.

5)Khshathra vairya ("desirable dominion") sky/metal. A warrior.

6)Vohu Manah ("good mind") Personification of wisdom.

7)Ahura Mazda The Supreme Self

"In the context of the Zoroastrian view of creation, the group of the Amesha Spenta is extended to include Ahura Mazda, together with (or represented by) Spenta Mainyu. However, in most scholastic texts, an unqualified referral to the "Amesha Spenta" is usually understood to include only great six. In Yasna 44.7, 31.3, and 51.7, Ahura Mazda's Spenta Mainyu is the instrument or "active principle" of the act of creation. It is also through this 'Bounteous Force', 'Creative Emanation' or 'Holy Spirit' that Ahura Mazda is immanent in humankind (Yasna 33.6), and how the Creator interacts with the world (Yasna 43.6).
The doctrine also has a physical dimension, in that each of the heptad is linked to one of the seven creations, which in ancient philosophy were the foundation of the universe. These physical associations are only alluded to in the Gathas, and then so subtly that they are usually lost in translation.
A systematic association is only present in later middle Persian texts, where each of the seven is listed with its 'special domain':"

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Free Will

Using electroencephalograms scientists can measure the brain activity that occurs milliseconds before a person 'spontaneously' decides to act of their 'own free will'. They can predict when a person is going to have an urge to act, before the person is conscious of that urge.

"It is our brains that cause our actions. Our minds just come along for the ride".

"our most important way of classifying the world is into people (or agents) and things. If I don't have free will then I am not a person. But for scientists to prove that free will is not an illusion, they will have to solve the hard problem of exactly how a desire in the mental realm can cross into the physical world and cause something to happen. To date they are rather a long way from doing this."
-Chris Frith,
New Scientist, 11 August 2007

The brain is real, not the illusory ego that claims to have free will to act. If there is free will, it belongs to the universe, it is not the property of individual egos. This does not imply that we live in an amoral universe.
Like free will and spontaneity, morality, or Dharma, is a property of the universe, not a property of the individual mind.

Monday, August 13, 2007

Superimposition of the unreal onto the Real

It is a matter not requiring any proof that the object and the subject whose respective spheres are the notion of the 'Thou' (the Non-Ego) and the 'Ego,' and which are opposed to each other as much as darkness and light are, cannot be identified. All the less can their respective attributes be identified. Hence it follows that it is wrong to superimpose upon the subject - whose Self is intelligence, and which has for its sphere the notion of the Ego - the object whose sphere is the notion of the Non-Ego, and the attributes of the object, and vice versa to superimpose the subject and the attributes of the subject on the object. In spite of this it is on the part of man a natural procedure - which has its cause in wrong knowledge - not to distinguish the two entities (object and subject) and their respective attributes, although they are absolutely distinct, but to superimpose upon each the characteristic nature and the attributes of the other, and thus, coupling the Real and the Unreal, to make use of expressions such as 'That am I,' 'That is mine.' - But what have we to understand by the term 'superimposition?' - The apparent presentation, in the form of remembrance, to consciousness of something previously observed, in some other thing.
Shri Adi Sankaracharya,
Introduction to the Brahma Sutras
Ādi Śankarācārya ("the first Shankara in his lineage") was the first philosopher to consolidate the doctrine of Advaita Vedanta, a sub-school of Vedanta. His teachings are based on the unity of the soul and Brahman, in which Brahman is viewed as without attributes. In the Smārta tradition, Adi Shankara is regarded as an incarnation of Shiva. There is debate over the date of his birth; some place it as early as the 9th century CE.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Trimurthi Elephanta Restoration

Here is a digital restoration I made from
a photograph of the damaged sculpture of Trimurthy
(Triple aspect of Supreme Being -
Creator, Sustainer and Destroyer)
at Elephanta Island near Mumbai.

The original looks like this:

The Song of Ribhu

Abide as That, on realizing which to be oneself, there is nothing else to be known, everything becomes already known and every purpose accomplished - and be always happy, without the least trace of thought.

Abide as That which is attained easily when one is convinced that one is not different from the Supreme Absolute, That which results, when that conviction becomes firm, in the experience of the Supreme Bliss of the Real, That which produces a sense of incomparable and complete satisfaction when the mind is absorbed in It - and be always happy, without the least trace of thought.

Abide as That which leads to the complete cessation of misery when the mind is absorbed in It, and the extinction of all ideas of “I”, “you” and “another,” and the disappearance of all differences - and be always happy, without the least trace of thought.

-The Song of Ribhu

Friday, August 10, 2007

The Zen of Blake

To see a World in a Grain of Sand
And a Heaven in a Wild Flower
Hold Infinity in the palm of your hand
And Eternity in an hour

It is no coincidence that D.T. Suzuki quotes the very same passage in his Essays in Zen Buddhism, to demonstrate the fullness of Zen experience. The world is able to be perceived in a grain of sand because the self, having its center everywhere, can identify itself in the "Minute Particulars"of our world. Every encounter becomes a potential for enlightenment. The self no longer stands against the other, but rather becomes the other. That is why, for Blake,'The most sublime act is to set other before you." Further, this experience (Prajna or The Divine Vision) makes possible an identification with the most ordinary of things. In Songs of Experience (1794) it is a common fly that Blake identifies with:

Am not I
a fly like thee?
Or art not thou
A man like me?

Mark Ferrara

Thursday, August 09, 2007

Iris and the Kundalini

The goddess Iris is the messenger of the Greek gods, and the personification of the rainbow. Like the Kundalini, she is a bridge connecting the human world with the divine. In yoga tradition it is said that union with the divine Self is impossible without the ascent of the Kundalini energy from the sacrum at the base of the spine.

Iris is particularly associated with the supreme goddess Hera (Juno), the wife of Zeus. Callimachus portrays Iris as sleeping under Hera’s throne. The throne of the Goddess is the Kundalini (called Merkabah in Hebrew).

It was sometimes said that Iris' husband was the west wind Zephyrus, the gentlest and most welcome of winds. When awakened within the subtle system of the body, the Kundalini is experienced as a gentle cool breeze.

Her attributes are the caduceus and the vase of water from the river Styx. The caduceus is a symbol of the subtle system through which the Kundalini rises. It consists of a central staff (the Sushumna Nadi of Yoga) entwined by twin serpents (Ida and Pingala nadis). The Kundalini is described as a serpent-like energy. Both the caduceus and Kundalini are associated with healing. The vase (Indian Kumbha) is a symbol of the Kundalini itself. In Greek myth, Iris was often summoned to be present at councils of the gods so that she could pour out the Styx water and thereby discover whether or not truth was being told. Kundalini awakening is believed to confer the ability to discriminate truth directly on the nervous system.

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

The Singular Source of all mental states

"From Me alone
arise the manifold states of mind
of created beings."
-Shri Krishna
Bhagavad Gita 10, 1-8

Shri Krishna presides over the Visshuddhi Chakra, the subtle centre located in the throat. It gives the ability to communicate and integrate with a collective sense of self. It also gives the power of detachment without which it is impossible to witness the thoughts arising in the mind and thereby enter a state of thoughtless awareness (Nirvichara).
The Visshuddhi is the vibrational level of ether and sound, and is the source of the mind. Western philosophers have concluded that the conscious mind consists of words and has no material substance because words do not have a material substance.
Western science is trying, without success, to discover how a sense of self from the mind. From an Eastern mystical point of view, the mind arises from the Self, not the other way around.

Friday, August 03, 2007

Headaches have themselves

Jerry Fodor reviews
Consciousness and Its Place in Nature: Does Physicalism Entail Panpsychism? by Galen Strawson
Consciousness is all the rage just now. It boasts new journals of its very own, from which learned articles overflow. Neuropsychologists snap its picture (in colour) with fMRI machines, and probe with needles for its seat in the brain. At all seasons, and on many continents, interdisciplinary conferences about consciousness draw together bizarre motleys that include philosophers, psychologists, phenomenologists, brain scientists, MDs, computer scientists, the Dalai Lama, novelists, neurologists, graphic artists, priests, gurus and (always) people who used to do physics. Institutes of consciousness studies are bountifully subsidised. Meticulous distinctions are drawn between the merely conscious and the consciously available; and between each of these and the preconscious, the unconscious, the subconscious, the informationally encapsulated and the introspectable. There is no end of consciousness gossip on Tuesdays in the science section of the New York Times. Periodically, Nobel laureates pronounce on the connections between consciousness and evolution, quantum mechanics, information theory, complexity theory, chaos theory and the activity of neural nets. Everybody gives lectures about consciousness to everybody else. But for all that, nothing has been ascertained with respect to the problem that everybody worries about most: what philosophers have come to call ‘the hard problem’. The hard problem is this: it is widely supposed that the world is made entirely of mere matter, but how could mere matter be conscious? How, in particular, could a couple of pounds of grey tissue have experiences?
Until quite recently, there were two main schools of thought on this. According to one, the hard problem is actually very easy: the answer is that consciousness ‘emerges’ from neural processes. This succeeds in replacing ‘what is consciousness and how is it possible?’ with ‘what is emergence and how is it possible?’ But it doesn’t seem to get much further; many find it less than satisfactory. According to the other view, the hard problem is so hard that it can’t be real: consciousness must be some sort of illusion. Many of this persuasion tried hard to convince themselves that they are, in fact, not conscious, but few of them succeeded. Centuries ago, Descartes suggested, plausibly, that the attempt is self-defeating.
There is, I should add, another way to respond to the hard problem. One might hold that the world isn’t made entirely of matter after all; there is also a fundamentally different kind of stuff – mind-stuff, call it – and consciousness resides in that. Notoriously, however, this view has hard problems of its own. For example, if matter-stuff and mind-stuff are of fundamentally different kinds, how are causal relations between them possible? How is it possible that eating should be caused by feeling peckish or feeling peckish by not eating? For this and other reasons, mind-stuff has mostly fallen out of fashion. I won’t dwell on it here.
That, then, sets the stage for Galen Strawson’s Consciousness and Its Place in Nature, which consists of a lead essay by Strawson, commentaries by 18 other philosophers, and Strawson’s extensive comments on the comments. The book is very rich. On the one hand, Strawson has the kind of expansive metaphysical imagination that used to be at the heart of philosophy, but which positivism and analysis succeeded for a long while in suppressing. Also, the commentaries are, almost uniformly, insightful, informative, sophisticated and excellently argued. It is very rare for a book with this sort of format to be so complete a success, or so much fun to read. I must warn you, however, that Strawson’s way with the hard problem is wildly at odds with the views current in most of philosophy and psychology. Many readers will find them too wild to swallow; I’m not at all sure that I don’t.
There are three philosophical principles to which Strawson’s allegiance is unshakeable. The first is that the existence of consciousness (specifically, of conscious experience) is undeniable; that we are conscious is precisely what we know best. (To be sure, we can’t prove that we are conscious; but that is hardly surprising since there is no more secure premise from which such a proof could proceed.) Strawson’s second principle is a kind of monism: everything that there is is the same sort of stuff as such familiar things as tables, chairs and the bodies of animals. This, however, leaves a lot of options open since Strawson thinks that nothing much is known about that kind of stuff ‘as it is in itself’; at best science tells us only about its relational properties. What is foreclosed by Strawson’s monism is primarily the sort of ‘substance dualism’ that is frequently (but, he thinks, wrongly) attributed to Descartes.
The third of Strawson’s leading theses is a good deal more tendentious than the first two; namely, that emergence isn’t possible. ‘For any feature Y of anything that is correctly considered to be emergent from X, there must be something about X and X alone in virtue of which Y emerges, and which is sufficient for Y.’ But Strawson holds that there isn’t anything about matter in virtue of which conscious experience could arise from it; or that if there is, we have literally no idea what it could be. In particular, we can’t imagine any way of arranging small bits of unconscious stuff that would result in the consciousness of the larger bits of stuff of which they are the constituents. It’s not like liquids (Strawson’s favourite example of bona fide emergence) where we can see, more or less, how constituent molecules that aren’t liquid might be assembled to make larger things that are. How on earth, Strawson wonders, could anything of that sort explain the emergence of consciousness from matter? If it does, that’s a miracle; and Strawson doesn’t hold with those.
It’s his refusal to budge an inch on any of this that makes his discussion so interesting. Whatever you think of his metaphysical conclusions, all three of his assumptions are pretty plausible, so it’s well worth asking what’s entailed if one agrees to them. Strawson is prepared to follow the trail to the very end. I, for one, think that’s how philosophy ought to be done. You can’t make metaphysics out of fudge.
So, then, if everything is made of the same sort of stuff as tables and chairs (as per monism), and if at least some of the things made of that sort of stuff are conscious (there is no doubt that we are), and if there is no way of assembling stuff that isn’t conscious that produces stuff that is (there’s no emergence), it follows that the stuff that tables, chairs and the bodies of animals (and, indeed, everything else) is made of must itself be conscious. Strawson, having wrestled his angel to a draw, stands revealed as a panpsychist: basic things (protons, for example) are loci of conscious experience. You don’t find that plausible? Well, I warned you.
Nor, having swallowed this really enormous camel, does Strawson propose to strain at the gnats. Consider, for example: he thinks (quite rightly) that there are no experiences without subjects of experience; if there’s a pain, it must be somebody or something’s pain; somebody or something must be in it. What, then, could it be that has the experiences that panpsychists attribute to ultimate things? Nothing purely material, surely, since that would just raise the hard problem all over again. So maybe something immaterial? But monism is in force; since the constituents of tables and chairs are made of matter, so too is everything else. So, Strawson is strongly inclined to conclude, the subjects of the experiences that basic things have must be the experiences themselves. Part of the surcharge that we pay for panpsychism (not, after all, itself an immediately plausible ontology) is that we must give up on the commonsense distinction between the experience and the experiencer. At the basic level, headaches have themselves.
Similar lines of thought lead to a forced choice between Strawson’s panpsychism and the traditional distinction between things and their properties. Contrary to naive intuition, ‘Fodor’s headache’ doesn’t express a relation between something more or less permanent (Fodor) and something more or less transient (his headache). If that’s so, however, it threatens to make nonsense of counterfactual hypotheticals; ones which say what would be the case if a given thing had properties different from the ones it actually does (‘Fodor would have been happy if his headache had gone away’). And finally, having somehow got all those camels down, it’s not clear that Strawson has in fact arrived at an answer to the hard problem. Suppose that the little bits of me have (or are) conscious experiences. How does that account for my being conscious? If you have one experience and I have another, the total of our experiences comes to two; there isn’t a third experience of which the first two are the constituents. Well, if that’s true of you and me, why isn’t it also true of me and the little things I’m made of? How does their having their headaches help to explain my having mine?
I should emphasise that none of these objections has escaped Strawson’s attention. To the contrary, I’ve borrowed most of them from him. Having been up front about his problems, Strawson considers various strategies in response to them. Perhaps, for example, commonsense metaphysics really does have to be abandoned; perhaps, in particular, the object/property distinction will have to go. Strawson reads some such moral as already implicit in what’s been going on in recent physics; maybe he’s right to do so. And maybe there are mysteries we must learn to live with; goings-on that we just aren’t built to understand (or that our logic isn’t). Maybe the composition of big experiences out of little ones is among those.
In a way, I’m quite sympathetic to all that. I think it’s strictly true that we can’t, as things stand now, so much as imagine the solution of the hard problem. The revisions of our concepts and theories that imagining a solution will eventually require are likely to be very deep and very unsettling. (That’s assuming what’s by no means obvious: that we are smart enough to solve it at all.) Philosophers used to think (some still do) that a bit of analytical tidying up would make the hard problem go away. But they were wrong to think that. There is hardly anything that we may not have to cut loose from before the hard problem is through with us.
Still, all else being equal, whoever gives up least is the winner; so it matters whether Strawson has abandoned more than he needs to. I’m not convinced that we will have to throw overboard as much as he thinks we will. In particular, we might try denying the claim, cited above, that if Y emerges from X, then there must be something about X in virtue of which Y emerges from it. Why not just say: some things are true about the world because that’s the kind of world it is; there’s nothing more to make of it. That sounds defeatist perhaps; but it really isn’t since, quite plausibly, it’s the sort of thing that we will have to say sooner or later whether or not saying it would help with the hard problem.
Typical scientific explanations appeal to natural laws. Some natural laws are explained by appealing to others, but some aren’t; some of them are basic. So, roughly, the laws about molecules explain the laws about liquidity; and the laws about atoms explain the laws about molecules; and the laws about subatomic bits and pieces explain the laws about atoms . . . and so on down, but not so on down for ever. Eventually, we get to laws about whatever the smallest things are (or, perhaps, to laws about the fundamental structure of space-time); and there we simply stop. Basic laws can’t be explained; that’s what makes them basic. There isn’t a reason why they hold, they just do. Even if basic physical laws are true of everything, they don’t explain everything; in particular, they don’t explain why, of all the basic laws that there might have been, these are the ones there actually are. I don’t say that’s the right way to look at things, but it’s a perfectly respectable and traditional way. At a minimum, it seems that the various sciences form some sort of hierarchy, with physics (or whatever) at the bottom. That’s much as one might expect if the sort of view I’m discussing is at least approximately true.
Maybe, however, there’s something wrong with this view and we’ll finally have to do without it. Maybe the hard problem shows that not all basic laws are laws of physics. Maybe it shows that some of them are laws of emergence. If that’s so, then it’s not true after all that if Y emerges from X there must be something about X in virtue of which Y emerges from it. Rather, in some cases, there wouldn’t be any way of accounting for what emerges from what. Consciousness might emerge from matter because matter is the sort of stuff from which consciousness emerges. Full stop.
It would then have turned out that the hard problem is literally intractable, and that would be pretty shocking. The idea that the basic laws are the laws about the smallest things has been central to the ‘scientific world-view’ ever since there started to be one. On the other hand, as far as I can see, it’s not any sort of a priori truth. I suppose one can imagine a world where all the big things are made out of small things, and there are laws about the small things and there are laws about the big things, but some laws of the second kind don’t derive from any laws of the first kind. In that world, it might be a basic law that when you put the right sorts of neurons together in the right sorts of way, you get a subject of consciousness. There would be no explaining why you get a subject of consciousness when you put those neurons together that way; you just do and there’s the end of it. Perhaps Strawson would say that in such a world, emergence would be a miracle; but if it would, why isn’t every basic law a miracle by definition? I have my pride. I would prefer that the hard problem should turn out to be unsolvable if the alternative is that we’re all too dumb to solve it. All I ask is that the kind of unsolvable that it turns out to be has respectable precedents.
Anyhow, Strawson is right that the hard problem really is very hard; and I share his intuition that it isn’t going to get solved for free. Views that we cherish will be damaged in the process; the serious question is which ones and how badly. If you want an idea of just how hard the hard problem is, and just how strange things can look when you face its hardness without flinching, this is the right book to read.

Jerry Fodor teaches philosophy and psychology at Rutgers University.