June 19, 2015 7:01 AM   Subscribe

At Robert Krulwich's NPR science blog, a couple of reflections on nothingness: Building Me and 2 Ways To Think About Nothing.
posted by paleyellowwithorange (7 comments total) 18 users marked this as a favorite
Imagine nothing.
Now imagine not even nothing.
Now imagine not even nothing being unemployed.
Now imagine not even nothing being turned down for unemployment benefits because you can't get something for nothing.
posted by dances_with_sneetches at 7:41 AM on June 19, 2015 [1 favorite]

“...for no man lives in the external truth among salts and acids, but in the warm, phantasmagoric chamber of his brain, with the painted windows and the storied wall. ”

― Robert Louis Stevenson
posted by jim in austin at 7:50 AM on June 19, 2015 [1 favorite]

The anecdote about Rauschenberg and de Kooning made my morning, thank you.
posted by sandettie light vessel automatic at 8:20 AM on June 19, 2015

posted by haricotvert at 9:00 AM on June 19, 2015 [3 favorites]

Kind of amazing how easy it is to read this in Krulwich's voice.
posted by fungible at 11:52 AM on June 19, 2015

quoting at length:
OK. But poet-writer Diane Ackerman wonders, how do atoms, inert spinning clumps of matter, produce the feeling, the deep feeling of being ... me?

"After all, the mind is such an odd predicament for matter to get into. I often marvel how something like hydrogen, the simplest atom, forged in some early chaos of the universe, could lead to us to the gorgeous fever we call consciousness. If a mind is just a few pounds of blood, dream and electric, how does it manage to contemplate itself, worry about its soul, do time-and-motion studies, admire the shy hooves of a goat, know that it will die, enjoy all the grand and lesser mayhems of the heart? What is mind, that one can be out of one's? How can a neuron feel compassion? What is self? Why did automatic hand-me-down mammals like our ancestors somehow evolve brains with the ability to consider, imagine, compare, abstract, think of the future? If our experience of mind is really just the simmering of an easily alterable chemical stew, then what does it mean to know something, to want something, to be? How do you begin with hydrogen and end up with prom dresses, jealousy, chamber music?"
Yes, how do you? There is no deeper puzzle.
That's all very true. But I don't think the assumption that minds are some type of spiritual substance stands any better, as an explanation. How does that work? They are just made out of......mind stuff? That's a 'dormitive virtue' style explanation. The non-material nature of minds seems to be accepted as just a brute fact, by various philosophers who believed this way, and this assumption really doesn't seem to me do anything explanatory.
posted by thelonius at 7:54 PM on June 19, 2015

Damn, for a second you've tricked me into believing that the Krulwich blog was back.
posted by desultory_banyan at 3:41 AM on June 21, 2015

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