Thursday, September 20, 2012

Great minds

The Wittgenstein conference in Iceland went very well. I didn't hear a paper that wasn't interesting or meet a person I didn't like, and Iceland is a fantastic place, like a cross between Scotland and Arizona.

On the way back I finished Rupert Read's Wittgenstein among the Sciences and was surprised to read these passages on p. 178:
There is no such thing as a perspective from which it can be absolutely asserted that some or other aspect of the way the Universe is made up -- e.g. that we are conscious; or that we talk; or that there is matter and energy, etc. etc. -- is odd.
If anything is odd, 'mysterious', my own intuition runs somewhat differently. I rarely find the fact of consciousness odd any more; the thing that I tend to find 'odd' is that there is any thing -- any such 'thing' as (and in) existence -- at all. 
I was surprised because what Read says here seems very close indeed to what I said here:
The (officially) hard problem of how a body or brain, something like a steak, could be conscious is a) a result of thinking of matter in a certain kind of way, i.e. as mindless, when the most obvious material beings, ourselves, are not mindless, and b) less hard than the body problem, i.e. how so much as a steak can ever be at all? That is, there seems to be a problem of how the physical can interact with the mental because we have construed the (essence of the) physical in a particular kind of way that excludes its mental aspects. But that's a problem with our construal, not with the nature of reality. It doesn't reveal an independent mystery but invites an investigation and reconsideration of our concepts and how (and why) we have formed them as we have. What does seem to be an independent mystery is stuff itself.
Since Read's book was published in April (and since he's honest) he obviously wasn't copying me, but I swear I didn't copy him either. Could we both have been influenced by some third party? It could be Wittgenstein, of course, but I suspect maybe the influence of Peter Hacker is lingering less than fully consciously in our thinking.

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