Friday, 6 June 2008


“We are . . . obliged to confess that perception and that which depends on it cannot be explained mechanically, that is to say by figures and motions. Suppose that there were a machine so constructed as to produce thought, feeling, and perception, we could imagine it increased in size while retaining the same proportions, so that one could enter as one might enter a mill. On going inside we should only see the parts impinging upon one another; we should not see anything which would explain a perception.”

G.W. Leibniz, Monadology (1714), §.17, in Philosophical Writings, tr. M Morris and G.H.R. Parkinson (London: J.M. Dent and Sons, 1973), p.181, original emphasis.

“Let us assume that in a particular case you eventually observe several efferent bundles of pulsating currents, which issue from the brain and through long cellular protrusions (motor nerve fibres), are conducted to certain muscles of the arm, which, as a consequence, tends a hesitating, trembling hand to bid you farewell — for a long, heart-rending separation; at the same time you may find that some other pulsating bundles produce a certain glandular secretion so as to veil the poor sad eye with a crape of tears. But nowhere along this way from the eye through the central organ to the arm muscles and the tear glands — nowhere, you may be sure, however far physiology advances, will you ever meet the personality, will you ever meet the dire pain, the bewildered worry within the soul, though their reality is to you so certain as though you suffered them yourself — as in actual fact you do!”

Erwin Schrödinger, Mind and Matter, in What is Life? With Mind and Matter, and Autobiographical Sketches (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1967), p.124.


Malcolm Pollack said...

We should bear in mind that upon entering a radio in the same way, Leibniz would not have seen anything corresponding to the evening news, either.

TGGP said...

You really should read Eliezer Yudkowsky at Overcoming Bias. This post summarizes and links to some other relevant posts of his on the subject.