I have been reading The Conscious Mind by David Chalmers for about one to two weeks now. This is an extension of my interests concerning the philosophy of mind, in which I recently completed a project on the philosophy of psychosis this last semester. This book seemed to be a natural progression from the philosophy of mental illness to the broader theories concerning philosophy of consciousness, so upon one afternoon in one of my favorite bookstores in the Lower East Side of Manhattan after completing my last project, I bought it.
I take interest to this book because it defends a stance that I previously took for granted, that of phenomenalism. Previously, I considered, and my other philosophy peers did so as well, that I took a more reductionist stance on consciousness. I remember just a few weeks ago in a meeting, I defended the position that consciousness was merely the process that occurred once all of the proper neural systems were in place against a more phenomenal model that my classmate argued. It seems, upon reading this book, that I could very well be mistaken.
For that very argument, that consciousness should occur as the result of physical systems, according to Chalmers, underpins the very essence of that assertion. I imply that consciousness should “arise” at any given proper set of neuronal conditions, and if I am not mistaken by his text, the very assertion that anything should “arise” from anything physically occurring should be an indicator that the phenomenon is in fact, its very own function that deserves recognition and fundamental laws descriptive of something other than the physical. To “arise” means to propose that the function is entirely different than that of what it should arise from. To my understanding, this seemed to make sense, and I began to withdrew from the idea that physical reality should be the only reality in which describes the world that humans inhabit.
Any phenomenal quality, to which philosophers name as qualia, is the sense that first person experience is an essence of its own right, of its own space that should inhabit rules that are separate from physical rules, according to Chalmers. But previously, I thought that to be phenomenal, it should mean that one would therefore believe in something without evidence, again, a purely reductionist claim to make.
For phenomenalism to be of interest does not necessarily negate the very idea of being a person who rejects the idea of supernatural occurence while simultaneously taking to the idea that consciousness could be in its own sphere, something of study that deserves an entirely different set of fundamental laws that to this date, are undefined compared to that of physics and other established scientific structures.
In this short bit, I may be convinced that consciousness deserves its own sphere of study, and possibly am exiting the reductionist camp for Chalmers’ advocacy beyond materialism.
But while I continue my interests in the study of philosophy of mind, I have been taking particular interest in the world of feminist study. Or rather, because I reject the idea of feminism, I have been taking interest to the texts classically related to that realm of study, and subsequently have picked up Simone de Beauvoir’s The Second Sex in addition to her autobiography, Memoirs of a Dutiful Daughter.
This time strikes me as an odd time to be in in the age of women’s rights. I belong to the rather unpopular class of women that rejects the idea that women in the west are suffering from any sort of oppression by any external factor, displayed widely by scholars such as Christina Hoff Sommers, Camille Paglia, and even popular YouTubers such as Jaclyn Glenn. While I do so, I do not deny the present existence of sexist behavior among men, but in accepting sexist behavior I may simultaneously participate in the rejection of the idea that the expression of sexist behavior equates to grand scale oppression.
But I still pick up these texts, because I do not reject the idea that women have in the past fought long and hard for rights that I may enjoy today as a free woman in a Constitutionally free society. I walked beside the march in New York City, just a few days ago, with a speculation and questioning that such a march should be occurring in any way at all. Very little things in this culture or time period give me any motivation to praise in any kind of honor or gratitude, or look up to in any sense. In my time in Italy last summer I realized at once coming back home after seeing the sights of what was left behind and preserved during the Renaissance that America so impoverished by any sort of constructive beauty or uniform structure. In a similar way, I look at the Women’s March the same.
For the third activity that has made a considerable impression on me, is my participation in the Hearing Voices Network.
As some individuals who might come across this blog may know, I am a person who experiences what the medical literature deems, “hallucinations”, or otherwise what Shamanic cultures calls “spiritual communication between worlds”. I do not reject these labels (more so the former rather than the latter), but identify mostly as does the Hearing Voices Network deems merely as a person who “experiences voice hearing”, which is increasingly being shown in the literature in the mental health world as existing on a spectrum, much like the way depressive and anxious symptoms can exist on a spectrum rather than a cluster disorder. The difference between medically “ill” individuals, according to the establishment, is that these symptoms occur in clusters and severity enough to impede on one’s functioning in their daily living. In my personal world, I use all of the philosophies rather interchangeably depending on who I am interacting with and when.
Now, in my situation, I do much more than “hear voices”. I also see visions, sometimes I see visions and hear voices. Sometimes it is as though I am sitting in a planetarium of imagination not of my own conscious doing that I become lost in what I believe my brain is conjuring up from the pieces of information I have picked up about the world along the way. Sometimes I have to lie on the floor because of this. Sometimes I become overwhelmed by them all that I cannot move, but I may get lost in them safely with my loved ones accompanying me during my episodic adventures, and safely bring me back to their world.
Recently, the experiences have been rather joyful, as I am having a joyful life currently. I am surrounded by love. And so the visions and voices have been rather loving. I see women in flower hats in long dresses. I see women throwing a party. I see what would possibly be a scene in Mrs. Dalloway. I see grand things, Greek Gods, and interestingly shortly after the women’s march I heard the Gods having a conversation about how to overthrow civilization. That one made me laugh.
I have been working closely with the people that are closest with me, and we have begun interpreting them as though they are dream symbolism. In my inner circle, we treat the experiences as if they are speaking about truth about my life. The difference is between my hallucinations and others’ controlled imagination is that my experiences come rather uninvited, whether they are pleasant or horrifying. Recently, my father, who has been reading on this phenomena, has come across literature that corroborates the idea that hallucinations truly come from the individual’s own doing, albeit not in their conscious control. It has been my personal goal to slowly piece myself together so that they occur less frequently, and hopefully give me a trajectory to recover, something only recently proposed in the mental health world.
All in all, that is a short glimpse into my life. I have been writing pages and pages of ideas that are extensions of this blog post that I feel would be better suited to an extended study. I share for the mere few that might possibly be interested in how I am living today.