Friday, September 16, 2011

Of Consciousness and confusion

The common viewpoint and generally accepted definition of consciousness is “awareness of the self or I”. This concept of “I” makes most of the confusion related to consciousness. Honestly, I haven’t so far been able to understand, accept or deny, or define this phenomenon which even science has just started studying and philosophers have always found difficult to handle.

Is consciousness something which has not been already defined? Is it different from human behavioural traits like perception, value judgement, sociability, emotions, and morality etc.? In short does consciousness at all exist as a separate and unique phenomenon?
If yes, then where does it come from? Is it something innate to our brain or it comes from outside of our physical self? If intrinsically related to our brain as a physically caused phenomenon then consciousness really doesn’t deserve any privileged position vis a vis other behavioural traits.

If it is something external to brain (not necessarily supernatural) where is it from and what is its purpose? We know every organ in our body, including brain, is meant for some function. Can consciousness manifest without being physically caused and then overwhelm and become causal of brain’s functioning? If yes, how and where does it fit in the evolutionary process if at all?

One viewpoint is about epiphenomenalism of consciousness. That is it has no causal powers. If that be the case, why bother about it? Could it better be left aside as non-existent or decidedly given another name, say, perception – which we already know a lot about scientifically?

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Sunday, September 04, 2011

Man with Indomitable spirit

This man, Kannan Kunhi Raman from Cannanore district of Kerala, despite having a physical infirmity as both his legs are rendered useless by polio, has a nerve of steel I must say. When I arrived at the conference venue of the Kerala Rationalists Association at Kollam, the man was already there and greeted me reminding that we had earlier met at Trichy in January of this year. Yes, I recognised him. He knows only Malayalam, the local dialect and I could understand only two words he spoke; Bhashana (speech) and Trichy (the venue city). He was referring to my speech at Trichy. Language or no language, but his face exudes a radiance of determinism and confidence. My friend Mr Raghunath, a Keralite now settled in Latur, was kind enough to translate for me his words and also tell me more about him. Raman's family has some land with Rubber plantation on it. He has gone as far as to Delhi in connection with a protest march held by some rationalist organisation.

As if his handicap wasn't a malady enough he suffered a serious injury to his hip when he fell down while boarding a bus. He had to be hospitalised for over a month. But all this infirmity and the accident couldn't dampen Kannan's spirit. A rationalist and an atheist with a commitment, Kannan has plans to go to any place in India if he came to know about a rationalist gathering.

Honestly, I feel envious of this man's indomitable spirit and determination.

Hats off to you Kannan.

In this picture (L – R) Mr K Raghunath, Yours truly and Kannan K R

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