X-Message-Number: 3312
Date: Fri, 21 Oct 1994 02:20:51 -0400
Subject: SCI. CRYONICS survival/stodolsky

David Stodolsky  (#3307) seems to reject the reality/importance of internal
states because they are "unobservable." Perhaps he is confusing
"unobservable" with "unobserved" or even "unrecognized."

Surely no one can seriously deny the importance--the PREEMINENT
importance--if subjective states, since they constitute the most important
features of our lives. In fact, they constitute our existence, our being. To
feel is to be; not to feel is not to be.

Not too many years ago, anyone who had any "scientific" interest in
consciousness at all was a lonely voice in the wilderness--not because the
phenomena of consciousness are inherently immune to investigation, but simply
because few had yet gotten around to a serious interest or the development of
technical tools. We naturally tend to study the easier problems first, even
if they are less important. 

NOTHING is more important than a scientific understanding of feeling and
consciousness. Without such understanding, we do not know who or what we are.
We do not know the criteria of identity or survival. We do not know what our
goals should be. We do not have answers to the MAIN questions of life.

I don't think Dr. Stodolsky denies that he has feeling and consciousness. I
doubt he would deny that these are aspects of physical states/functions of
the brain. There is no earthly reason why they should be impossible to

Some people become confused by language, and say that "subjective" states are
"private" by definition and hence beyond the purview of science, forever
unknowable (in others). This is tiresome foolishness. We will eventually
identify the physical conditions/events in the brain that correspond to
someone's report of his feelings, determine to what extent these are generic,
and go on from there. You don't have to be a cow to say "cheese."

(Whether isomorphisms in other media will also represent personhood is
another story.)

By giving the central phenomenon of life a name--the "self circuit"--I don't
claim to have accomplished anything much. It is just a label for something
that MUST exist--that portion or aspect of the brain or its functions that
allows or gives rise to feeling (and consciousness, which is the integration
of feeling and computing), hence constitutes the ground of being. I am only
trying to help direct attention where it  belongs. 

A great many things have been or once were "rejected in scientific psychology
long ago"--but sometimes for the wrong reasons, or only out of temporary
necessity. The neuroscientists have begun to interest themselves in
consciousness, gingerly and peripherally. They have not yet--as far as I
know--made a clear or firm connection between feeling and consciousness. 

In sum: I do not "depend upon unobservable internal states." Rather, I point
out that we MUST find ways to observe them, since they constitute our

I (among many others) have sometimes had better specific ideas than (say)
medical or legal professionals in their own fields. That doesn't mean I can
do everything they can do, or that I can't blunder; but it does mean  that
nobody's perfect and common-sense ideas or observations can come to anyone,
including amateurs and kibitzers. 

Robert Ettinger
Cryonics Institute

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