July 15, 2008

Some philosophers see our inner lights, our “I”‘s, our humanity, our souls, as emanating from the nature of the substrate itself — that is, from the organic chemistry of carbon. I find that a most peculiar tree on which to hang the bauble of consciousness. Basically, this is a mystical refrain that explains nothing. Why should the chemistry of carbon have some magical property entirely unlike than that of any other substance? And what is that magical property? And how does it make us into conscious beings? Why is it that only brains are conscious, and not kneecaps or kidneys, if all it takes is organic chemistry? Why aren’t our carbon-based cousins the mosquitoes just as conscious as we are? Why aren’t cows just as conscious as we are? Doesn’t organization or pattern play any role here? Surely it does. And if it does, why couldn’t it play the whole role?

– from I am a Strange Loop by Doug Hofstadter

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