The Nature of Consciousness

Piero Scaruffi

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These are excerpts and elaborations from my book "The Nature of Consciousness"


The Sense of the Mind

In our quest for the ultimate nature of the mind, we are confounded by the very way the mind works. The more we study it, the less it resembles a mathematical genius. On the contrary, it appears that the logic employed by the mind when it has to solve a real problem in a real situation is a very primitive logic, one that we refer to as “common sense”, very different from the austere formulas of Mathematics but quite effective for the purposes of surviving in this world. If the mind was shaped by the world, then the way the mind reasons about the world is a clue to where it came from and how it works.

In emergency situations, our rational thinking is often powerless. Common sense determines what we do, regardless of what we think. The puzzling aspect of common sense is that it is sometimes wrong.  There are plenty of examples in the history of science of "paradoxes" about common-sense reasoning. Using common-sense reasoning, the Greek philosopher Zeno proved that Achilles could never overtake a turtle. Using common sense reasoning, one can easily prove that General Relativity is absurd (a twin that gets younger just by traveling very far is certainly a paradox for common sense). Common sense told us that the Earth is flat and at the center of the world. Physics was grounded on Mathematics and not on common sense precisely because common sense is so often wrong.

There are many situations in which we teach ourselves to stay “calm”, to avoid reacting impulsively, to use our brain. These are all situations in which we know our common sense would lead us to courses of actions that we would probably regret.

Why don’t our brains simply use mathematical logic in all their decisions? Why does our common sense tell us things that are wrong? Why can't we often resist the power of that falsehood? Where does common sense come from, and where does its power come from?


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