Omphaloskeptic Googling: The Argument from Anesthesia


I once experienced a period of missing time, when under anesthesia as a young man. One moment I’m getting questions in an operating room, the next I’m waking up with family near me and it’s after dark. So, I think, that’s what not existing is like. It is nothing. I’ve had the experience of nothingness, and it reaffirms my feeling that there is no soul.

Sometime later I’d come to call that “The Argument from Anesthesia.” I even used it on the written post that attended a comic touching on the subject. On a random lark today I googled the phrase in quotes, to see if anyone had used it before. I was one of the results, and the only others had to do with an old debate on the nature of consciousness between philosophers Daniel Dennett and John Searle.

That shit was pointy-headed as all get-out, reminding me of something about myself. Thanks, navel-gazing technology! Anyhow, this is me in the nutshell proverbial: I might have feelings that point to big things, things of philosophical importance even, but I don’t have the time, patience, vocabulary, or mental energy to actually follow those through to a complete discussion, analysis, thesis, or debate.

Dennett played down the idea that there is a core to our thoughts and feelings, that various aspects of theories of consciousness were incoherent. (Likely misrepresenting that in important ways, it was complicated.) It’s very similar to (or the same as?) the less clever idea I’ve had that I’m functionally hollow in the middle. There’s no individual entity at the core of my thoughts and feelings, just that as a physical entity I have constructed the idea of myself as a self to allow normal living function.

Searle’s use of “The Argument from Anesthesia” was in a book that disagreed with Dennett, and I don’t think I fully understood either side of the debate. Maybe I could if I wasted more of my day on it, but I’ve got hella shit to do. I am left wondering how many of my fellow non-philosophers are sitting on big feelings that they never express, because to do so would be a giant fucking homework project.

Intelligence doesn’t enter into it. I can use some shiny words, if less braintacular than the philosophers, but for me that idea is seated in my feelings, in my awareness of the contents of my mind. Anyone could have that. Which could make one wonder if philosophers are just heaping jargon on the thoughts that anybody could experience, making it an inaccessible discourse. Jargon is important for clarity in “high level” discourse, so there’s a reason for it, but it still keeps me out of the conversation.


Comments

  1. says

    Searle’s use of “The Argument from Anesthesia” was in a book that disagreed with Dennett

    Maybe he was observing that Dennett is “chloroform in print” or perhaps “fentanyl in folio”?

  2. says

    *chucklez* Someone named Putnam made an argument related to cognition that involved pain, and Searle’s refutation involved anesthesia. His main beef was with Dennett tho and he went on to say he could apply the same “argument from anesthesia” to Dennett’s reasoning. I couldn’t follow, but then, I was just trying to read a few pages of a google book result.

    I know I’ve heard chloroform in print before. Where’s that from?

  3. says

    “I am left wondering how many of my fellow non-philosophers are sitting on big feelings that they never express, because to do so would be a giant fucking homework project.”

    I pretty much approach my blog as the best way to express my feelings about things. Shit’s hard

  4. says

    I feel like as few comments as I get, I should engage with them all, but not much to say to that one. Props for your blog though, Toki. Seems more thoughtful than my own.

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