Good and Real
In Good and Real, Gary Drescher examines a series of provocative paradoxes about consciousness, choice, ethics, quantum mechanics, and other topics, in an effort to reconcile a purely mechanical view of the universe with key aspects of our subjective impressions of our own existence.Many scientists suspect that the universe can ultimately be described by a simple (perhaps even deterministic) formalism; all that is real unfolds mechanically according to that formalism. But how, then, is it possible for us to be conscious, or to make genuine choices? And how can there be an ethical dimension to such choices? Drescher sketches computational models of consciousness, choice, and subjunctive reasoning--what would happen if this or that were to occur?--to show how such phenomena are compatible with a mechanical, even deterministic universe. Analyses of Newcomb's Problem (a paradox about choice) and the Prisoner's Dilemma (a paradox about self-interest vs. altruism, arguably reducible to Newcomb's Problem) help bring the problems and proposed solutions into focus. Regarding quantum mechanics, Drescher builds on Everett's relative-state formulation--but presenting a simplified formalism, accessible to laypersons--to argue that, contrary to some popular impressions, quantum mechanics is compatible with an objective, deterministic physical reality, and that there is no special connection between quantum phenomena and consciousness.In each of several disparate but intertwined topics ranging from physics to ethics, Drescher argues that a missing technical linchpin can make the quest for objectivity seem impossible, until the elusive technical fix is at hand.
About the Author
Gary L. Drescher is an independent scholar and was recently Visiting Fellow at the Center for Cognitive Studies at Tufts University. He received his Ph.D. in computer science from MIT in 1989 and is the author of Made-Up Minds: A Constructivist Approach to Artificial Intelligence (MIT Press, 1991).
"A breathtakingly original assault on all the Big Issues! When philosophers get stuck in ruts, it often takes a brilliant outsider tojolt them onto new ground, and Gary Drescher, coming to philosophy from AI, offers a startling feast of new ideas. I'm sure some of them are right, but I can't tell which! Can you?"--Daniel Dennett, author of *Brainchildren*, *Sweet Dreams*, and *Breaking the Spell*"—
"*Somehow* the brain must be the mind –- *your* brain must be *your* mind. How can we get to a vantage point from which we can understand this? The steady march of neuroscience, or the mincing crabwalk of academic philosophy, will take you only a few steps. Dan Lloyd has found a delicious way of seducing our imaginations into brand new places, the places we have all been trying to reach: try mind dancing in this new genre, the neuroscience novel of consciousness."--Daniel Dennett, author of *Brainchildren*, *Sweet Dreams*, and *Breaking the Spell*"—