Thus I have heard. Once, Athena met Podarces in the royal palace of Phylace. Podarces asked Athena a question.
Podarces: What is the relationship between me and my physical body?
Athena: There is no "me" who exists; "me" is a deluded notion which does not exist. Thus the relation to which you refer is nonexistent.
Podarces: What is the relationship between my mental states such as thoughts and sensations and the physical states of my body such as the pattern of neural firings going on in my brain?
Athena: The question falsely assumes that there is an immaterial being called the self which has states and is different from the physical body; it assumes that mental states are distinct from the physical states of the firings of the neurons. Mental states are not different from brain states. A mental state is not something different from a brain state which is determined by the brain state nor is the brain state something different from the mental state which is determined by the brain state. Mental states are physical states because each mental state is identical with a given hbrain state. If there is no self or soul the self or soul cannot have a state of existence; thoughts and sensations are not states of a nonexistent immaterial being called a self or soul. "Thoughts" and "sensations" distinct from the pattern of neural firings do not exist. Thoughts and sensations are words which represent these neural firings in the brain. While we talk of mental and material objects as distinct categories of objects mental and material objects are mental representations which represent the neural firings we are aware of. A mental object is a representation of the neural firings which represent a subjective idea while the material object is a representation of the neural firings that represent an external object we have sensed. Ultimately both the mental and material objects are the ideal form of neural firings we are aware of. Since what is experienced in all cases are neural firings it is wrong to say that what we experience is an immaterial being or a material being. Immaterial beings do not exist. Material beings exist prior to consciousness but what we experience are neural firings not the material object itself. Since both the idea which exists as a neural firing and the external object we sense arew both represented by neural firings we experience both the mental and material objects we experience are neural firings we experience as mental representations. Whether the mental image is one of a subjective idea or an external object the mental image is still ultimately a neural firing we are aware of; such awareness is a brain state that allows us to experience the brain states we call neural firings; the experience of these physical states is the experience of what we call thoughts and sensations.
If one thinks that a mental representation is an immaterial being one is wrong. Ideal immaterial objects do not exist. Both mental representations of subjective mental images that do not correspond to external objects and mental representations of external objects are patterns of neural firings going off in the brain. In this way the so called "mind-body question is solved. There are no immaterial objects which we can perceiveand what we perceive when we perceive an external material object is not the external material object. What we perceive is the pattern of neural firings going off in the brain when we either perceive a subjective mental image that does not correspond to any external material object or the mental image of an external material object. Thus the division between an immaterial "mind" equated to a self or soul and the external material being is a false divsion. The neural firings going off in the brain are material phenomena. We never experience immaterial phenomena. Mental states are identical with brain states. Mental states are not something different from brain states. Consciousness is a physical brain state. A subjective entity called "consciousness" distinct from material being does not exist. Nor are any external objects the brain states we experiewnce. The brain state represents either the external object or the subjective idea. The subjective idea is only a brain state that represents itself by being experienced as an idea while the brain state that we expereice when we sense an external object is experienced as an idea which represents the external object. Do not confuse the exyternal object with the brain states that represent the external object. One is a physical state which represents a physical object and the other is the physical object which is represented. Our consciousness of an object or subjective idea is always our experience of a brain state.
When Athena had finished preaching this Sutra Podarces was jubilant. Podarces accepted Athena's teaching and began to follow it with great veneration.
In Memoriam: Bob Hale (1945-2017)
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