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What Neurons Really Are

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Posted by Aurino Souza on November 11, 2003 15:00:18 UTC

Neurons have nothing to do with consciousness, that should be obvious enough for anyone to understand. In their structure, arrays of neurons resemble something quite familiar to our subjective experience: ideas.

Ideas do not exist in isolation. What gives power to one idea are the hundreds, often thousands of connections it has with other ideas. Our ideas are interconnected as a whole, so that you can always jump from one idea to another and never reach a dead end. At the same time, many ideas are connected to things that are not ideas - the senses. When you jump from an idea to a sensory experience, you do reach a dead end. The dead end is often referred to as "consciousness", but that can be misleading, because consciousness, besides being whatever it is, also happens to be an idea.

People who believe there are explanations for consciousness do not realize they have made the wrong jump. Instead of jumping to consciousness itself, which would take them outside the realm of ideas, and therefore not subject to explanation, they actually jump to an idea they refer to as "consciousness". Being an idea, "consciousness" certainly can be explained by showing the connections it has with other ideas. But to do that is to deny that some of our neurons have connections with things that are not neurons, which amounts to the denial of sensory experience.

The ironic thing is that it's perfectly possible to ignore the connections between neurons and the senses, because there are relatively so few of those connections compared to the astronomical number of connections between ideas themselves.

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