From Nothing to Be Frightened Of, by Julian Barnes:
On the radio, I heard a specialist in consciousness explain how there is no centre to the brain—no location of self—either physically or computationally; and that our notion of a soul or spirit must be replaced by the notion of a “distributed neuronal process.” She further explained that our sense of morality comes from belonging to a species which has developed reciprocal altruism; that the concept of free will, as in “making conscious decisions from a little self inside” must be discarded; that we are machines for copying and handing on bits of culture; and that the consequences of accepting all this are “really weird.” To begin with it means, as she put it, that “these words coming out of this mouth at this moment, are not emanating from a little me in here, they are emanating from the entire universe just doing its stuff.”
. . .
The expert in consciousness was also asked how she viewed her own death. This was her reply: “I would view it with equanimity, as just another step, you know. ‘Oh, here’s this—I’m in this radio studio with you—what a wonderful place to be. Oh, here I am on my deathbed—this is where I am . . .’ Acceptance I would say is the best that could come out of this way of thinking about things. Live life fully now, here—do the best you can, and if you ask me why I should do that—I don’t know. That’s where you hit the question of ultimate morality—but still, that’s what this thing does. And I expect it to do it on its deathbed.”
Is this properly philosophical, or strangely blithe, the assumption that Acceptance—Kübler-Ross’s fifth and final mortal stage—will be available when required? Skip Denial, Anger, Bargaining, and Depression, and just head straight for Acceptance?
. . .
“That’s what this thing does. And I expect it to do it on its deathbed.” Note the demise here of the personal pronoun. “I” has mutated to “it” and “this thing,” a switch both alarming and instructive. As human character is being rethought, human language must be rethought with it.
Nothing to Be Frightened Of
by Julian Barnes