Monday, July 16, 2007

HAT meeting, 7/15/06

Eleven people attended the HAT meeting on Sunday, July 15, 2007 at Hardesty Library. Those present were Marilyn, Glenn, Ron, Ken, Gail, Mary, Polly, Julia S., Julia K., Jan, and Dan. I reported that we currently have 28 members and that the treasury stands at $1396.82. Continuing with our tradition of poetry reading, I read “The Tuft of Flowers” by Robert Frost.

The program was presented by Marilyn, who led us in a discussion of I Am a Strange Loop by Douglas Hofstadter. It is a fascinating yet difficult book to grasp. What does it mean to say that consciousness is an illusion? Does that mean it is less than real? Throughout the book Hofstadter speaks of consciousness as an illusion or a mirage. Take for example this passage:

One day when I was around sixteen or seventeen, musing intensely on these swirling clouds of ideas that gripped me emotionally no less than intellectually, it dawned on me -- and it has seemed ever since to me – that what we called “consciousness” was a kind of mirage. It had to be a very peculiar kind of mirage, to be sure, since it was a mirage that perceived itself, and of course it didn’t believe that it was perceiving a mirage, but no matter – it still was a mirage.
It was almost as if this slippery phenomenom called “consciousness” lifted itself up by its own bootstraps, almost as if it made itself out of nothing, and then disintegrated back into nothing whenever one looked at it more closely.

In other news, Glenn sought input from the group on what book might become the subject of the next Humanist Study Group.