R.I.P. Alexander Piatigorsky

The Philosopher’s Eye was sad to see that the charismatic and idiosyncratic philosopher Alexander Piatigorsky passed away earlier this month. Piatigorsky was a professor at the London School of Oriental and African studies (SOAS) until his retirement in 2001. (Sir Isaiah Berlin had intervened to ensure his appointment after he fled the USSR.) The topics on which he wrote ranged from the failures of totalitarian communism to Buddhist thought and even to Freemasonry. Piatigorsky was also a talented linguist – he compiled the first Russian-Tamil dictionary – and a novelist.

But the volume which is perhaps best known amongst philosophers in England is “Symbol and Consciousness: Metaphysical Discussion of Consciousness, Symbolism and Language” (1982), which he co-authored with Merab Mamardashvili. Continue reading “R.I.P. Alexander Piatigorsky”

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Consciousness. Know it when you see it?

Because doctors are shunning the latest diagnostic techniques available, and going instead with their instincts, they’re misdiagnosing levels of consciousness. Experimenters found that of 44 patients diagnosed as being in a vegetative state, 18 were found to be in a minimally conscious state (so, capable of feeling pain). And of 41 patients diagnosed as being in a minimally conscious state, 4 had emerged from it without their doctors noticing.

When a patient is apparently comatose, the techniques of the phenomenologist are unavailable to the practicing MD. Never mind anti-behaviourist scruples, detecting consciousness is, in practice, a process of skilled behavioural observation.

For the findings go here. For an article on the findings in The Economist, go here.

Related articles:
£1.99 - small The Search for Neural Correlates of Consciousness
By Jakob Hohwy, Monash University
(Vol. 2, April 2007)
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£1.99 - small Theories of Consciousness
By Uriah Kriegel, University of Arizona/University of Sydney
(Vol. 1, February 2006)
Philosophy Compass