Thursday, 10 February 2011


About ten years ago I had something called an iPaq, made by Compaq. It was a PDA but the beauty of it was you could buy a folding keyboard for it, called a Target Stowaway. It was in three parts and when folded it was the same size as the iPaq, comfortable pocket size, and I could easily take it into libraries, on trains etc. I had to abandon it when I switched from PCs to Macs and couldn’t get it to communicate.

I wish I could find something like that now. A virtual keyboard on a screen (iPhone, iPad) is no good for writing more that a few words. So when the muse or some other harridan strikes when I'm out, I’m reduced to writing in a notebook and then typing it on the computer when I get home.

If there’s time, that is, which often there isn’t, which is why you didn’t get what I scribbled on 27 January, which was:

‘The claim that the self is an illusion is philosophically incoherent -- i.e. bollocks.’

I noted down a trivial and rather annoying train of thought I’d just had -- some puzzle about the ticket barriers worked at Waterloo -- and wrote ‘It’s impossible to see these thoughts as just material movements. There was intentionality, desire, a form of wanting to know. If there was a chattering monkey -- which there was in that these weren’t thoughts I was wanting to have and they were distracting: I’d have preferred my mind to be still -- the monkey was me.

‘The incoherence in the statement that the self is an illusion is revealed in the observation that who can register that statement in consciousness -- evaluate it as true or false, accept it or reject it -- except a self, a consciousness?’

Now I see Mary Midgley reviewing a book on consciousness by Nicholas Humphrey (Guardian Review. Saturday 5 February) and observing that ‘Humphrey... still rules that this everyday consciousness is indeed an illusion. He seems not to notice that illusions are impossible unless somebody conscious is there to be deluded.’

Exactly. Good to find one’s idea anticipated those of a real thinker. Which is what has motivated me at last to get down to it and type out my scribble.

She needs a word ‘illuded’, doesn’t she.

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