“The Mind Bind”: a conversation with Lionel & Jim

“The Mind Bind”: a conversation with Lionel & Jim


About this episode

After some audio problems at the start, we start talking about Valentines Day and the variety of items available and not available at Trader Joes, and not unlike the olds that we are, we stop just short of listing all the items in our freezers. We quickly move on to our admiration of Katherine Ellis and her character Concordia Shwarma-McGraw on TikTok. We move on to a couple of additions to our list of musicians like They Might Be Giants. As before, we draw a line between the surrealist movement after the first world war to these bands, decades later.

Jim talks briefly about the beginning of the book Distraction by Bruce Sterling, which is, as far as we can tell, is widely unavailable now. We do get a little into the book Holy Fire, which is about a gerontocracy and is available both on audio, ebook, and paperback. Lionel mentions Love, Death, and Robots on Netflix, specifically Jibaro. Two of Michael Swanwick’s short stories are in this series as well, and we talk about these.

Jim moves on to two books he’s been reading, The Ego Tunnel by Thomas Metzinger, and Slouching Towards Utopia by J. Bradford DeLong. First, he gives his account of The Ego Tunnel and has many issues with the approach of the philosopher, trying to validate his philosophy with neuroscience. His main objection is that he takes an a priori stance from a materialist point of view and writes off all idealism as folklore. Lionel acknowledges Jim’s frustration, but takes the stand that such investigations are futile.

As we dig in, Jim and Lionel, talk through various ideas of materialism, idealism, and the mind-body split. Jim brings up a class he took with Aryeh Kosman years ago, which is the thumbnail for this episode.

Lionel talks about Our Mathematical Universe by Max Tegmark stating that the universe is fundamentally Mathematic. We agree that the nature of consciousness may be a hot topic right now because of AI, but Lionel doesn’t think this is a useful or answerable question. He feels the important question is what kind of stories we are telling each other and where are those stories coming from. We get deeper and deeper into speculation about intelligence and reason.

Lionel departs from this tedious subject to talk about A Gentleman In Moscow by Amor Towles, which he found charming. He also recommends Across the Spiderverse, which Jim has been meaning to view.

Back to The Ego Tunnel, Lionel brings up David Hume and Immanuel Kant, and Jim talks about his experience wrestling with these questions through meditation. We come back to a brief description of Slouching Towards Utopia which may be the subject of another episode. Nearing the end of this episode, Lionel quotes one of Jim’s songs to illustrate the importance of storytelling. We end with recollections of a recent Valentines Day/Mardi Gras/The Lunar New Year, and get ready for our discussion with Sarah Elkins about Frankenstein by Mary Shelley.