Abstract Details

Consciousness and Good and Evil  Fredric Schiffer (Department of Psychiatry, McLe, Harvard Medical School, Newton Highlands, MA )   C25

We think of consciousness as valuable, and the thought of an inevitable human extinction and the consequent loss of human consciousness is experienced as profoundly tragic. Art, science, culture, and their associated feelings of joy and wellbeing exist only as a product of conscious experience and such experiences are almost universally regarded as a good. Consciousness also enhances action, and those actions that result in well-being for the individual and his group are regarded as a good. The inclusiveness of the group depends on the balance between cooperativeness and competitiveness. But, conscious experience also at times involves unremitting suffering and often assists actions that are foolish and injurious to oneself and/or the group. Evil then is the application of consciousness toward the development of pain and failure and the diminishment of the well-being of oneself and/or the group. In my work as a psychiatrist, I have written over decades that most people are of two minds, one that is more mature and wiser and one that is more childlike and more neurotically affected by past traumas. Each mind has been shown by rTMS, fMRI, and unilateral photobiomodulation (PBM) peer-reviewed studies, to be associated with one hemisphere. Recent studies by our group have demonstrated that unilateral PBM, near-infrared mode to F3 or F4, can activate either hemisphere and its associated mind with its healthy or neurotic mental properties. Often the troubled side (which can be associated with the left or right brain) will dominate, and the patient will engage in destructive behaviors such as gambling, drug abuse, or gratuitous violence. I try to help the patient's healthier side ascend to dominance and act as a loving parent with guidance, understanding, and discipline toward the immature mind. The conscious immature mind is usually responsible for our destructive impulses and actions, including the vicious, and when unguided and unopposed can lead to destructive experiences and behaviors, including the sadistic. Thus, consciousness enhances mental processes and actions, but it is double-edged. Consciousness can promote wisdom, wellbeing, culture, and compassion, but it can also promote ignorant, foolish, destructive actions that lead to failed lives and failed societies and hasten the extinction, the ultimate evolutional failure, of conscious life. Life is concerned, through the mechanisms of evolution, only with the sustenance of its own form, good or evil. It is not concerned with morality, meaning, culture, intelligence, quality of experiences, except when they serve this drive to sustain its form. Flesh-eating bacteria, mosquitos, and evil individuals serve only their own interests and may prove to be the fittest life forms to survive. Although evolution lacks morality, consciousness (a discovery of evolution) offers us a noble duty to struggle to promote the healthier minds within and among us.