The meaning and nature of change is a question that has fascinated some of the world’s greatest minds since long before the birth of Christ. Today, legions of philosophers and hosts of cognitive scientists continue to work to resolve what may be one of the world’s greatest paradoxes: How is it that change and constancy coexist in the world and in the human mind? Binghamton University Professor Eric Dietrich is sure of at least one thing. Our creativity, and likely our very survival, depends on the fact that they somehow do.
Imagine having no memory in a world rife with change. Everything and everyone is brand new to you at every moment. You don’t recognize family members. You don’t recognize your surroundings. You don’t recognize that you are the same person you were as a child…or even last week. You don’t know whether things are safe to eat or drink, or what the darkening sky and blustering winds might foreshadow. No past. No future. Just a totally confounding present in which the word "change" has lost all relevance and meaning because that’s all there is. If the scenario is unnerving, that’s likely because it would probably mean the end of life as we know it.
"Without a some thread of constancy," agrees Eric Dietrich, a cognitive scientist and philosopher of the mind, "we’d be toast."
Susan E. Barker | Binghamton University
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