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Irreducible unity--a solution to the hard problem of consciousness?

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  • Irreducible unity--a solution to the hard problem of consciousness?

    Issue: whatever the conscious agent is, he is at least partly composed of matter, and yet despite this composition his qualitative experience far outstrips what he takes to be the blind and unthinking matter that structures his spatio-temporal existence. Over the past year or so I've been rethinking this. What if the conscious subject isn't composed of unconscious matter--what if his matter is conscious? The symphonic unity of a piece of classical music outstrips the individual air vibrations of cello strings, cymbals, drums, etc. When I picture an image of Santa within my mind, any attempt to describe in terms of material analysis (neuronal firing sequences, brain structure, etc.) fails to represent in its richness the first-person quality of my experience. In fact any attempt at material analysis seems more like an abstraction, a partial glimpse at the fullness of the experience.

    Now this isn't a panpsychist critique. A thousand, a million, or a billion idiotic particles, I believe, can't properly produce the simplicity of consciousness' unity. Rather consciousness demands we treat the conscious agent as a whole. We don't emerge from the fortuity of moving matter--we are distinct from it. There is no blind matter in a rational substance--a permeating unicity makes the conscious agent wholly different from the unconscious. Any attempt to analyze and explain his conscious experience through a partial abstraction of his being is to betray the wholeness. Any scientific insight into the chemical composition of 16th century ink, its flexibility on parchment, its spatial arrangement across a set pages cannot in principle reconstruct the simplicity--the unity--of a Shakespearean narrative. It would be ludicrous to claim that this morsel of material information could, once it is abstracted from the whole of Shakespeare's narrative, somehow give us a deeper insight into said narrative. The very mode of abstraction involves the mental dissolution of the whole. We can't reconfigure the fullness of the abstractee via the abstracted alone. There isn't a semblance of sphereness in the color red when I abstract said color from a red ball.

    I am still developing my thoughts. Right now my ideas are rather vague and seem to seize me more in small moments of meditation, or experiential epiphanies, than in rigorous analytical study. A fully articulate position is far off. As you can see I'm rambling around something that I think is profound, yet I don't think I know how to properly communicate it.

    Damn it, I need a blog.
    Last edited by RomanJoe; 07-30-2019, 12:09 AM.

  • #2
    I don't know how helpful that would be. One of my problems with panpsychism is that the link between matter and consciousness seems utterly contingent. If we try to adopt a panpsychist view in order to account for the emergence of consciousness, there isn't just the problem of unity, but there is also the question of why exactly would particles (which can be described and understood with 3rd person language) be connected to consciousness? Seems to me to only push it back further. The Zombie argument says it's conceivable for there to be a zombie version of ourselves. Well, seems to me there could be zombie particles as well. Why any strong supervenience, any necessity, between particles and consciousness?

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    • #3
      Originally posted by Atno View Post
      I don't know how helpful that would be. One of my problems with panpsychism is that the link between matter and consciousness seems utterly contingent. If we try to adopt a panpsychist view in order to account for the emergence of consciousness, there isn't just the problem of unity, but there is also the question of why exactly would particles (which can be described and understood with 3rd person language) be connected to consciousness? Seems to me to only push it back further. The Zombie argument says it's conceivable for there to be a zombie version of ourselves. Well, seems to me there could be zombie particles as well. Why any strong supervenience, any necessity, between particles and consciousness?
      You may have misunderstood me--I am not advocating for panpsychism.

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      • #4
        I'm confused by your position here as well. You start by asking whether the conscious subject might be composed of conscious rather than unconscious matter, which does strongly imply panpsychism as the solution. Later you seem to be proposing a form of substance dualism instead, so what do you mean by matter being conscious in your first paragraph?

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        • #5
          Forgive the confusion. I can see how "conscious matter" comes off as a bit panpsychist. Maybe a better term would be secondary matter. By conscious matter I mean something that is wholly and substantially a conscious being, irreducibly so. We cannot understand it properly if, for instance, we merely analyze it at the level of material causality--this would be an abstraction from the whole. It may be incorrect to say the conscious agent is material with an immaterial consciousness, that the latter produces the other, or that they co-exist in some way. What if it's just one thing? What if the division and analysis of the conscious agent into its material and qualitative parts is the wrong method to understand it? There is only a hard problem of consciousness if we posit the conscious agent as a composition of seemingly contrary parts, the immaterial and the material. If he were just one conscious substance, only properly understood as an irreducible substantial whole, then there may be no problem.

          Again, I know, terribly vague. I am orbiting an idea.
          Last edited by RomanJoe; 08-01-2019, 04:16 AM.

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