What is consciousness?

Is there a viable (set of) solution(s) to the “hard problem”?

Image Source: Vsauce

For much of human history, the question of what consciousness is was a more or less innocuous kind of thing to ask. From an epistemological point of view, as a general concept, the mind, or soul of a person, has been understood in many different ways by many different traditions, ranging from an array of ancient religious views to contemporary secular philosophies. Among the earliest recorded speculations are theories from ancient Indian, Greek, and, later, Middle Eastern and medieval European intellectuals. As a result of this, there have been and continue to be, significant debates over the attributes that make up the mind and its states of consciousness. For instance, modern psychologists tend to argue that only the intellectual functions of human beings constitute the mind while cognitive ethologists extend this out further into the animal kingdom. Either way, the point is that there is typically a rather diverse set of processes included in most of the modern and postmodern characterizations of consciousness, specifically regarding the ontology and ontogeny of internal subjective experiences, as such.

What this means is that the idea that your ethereal soul (“psyche”) is part of your corporeal body (“soma”), or vice versa, isn’t new. The notion can be found extensively throughout the Eastern concepts articulated by mystics such as the Buddha as well as in the classical writings of Western philosophers such as Plato, among countless others from different walks of life. Unfortunately, that more or less pervasive ancient attitude toward the mind was radically altered when the Protestant Reformation prompted the Counter-Reformation by way of the Council of Trent, between the years 1545 and 1563. At that point, religion took consciousness out of the equation and matter was all that science had left to investigate. More to the point, in the wake of the decisions made by a couple of hundred clergymen, it became a capital offense for scientists to study the inner workings of the soul. So, in an effort to not get burned at the stake, they quickly rejected the idea of the mind as something with any kind of substance to it (in every sense of the word). More importantly, psychology became a subset of theology, and consciousness became something that people could know the most but explain the least.

In the long-drawn-out process of trying to make sense of the mind and determine its distinct properties, the term “consciousness” has come to refer to a variety of different things to many different people. Even in my own desire to be less and less wrong about more and more, I have defined and redefined consciousness many times throughout the years. The thing is that, although the origin of the modern philosophic term “consciousness” is often attributed to John Locke during the late 17th century, the use of the term consciousness actually dates back at least as far as the Renaissance, if not much further. More importantly, these phrases had the figurative meaning of knowing that one knows, as the modern English word “conscious” still does. The problem is that the level of disagreement about the precise definition of the word results from the fact that consciousness has so many connotative as well as denotative meanings. The word “consciousness” has become an umbrella term that encompasses a variety of distinct experiences with uncommon elements. Unfortunately, this is true of a host of pertinent words and phrases like “mind”, “experience”, and “free will”, as well.

Regardless, as time went on, a theory known as epiphenomenalism emerged as a consequence of the nineteenth ecumenical council’s fateful decision, all those years ago. It began in 1874 when Thomas Henry Huxley called the stream of consciousness an “epiphenomenon”. That particular kind of materialist theory centers on the view that mental phenomena are causally ineffectual, asserting that mental states cannot have any influence on physical states. In that particular theoretical model, physical events can cause other physical events and physical events can cause mental events, but mental events cannot cause anything to occur, since they are said to be nothing more than inert by-products of the physical world. Of course, in spite of the fact that this view has been defended by individuals like Frank Jackson, the doctrine is dismissive of the placebo effect, which is clearly psychosomatic in nature, thus demonstrating that mind over matter is a genuine phenomenon, not an epiphenomenon.

This distinction is tremendously important because the give and take relationship that exists between theories is essentially the cornerstone of progress, or at least development, within the philosophy of mind. This is because the vast majority of proposals come about as the result of a backlash in response to some other assertion. For instance, in the field of psychology, behaviorism developed as a reaction to the inadequacies of introspectionism. Based on the fact that introspective reports are not subject to the time-honored process of third-person examination, many psychologists believed this doctrine to be unscientific. So, to rectify this, the behaviorist school of thought sought to eliminate the idea of an ontologically independent mind, turning their attention to the description of observable behavior. In turn, cognitivism rejected behaviorism due to the problems inherent in it, and so on and so forth.

As part of the great debate, the type-identity theory emerged as a direct reaction to the failure of behaviorism. According to this doctrine, if mental states are something material, but not behavioral, then they must be identical to the internal states of the brain. Then, yet again, in the spirit of academic retaliation, Hilary Putnam challenged this proposal with the thesis of multiple realizability. Of course, it’s highly unlikely that all of the diverse animals with a central nervous system exist with the same pain experience in the same identical brain state. Plus, it’s like Sigmund Freud said, localization is no explanation. Following this, the type-identity theory is empirically unfounded. The fact that a certain brain state is connected with only one mental state does not have to mean that there is an absolute correlation between types of mental states and types of brain states. Think about it. Is the electrochemical activity in the brain sufficient to produce the mind? If not, then what is necessary for consciousness to exist?

One way of thinking about this is that consciousness may be part of what the soul is being, not what the brain is doing. At the same time, consciousness appears to be both a process and a product, depending on how you look at it. That leads us to the notion of token identity, which claims that only particular occurrences of mental events are identical with particular occurrences of physical events. This is the view espoused by many non-reductionist philosophers. According to their claims, mental states must be physical states. However, reductionist proposals are completely unsatisfactory in that mental states cannot be reduced to behavior, brain states, or functions. Regardless, Donald Davidson’s anomalous monism attempts to make this plausible by using the thesis of supervenience to describe a functional dependence between the mind and body (in spite of the fact that a proper theory of everything, or TOE, wouldn’t have any anomalies in it, at all). Of course, because anomalous monism attempts to retain the ontological distinction between the mind and body and to simultaneously solve the interactionist dilemma, many critics see this as a paradox and point out the similarities that this argument has with epiphenomenalism.

This back and forth debate has led some philosophers to take up radical positions about consciousness. For instance, the theistic philosopher, George Berkeley, concluded that the material world is an illusion, existing only as mental perceptions (idealism). In stark contrast to this, the atheistic philosopher Dan Dennett came to the conclusion that consciousness is the illusion, not matter (physicalsim). More to the point, since the reductionistic materialist paradigm presupposes that consciousness is just some kind of fleeting epiphenomenon that emerges from the human brain, this has led to a number of controversial proposals such as strong illusionism. The thing is that you can’t just pretend that consciousness isn’t important because it can’t be explained in terms of physiology or physics. After all, illusionism has given rise to countless different anomalies in the fields of psychology and parapsychology, thereby requiring a postmaterialist model of the world in order to bring about a necessary paradigm shift in the early 21st century, just like it did in the late 20th century.

That is to say, in the 1990s, a zeitgeist conducive to this epistemological transformation began and David Chalmers became the most attuned to it. As part of that story, connectionist models, based on neural networks in the brain, often display chaotic modes of behavior. More to the point, their attractors are often strange attractors, which has led some theorists, such as Douglas Hofstadter, to suggest that cognition may result from brain chaos, specifically in the chaotic state-space pattern formations of metaphysical systems in neurological structures. Simply put, a chaotic system is one that takes its output as the next input, as is the case with the iterations of the mind proposed in Hofstadter’s model. According to his theory, the mind is said to behave like a strange loop, which is the result of self-referential level-crossing feedback. Thus, certain experiences can be described as stable, complex non-periodic states exhibited by, and toward which, neurological configurations tend to become ordered. The problem is that there is far more to consciousness than the anatomy and physiology of one’s central nervous system.

In line with this, in 1995, while standing on the shoulders of giants like Rene Descartes, David Chalmers (under the guidance of his doctoral advisor, Douglas Hofstadter) described the “hard problem” in contrast to the “easy problems”, like that of finding the neural correlates of specific states of consciousness. The former requires a complex explanation-based solution, while the latter requires simple correlation-based solutions. To expand on the idea, Chalmers articulated precisely why the easy problems are easy. It’s because all that is required for their solution is to specify a mechanism that can perform the function of perceptions, emotions, sensations, or whatever the case may be. Thus, their proposed solutions, regardless of how complex or poorly understood they might be, can be entirely consistent with the materialistic conception of the body, specifically the brain. So, in the classic blunder of thinking that correlation is analogous to causation, psychology is often erroneously reduced to neurology, based on illogical assumptions. A big part of the problem is that people like to use the word “brain” as a synonym for the word “soul”, rather than for the word “body”. The thing is that the brain is physical in nature, not metaphysical. So, it makes no sense to do that.

With that being said, it’s impossible for me to overstate just how important it is to understand that correlation does not equal causation, as every good critical thinker knows all too well. This means that, along with accounting for the fact that the correlation of physiological activity does not equal the causation of psychological activity, any sufficient definition of consciousness must explain how and why experiential phenomena are intimate, intrinsic, immediate, and ineffable, among countless other things. In short, it must adequately define what qualia are, and this is no small task. Nonetheless, typically speaking, in philosophy and certain models of psychology, qualia are generally defined as individual instances of subjective, conscious experience. So, rather than asking what consciousness is, some philosophers ask why and how quale exist, which is a more nuanced approach to the subject. Plus, this method is more teleological than ontological in nature.

Regardless, in the strictest derivational sense of the word, the term qualia is the plural form of the Latin singular “quale” meaning “of what kind”. In a more loose sense of the word, the term quale refers to a specific property of a subjective experience: like the way a dog’s fur feels, the way a lightning bolt looks, the way a cup of mint tea tastes, the way a rose smells, or the way your own laughter sounds to everyone but you. With that being said, in the philosophy of mind, there are many different definitions of qualia, which have tended to change over time, including in my own work. However, in general, qualia simply refers to the experiential character of mental states. In other words, what it is like to be a specific person, dog, bacterium, or whatever the case may be. It’s also important to understand how an impression grows into an insight which grows into an idea, and so on and so forth, as qualia form together into certain experiences of specific intensities at given levels of metaphysical complexity.

With that being said, to solve the so-called “hard problem” I think it’s necessary to have a theoretical model of the world that includes substance dualism, requiring that the body and soul be composed of two ontologically distinct kinds of substances: namely tangible objects and intangible subjects, respectively. Without this, we are left with what Joseph Levine dubbed the “explanatory gap”. This invariably leads to the mind-body problem, which is a debate centered around the relationship between thoughts in the human mind and the brain as part of the physical body. That brings up an old question of whether the two are separate things, or not. Going back to the primary source on this. In a now world-famous thought experiment, the 17th-century French philosopher, Rene Descartes, pointed out that even if all of our physical sensations were just a hallucinatory dream, then our mind would still have to be there. For him, that was the ultimate proof of our existence. Furthermore, according to this solipsistic approach, the only thing that can be known for certain is that one’s own mind exists. In other words, knowledge of anything outside of one’s own mind is unsure, including the material world and the minds of others. As part of this, there are varying degrees of solipsism that parallel the varying degrees of skepticism.

Metaphysical solipsism is based on a philosophy of subjective idealism, such as Caspar Hare’s egocentric presentism, in which other people are conscious, but their experiences are somehow not “present”. Along with this, based on epistemological solipsism, only the directly accessible mental contents of the mind can be known. As a third option, methodological solipsism is an agnostic variant of the argument. The methodological solipsist believes that empiricism or rationalism is the sole possible or proper starting point for philosophical speculation. Moreover, the denial of material existence, in and of itself, does not constitute solipsism, because a major feature of the metaphysical solipsistic paradigm is the denial of the existence of other minds. Since one’s personal experiences are subjective, another being’s experience can only be known by analogy. Furthermore, while it cannot be proven that anything independent of one’s mind exists, the point that solipsism makes is really irrelevant. Now, correct me if I’m wrong in saying that, whether the world as we perceive it exists independently or not, we cannot escape this perception, hence it is best to act assuming that the world is independent of our minds.

More to the point, the solipsistic line of reasoning is what led Descartes to conclude that the human soul is something separate from the body, forming the core of our identity. This echoes the religious belief in an immortal soul for which the mortal body is only a temporary vessel. It’s what Gilbert Ryle mockingly called the “ghost in the machine”. Plus, on top of the two finite substances, there is a Cartesian belief that there is an infinite substance that makes up the Supreme Being. Of course, if dualism is true, then another problem emerges. So, in an attempt to explain how a metaphysical mind can have any interaction with a physical body, according to the standard substance dualist model, the mind is comprised of non-physical substances, while the body is constituted of physical substances, but they are both intimately interconnected as a mind-body composite. Along with this, according to substance dualists, psychological systems and physiological systems are capable of causally affecting each other by way of their intimate interconnection. This form of substance dualism is known as interactionism. In essence, the argument postulates that the mind and body are so interwoven that they can influence each other by virtue of their extremely close proximity. So, the burden of proof lies in finding out how the interconnection happens.

Once this is firmly established then it will become important to explain how psychosomatic phenomena, such as the placebo and nocebo effects, actually work. This will also shed some light on the problem of phantom limbs, including those brought on by the body transfer illusion. In addition to this, substance dualism is consistent with near-death and out-of-body experiences (NDEs and OBEs), among other things that are often relegated to parapsychology. In addition to this, if the mind is just as fundamental as the body, then consciousness does not emerge from the central nervous system. Instead, it co-evolves with it. This view is also consistent with what is known as panpsychism, which is compatible with integrated information theory (IIT). This is important because IIT inverts the standard relationship of the brain and mind, working from phenomenological axioms to the material world, not the other way around. Therefore the theory goes beyond identifying neural correlates and can be extrapolated to all physical systems. Moreover, according to Tononi’s model, a system’s consciousness is determined by its causal properties and is therefore intrinsic. According to integrated information theory, all physical entities have sufficiently complex mental counterparts in “qualia space”. In this way, panpsychism solves the hard problem parsimoniously by making consciousness a fundamental feature of existence.

In the most technical sense, integrated information theory attempts to mathematically explain what consciousness is and why (and how) it might be associated with physical systems. Given any such system, the theory predicts whether that system is conscious, to what degree it is conscious, and what particular experience it is having. This can be measured as an exact amount of integrated information, known as “big phi”. Although, it is important to note that if a partition of the system makes no difference to its cause-effect structure, then the whole is reducible to those parts. This also applies to individual mechanisms, such that a subset of elements can contribute to a specific aspect of an experience only if their combined cause-effect repertoire is irreducible by a minimum partition of the mechanism, known as “small phi”. More importantly, this framework should enable theoreticians to derive a full-fledged mathematical model of the mind, with consciousness being as fundamental as time and energy, in a grand unified theory (GUT) of everything. After all, integrated information theory tells us when matter gives rise to consciousness, while quantum mechanics tells us when consciousness gives rise to matter. The way I see it, this could be the key to simultaneously solving the measurement (observer) problem in physics as well as the hard (consciousness) problem in metaphysics.

This begs the question, does the multiverse self-select universes in which people can exist? Well, according to John Wheeler the answer is yes. Simply put, he suggested that information is fundamental to the physics of the universe. According to his “participatory anthropic principle”, our reality is created by observers within the universe itself. Based on this “it from bit” doctrine, all things physical are “information-theoretic” in origin. Of course, this flies in the face of cerebrocentric convention. Still, this kind of idealism is entirely consistent with quantum mechanics, and it specifically concerns the findings of the double-slit experiment. In this instance, light can be made of either a wave or a particle, depending on which one an experimenter is looking for at the time. Furthermore, in the traditional collapse interpretation of quantum mechanics, a conscious observer is necessary to bring about the collapse of a wave function in the thought experiment with Schrodinger’s cat. This specifically addresses the causal relationship(s) between physical systems (which can give rise to mortal material bodies) and metaphysical systems (which can give rise to immortal immaterial souls).

This also seems to suggest that consciousness has a direct effect on matter and that it may play a role in bringing the universe into existence, meaning cosmic consciousness may give rise to everything in a deistic way (through a form of intelligent design). Simply put, if consciousness is the basis of ultimate reality (as idealists claim), then it would necessarily be the progenitor of existence. Either way though, whether the gaze of God collapses all the wave functions in the local spacetime continuum, or not, in the context of the philosophy of mind, there are essentially two different ways in which experiential phenomena are thought to come into being: they either emerge at some particular point (derivative emergentism) or they exist at every scale, in everything, right from the start (primitive panpsychism). Although, I must say that it’s important to understand that these aren’t necessarily mutually exclusive, particularly if there is more than one kind of consciousness in the cosmos, as some philosophers have suggested. Of the two philosophies, emergentism (nonreductive physicalism), is consistent with neurology, serving as a particular form of materialism.

Take for instance evolutionary psychology, which adopts an understanding of consciousness based on computational theories of mind. As a result of this, the doctrines of evolutionary psychology are founded on very specific core premises. For instance, the brain is thought to be an information processing device that produces behavior in response to external and internal inputs. In addition to this, evolutionary psychologists also assert that different neural mechanisms are specialized for solving adaptive problems across the vast expanse of deep time, with consciousness existing on a spectrum, from simpler to more complex organisms. This is explained in humans by anthropology and in non-human animals by ethology. Plus, consciousness is often thought of as an accident of biology, not a purpose of teleology. This raises a number of different questions. For instance, what is the mind supposed to be used for? Which kinds of things are conscious, and in what way(s)? Do souls animate every form of life or just certain kinds of organisms, and why? Even more basically, is it true that something either does or does not have a soul? Think of it like this. In much the same way that correlation is not causation, simulation is not duplication. So, the question is, will there or could there ever be androids (conscious humanoid robots) that are completely indistinguishable from people, far surpassing the Turing Test? Better yet, does IBM’s “Watson” think, or MIT’s “Kismet” feel. If so how?

This is important to ask because, at its core, emergentism centers on the idea that increasingly complex structures give rise to new properties that cannot be explained by their more basic constituents. The doctrine asserts that mental properties arise when combinations of matter are sufficiently organized in an appropriate way. Separate from (but probably interconnected with this) panpsychism is a philosophical doctrine concerned with the possibility that some form of consciousness is present in all things. This concept centers on the belief that everything is imbued with some form of mental qualities. According to this rather atavistic and animistic notion, the mind is a fundamental feature of the world that exists throughout the universe. Philosophically this is a form of monism, which should not be confused with dualism. So, the real question is, is consciousness less fundamental than, equally fundamental to, or more fundamental than matter? This is the main difference between physicalism, interactionism, and idealism, respectively. Of those, interactionism necessitates that tangible objects (made of quanta) and intangible subjects (made of qualia) have coexisted for billions of years, in separate but interconnected planes of existence: physical and metaphysical.

The problem is, where is the “qualia space” that Tononi and other theorists such as myself describe? To answer this, I have found that by applying Edward Witten’s M-theory cosmology, which unifies all consistent versions of superstring theory, and which requires an 11-dimensional spacetime continuum, it becomes apparent (at least to me) that the three dimensions of open external space contain bodies while the seven dimensions of closed (“compactified”) internal space must contain souls. More to the point, this maps perfectly onto substance dualism, allowing the subjective soul to exist in “qualia space” while the objective body exists in what I sometimes call “quanta space”. Along with these mental and physical state-spaces, time serves as the dimension of interaction, thereby solving the mind-body problem. That is to say, if my hypothesis is tenable then the mechanism by which both the mind affects the body, and the body affects the mind, is temporal in nature. In other words, the objects in physical space (dimensions 1–3) and the subjects in metaphysical space (dimensions 5–11) interact by way of time (dimension 4). With that being said, I obviously disagree with Descartes’ assumption that the pineal gland (which is only a part of the body, and not the soul) has something to do with the interaction between the two.

In addition to this, based on Ned Block’s philosophical proposal, which I previously alluded to, there are two distinct types of experiences: phenomenal (P-consciousness) and access (A-consciousness). This perfectly maps onto the collective unconscious mind and the personal conscious mind, in Jungian psychoanalysis. In this way, both panpsychism and emergentism can be used to adequately describe psychological states which are consistent with each other in-so-much as they independently characterize interactionism (dualism), in one manner or another. Of these, the former doctrine is best described by panexperientialism according to which all entities have phenomenal consciousness though not necessarily access consciousness. If this is true, then there might be something that it is like to be something other than a person, such as a plant but maybe not a photon. The question is, what about a planet? After all, James Lovelock’s Gaia hypothesis and Rupert Sheldrake’s morphic resonance theory would seem to suggest that Mother Earth has a soul. So, the question then becomes, does the entire cosmos experience P-consciousness, A-consciousness, both, or neither? Put another way, if I am a being becoming, is the cosmos the Being Becoming?

Here’s the thing, if the assertions of emergentism and panpsychism are both true, then there might be a difference in degree as well as a difference in kind regarding the subjective nature of animate and inanimate materials, even though they would both have to possess mental qualities of some form or another based on the unique parameters of metaphysical systems in general. Otherwise, there appears to be a problem inherent in the idea of emergentism, given that higher-order properties would have no way of causally interacting with the more fundamental levels of existence, while panpsychism would easily allow for mind-to-body causation since there aren’t any lower levels to supervene over. So, without primitive panpsychism being fundamental then derivative emergentism has nothing to build off of. This is known as the combination problem, which is part of the mind-body problem as it specifically pertains to panpsychism. Thus, the solution must be that P-consciousness exists in all places, at all times, while A-consciousness only exists in certain places at specific times, making both panpsychism and emergentism valid theories.

With that being said, it would appear that dualism (interactionism) is a better fit than monism (either physicalism or idealism). This follows a form equivalent to the propositional pattern “this-and-not-that-or-that”, which can be written in logical notation as I∧¬(pi), where the leading term (I) signifies dualistic interactionism and not the remaining terms which signify monistic physicalism (p) or monistic idealism (i). The question is, do we live in a world based on predicate dualism, property dualism, or substance dualism. Well, let's see, predicate dualism is a philosophical point of view that maintains that while there is only one ontological category of substances and properties, the predicates used to describe mental events cannot be explained in terms of the physical sciences. In this way, predicate dualism serves as the negation of the position held by predicate monism, which is the view subscribed to by eliminative materialists. According to predicate dualists, there can be no strict psycho-physical laws that connect mental and physical events under their descriptions as such, because mental predicates are irreducibly different in character from physical predicates. More to the point, the fact that neurology and psychology are distinct fields of study is proof of dualism. Simply put, the word “brain” is not a synonym for “mind”.

Taking this a step further, property dualism is the philosophical view that there are two kinds of properties associated with one kind of substance, according to which mental properties, such as desires, exist in certain physical substances, such as neurons. This particular doctrine holds that although the world is constituted of one kind of substance, there exist two distinct kinds of properties: physical and mental. As such, property dualism claims that an ontological distinction lies in the differences between properties of mind and properties of matter and that consciousness is ontologically irreducible to neurobiology. Consider the fact that physicians refer to the Physician’s Desk Reference (PDR) to treat patients, but psychiatrists refer to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM). This is proof of the validity of predicate dualism as well as property dualism, if not full-blown substance dualism (at least the way I see it).

The thing is that, if predicates describe the properties of substances then the body and soul are made of two separate things. This is a highly controversial, albeit unconventionally elegant assertion, that was most famously defended by Rene Descartes. It states that there are two kinds of substance in existence: material and immaterial. Along with this, there are different kinds of properties that adhere to those respective substances. According to that Cartesian thesis, mental phenomena don’t extend in space, and material events are devoid of experience. In this way, interactionism (meaning both physical and mental) is the mean between two extremes: materialism (only physical) and idealism (only mental). Basically, the central claim of substance dualism is that the soul and body, while being made of ontologically distinct substances, somehow causally interact in such a way that mental events can cause physical events, and vice-versa. However, this leads to a substantial problem in that tangible and intangible things are seemingly too far removed from each other to have any influence on one another. This is why I postulate the temporal interface, through an application of 11-dimensional superstring M-theory.

In contrast to this, occassionalists suggest that all mind-body interactions must require the direct intervention of the Supreme Being. For instance, the priest philosopher Nicolas Malebranche claimed that when you think about reaching for something, it’s actually God who moves your hand to pick it up. Basically, the argument from reason is a theological theory against metaphysical naturalism and in favor of the existence of a Supreme Being, which adherents say is necessarily the source of human reason. Thus, the argument from reason seeks to show that naturalism is self-refuting, or otherwise false and indefensible. This is a very weak attempt at a creationistic explanation of consciousness that is diametrically opposed to evolutionary psychology, which is thoroughly backed by a great deal of evidence. In spite of this, a few philosophers have expanded on the argument from reason, and they credit C.S. Lewis for that line of thinking.

Diametrically opposed to this worldview, according to the special sciences argument, there are certain lines of inquiry that are irreducible to physics, for one reason or another. These particular fields of study are dubbed the “soft sciences” (such as sociology and psychology), and they are the source of peculiar terminologies, which differ from the “hard sciences” (such as chemistry and neurology) in several significant ways. As part of this, Jerry Fodor, and many others, have argued for strong autonomy, concluding that the special sciences are not even in principle reducible to physics. As such, Fodor has often been credited for having helped turn the tide against reductionist physicalism. This is incredibly important because, in psychology there are numerous concepts that appear to be exclusively dependent on the existence of mental phenomena that cannot be described by something like chemistry or biology, suggesting that predicate dualism is certainly a viable candidate for the solution to the hard problem.

In addition to this, the subjective argument is a very important statement against monism, and hence in favor of dualism. Part of this argument focuses on the differences between third-person objectivity and first-person subjectivity. Basically, the subjective argument centers on Thomas Nagel’s idea that the mental and the physical seem to have quite different, perhaps even irreconcilable, properties. He is most well known for his critique of material reductionist accounts of the mind, particularly in his essay “What Is It Like to Be a Bat?”. In it, Nagel argued that it’s impossible “to know what it is like for a bat to be a bat”. Thus, he is an advocate of the idea that experiences cannot (at least with the contemporary understanding of physicalism) be satisfactorily explained using the current concepts of physics. Based on this assertion, and the very sound logic behind it, given that mental events have a certain subjective quality to them, while physical events do not, property dualism would also seem to be viable as a solution to the hard problem.

Taking this even further, the basic idea in David Chalmers’ zombie argument from 1995 is that one can imagine, and therefore conceive of the existence of, a body without any conscious states being associated with it. A philosophical zombie or “p-zombie” is a hypothetical being that is physically identical to and indistinguishable from a normal person but does not have conscious experience, qualia, or sentience. At face value, this seems highly plausible because all that is needed is that only the things that the physical sciences describe must be true of it. Since none of the concepts involved in the hard sciences make reference to mental phenomena, and any organism can, by definition, be described scientifically via physics, chemistry, and biology the move from conceivable to possible is effortless. This kind of theoretical proposition could even go so far as to indicate that substance dualism is a viable solution to the hard problem (which is what I believe).

With that being said, the point that I really want to make is that philosophy has been robbed of some of its substance by science and unless we return that particular substantive to its rightful place in our worldviews then humanity will never truly understand the solution to the hard problem, being forever misguided by the materialist paradigms. Just think about it. To this very day, many people still won’t even admit that the problem of all problems is really a problem at all. To name names, the legitimacy of the hard problem is publicly rejected by contemporary philosophers such as Daniel Dennet, Keith Frankish, and Patricia Churchland. Meanwhile, it is openly accepted by Ned Block, Joseph Levine, and Colin McGinn, among many other leading figures on the right side of history. Similarly, there is a sharp divide between neuroscientists. For instance, Antonio Damasio, Anil Seth, and Bernard Baars think that the hard problem isn’t ever going to be worth pursuing. Whereas, Christof Koch, Giulio Tononi, and Francisco Varela agree that the hard problem is a genuine issue that needs to be dealt with, as soon as possible.

Unfortunately, this ongoing debate has been preventing true progress in the philosophy of mind for centuries. Fortunately, in revolutionary defiance of this restrictive kind of peer (review) pressure, the Academy for the Advancement of Postmaterialist Sciences was established in 2014 by Doctors Gary Schwartz and Marjorie Woollacott, along with their venerable colleagues. Now, hundreds of other scientists and citizen scientists have become members of the AAPS, making the movement an ongoing success story. More to the point, to enable the necessary paradigm shift that will inevitably be brought forth by the AAPS, IONS, and other organizations, I wholeheartedly believe that every serious scholar should welcome this seemingly radical development with open arms. The way I see it, you are a soul with a body, not a brain with a mind. This means that a number of different proposals such as panpsychism (IIT), emergentism (A-consciousness), and interactionism (substance dualism) are, at least part of, the best set of available theories to solve the hard problem of consciousness. Therefore any viable TOE or GUT will necessarily contain such models of the mind (at the very least). So, in the end, to sum it all up in one memorable matra, the solution is the rejection of reduction through expansion, and the sooner we all understand that the better.

An Eclectic Autodidact Polymath Writer and Researcher

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