point of view: a modern nihilism philosophical/psychological positions and questions

June 12, 2005

5. Brains are conscious but we don’t know how.

Filed under: Uncategorized — Marc @ 4:53 pm

Consciousness is a puzzle. It seems the brain alone gives rise to consciousness — there is no good evidence for a soul or for irreducible pieces of consciousness making us self-aware — but we don’t understand how the brain does it and probably never will, as least as it applies to our experience of qualia, the particular sensations of sound, color, pain, etc. No matter how much brain function we can imagine understanding, and no matter how tightly correlated that function is shown to be with the minutiae of these experiences, there appears to be an irreducible ‘explanatory gap’ between the most we can ever say about neurons or electrical fields in the brain and the tangible experience of reality. How does anything we can learn or theorize about the brain explain the particularities of the raw sensations we feel? Suggestions that certain physical or structural states are simply identical with these experiences and explain them as completely as they can be explained are as unsatisfactory and seem as incomplete as claims that the universe originated from nothing and there is no more to be said about the matter. (This ‘mysterian’ position regarding consciousness was first discussed at length in McGinn, 1989. See also Krellenstein, 1995.)

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