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Wednesday, November 19, 2008

A meta-theory of consciousnes

Let

C = consciousness

P = physical reality

Then, the various theories of consciousness may be placed into 11 categories:
  1. C and P are the same
  2. C is a part of P
  3. P is a part of C
  4. C and P are parts of something else
  5. C and P share a common part but are nonidentical
  6. C and P are parts of each other (hyperset style)
  7. C and P are separate -- somehow correlated but not via parthood
  8. C does not exist, it's an illusion
  9. P does not exist, it's an illusion
  10. C and P are parts of each other, and also parts of something else
  11. C and P are parts of each other, and also parts of something else, which is also a part of them
The word "part" should not be overinterpreted in the above, it's just used in a generic and informal sense.

I haven't yet broken this down mathematically, but on quick observation these seem the only logically possible relationships involving C, P and parthood (and allowing for circular parthood).

Each of these theory-categories has some adherents, and if I had more time and tolerance-for-boredom, I could divide existing theories of consciousness into these categories.

The question I want to ask here is: What could the relationship between C and P be, so as to explain why different individuals would propose each of the above 11 theory-categories?

My observation is that there is ONE category of theories that would explain all the 11 theory-categories as different views of a common reality, involving in some cases errors of omission but in no case errors of commission.

This is category 11: that C and P contain each other, and are also contained in something else that is also a part of them

If we posit an underlying model of the general form

C ={C0, P, D}

P = {P0, C, D}

D = {D0, C, P}


then we can see how the other 10 theory-categories would emerge via sins of omission:
  1. C and P are the same results from ignoring C0 and P0
  2. C is a part of P results from ignoring C0
  3. P is a part of C results from ignoring P0
  4. C and P are parts of something else ignores that D is a part of C and P, and that C and P are parts of each other
  5. C and P share a common part but are nonidentical, is correct so long as one allows this common part to be a hyperset (which is C nested within P nested within C ... etc.)
  6. C and P are parts of each other (hyperset style) results from ignoring D
  7. C and P are separate -- somehow correlated but not via parthood -- results from projecting C into {C0}, P into {P0}
  8. C does not exist, it's an illusion results from ignoring C
  9. P does not exist, it's an illusion results from ignoring P
  10. C and P are parts of each other, and also parts of something else, results from ignoring that C and P contain D
It is thus tempting to conjecture that 11 is the underlying reality, and people who posit the other 10 theories are simply ignoring some of the aspects of reality -- i.e. to use the old metaphor, they are like blind people each feeling a different part of the elephant and concluding that's all there is.

Question for reflection: what is D? ;-)

2 comments:

Jack Christopher said...

When faced with unknowables, like this question, I default into figuring out which perspective is the most empowering to believe, experientially.

My goals don't change much regardless of my metaphysics. In practice, it's more about adding new goals rather than discarding old ones; seeing through an additional lens.

I'd rather delude myself with wonky metaphysics that only slightly shift my goals, than accidentally dismiss a possible and very empowering viewpoint. What if I was some kind of God who wanted to play in physical reality?

Science wants to know all and technology want to do all -- together they want you to become God in a sense. That's not that different than saying that you're already God, and your goal is to figure out how to realize that truth.

Ken Ewell said...

O must be the observations and then D is obviously for the erroneous difference you posit between CP.

I have a question and answer for you.

What *is* C (consciousness)? P is defined by laws of nature, physics, cosmology and QM. How is is C defined?

We cannot define consciousness as a whole, except as a unity. In my view, it does not make any sense to compare the aspects of C to those of P at all.

C cannot be accepted as physical reality can, therefore the view is irrational. All we have access to are our individual conceptions of consciousness and the mirrors of social and political consciousness; none of the reflections comprises an entire or whole consciousness.

Charles Sanders Pierce advanced the theory that:
> the function of conceptions is to reduce the manifold of sensuous impressions to unity, and that the validity of a conception consists in the impossibility of reducing the content of consciousness to unity without the introduction of it

That is how I would explain and answer your question Ben: the essence of consciousness is neither separate nor identical to the physical attributes of the sensuous impressions and subsequent conceptions; both are aspects of the same objective Unity.

The 'something else' that each thing is a part of, and is also a part of each, is that Unity (some thing=an effect or a reflection of that Unity). So 11 may be the choice theory, though his reasoning is specious. That a deductive method of reasoning is applied does not necessarily make the conclusion true. I do not know that it is appropriate to try and distinguish a difference or similarity when one of the things compared is undefined while the other is well defined- particularly if it is used as a premise or predicate as it is here.

Besides, I think it is well-accepted that C & P are neither identical for each individual nor separate for each individual. Islamic philosophy distinguishes essence (Dhat) from attribute (Sifat), which are neither identical nor separate. If you cannot accept that, take your own unified personality which is neither identical to others nor separate from the Unity --that it appears otherwise, that, in fact, is the illusion..