Why PIP (and MSR) Solves the Hard Problem of Consciousness

The Hard Problem of consciousness asks why there is a gap between our explanation of matter, or biology, or neurology, and our experience in the first place. What is it there which even suggests to us that there should be a gap, and why should there be a such thing as experience to stand apart from the functions of that which we can explain.

Materialism only miniaturizes the gap and relies on a machina ex deus (intentionally reversed deus ex machina) of ‘complexity’ to save the day. An interesting question would be, why does dualism seem to be easier to overlook when we are imagining the body of a neuron, or a collection of molecules? I submit that it is because miniaturization and complexity challenge the limitations of our cognitive ability, we find it easy to conflate that sort of quantitative incomprehensibility with the other incomprehensibility being considered, namely aesthetic* awareness. What consciousness does with phenomena which pertain to a distantly scaled perceptual frame is to under-signify it. It becomes less important, less real, less worthy of attention.

Idealism only fictionalizes the gap. I argue that idealism makes more sense on its face than materialism for addressing the Hard Problem, since material would have no plausible excuse for becoming aware or being entitled to access an unacknowledged a priori possibility of awareness. Idealism however, fails at commanding the respect of a sophisticated perspective since it relies on naive denial of objectivity. Why so many molecules? Why so many terrible and tragic experiences? Why so much enduring of suffering and injustice? The thought of an afterlife is too seductive of a way to wish this all away. The concept of maya, that the world is a veil of illusion is too facile to satisfy our scientific curiosity.

Dualism multiplies the gap. Acknowledging the gap is a good first step, but without a bridge, the gap is diagonalized and stuck in infinite regress. In order for experience to connect in some way with physics, some kind of homunculus is invoked, some third force or function interceding on behalf of the two incommensurable substances. The third force requires a fourth and fifth force on either side, and so forth, as in a Zeno paradox. Each homunculus has its own Explanatory Gap.

Dual Aspect Monism retreats from the gap. The concept of material and experience being two aspects of a continuous whole is the best one so far – getting very close. The only problem is that it does not explain what this monism is, or where the aspects come from. It rightfully honors the importance of opposites and duality, but it does not question what they actually are. Laws? Information?

Panpsychism toys with the gap.Depending on what kind of panpsychism is employed, it can miniaturize, multiply, or retreat from the gap. At least it is committing to closing the gap in a way which does not take human exceptionalism for granted, but it still does not attempt to integrate qualia itself with quanta in a detailed way. Tononi’s IIT might be an exception in that it is detailed, but only from the quantitative end. The hard problem, which involves justifying the reason for integrated information being associated with a private ‘experience’ is still only picked at from a distance.

Primordial Identity Pansensitivity, my candidate for nomination, uses a different approach than the above. PIP solves the hard problem by putting the entire universe inside the gap. Consciousness is the Explanatory Gap. Naturally, it follows serendipitously that consciousness is also itself explanatory. The role of consciousness is to make plain – to bring into aesthetic evidence that which can be made evident. How is that different from what physics does? What does the universe do other than generate aesthetic textures and narrative fragments? It is not awareness which must fit into our physics or our science, our religion or philosophy, it is the totality of eternity which must gain meaning and evidence through sensory presentation.

 

*Is awareness ‘aesthetic’? That we call a substance which causes the loss of consciousness a general anesthetic might be a serendipitous clue. If so, the term local anesthetic as an agent which deadens sensation is another hint about our intuitive correlation between discrete sensations and overall capacity to be ‘awake’. Between sensations (I would call sub-private) and personal awareness (privacy) would be a spectrum of nested channels of awareness.

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  1. December 30, 2013 at 5:22 am

    comments disabled?

    • December 30, 2013 at 1:21 pm

      Shouldn’t be? I guess I have to reply/approve to them before they show up.

  2. September 13, 2016 at 7:37 am

    Concise, clear, and potent summary of the approaches to explaining reality & consciousness. I agree with all of your descriptions. I love your way of expressing in the PIP paragraph that (in my interpretation at least) consciousness is both, simultaneously, cause and effect of and for itself — It is Its own reason for being. It is good to remember that every idea we have about “reality”/consciousness is merely a subordinate expression of “reality”/consciousness itself. Even the simplest linguistic expression concerning a pure and direct perceptual grasp of the nature of reality (e.g. “Mu” in Zen Buddhism) is no more than a finite and relativistic subordinate component of That which it tries to express — merely a “finger” pointing towards the purest understanding that is devoid of finite conceptualizations.

    I like your point on dualism about “…the gap is diagonalized and stuck in infinite regress.” To me, that is what the limitless bifurcation of ever-more specialized fields of scientific inquiry have ultimately been an expression of: trying to fill the gaps in our knowledge, even though there is an infinite amount of information to “know.” And yet, other sciences in the last century or less, like quantum mechanics, quantum biology, relativistics, and recent ways of interpreting the nature of consciousness, are bringing us full circle and reversing the regression. All bodies of knowledge are themselves (when viewed atemporally/holistically) expressions of cyclical flow between fracturing and unification, divergence and convergence.

    • September 13, 2016 at 8:47 am

      Thank you! I like the direction you’re going in about the hyper-specialization of science coming full circle. In some way I think what I’m trying to do is to step back and look for the first time at what all of the most interesting and important bits from all of the hyper-specialties have been telling us. The goal is not to arrive at a finished puzzle with every piece potentially in place, but just to complete most of the frame, or even to identify the corner pieces of the frame so that every specialist can orient their knowledge to it and begin to build from there.

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