Consciousness as Aesthetic Presence
Here is my technical description for what consciousness is: Consciousness is the self-elaborating aesthetic-participatory foundation from which all possible phenomena are derived.
I have been using the term ‘aesthetic’ a lot lately in specifying the qualitative aspects of consciousness, and I feel like it clarifies one of the core issues. The Hard Problem of Consciousness is confusing to people whose mindset is innately compelled to define consciousness as a collection of functions in the first place. It therefore comes out nonsensical when philosophers like David Chalmers talk about questioning why there is such a thing as ‘what it is like’ to have an experience, since for the functionalist, ‘what it is like’ to perform a function is simply the self-same set of events which comprise the function.
Maybe it helps to define ‘what it is like’ in more specific terms, which I think would be scientifically described as private sensory-motive participation but informally can be understood as aesthetic phenomena. The key is to notice the asymmetric relation between aesthetics and function in that function can improve aesthetics, but aesthetics can *never* improve function. The Hard Problem then becomes a problem of how to explain aesthetics (aka qualia) in a universe of functions which can neither benefit by them nor physically generate them as far as we can tell (unless there is a miniature kitchen near our olfactory bulbs baking microscopic apple pies whenever we remember the smell of apple pie).
The fact that aesthetics are not possible to explain in terms of a function, but that functions can be conceived of aesthetically is unfamiliar and those who have that innately functional mindset will balk at the notion of aesthetic supremacy, but this is the future of science – letting go of the familiar, or in this case, rediscovering the literally familiar (ordinary consciousness) in an unfamiliar way (as the fabric of existence).
When we talk about consciousness then, what we really mean is the aesthetic experience of being and doing, of perceiving and participating. This experience is extended publicly as spatio-temporal form-functions (STFF), but those phenomena are not capable of appreciating themselves. Just as a puppet can be made to seem to walk and talk like a person, forms can be made to interact by hijacking their natural low-level aesthetics to represent our high-level expectations. The letters on this screen are just such an example. I am using a lot of technology to generate contrasting pixels on your video screen, which you will experience as letters, words, and sentences.
Each level of description – as typeface, spellings, grammars, evoke aesthetic micro-experiences. The closer these descriptions get to your native scale – the personal scale, the more that your personal experience, feelings, and understanding influences the aesthetics of all of the sub-personal experiences within reading the language. What you see of the letters is because of your experience of learning to read English, not because of any special power that these words have to project meaning. By themselves, these words and letters do nothing to each other. They are figures for use in human communication – they have no functional aspect, i.e. they are *only* aesthetic. This is why a computer has no use for human languages, or even programming languages. Computation requires no figures or forms of any kind, nor can it produce any forms or figures without borrowing some kind of STFF (with u in the middle, heh) from the ‘real world’. Otherwise there is a only the anesthetic concept of pure function – which is the exact opposite of representation by form, image, or quality, but is non-presentation through quantity.
Computation, or ‘Information Processing’ is the unconscious number crunching of automated, logical functionality. Information lacks aesthetic presence by definition – it is a purely conceptual understanding of instructed variables in motion. If there is a capacity for aesthetic appreciation to begin with, then computation can extend it and improve it. If there is no such capacity, then there is certainly no justification for adding it into computation, as automatic function cannot benefit in any way by appreciation of its own activity.