Consciousness – a Conversation

Started a short conversation with Steve Turnbull after I responded positively to a tweeted question from Martin Robinson on whether mind could be explained by “materialism”. (The conversation follows in the embedded twitter thread below:)

I’m not one for “isms” but definitions aside, it remains clear that mind is a naturally evolved part of the physical world – its not supernatural or in any way “independent” of physical nature. There are plenty of modern (ie 21st C) thinkers who support that and I’ve explored them at length here in forming my “res informatica” view – a (kinda) pan-proto-psychism, a dual-aspect-monism or a trialism. Anyway Steve pointed to a short essay he’d done.

After the all usual arguments referring to all the usual suspects – [including my pet hate, a 30 year old (!!!) reference to Dennett’s “Consciousness (not) Explained”, the height of ignorance IMHO for not having read his later “B2BnB” – he’s a living philosopher FFS!] – we get to his conclusions. Let’s focus on some wishful aims we can agree on, rather than the – difficult – rational arguments:

“[I] sense that consciousness may be the bridge between science and the kind of ‘post-religious’ spirituality envisioned by Einstein through which we are able to experience a deep sense of interconnectedness between ourselves and the wider universe, the space remains open to build this. But if we think we can do so on the ‘sure’ ground of materialism I suspect we may have to think again.”

Steve Turnbull

Me too. I agree. Absolutely.
And I have thought, again (and again)(and again).

After much deep consideration I do consider the hard-problem to be a non-existent pseudo-problem and that natural explanations do exist. The hard part remains getting more people to see that. And the reason for that is a kind of prejudiced expectation about the “materialist” (empirical) nature of the explanation. The physical (material) has exactly the same relationship with the metaphysical as does the mental (spiritual); neither is privileged. EXCEPT we experience subjectively. We obviously experience BOTH subjectively however, with the material, we – deliberately – discount our subjective experience in the model we’ve constructed – called physics. For the mental …. we don’t …. there’s no reason to, we already experience it as it is.

The ground of materialism is no more (or less) sure than the ground of the spiritual. They’re equally sure. Equally grounded. Thereafter they have co-evolved and are causally intertwined. Where’s the mystery? Where’s the conundrum?

That gap being bridged, I tend to call the “humanity of the gaps”. It’s humanity that has created the empirical discount between the world and our experience of the world. Thereafter it is simply become widely accepted received wisdom to focus on the physical model of the world as if it were the world. No mystery. The conundrum lies with regular good-old-fashioned materialists.

[More reference links to be added, if the conversation progresses? Need also to finish and publish my draft on idealism-materialism-panpsychism following Mumford on Russell’s metaphysics. Include Kastrup refs if it helps?]

[PS – also listened to the Nous podcast of Ilan Goodman interviewing Ray Tallis, suggested by Martin. Also falls into the “more of the same old arguments by the same old suspects” for me, sorry. Not remotely “leading edge”.]

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