Musings on Consciousness

When it comes to consciousness, I assume two fundamental notions:

1) The first I borrow from David Chalmers, which runs along the lines that we must be “taking consciousness seriously.” By this, I mean that I assume that it exists, thereby ruling out the possibility of eliminativism. I also take this to mean that consciousness is not merely an “illusion,” as the fact of experiencing it directly seems to show—it is the only fact that we can ever know directly. Relatedly, conscious experience is the only phenomenon in nature so far that seems to have a first-person aspect. Everything else can, arguably, be explained or described fully in third-person terms, but to explain consciousness in this way leaves out a fundamental aspect: that it is experienced. This may eventually prove to be false, but at the least, it suggests that we may need to adopt a radically different explanatory strategy.

2) I assume that conscious experience is not merely epiphenomenal. In other words, I am assuming that conscious states have some ability to act as causal agents to guide behaviour, and that behaviour and consciousness are not both results of some other non-conscious process. How this will play out, I do not yet know, but to deny that conscious states have some causal purpose seems to miss the point and run directly against phenomenal experience. However, if it turns out that conscious states are not causal agents, and sufficient arguments can drive that point home, I’ll have to learn to live with it. In the meantime, I’ll retain my current stance, as it seems to me to be a logical foundation to build off of. An interesting avenue I have recently stumbled upon has suggested a fundamental link between causality and consciousness, in the sense that consciousness allows causality to be “realised,” in a sense. Rosenberg discusses this idea, so I will be investigating that possibility first. Other avenues will be investigated in time if this proves to be a dead end.

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