Monday, January 25, 2016
A blog I occasionally visit, which you might enjoy, is Conscious Entities. The proprietor, who appears to be largely self-educated on the subject, but has done it well, it preoccupied with the so-called "hard problem" -- explaining our conscious experience, our self-awareness, within the modern naturalistic world view.
Of course, I may be the only entity in the universe which has the experience I call consciousness -- maybe the rest of you are zombies. That's one of the hard things about it. The only consciousness we can observe is our own. It seems a fair assumption that since humans are similar to each other in other fundamental ways, we all share the phenomenon of consciousness; and those of us who are not psychopaths are wired to believe it instinctively, through the capacity of empathy. It's less certain with other animals, but that very imponderability leads to all sorts of conflicts about ethics.
For those of who think that metaphysics is dead, the problem of consciousness is an irritant. It feels as though there is some realm outside of the material in which our selves exist. If that is not the case, then we are saying that consciousness is indeed a material phenomenon. Yet we can't detect it, and it seems unnecessary for the evolved functioning of the organism. You could presumably write a lot of instructions that process sensory inputs and generate behavioral outputs that look exactly like a conscious human, but without the consciousness part.
It's a puzzle, and since we can't detect consciousness in others directly, all we can do is talk about it.