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GoatLord

Consciousness: Emergent or elemental?

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My dad and I debated this awhile back and he believes the former while I subscribe to the latter. His view is more typical, in which consciousness can only exist in entities sophisticated enough to produce thought. Therefore, all humans are conscious but less complex creatures are only mildly aware. Meanwhile, I believe consciousness is a base element of the universe. Of course, this doesn't mean that quarks and photons think or get moody, but I do believe it means they possess the software that can produce what we call awareness when enough "programs" link together in specific arrangements. Thoughts?

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I liked my thread title better.

Of course, I have nothing to go on, but I can't imagine how metaphysics wouldn't be involved. My thoughts are that the brain is definitely its own person, the brain affects the consciousness but the consciousness doesn't have any effect of any kind on the brain. It's just kinda "there".

I also wouldn't doubt the brain causing new consciousness to come into being. Of course, this is just random speculation that I don't even take very seriously, but it's fun to think about.

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Does he know what emergent means?

Animals are conscious of what they do. I sleep here because its flat. I am hungry, time to find a deer or fish. I better not jump off the cliff unless something big is chasing me. I better swim upstream or my eggs won't make it.

Could a wolf run a business? Define a business. Works in a pack, everyone gets fed, no money involved. Works his way up the corporate ladder, overthrows the leader. Humans do it, wolves do it. Deer do it. Buffalo do it. Children in the center of the herd, fatties and the elderly on the outside.

We might call it impulse or instinct, but to them they know what they're doing, we're just too high and mighty to realize it. I could call smoking an instinct and not an addiction.

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I don't believe there's anything special about the fundamental laws and particles that follow them in our universe which demands or directly leads to consciousness, but we simply do happen to have ones that *permit* it to develop as an emergent property in systems which are complicated enough.

Consider that all your nervous system activity is based entirely on the electromagnetic force. The same force is responsible for virtually all macroscopic interactions, and also binds electrons to the nuclei of atoms. With the laws of our universe, it'd probably be impossible for consciousness in any form we understand it to exploit any other force. The weak and strong forces only work under subatomic distances, for example. Gravity is an entirely different thing altogether, though also something we needed to be tuned well in our universe, since it needs to be strong enough to be able to bring matter together but not so strong as to collapse everything back into the singularity from which it is posited to have come.

Look up the anthropic principle.

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The lack of a meaningful or consistent definition for "consciousness" is a hindrance, I think. That's what's frustrating about these kinds of discussion: everyone has a different view because nobody can agree what they're talking about in the first place.

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fraggle said:

The lack of a meaningful or consistent definition for "consciousness" is a hindrance, I think. That's what's frustrating about these kinds of discussion: everyone has a different view because nobody can agree what they're talking about in the first place.

Spot on. There is enough work to do in arriving at workable, personal-level, characterisation of consciousness in general, before we can move onto the question of the place of consciousness, so characterised, in the image that we have of the world as provided to us by physics, or the special sciences.

There's plenty of room for disagreement on the metaphysics of consciousness, even before we start worrying about its relationship to the stuff of physics, and the former will, unavoidably, impose certain constraints on the latter. So the issue raised ITT is, I think, downstream of more basic concerns.

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