In his continuous research into how the electorate thinks or even why, this post is one of mariner’s brain twister posts. This post has no more significance to today’s news than finding the next geode in Iowa. Everyone has played logic puzzles at parties or when reading a magazine. Mariner suggests his readers think about an enigma that the sciences have yet to solve:
Why did consciousness emerge from a fully functional subconscious brain?
Dan Falk, a Canadian science journalist, sets up the issue: “The puzzle of how non-conscious matter, responding only to the laws of physics, gives rise to conscious experience (in contrast to the ‘easy problems’ of figuring out which sorts of brain activity are associated with which specific mental states). The existence of minds is the most serious affront to physicalism.”
The common thought test is the zombie test. The experiment features an imagined creature exactly like you or me, but with a crucial ingredient – consciousness – missing. Though versions of the argument go back many decades, its current version was stated most explicitly by David Chalmers in his book The Conscious Mind (1996). He invites the reader to consider his zombie twin, a creature who is ‘molecule for molecule identical to me’ but who ‘lacks conscious experience entirely’.
Imagine the conscious mind looking at an apple. The apple has an independent reality; it is an object within an entirely reasoned environment including terrain, buildings, roads, etc. The apple is red, a value among many colors that are not part of the immediate image. Lurking close by is a conscious awareness of the industry of apple production and perhaps even an impression of the grocer.
All these externally perceived inputs are collected by our consciousness. What did our subconscious see?
It will be awake, able to report the contents of its internal states, able to focus attention in various places, and so on – all part of the senses. It is just that none of this functioning will be accompanied by any conscious experience. There is no reasoned, abstract awareness. Imagine that you are asleep while the apple is present. What will you know about the experience of the apple? At best the brain may register aroma, perhaps indiscriminate noises, subconsciously of course.
The key question is, why did a totally functional subconscious brain have any need to invent consciousness? The major senses like seeing, touching, etc., provide a completely functional reality for survival. Flight or fight is a fully subconscious behavior; pain and comfort, too, are subconscious behaviors.
Scientists to this day have not been able to pinpoint a literal link that provoked the emergence of a conscious mind. Thus it remains an open question – why does the electorate have a conscious mind?
Is the reader still awake or need mariner sign off only to the zombie partner?