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  • Rick Bonetti

Consciousness Is Everywhere

This past fall, 2023 I took an OLLI course called Unraveling the Mysteries of Consciousness. John Kalb, the instructor defined "consciousness" as "a sensory and inner awareness of one's mental activity and sense of self, as well as the environment." But there are many different theories of consciousness including:

Global Workspace Theory - Consciousness is a form of information processing, broadcasting data to other brain centers.

Higher Order Theory - introspective awareness of, and reflection upon, one's thoughts

Integrated Information Theory - mathematical and computational

Neurobiological Naturalism Theory - a highly complex emergent phenomenon the result of a long evolutionary process

Orchestrated Objective Reduction Theory - quantum phenomenon at work

Panpsychism Theory - consciousness is everywhere

Dual-aspect Monism Theory - considers mental and physical as two aspects of one underlying undivided reality that is psychophysically neutral. Wolfgang Pauli, Carl Gustav Jung, Arthur Eddington, John  Wheeler, David Bohm, and Basil Hiley are the originators of this approach which is inspired by analogies with modern physics.

Beast Machine Theory - Neuroscientist Anil Seth proposes that consciousness is merely a result of 'controlled hallucinations' that are our brain's attempt to keep us alive. We experience the world and the self with, through, and because of our living bodies. When we agree about our hallucinations, we call that "reality."

The philosophical underpinnings of consciousness can be characterized as follows:

Physicalism/Materialism - The universe is made of physical stuff, and consciousness states are either identical to or somehow emerge from a particular arrangement of this physical stuff.

Idealism - Consciousness or mind is the ultimate source of reality, not physical stuff or matter. The problem is not how the mind emerges from matter, but how matter emerges from the mind.

Dualism - Consciousness (mind) and physical matter are separate substances or modes of existence.

Functionalism - Consciousness does not depend on what a system is made of. Therefore physical brains are not strictly required.

Mysteriamism - Human beings are currently incapable of fully understanding consciousness and we may never will.

"Science and religion are not in contrast, but they need each other to complete themselves in the mind of a man who thinks seriously." ~Max Planck

Federico Faggin is an Italian physicist, engineer, inventor, and entrepreneur best known for designing the first commercial microprocessor, the Intel 4004. The Faggin Foundation "supports the scientific study of consciousness at US universities and research institutes. "Faggin's curiosity about consciousness started in the late eighties when he asked himself if it was possible to make a conscious computer. After decades of research he states: "Despite being much more powerful, today’s computers are not one bit more conscious, than the computers in the early sixties."

According to Wikipedia, Faggin in his 2022 book (in Italian) Irriducibile proposed a theory on consciousness according to which consciousness is a purely quantum phenomenon, unique to each of us.... Consciousness is therefore not linked to the functioning of the body and can continue to exist even after the death of the body."

Faggin says "Consciousness is the capacity to perceive and know the world and ourselves. We know our unique selfhood by experiencing it as qualia (the sense of self) within our consciousness. Similarly, the outer world produced by our sensory-brain system is portrayed in the form of qualia “projected” in the space outside of us."

Faggin goes on to say, "Each of us experiences two different realities: the inner reality of sensations and feelings (called qualia) and the outer reality of objects interacting in space and time. We believe that the outer aspect is objective and that the inner aspect is the subjective domain of consciousness. These two realities reflect each other in some form, though they are fundamentally different."

The website of Essentia Foundation says they "aim at communicating, in an accurate yet accessible way, the latest analytic and scientific indications that metaphysical materialism is fundamentally flawed. Indeed, clear reasoning and the evidence at hand indicate that metaphysical idealism or nondualism—the notion that nature is essentially mental—is the best explanatory model we currently have.

"The latest analytic and scientific indications that metaphysical materialism is fundamentally flawed. Indeed, clear reasoning and the evidence at hand indicate that metaphysical idealism or nondualism—the notion that nature is essentially mental—is the best explanatory model we currently have."

"Over the past few decades evidence has been accumulating in foundations of physics, neuroscience and analytic philosophy that materialism is false." ~ Essentia Foundation

In the YouTube video above, Essentia Foundation recommend Frederico Faggin' two books in English:

Check out Fagin's list of other "quotes from some of the brightest minds in the history of human science" here.

"This is a participatory universe that depends for its very existence on human beings." ~ Deepak Chopra & Menas Kafatos

In 2007 Deepak Chopra and Menaz Kafatos wrote the book You Are the Universe: Discovering Your Cosmic Self and Why it Matters. The book presents a worldview where consciousness is primary rather than derivative (as a materialist would see it.) The authors assert: "We are creators of reality, living in a consciousness universe that responds to our minds... Mind and matter are different states of the same thing - the field of consciousness... Reality consists of shifting, interchangeable states that emanate from one source: consciousness... Qualia occurs within consciousness and has no dimension... The monist view is that 'everything in existence is part of the body of God'... The universe is in you... Your purpose is to align yourself with the creativity of the cosmos."

Chopra and Kafatos draw from Planck, Einstein, Heisenberg, Bohr, Paul, Schrodinger, and others to provide answers to nine mysteries:

  1. What came before the big bang?

  2. Why does the universe fit together so perfectly?

  3. Where did time come from?

  4. What is the universe made of?

  5. Is there design in the Universe?

  6. Is the quantum world linked to everyday life?

  7. Do we live in a conscious universe?

  8. How did life first begin?

  9. Does the brain create the mind?

The authors acknowledge three inspirational conferences:

"Science has failed entirely to say where consciousness originated... maybe consciousness is woven into the fabric of the universe - a very old notion to which physics is just catching up." ~ Deepak Chopra, Metahuman


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