Thought Experiment / Consciousness & Awareness

I think I see your problem. Your PERCEPTION of the world is in your head. You do not CAUSE the world, you perceive it. Some sensations, internal and external, are collected together, sorted/filtered by relevance and register in your temporal lobe. This is encoded into episodic memories in the EC/HC complex and to a much lesser extent, by the cortex itself as the sensations filter through.

You are also registering these same sensations in the older brain structures but this is not available to consciousness. These lower brain structures also recieve the results of the cortical processing.

These lower brain structure sensations are used to select actions which then also become available to consciousness.

I don’t view this a pernicious reductionism but a simple narrative of a straightforward process.

1 Like

Good, and you’re right.

That’s true. And by the same token; the world does not cause you.

1 Like

To follow up on an implied question - If the world does not cause YOU what does?

The collected sensations include the stabilized vision platform that is tightly integrated with your body & balance system.

The YOU feeling is the internal reference of position that salts all of your perception. This system can be defective and has some very real impact on the perception of YOU.

I’m sorry Bitking, we’re talking past each other. If you identify with your body and brain, then you’re right. If you identify with awareness I don’t think you can be caused. It is the great paradox of being; only that which already exists can exist.


If you assume (as I do) that awareness is an emergent property of the functioning of the brain then there is no paradox.

Since I am a strict materialist there is no other viewpoint that makes any sense to me.

Although I will admit to a certain intuitive discomfort with spooky action at a distance such as electro-magnetism and gravity.

1 Like

I would disagree, but that’s a whole other debate. :-).

Not to rekindle this thread - but I just wanted to mention a few things to both @Bitking and @jordan.kay .
First off - Bitking - I learn a lot from your posts and comments. You are an incredibly intelligent and extremely logically minded person. You should teach or make youtube videos or something if you don’t already. And if you do - I’m going to need to know what your channel is.
jordan.kay - this is kinda the conundrum I’ve found myself in. I tend to agree with, and settle into what can be proven or at least effectively investigated with logic. So - I’m inclined to align myself with the materialist view - but - there are just some things that I cannot fit into the structure of the materialist perspective no matter how hard I try. The subjective conscious experience is one of those things. The plethora of qualia and the insanely terrifying, horrific, wonderful, and beautiful work of art that is the human experience just does not seem to me to be an emergent property. That’s not to say that It’s not though - it may very well be an emergent property of the patterns of activity within the brain. But as the evidence currently sits - I have a hard time with that proposal.
Emergent properties - to me - seem to be a bit of a stretch of concept. For instance, waves in water are considered emergent. Lipids to cell membranes. A gene is an emergent property. But these are all well understood and you can trace them all the way down to their building blocks and fully understand how the properties of a single water molecule levels up to the properties of a large collection of water molecules. Consciousness, however, cannot be deconstructed in the same way all other known emergent properties can.
This specific issue, and the fact that - when I dream at night, the occasional highly detailed lucid dream can generate a world of impeccable clarity and realness has forced me to - at the very least - consider the possibility that (if my mind can synthesize a reality that is occasionally indistinguishable from what I know as my waking reality - but we are having a hell of a time breaking consciousness down into its component parts such that it is understood materialistically) the relationship between mind and matter might not be materialism. I have to at least be open to that possibility. The evidence requires it of me. And that bothers me because I like things to be packaged up in neat little organized boxes. The so called “hard problem” is a thorn in my side.


I have several posts here addressing each and every one of the points you raise.
I could run around and collect them but I will just stop with: I have ample evidence to believe that consciousness is an emergent property.


Waves are emergent in water, but only when specific conditions are met.

Each individual water molecule contains every necessary characteristic to cause a wave. But only when a sufficient number of water molecules are together, at a limited range of energy, and under influence of at least two forces, can we detect a (liquid) wave phenomenon.

So, you could say that consciousness is a emergent property of carbon-based molecules. Each atom of carbon holds all the features to combine to a conscious entity. Only the conditions for this to happen are much much more specific.

In my opinion, it’s a long stretch to hypothesise that consciousness is just emergent from some random complexity like an ant hill or the internet, or a legion of college students. Mere complexity is not enough, and emergency tells us nothing.


Trying this line out in other situations:
Diamonds are an emergent property of carbon-based molecules?
Wait - didn’t we already establish that was consciousness?

Computers are an emergent property of sand.
Or is it beer glasses?.

Bridges are an emergent property of iron ore.
Or is it guitar strings?


Seems like something is missing here.

Perhaps the atoms in question have to be arranged in a certain way to express this emergent properties?

1 Like

So what is that elusive “secret sauce” that makes consciousness special and personal?
It is physical and can be broken; the cases I have read about all seem to be related to sensing and incorporating the vestibular system with episodic memory.


Did you read the rest of the post? My point is that it doesn’t make sense to invoke emergency to explain consciousness.

But I can mitigate your conundrum if you want. More than one property can emerge from the same medium. :-).

1 Like

I am agreeing with you - it is just not the argument line I would have gone to first.
The “special arrangement of the parts” line seems better to me.

1 Like

Yes! I know where you’re coming from, just because an “emergent property” is difficult to predict doesn’t mean it’s synonymous with “magic” or that it’s fundamentally unexplainable.

I think all these models of the fundamental paradox of being cannot be anything other than explanatory fictions because it’s ineffable.

But thinking like a materialist I don’t think it’s entirely off the mark to say, the phenomenon of consciousness may not be explainable materially, but the contents of consciousness seem to have direct correlates to informational structures in the brain. I think that the only way to explain the phenomenon of consciousness from a materialist perspective is to say consciousness is physical interaction for you can’t explain the very phenomenon of it causally (as an emergent property).

If the contents of consciousness are instantiated patterns, be it within any substrate, then we come to the conclusion that there’s no difference in kind between physical structures instantiated inside the brain and those found outside the brain. One recognizes that this way of interpreting the material rationalist observation of correlations between awareness’s contents and physical informational structures leads one necessarily to conclude that all informational structures are conscious. One might begin to wonder why one is aware of the sights and sounds one hears yet, unaware of what it feels like to be the wind, or the pancreas, or the hindbrain for that matter. (Another way to ask this is to say, if physical interaction is the instantiation of informational structures why am I centered in me and not simply aware of the entire universe of structure around me?)

I think there is a material answer to this question. Why am I not aware of lower levels of informational structures inside my brain? I think it has to do with feedback loops. There are lots of feedback loops that instantiate patterns that just were, in the context of what has happened in the past in the brain, and I presume in the prefrontal cortex especially. I think this overlap of recurrent models forms the tip of the mountain upon which our awareness knows it sits. It knows it sits here because it knows it sits here. The wind has many fewer feedback mechanisms. The wind creates little memory of its past, few recursive functions, the wind makes no ego. That is why, I believe, our consciousness stays in our heads and we don’t know what it’s like to be other things: because the shape of our head is a recursive memory structure whereas the shape of the wind is not constantly reminded of what it is - it just is.

This realization - that physical structure is the shape of consciousness - is what invites the material reductionist (as I was) to wonder if panpsychism isn’t part of the answer. Perhaps from that point of view, it is the answer: that awareness is a fundamental property of physical interaction.

I tend to take a slightly different tack. If you must see consciousness from a material reductionist point of view, I think the answer is not to see awareness as a fundamental property of matter, but to see matter as, necessarily, the contents of awareness: matter and the contents of consciousness are two sides of the same coin. Matter cannot exist outside awareness.

But as I said, explanatory fictions, all of these models. The only model that is accurate to what is, is what is. But I think by talking about the same topics from several angles we can gain a better view than any one particular view can by itself, because every view that tries to fully explain the paradox is a lie.

1 Like

You jump from some to all without intermediate proof. This is a faulty generalization.

That’s clever. But who says consciousness is a paradox?

Absolutely. But you’re making the same generalization Jeff makes in On Intelligence.

That does not explain what consciousness is. I want to understand what feels like means in that statement. I want to know what sensing means in your statement.

I think all you guys are confusing the mechanics of consciousness with the contents of consciousness. And while the latter is certainly worth while investigating, it does not help to confuse the two.

What it feels like (contents) is the physical act of short term memory (the here-and-now part) of the perception part where you are recalling the best match up bits of your prior experience to the current perception. And the novel bits that don’t match but that you are learning online. This is felt in the episodic portion of the temporal lobe. When I localized this I am putting what is perhaps undue emphasis on this part as the entire brain is engaged in this perception and there numerous mechanisms all engaged at the same time - the the temporal/EC/HC part is what registers the attention focused digested version of your perception as your experience. You feel and form the memory all at the same time. Part of what you are feeling/'remembering is the loop of consciousness that I have described elsewhere in the forum.

This post describes the mechanism that builds this feeling in detail. Note that pure recall (memory) lacks that “reality feel” of the novelty bits as it is not driven by perception. You might describe that perception part in some other way but there is clearly something missing when you remember an episode vs. going through it.

No, I don’t think so. Maybe. But let me clarify.

… then what’s the difference between patterns inside my head and patterns outside my head? Do you see? I’m saying there’s no fundamental difference. Patterns are just patterns. I’m saying the “I” that experiences is the instantiated pattern itself.

So I don’t think it’s a faulty generalization, I’m not generalizing to all patterns, I’m explicitly talking about all patterns from beginning to end. In other words; no, I don’t jump from some to all, I’m talking about all the whole time.

Consciousness can be nothing other than a paradox. But actually I’m not explicitly calling consciousness a paradox here. I’m referring to something I had said earlier; that Being, itsef, is a paradox, indeed, the great paradox.

By association, consciousness is a paradox too, because there is no Being outside of consciousness. but I was actually referring to what I have come to call The Great Paradox of Being here, not consciousness.

Just as a quick explanation: the great paradox of being is actually a restatement, or the other side of a paradox everyone has known about for as long as man has been: the paradox of non-being; such a serious paradox that many ancient cultures avoided or had no concept of zero. Nothing is a non-concept because non-being cannot be. That is the heart of the paradox. Another way to say it in a causal paradigm (philosophers talk about the ‘first cause’, for instance) is: Anything that could cause existence to exist must already exist - a paradox.

This statement smacks of a poorly defined problem space. WIth a touch of circular definition
Therein lies the problem - by limiting the problem space in the definition you exclude the answer.