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The Conscious Mind

by David Chalmers
(ISBN 0-19 510553-2)

0.1 The Conscious Mind is a stimulating, provocative and agenda-setting demolition-job on the ideology of scientific materialism. It is also an erudite, urbane and surprisingly readable plea for a non-reductive functionalist account of mind. It poses some formidable challenges to the tenets of mainstream materialism and its cognitivist offshoots. I can't see how they can be met. The psycho-physical co-habitation arrangement that Chalmers proposes will accurately but misleadingly be described as speculative. The term is unfortunate because it contrives to suggest that one's own theories of consciousness, whatever their nature, are well-confirmed, which they aren't. As a bonus, Chalmers even offers one of the best non-technical accounts of the relative state interpretation of quantum mechanics to date. The omens for debunking Everett, and the terrible googolplexes of hell-branches the RSI entails, are looking bleaker than ever.

0.2 Chalmers, like some of the philosophers' zombies he writes about, promises to take the task of reconciling science and consciousness with the utmost intellectual seriousness. This he does. Yet I'm going to argue that ultimately he doesn't treat consciousness itself seriously enough. Only a strategic but presently taboo extension of the empirical method even ruffles the surface of its mysteries. Observation alone, whether auto- or [delusively] hetero-, even allied to deep reflective musing, can scarcely hint at the disparate aspects of the phenomenon at issue. The orchestrated exploration of a defining feature of the world via the experimental manipulation of variant modes of its only accessible instance is a daunting task. It demands a methodological sophistication way beyond anything its subjects - you and me - have even begun to contemplate. Of course, it's easy to allege a priori that extending the empirical methods of science to the varieties of subjectivity itself simply can't be done.

0.3 Perhaps it can't; but that's too lazy and facile a response as it stands. In the physical sciences one can typically abdicate intellectual responsibility and defer to the authority of specialists. Experts can do most of the dirty work on one's behalf. Life is short and the cognitive division of labour exceedingly large. Yet if the quite incredible phenomenon of subjectivity is to be naturalised, scientised and mathematically described - and one's theories about it tested - then a priori rumination and third-person shadow-chasing can only take us so far. A twin-track experimentalism embracing the first- as well as third- person perspective is indispensable. Without both, one is simply shuffling the cognitive tickles of a closed hunter-gatherer psyche in a single shallow search-space of options. No breakthrough is presently in sight.


Hitting The Hard Stuff
Does Analytic Philosophy of Mind Need Class-A Drugs?

1.0 Chalmers draws a distinction between the "hard" and "easy" problems of consciousness. The hard problem is why consciousness exists at all. For the physical sciences are, if anything, almost too successful in their job. Everything that happens in the world seems wholly explicable in terms of mathematically well-described microphysical interactions. Our brains are made of the same stuff, and are described by the same fundamental regularities, as everything else. Consciousness, given fundamental physics, seems causally irrelevant to making things happen. Unless we're hopelessly confused in the way we conceive the constituents the physical world, then the very existence of a first-person phenomenology anywhere at all ought to be impossible. Given what we think we know about the nature of physical phenomena, then there isn't any room for it. Worse still, if the presumptive closed causal sufficiency of physics is granted, then consciousness shouldn't have the capacity to provoke us into asking questions about its own existence.

1.1 Yet herein lies a paradox. For The Conscious Mind, under a purely physical description, is also exactly the book a sophisticated philosophical zombie would write - given complete solutions to the relativistic quantum field equations we know and love. [Philosophical zombies, as Chalmers usefully reminds us elsewhere, shouldn't be confused with their clod-hopping Hollywood cousins; they instead enjoy a notional existence as insentient functional isomorphs to their conscious counterparts such as you and me]. So in principle, the existence of Chalmers' book can be just "read off" the fundamental quantum mechanical equations describing our world. The solutions fall out of the equations without any need to invoke the spooky stuff at all. Logically, the formalism could equally well describe, as far as we can tell, a wholly insentient universe. It's presently a mystery why it doesn't. Thus physical interactions, on the face of it, are sufficient to generate books purportedly addressing their own causal insufficiency. Bizarre.

1.2 Now I'm sceptical that Chalmers is really a zombie. My faith - dependent admittedly on a tenuous and still unnaturalised semantic realism - is instead that he's a person whose powerful self-awareness has inspired him to write a book that's literally "about" consciousness. How could consciousness be explanatorily irrelevant? Yet my faith that he's a truly sentient being can't derive primarily from behavioural or neurophysiological data. For one's notional zombie counterpart, under some physical-cum-functional description or other, is himself in the habit of using his functional analogue of introspective analogy-spinning to draw functionally analogous conclusions about zombie-Chalmers. Likewise again, my faith in real D.C. sentience can't ultimately hinge on anything Chalmers' body has said or written either - although the published text is admirably consistent with such a hypothesis. Instead, I'm going to argue that the intrinsic, self-intimating texture ["what it feels like"] of introspection [and not just its 'extrinsic' functional role] is pivotal in understanding both the existence and properties of the phenomenology of mind in the world. Fortunately - I like living dangerously - I am a practising introspectionist. [Heedless sensation-seeking and painstaking experimentalism as practised in a future empirical science of mind are quite different; as indeed are soap-powders, one is told]. I admit to this defining characteristic of my working sense of self-identity even though - among scientists - introspection enjoys all the methodological kudos of auto-eroticism while inducing substantially greater guilt. If I weren't a hard-core introspectionist, and if I were a materialist to boot, I think I'd have to say that Chalmers was a zombie. He's a system which behaves, after all, in just the way a philosophically well-wrought zombie ought to behave, given the one big wave function posited by our best physical theory of the world.

1.3 As it is, one rather conveniently tends - when speculating about what if anything physics has omitted from its vision of Ultimate Reality - selectively to ignore the canons of formally sound inference. That way lies madness; or at least intellectual sterility. Instead, one recklessly generalises on the basis of a solitary known instance that there aren't any zombies dwelling outside the philosophical imagination. Yet whether zombies are non-existent or actually rule the earth, the single accessible counter-instance to the hypothesis of ubiquitous insentience should suffice by itself to refute materialism. Unless something akin to an all-pervasive cosmic mind-dust is inherently firing up the equations, then physics has left out an irreducible feature of the world from its otherwise omnipotent formalism. Consciousness, Chalmers argues, is a property of the world which can't be given a reductive explanation. It is a natural phenomenon. Yet none of its Pandora's box of variants can be deduced from the world's micro-physical primitives. Once the disposition of those primitives and their interactions is specified, consciousness doesn't [and I'm here ignoring a chapterful of well-marshalled technicalities on how one set of facts can determine another set of facts] "logically supervene" on them. Consciousness does, however, naturally supervene - Chalmers doesn't give Theism or feel-good New Agery the time of day. He argues that because consciousness isn't logically entailed by its physical supervenience base, then materialism is false. Of course his zombie analogue might be systematically interpreted as claiming the same thing; and alas zombie-Chalmers - if you're a meaning-externalist with a soft spot for subjunctive conditionals - would be wrong.

1.4 That's the hard problem and a lightning sketch of a few of its ramifications, notably what Chalmers aptly calls "the paradox of phenomenal judgement". Some of the "easy" problems might tax the intellects of double Nobel-laureates in their prime. Yet such challenges do tend to seem potentially tractable. These are the behavioural, functional, and broadly mechanistic aspects of mind whose conflation with the hard problem of consciousness has itself become something of a philosophical and cognitive-scientific art-form. For if one first lumps some aspect of sentience together with an aspect of insentience, proceeds deviously or naively to give them the same label, and then purportedly solves the mechanism responsible for the latter, then it is easy to persuade oneself that one has explained the former. Even after one learns how the trick is done, it can still be fun to watch.

1.5 Chalmers' hard/easy distinction is important. Perhaps something like it is even essential for doing practical science as it is understood today. It is still, potentially, very misleading. I'll focus on two reasons why.

First, it tends, though not explicitly, to presuppose at least a recognisable descendant of a folk-realist story of perception. Perceptual direct realism assumes that one can access crude, medium-sized lumps of insentience, whether it's functionally organised or otherwise. Such mind-independent classical objects fancifully include other people's brains. These brains and bodies serve as the topic of investigation in "easy" mechanistic problem-solving. Unfortunately, direct realism gives rise to wildly misconceived notions about cheesy wet neural tissues. These gross and often indistinguishable eyesores allegedly generate consciousness. "Brains" as conceived by the direct realist, and indeed many sorts of indirect realist, inspire the whole mind/matter conundrum. By way of contrast, there is a huge convergence of quantum mechanical, neurosurgical, philosophical and psychedelic evidence that only an inferential realism about the posited mind-independent Multiverse is tenable. One can't literally get out of one's head - on acid or off it. Instead one has to rely on, and indeed one exemplifies, dynamical, (partly) environmentally-selected, connectionist simulations of distal macroscopic patterns. These patterns lie in a personally inaccessible mind-independent reality beyond the boundaries of the system one instantiates. Direct waking access to a classical macroscopic world of insentient objects is an immensely adaptive piece of neuromythology bequeathed to us by evolution; and it dies hard. The idea that phenomenal tables, chairs and classical objects in general - including crucially soggy grey brains - are autobiographical constructs takes some getting used to - even as a hypothesis. So do some of its consequences; for example, that both people's dreaming- and waking- virtual worlds are described by the covertly indexical concepts of innumerable individual idiolects masquerading as public language. Common-sense is nothing of the kind, or not round here, at any rate. I'm going to argue that the alleged asymmetry of epistemic access to private and notionally public arenas is a delusive and fitness-enhancing adaptation of Darwinian minds. For many purposes, of course, one cares - or wants to care - about whatever in the mind-independent world our dynamical simulations causally co-vary with (etc) - rather than the intrinsic properties of the medium of simulation itself. Yet in the Mythology of Neural Porridge below I argue that if Schopenhauer's World-Knot is to be unravelled, then both the unique classical macroscopic world of the direct realist and the matter-myth it spawns will have to be recognised as just a type of ill-reified folk-psychology.

1.6 Second, there would be desperate difficulties to the hard/easy dichotomy even if something akin to direct perceptual realism were true. The "easy" problems of neural processing, behavioural discrimination, information integration and the like can themselves be thought about only via a cognitive medium whose properties exemplify part of the hard problem itself. The properties of the subtle - and tantalisingly elusive - phenomenology of cognition infect the hypothetical "propositional content" of everything we think we know. This includes thought-episodes notionally "about" the supposedly easy functional mechanisms of brain and behaviour - and the objective, third-person Scientific Image - which some of us trust we can more-or-less-in-principle understand. If we're utterly at sea, and not just faintly puzzled, about the nature of this medium itself, then we can't be confident that its linguiform structural variations can be used as neutral problem-solving tools to tackle easy problems. So just how badly contaminated is the nominal vehicle of contentful thought?

1.7 We don't really know. Yet if one is brave or foolhardy enough to investigate, there is empirically-derived, experimentally-accessible evidence - and not just late-night Kantian lucubrations or after-hours bar-room chit-chat - that the generic "medium" of our thoughts is radically shaping their intentional content as well. [Intentionality in sexy philosophy-speak is the property of 'object-directedness' possessed indifferently by brains-in-vats and brains-in-skulls; but not IMO by (superficially) isomorphic non-organic robots]. The relevance if any of the intrinsic intentional quality possessed by one's thought - to its [notional(?)(!)] relational extrinsic content is moot. Yet - to walk with alcoholic insouciance right through an academic minefield - it's the varying intrinsic intentional content of one's occurrent thought-episodes - functionally-described or otherwise - together with their generic texture which exhausts one's conception of Reality. One's conception of Reality can't literally stretch to the personally inaccessible relational content one trusts some of one's thought-episodes enjoy - and to which all but solipsists aspire. Change not just the individual flavour but the generic what-it's-likeness of thought, and you've generated a new virtual reality as well. And change it one can.

1.8 A bit of artisanal empiricism (a.k.a. 'drug-abuse': the value-neutrality of science is a fiction to edify the children and divert the groundlings] suggests that a generic aspect of everyday thought is shaping the background assumptions of one's way of life via means which mundane awareness simply doesn't and can't suspect. If you psycho-chemically manipulate the nominal medium or vehicle of your thought, then you, it, and the intrinsic notional content of your thoughts take on namelessly alien properties. Aspects of awake thought which aren't explicitly represented within its workaday operations can eerily change or disappear too. These ineffable aspects, one may infer if not feeling too shell-shocked, have been shaping one's implicit conception of Reality to a much greater degree than the focal and expressly named variations one would more normally expect to argue about. "Difference is all the mind's input devices can detect, and difference is in a sense all the mind is there to consider and respond to" (Gregory Bateson). If there are deep, currently unfathomable presuppositions or background assumptions implicit in all our drug-naive psychochemical thought-episodes, then it's hard to see how they can be individuated or articulated within that state-specific medium itself. One can't very easily hop outside one's mode of consciousness for a quick reality-check; or not by any obvious orthodox route.

1.9 So one may ask: just how strong is the evidence - if any - that the key facets and assumptions of our ideas on reality are explicitly represented within our conceptual scheme? In discounting the existence of what is normally unexpressed, and is perhaps currently inexpressible, just how confident can we be that we're not neglecting the defining features of our normal mode of existence?

1.10 A further question. Must good philosophy be methodologically self-conscious? No, I think, but it does help. Practising scientists may find that meta-philosophical discussions bring a whiff of meta-verbiage about verbiage. Philosophy in-the-raw can be bad enough. Heaven help us when philosophy itself starts getting self-conscious. [Who knows, perhaps future mental-health professionals will diagnose some forms of philosophising as a mood-congruent hyper-cholinergic personality-disorder. Unusually, Chalmers himself seems a cheerily good-natured soul. QM again, I suppose.]

1.11 Sometimes admittedly it's hard to stifle a yawn at what one darkly suspects is mere authorial throat-clearing. Yet the methodological chasm separating the study of mind from all other scientific fields runs far deeper than it needs to. We carry enough cognitive handicaps as it is. The disastrous intellectual consequences of academia's self-denying ordinance on an experimentalist philosophy of mind don't just permeate all our belief-episodes and their notional content. The consequences also infect the dime-a-dozen macroscopic virtual worlds which naive realists and pre-Everett quantum meechanics misconstrue as mind-independent realities too. For folk-physics and folk-perception manage safely to palm off many of mind's properties onto what are only some of its specialised modules; though the thoroughness of the evacuation-process admittedly varies. On such a diagnosis, then consciousness is not some discrete puzzle which can be semantically or evidentially quarantined from the rest of our professed knowledge. Barring our quasi-magical unmediated access to the rest of the world, then simply varying - let alone explaining - its generic properties is likely to change our conception of everything else too.

1.12 Now in spite of its well-flagged pledge to treat consciousness seriously, The Conscious Mind itself belongs to the often rarefied scholarly genre known, mouth-wateringly enough, as analytic philosophy. Hence its author neither preaches nor practises the study of consciousness as an experimental discipline. Whether through prudence or principle, Chalmers' method of investigation doesn't include emulating Nature's intrepid chemical psychonauts - or at any rate not in any very high amplitude part of the Universal Wave Function.

1.13 Physicists, on the one hand, spend taxpayers' billions pushing their theories to the limit so as to learn from where they break down. Neuroscientists, likewise, find they discover most from abnormal, mutilated or systematically manipulated brains. By contrast, professional philosophers of mind don't explore what we might - using enemy idiom - describe as abnormal, mutilated or systematically manipulated consciousness much further than a bit of genteel pipe-puffing. In fact practitioners of the Oxonian branch traditionally haven't investigated its altered states much beyond the tipsiness induced by after-dinner port. The methodological shortcomings of the a priori approach to their subject-matter are at least as grave as those of its experimentalist rival. Yet this is a field where a conspicuous absence of first-hand experience is frequently taken as a badge of intellectual authority.

1.14 There is an irony to the gaping deficit in both the analytic and the - optimistically self-christened - cognitive-scientific literature. [I could of course be missing some real gems. I'm not one of the cloistered mandarinate myself. But with a few props on a dark night I could probably pass myself off as an analytic philosopher; and Chalmers' sure-footed on-line bibliography confirms one's suspicion that apriorism runs rampant in the discipline as a whole]. The irony is that the empirical method - though scarcely naive empiricism - is presently accorded a somewhat awe-struck deference by most of the big beasts of today's philosophical jungle. It's almost as if physics-envy has sapped the manhood of an otherwise worldly, truculent, and testosterone-driven bunch of Anglo-American alpha-male philosophers; and left in its place a bunch of chastened and neutered flag-wavers for the ideology of scientific materialism. For when it comes to empirically manipulating the lone accessible instance of consciousness which anyone has to go on, then one searches the received texts in vain for some glimmering of cognitive dissonance at the neglect of experiment. At the very least - if one's not going to take one's theories for an empirical test-drive - then one really needs to offer some compelling, albeit again presumably a priori, justification of the unique epistemic legitimacy of apriorism in one's professional area of expertise.

1.15 These strictures might better be levelled at materialist philosophers than Chalmers. In some ways, undoubtedly, The Conscious Mind is all the better for its author's abstinence from first-person experimentalism. Casual use of psychedelics rarely promotes clarity of exposition or penetrating analysis. Moreover no one who's tempted to try chemically-catalysed psychedelic paradigm-hopping can make an informed choice of what they're letting themselves in for. Afterwards, too, there's no guarantee that retired experimentalists will be wholly able, or indeed willing, to revert to a drug-naive innocence as if nothing had changed. By the lights of medievals too, I suppose, the slippery slope symbolically begun with looking down Galileo's telescope has lead to ever-escalating levels of mind-rotting gibberish as well. The revolutionary implications of taking the experimental method really seriously can't be spelled out in advance - whether conducted in its first- or third- person guise. The effects of its application may sometimes last indefinitely - even if unsophisticated early efforts result in the functional equivalent of blowing up the school chemistry labs and being put out to grass. Even so, for better or worse, the state-dependence of memory is likely to leave most of psychedelia cognitively inaccessible, once again, even to its one-time initiates. Perhaps their post-experimental musings deserve to be listened to with the respect usually given to the philosophical reflections of retired scientists.

1.16 In consequence of traditional neglect, however, the significance of none of the outlandish and often incommensurable realms of mental life opened up by, say, the tryptamines, LSD and the dissociative anaesthetics - such deceitfully anodyne labels - is tackled in The Conscious Mind. Someday, somehow, some sort of strategic meta-research-program must be launched. Otherwise academic philosophy of mind as traditionally practised threatens to become part of a stagnating and degenerate research program. It's a tradition which presently shows no promise of yielding even a decent taxonomy of consciousness, let alone a framework of explanation. The integration of psychedelia into some sort of unitary world-picture is vital if our trans-human successors are to have any kind of proper notion of What Is Reality - minus the embarrassed scare quotes - unless Reality itself is written off, lazily and amorally, as just another pipe-dream.

1.17 Systematic psychedelic research will demand a much higher order of methodological sophistication then anything found in the physical sciences today. For the incommensurability of paradigms, if the phrase hadn't been appropriated for the purposes of ridicule, is a notion much better fitted to different psycho-chemical modes of existence than for intra-modal scientific disputes. This is not least because changing the generic texture of thought (and all the other, notionally uncerebral sorts of experience) induces a global semantic shift - of narrow content (as I define it) at least. There just doesn't seem to be any Olympian, God's-eye mode from which the nature and peculiar state-specific semantic content (one day!) of all the others modes can be impartially accessed and appraised. One can't rule out that such modes exist; but professed arguments that they do simply beg the question. And the meta-language to describe all the possible individual first-order languages which the state-space of alien modes could sustain is not currently in prospect.

1.18 The news gets worse. An extension of the experimental method is needed even more urgently in consciousness studies than in natural science [where top-rank mathematical physicists - superstringers, loop theorists and the like - have learned to regard it as a bit dated; especially when treated to the story-book sloganeering of earthier colleagues]. Even in one's everyday, chemically unenriched waking slumbers, sentience is unimaginably more diverse - intuitively, at any rate - than insentience. Some of the potential boundaries of the concept must be experimentally investigated even to delimit and classify what will need explaining. Lining up all one's intellectual targets instead so they can be knocked down with the same argumentative bowling ball is satisfyingly economical of time and effort. It may even work when one's target is refuting materialism - for the category of insentience apparently lends itself to easy generalisation across otherwise disparate objects. Yet for positive theorising rather than scholarly hatchet-work, a much more adventurous and ambitious strategy is required. The implicit claim of semantic privilege to a single mode of ordinary sentience - non-coincidentally one's own - and the recruitment of one ordinary "cognitive" mode to think about both " easy" and "hard" problems, begs answers to a host of questions we haven't empirically examined. Not even the most brilliant intellect working from within our parochial pycho-chemical ghetto can hope to apprehend the properties of alien state spaces of consciousness simply by hard thought in one narrow DNA-driven mind-set alone. It isn't psycho-physiologically possible. One might as well try mentally to hum a symphony to oneself in purple: the concepts and psycho-physical substrates are different.

1.19 This isn't to discount any essentialist working definition of consciousness as unviable. Intuitively, as Nagel has stressed, the single generic property of what-it's-likeness captures its minimal defining feature. Indeed, the radical panpsychist monism to be canvassed in this review will be tenable only if all modes of consciousness are, in a sense, variations on a single theme. Yet if, speaking loosely and elliptically, existence and mathematically what-it's-likeness are co-extensive [as I shall argue], then it's a very big and varied theme. Moreover speculations on potential common feature of all experience can induce a dangerous complacency. For what-it's-likeness - construed field-theoretically by the panpsychist as minimal and self-intimating rather than person-specific - is a variable which takes such a huge immensity and diversity of values that a single here-and-now frame-of-consciousness can't be confident it knows what it's supposedly generalising about.

1.20 This is because our weirdly familiar and subtle everyday "cognitive" modes of consciousness aren't innocent vehicles for conceptual thought. Some notion of the extent to which even so-called propositional thought is inseparable from the phenomenology of consciousness can be derived only by more-or-less systematically varying the properties of the generic medium in which it more-or-less serially occurs. A (very) motley bunch of Wittgensteinians, Fregeans and their camp-followers will chafe at this idiom. Doesn't it all amount to all so much psychologistic anecdotage? Who cares what one of my thoughts feels like - or anyone else's?

1.21 Well, the phenomenal texture of one's thoughts, and the phenomenal texture of the experiential manifold in which they're embedded, determines what one thinks the world is like. This is so independently of whatever role that texture may or may not possess in fixing any inaccessibly extrinsic 'relational' content which one's thought-episodes sometimes may, or may not, spirit into existence. Locating real, spatio-temporal episodes of thought within the causal structure of the world will be essential to any serious naturalising project. And since natural selection specialises in masterly con-jobs like teleology and function, then it's hard to be confident that simulating an autonomous abstract realm of disembodied "broad" meanings and logical inference isn't one of them. One just has to assume otherwise. In principle, after all, super-sophisticated civilisations of computational a-life could be evolved within our computers in which semantic properties are merely simulated rather than exemplified. In principle, perhaps, a truth-functional semantics could be computationally simulated by our future digital life-forms far more tightly than is feasible with the putative relational content of our own broadly indeterminate meanings. Often, however, it's essential to award oneself a capacity for full-blown rather than virtual semantic realism, if only to avoid paradoxes of self-reference and semantic solipsism; but then a selective capacity for make-believe has always been a vital component of both mental health and intellectual progress.

1.22 As it is, my briefly entertaining the thought that, say, the moon is made of cottage-cheese and my occurrent belief in the rough accuracy of Newton's inverse square law of gravity have a lot in common: introspectively, they're just minor shifts in one kind of state-specific cognitive tickle, regardless of their relational status. The generic texture of that tickle shapes one's conception of reality irrespective of the systematic logico-inferential properties etc its variations may or may not possess. "What's it like to have a thought?", however, is not a question which echoes through the groves of contemporary academe.

1.23 The significance of mutating the generic mode in which thinking is conducted is easily missed by the drug-naive. 'What's-he-on-about?' it may be asked. For we won't be able to verbalise the phenomenology of what we find to someone who doesn't substantially share it. Establishing the psychoneural correlates of who shares what with whom involves a host of practical problems and controversial notions of type-type identities. The more radical and interesting the generic shift, the harder it is to say anything sensible about it. For now, at least, then Sapir-Whorf, anti-private language arguments plus do-it-yourself psychedelia equals cognitive catastrophe. It simply isn't possible ostensively to define for non-initiates the plethora of new semantic primitives for which new generic thought-media will ultimately call.

1.24 For what it's worth, in other psychochemical guises I do have my own limited in-house set of incommunicably novel semantic primitives. Yet in the absence of laboratory-controlled experiments in which other subjects undergo type-similar psychochemical cascades, then the private meanings and experiences of alien Daves remain vulnerable to well-rehearsed verificationist and beetle-in-the-box arguments; just like consciousness itself in fact. This sort of obstacle to progress, at least, is a reflection of the hidebound institutional structures of present-day science and academia; not a law of nature. In a happier post-HI age, co-ordinated and controlled research will begin in earnest. Simply syntactically combining the new primitives into the deliverances of a full-blown language, let alone harnessing its conceptual resources as part of a mature cultural tradition, may still take millennia of exploration in modes of being which can now only fleetingly be glimpsed; and in some cases not even that.

1.25 None of this should be misread as a plea for analytic philosophers and cognitive scientists to desert the scholasticism of the Academy for an orgiastic binge of psychedelic cocktails. Uninhibited use of today's psycho-toxic chemical agents is not, I think, a likely recipe for incisive and penetrating thought. Alexander Shulgin, not Timothy Leary or Terrence McKenna, serves as the role model for the cognoscenti - in a realm admittedly where, to be fair, the whole lot of us are only floundering stone-age dilettanti.

1.26 Moreover there are immense mental wastelands as well as treasure-troves waiting to be discovered in mental terra incognita. It's not a case of simple shake-and-stir. Many presently-accessible drug-induced states exhibit all the intellectual depth of 'Neighbours' and the edifying uplift of glue-sniffing. Not everyone, the uncharitable might claim, has the imagination even to have a bad trip. Further, some crude psychedelic agents induce post-synaptic psychochemical cascades which are too complex and unpredictable in their effects to allow fellow-trippers even the illusion of a shared mode of experience. Barring any consistency of behavioural responses or relative constancy of subjective psychophysical state induced, they are effectively off-limits to scientific research for the foreseeable future. Moreover a vast combinatorial explosion sets in. More radically still, whole topologies of mental weight-space may, I suspect, be completely and eternally untameable conceptually. Here truly be monsters; and, flippancy aside, far worse.

1.27 Indeed, there is another danger here. By slipping into the sort of racy but comfortable academicisms best calculated to win a [wincing?] scholarly audience, then this plea to take naturalising the mind really seriously may deceive author and site-visitor alike. This is because the states of mind apt to digesting "cognitive science" and analytic philosophy of mind, whether jazzed up a bit by a Golden House Sparrow or treated with due solemnity and traditional gravitas, are foreign and semantically blind to the raw wild hyper-weirdness of what I'm on about. There aren't any homely translation manuals or true multi-lingual, multi-paradigm adepts to hold one's hand along the way. As with consciousness oneself, one is, ultimately, all on one's own. Surgically granting a blind man the gift of sight, to reach for the usual tired but serviceable sort of perceptual analogy, doesn't suddenly confer visual literacy or articulacy on the recipient. On the contrary, and even with all the advantages of a mature, pre-digested conceptual scheme presented him on a plate, the newly-sighted subject may struggle for years to make sense of his new universe of experience.

1.28 This sort of problem applies to the far more revolutionary, introspectively-intimated cognitive and affective analogues of sensory modes of consciousness opened up by psychedelia. Unfortunately, in such modes there is no mature canon of psychedelic theory to help enculture the experience. Understandably, the literature is mostly pretty dreadful. Lapsing again into more accessible sensory analogies, it's as if, say, one had to talk about sound in the language of olfaction: if one's audience were congenitally anosmic, then one's own intellectual and linguistic resources might be over-stretched too. When the new phenomena created are modes of introspective awareness which confer no new behavioral discriminative capacities, then a drug-naïve audience will probably find what one says even more vacuous.

1.29 Perhaps it's worth recalling initial scientific scepticism toward synesthesia. Natural synesthetes experience the transposition of sensory modalities more commonly associated with good acid. Synesthetes who report 'oblong tastes', 'coloured vowels', 'green odours', 'salty visions', and (in one case) 'technicolor orgasms' were once derided sooner than an Oxford voice could cry 'category mistake'. Moreover there are some incommensurable modes of altered introspective consciousness about which one can't even talk nonsense. In consequence of psychedelia's present ineffability, however, and of every ill-advised and culturally-refracted instance of drug-induced babbling born of hapless attempts to express the ineffable [such as? ed], there flourishes a robust but sloppy-minded verificationism among traditional apriorist philosophers of mind. This allows them to dismiss altered states, insofar as they even get a look-in, with a breezy rhetorical flourish: where's the beef? If all that psychedelia can deliver beyond New Age witterings is superficial generalities and woolly-minded generalisations, then why take it seriously? Let's get back to real work.

1.30 This response is far too glib; but then the village-verificationist is always with us. Normally we are protected from the uncharted dimensions of our ignorance of most forms of consciousness and of organised mentality alike; so we've no way of knowing what we're missing. The hope that there are relatively "easy" as well as hard problems of consciousness, which can be resolved within the neural and computational paradigms, covertly depends on our supposed enjoyment of a privileged vehicle within which the investigation can be conducted. So are there substantive grounds for claiming such psychic super-user status?

1.31 I'm still looking. Alas, the everyday waking consciousness of hunter-gatherer minds doesn't straightforwardly enjoy, whatever one may question-beggingly presuppose, Archimedean privileges to which all other generic modes of being must be subordinated. One can't explain what one can't even cognitively access. Grant, to take a toy example, that in two radically different generic modes of consciousness, the nominally same organism (e.g. a DP) can exert a similar capacity both behaviourally to manipulate its environment and pay lip service to the nominally type-identical QM physical formalism describing the world. Given that one occupies systematically co-varying alien states of consciousness, then what is it that these mutually more-or-less inaccessible virtual worlds both share? Their respective textures define what one thinks the world is like - both the virtual world simulation and the metaphysical Multiverse they're presumably all stuck in. Yet insofar as these modes are mutually accessible to 'memory' at all, they seem ineffably different. Evolutionary epistemology can't straightforwardly be used to underwrite one generic mode rather than the other; any more than it can be used to underwrite the supposedly mind-independent phenomenal greenness of grass when other types of what-it's-likeness could have done the same functional job. So which if either - or any - mode of experience should be privileged? The introspective and semantic analogues to the problem of spectrum inversion are, I think, much more profound in their sceptical implications than its usual gaudy sensory puzzle-cases. They are certainly far harder to express.

1.32 But I can't prove this a priori. Until the Inquisitorial state-enforced censorship of knowledge peculiar to outlawed states of consciousness is lifted, then overground academic researchers will be immersed, often without knowing it, within the often sterile and sometimes cosily common-sensical confines of one state-specific medium. Occupants of its impoverished semantic and evidential base need a dose of drastic - but not too drastic - simulated annealing if consciousness studies is not to run the danger of congealing into a stagnant if often shark-infested puddle of debate. Regrettably, an empirically-grounded strategy can be ethically and responsibly advocated only when the genetically-engineered substrates for happy tripping predicted by HI become ubiquitous. Only then can wholesale research begin. To my mind the moral urgency of HI wholly eclipses its beneficent intellectual spin-offs. Yet when the momentous phase-change to universal well-being occurs - whatever the time-scale - the epistemic pay-off will be awe-inspiring beyond our wildest imagination.

1.33 More immediately, the incongruous attitude to the empirical method is a vice which bedevils cognitive science and the armchair traditions of mainstream analytic philosophy of mind as a whole. Within this pre-Galilean context - safe-surfing visitors to HedWeb expecting bland textual exegesis and good old-fashioned peer-reviewed commentary might do best to leave the site altogether - Chalmers is in total command of his material. One can only marvel at his enviable but wholly unobtrusive familiarity with the literature. Deplorably, one can find oneself relying on Chalmers rather than chasing up original texts. As far as I can tell he is, with few exceptions, a disconcertingly reliable guide.


The Coherence of Cosmic Minddust?
An Ideal Monism Versus Soulless Dualism

2.0 Chalmers' diagnosis of the failure of consciousness to supervene logically - and not just naturally - on an exhaustive specification of the world's microphysical interactions leads to his most startling and controversial contention. He argues for a scientifically respectable sort of
dualism. At this point, many commentators will just mentally switch off, or at least start preening their hackles. So it's worth stressing that in Chalmers' hands the doctrine is stripped of any Cartesian, theological and interactionist implications. Indeed, on one of his canvassed options, it's at least weakly epiphenomenalist. At the risk of giving too great a nod to mob-psychology, something remarkably similar to epiphenomenalism is probably the working hypothesis of most practising scientists, even avowed physicalists.

2.1 As will be seen, however, there is one other candidate for a unitary monist ontology open to the science-savvy philosopher with strong nerves and a thick skin. For Chalmers' honest embrace of what materialists deride as the ultimate philosophical doomsday scenario stems from the alleged failure of every conceivable monism to accommodate the evidence. It's argument could be sound only if we've got our supervenience base right. If our conception of the ultimate "low-level" facts is wrong, then a reductive explanation of human minds is potentially feasible. The ontological unity of science can still be salvaged; or even enshrined, according to taste. This proposal isn't nearly as far-fetched as it sounds. The historical track-record of science-derived candidates for ontological primitives is poor. Indeed, on all but purely and vacuously causal notions of reference, then the record is dismal; and reference-failure is historically the norm. True believers in scientific progress can of course point to ever-greater predictive and explanatory power, mathematically unified description, aeroplanes that fly and working video-recorders, etc. Paradigm-enthusiasts, on the other hand, will adopt a less triumphalist tone. They can't see how to dispense with descriptivist notions of reference altogether; and having always been wrong before doesn't entail one is now right. Paradigm-fanciers tend to scorn the simple-minded Whiggism and rational reconstructionist fables colouring the text-books. They are far more impressed by the dis-continuities in our notions of the stuff of the world. What's the point in getting the formulae right if you fundamentally don't know what you're talking about?

2.2 At any rate, these days dualism of any kind is not an option a scientifically well-versed philosopher takes on lightly. Chalmers is clearly very well-versed. He isn't a wanton mystery-monger either. Understandably, he doesn't exactly relish the "dualist" label. It brings too much extraneous philosophical baggage. Only his intellectual integrity, I suspect, leads him to use it at all. On the PR front, he might have done better politically to use a different tag - perhaps some sort of pan-informationalist monism with two irreducible attributes - though in fact that position is only one of his options and perhaps does too great a violence to language. Anyway, Chalmers generally endorses, rightly I think, the experimentally well-attested causal closure of the physical world. Causal closure is normally interpreted as imposing a brutally effective constraint on the metaphysical excesses of qualia-freaks and their allies. It also puts paid to apologists for divine interventionism; though down here at the research-labs members of the living dead are disturbingly frequent callers to the doorsteps of Lower Rock Gardens. So Chalmers first carefully examines all the scientifically-informed options before tacking his own ontological colours to the mast.

2.3 The positive theory of consciousness he outlines is courageously unfashionable. Indeed one fears its public advocacy may set a professionally dangerous example to untenured junior academics. The account is non-reductive. Yet it still aspires to be explanatory. It takes the guise of a non-Cartesian dualism based schematically on:

  • first, principles of structural coherence and organizational invariance: a sort of non-reductive functionalism. Systems with the same functional organization as a conscious system will also be conscious;
  • second, a double-aspect view of information. Information,"a difference that makes a difference" is fundamental to the Chalmers cosmos. He extends Shannon's technical, non-semantic, bit-capacity definition of information so it embraces both a physical and an experiential element. Daringly, he suggests that perhaps wherever there is any form of causal interaction there is also experience.
2.4 Inevitably these concepts will need to bear an awful lot of weight. It is a tribute to Chalmers' good-natured assault on fraying materialist orthodoxy that the range of conceivable options on the contemporary ideological agenda has now been widened.

2.5 Chalmers also treats with admirable respect, however, a radically conservative family of options for naturalising consciousness within an ontologically unitary scientific world-picture. One of the offshoots of this family consists in a mathematico-physically formalised species of panpsychism. A naturalistic panpsychism embraces, or can be construed as embracing, the technical apparatus of theoretical gr/qc physics in its entirety. There's no need to start adding unknown fields and forces. There's no need, and in fact it's grossly unprincipled, to start messing up the symmetry of the [relativised] Universal Schrodinger Equation by invoking collapsing wave functions. Such manoeuvres are unphysical and hopelessly ad hoc. They are no way to work awkward anomalies of consciousness back into the plot.

2.6 Within a panpsychist framework, and in current analytic idiom, everything that exists "supervenes" on the properties of the world's elemental qualia-stuff. This elemental what-it's-likeness is the primordial "fire" whose behaviour the QM field-theoretic etc apparatus mathematically describes. It's an idea which may take an intellectually traumatised ex-materialist some getting use to; but then time heals, or so one is told.

2.7 Unsurprisingly, the traditional keepers of the scientific canon are unlikely to roll over and surrender its official interpretation without a fight. Philosophical trespassing on the physicists' tribal domain has a habit of provoking disciplinary turf-wars. The philosophers usually lose; or at least blink first. No one, in any case, is going to get treated as a fount of oracular wisdom if they find mending the toaster a major technological challenge. Yet the historical precedents for decoupling a scientific formalism from its received ontology are strong. This is so even (or arguably especially) within the discipline of physics itself (cf the classical paradigm versus quantum mechanics etc). It's not as though the property of insentience were somehow written into, or formally entailed by anything explicitly represented within, the canonical formalism. Nor does insentience serve any unique functional role in biology. What's it good for? What fresh predictions does the hypothesis lead to? Why commit oneself to an unverifiable piece of metaphysical speculation which runs counter to the only piece of direct knowledge of the world one has? In fact, just so long as its constituents are functionally well-disposed, there doesn't seem anything that bits of field-theoretic what-it's-likeness couldn't do just as well instead.

2.8 Incendiary rubbish? Well, what our descendants conceive of as "science" may involve a very alien metaphysic to our own. Certainly, some ideas are too useful not to be rescued from their ancestors. In particular, the experimental method and the use of mathematics in understanding and manipulating the stuff of the world are too important as techniques of inquiry to be left to the ideological materialists who currently dominate the traditional intellectual power-structures. Happily, the Net is allowing untutored barbarians into the gates of the scholarly citadel; and the vagaries of keyword info-hunting via manipulable search-engines offer an unrivalled opportunity to corrupt unindoctrinated youth.

2.9 At its most Idealistic extreme, a panpsychist approach assumes that the values of a minimal, intrinsic and ontologically primitive what-it's-likeness are exhaustively encoded by the solutions to field-theoretic equation(s) of the Theory of Everything. The maths says it all. There's no need to import anything else and graft it on, or for that matter to spin anything else irreducible off. We live in a Multiverse where mathematical literalism works. We're just not much better than medieval numerologists at deciphering the significance of the formulae. Like aspirant sorcerers, too, we know that getting the magical symbols even slightly wrong can sometimes have catastrophic practical consequences.

2.10 On a panpsychist account, composite mental states are shifting coalitions of elemental psychons - though not in Eccles' original sense of the term. These minimal bits of what-it's-likeness are scarcely Leibnizian monads either. And they're certainly not little classically well-behaved psychic billiard-balls. For rather than forming, as one might pre-reflectively suppose any such properties ought to, pointillist aggregates of consciousness - mere psychotic patterns of discrete subjectivity - organic minds exemplify instead a fleeting and classically inexplicable unity.

How come? This is currently an area of active research and spirited debate. So here's a breathlessly biased, one-paragraph whistle-stop tour.

2.11 Chalmers, wearing his pan-informationist hat, suggests the unity of consciousness may be explicable by the way types of information is processed (p 309 is tantalisingly brief). On the other hand, the "grainlessness" of DNA-driven experiential manifolds may just conceivably be explicable by the non-additive nature of quantum mechanical wave-functions. As Seager stresses, invoking QM can't generate consciousness de novo. What it can do is show how the stuff of the world can be non-additively re-arranged into phenomenological minds. If this is what the equations are telling us, then primitive psychons form superpositions in the quantum mechanical sense. A superposition of states itself forms a genuinely new state with properties different from the properties of the mixture. Hence quantum wholes are not just the sum of their parts and we're more than a handful of minddust. So William James, who coined the term, was wrong. Next, co-opting and adapting a no-collapse interpretation of Hameroff's work for our purposes, interesting human mental states may be unwittingly manifesting a macro- or meso-scopic quantum coherence which orthodoxy assumes they're too hot to handle. Unitary experience, on this conception, derives from formally identical panpsychist analogues of tubulin states of microtubules. The biophysical details are still somewhat speculative.

2.12 In a less conservative vein, one may predict that in distant millennia larger and more sustained coherent states will self-organise into phenomenologically richer, subtler, vaster, more intense, more self-aware and unimaginably more interesting virtual worlds than the cartoonish patterns our minds exemplify at present. No longer will most of our consciousness get sculpted into functional analogues of brute insentience - medium-sized dry objects in the service of selfish DNA. Nor, more generally, will the different modalities of experience be essentially geared to modelling the immediate environment of a genetic host organism in a way which tends to promote its reproductive success. The next few billion years of consciousness, however, is a topic which might take us further afield.

2.13 Of course, the physicists' canonical equations aren't standardly construed as encoding the interrelationships of fields of micro-qualia. Transposing the idiom of physics into talk of e.g. symmetry-transformations of subjectivity etc, sounds more like a recipe for schizophrenic word-salad than a plea for scientifically-informed philosophy. At least until figures of Chalmers' calibre started giving panpsychist conjectures a respectful if cautiously dissentient hearing, a willingness to grant the existence of consciousness anywhere phylogenetically "lower" than about worms [if perhaps not as high as Daniel Dennett] belonged to the scientific lunatic-fringe. Many practising scientists would still be suitably scandalised; and they'd cheerfully consign the very idea to the madhouse once more. It is so obviously wrong. If, however, the canonical mathematics describes a world whose animating fire is unknown, then there's nothing on current evidence to rule out the parsimonious hypothesis that the intrinsic nature of everything is sentience. This property alludes not to some ethereal wisp of consciousness tacked on to inert atoms, strings, p-branes, strings, fields etc. Or rather that's emphatically not the version of panpsychism canvassed here. The property consists instead in minimal, self-intimating what-it's-likeness itself.

2.14 This switch in perspective may seem pretty radical. In other ways it's exceedingly conservative. Today's book of stories just gets re-translated. Non-equilibrium thermodynamics and statistical mechanics work just as well with a different sort of stuff. Simple self-replicating patterns within the primordial field-theoretic what-it's likeness eventually come to function as structurally invariant analogues of the Darwinian materialist's genotype/phenotype model. Self-reproducing, information-bearing patterns of quasi-discrete, base-paired micro-sentience have stumbled across one highly effective way of leaving more copies of themselves. They don't promote their own inclusive fitness by throwing up vehicles hosting hippified minds which go on to commune with Nature in celebration of cosmic consciousness. On the African savannah, this is a good way to end up as lunch. Instead, information-bearing patterns of micro-qualia have enhanced their fitness by coding for vehicles hosting macro-minds. These minds simulate something different - squalid, harsh and cruelly adaptive. Our genes include the instructions for, in effect, self-assembling, self-differentiating patterns of subjectivity. These functionally coalesce into egocentric - because genes are selfish - but object-ridden virtual worlds. Such worlds, whether dreamed up while the host organism sleeps or environmentally-selected after one wakes, feature simulacra of insentient classical objects. Intrinsically subjective stuff can simulate something else altogether. In fact many of the several tens of thousands of genes expressed only in the mind/brain are coding for the substrates of virtual macroscopic worlds. Virtual macroscopic worlds are 'what it's like' to be the mind/brain's topographic maps.

2.15 One tempting cop-out would describe the field-theoretic ur-stuff as mere proto-consciousness. Like proto-pregnancy, this notion will take a lot to make it work. Moreover, it still leaves the momentous shift from an alleged proto-consciousness to the real thing dangling as an unexplained bolt-from-the-blue. Granted, consciousness manifestly varies in intensity as well as mode. Searing pain is sharper than a barely-noticeable ache. Yet even on the otherwise-fruitful dimmer-switch model, there's all the difference in the world between complete insentience - an interesting if shamelessly ungrounded hypothesis which yields no testable predictions - and the world's putative first micro-tickle. The 'proto-' escape-route can't magic away a radical discontinuity between sentience of any texture at all and its hypothesised absence.

2.16 The point can be expressed a little more forcefully. On the evidence disclosed by one notable if organisationally atypical part of the world - the part whose noumenal essence one exemplifies rather than conjectures on at one remove - then "matter" is indescribably weirder than any simple-minded physicalist checklist of its attributes would allow. Michael Lockwood, I think, has done most to put across this point to philosophers; though he disavows panpsychism. Most radically, mass-energy self-intimatingly is - rather than adventitiously has - irreducibly first-personal, subjective and indexical properties. Taken as an empirically-grounded generalisation to the properties of the rest of the world, such a leap is admittedly dizzyingly implausible to products of a conventional scientific training. If one discounts all psychological queasiness as irrelevant, however, then there's no substantive ground for thinking pure panpsychism is improbable. The question is open. Insentience needs arguing for; not thoughtlessly presupposing. In frustration, panpsychism's over-scientised debunkers usually rely on knee-jerk ridicule rather than rationality to carry their case. "You can't be serious!" one may be told, as though bien pensant earnestness were a sure-fire recipe for truth. Strictly speaking, though, it is the posit of insentience elsewhere in the world which constitutes the recklessly speculative, counter-inductive, and perhaps semantically unnaturalisable metaphysics.

2.17 This isn't to say one can't, on the face of it, conceive of places elsewhere - and moments elsewhen - which lack ontologically idealistic status completely. For naturalistic panpsychism entails the existence of pervasive fields etc of a sort of what-it's-likeness which is presumably so minimal in its phenomenal texture - at least in high-entropy and low-energy regimes - that one can almost imagine subtracting it altogether. This mental process of subtraction apparently leaves fields of insentient who-knows-whatness in its place. Such exercises of the imagination don't entail Absolute Insentience is really feasible; nor perhaps even that it is - who knows - strictly intelligible. The intuitions which follow are unlikely to be searchingly challenged, however, because they still smell right to the twentieth-century scientific-mind.

2.18 Naturally, for certain human purposes, the structure and ascribed function of our constituent cosmic mind-dust is more important than its particular minimal phenomenal character. It is functionally irrelevant in our classificatory scheme if the more-or-less discrete constituents comprising, for instance, a digital computer consist in any sort of rudimentary consciousness. If they do, such silicon etc consciousness presumably amounts in any case to a mere aggregate of quasi-punctate and mutually unaware wisps of what-it's-likeness. This stands in contrast to the massive parallelism supporting organic wetware's (warm and quantum-coherent?) experiential manifolds.

2.19 Yet this functional irrelevance doesn't entail that an intrinsic phenomenal character is absent in digital computers. If it were demonstrably absent, then the case for dualism would actually be strengthened. Instead, the boringly minimal phenomenal character which a silicon etc computer's micro-constituents may instantiate simply doesn't bear on their functional role in a particular computer program. A given program - as we would interest-relatively construe it - will be implemented on stuff which is interesting to us precisely insofar as it's systematically interpretable as doing something radically different from inertly subsisting as a minimal psychic dross - or indeed subsisting as the insentient mass-energy we might more normally assume.

2.20 Or at least that's one particular panpsychist perspective. Chalmers, by contrast, suspects sentience itself and all its values arises in the information-bearing and substrate-independent role of innumerable micro-functional states. The Conscious Mind adapts and extends the notion of information in Shannon's technical, extrinsic and relational sense so that it correlates with intrinsic phenomenal consciousness - perhaps as a brute psychophysical principle or natural law. In this double-aspect scheme, information is a sort of tertium quid realised throughout the physical and phenomenal world. The internal aspects of information states are phenomenal. The external aspects are physical. "...Or as a slogan: Experience is information from the inside; physics is information from the outside." (p305)

2.21 Chalmers stresses repeatedly that his positive proposals are tentative. It's not that the McGinn and the new mysterians are necessarily wrong. They insist, as does Chalmers, that mind is a wholly natural phenomenon, yet they argue that The World-Knot may never be unravelled or dissolved by any strands of its own parts because they are constitutionally incapable of it. It's just that mysterianism doesn't - any more than global scepticism - represent a very fruitful strategy for finding out anything. At the very least, Chalmers' proposals are an example of the sort of conceptual revolution which a failure to vindicate the ontological unity of the world in either of its two traditional categories might precipitate.

2.22 I still think Chalmers is too quick to dismiss the chances of straight scientific monism. Perhaps pill-popping panpsychist Everettistas aren't best qualified to sound a note of caution; however, I wouldn't seek to dissuade them. In clinging to a conservatively-conceived ontological unity of the world, the modern panpsychist will still want to exploit the substrate-neutral language of functionalism and the information-theoretic paradigm as a useful heuristic tool. The framework offers a very useful conceptual handle on what's going on. What he doesn't do is reify information. God is not a computer programmer - though the different values of His primitives can sometimes take on an information-like role. A research project which aims to explore how primal "concrete" properties, objects or events can in varying degree simulate the existence and quasi-autonomous behaviour of successive functional virtual levels of what would otherwise be radically alien abstract objects is more promising, I think, than a strategy coming from the opposite direction. The rival "Olympian" strategy presupposes the existence of (in one sense) "high-level" abstract objects. It then has to deal how they can be realised or instantiated in, or supervene on, or at least related to, concreta. I don't see how it can be done.

2.23 Likewise, and in a similar spirit of wholesome opportunism, the panpsychist helps himself to the formal apparatus of physical theory. He simply discards, in the manner of the late luminiferous ether or early quasi-classical models of a miniature atomic solar system, the morass of sordid mental images with which we paradoxically associate materialistic ontology. Often unavowed, these little pictures of what the stuff of the world must consist in are in fact - if purest mathematico-physical panpsychism is the case - an excrescence which we mentally glue onto the field-theoretic formalism. The pictures themselves derive both from our genetically predisposed model of macroscopic "perception" - fundamentally the Sellars' 'Manifest Image' of the world bequeathed from our childhood - and an ill-conceived faith that contemporary physics yields us knowledge of essences as well as relations.

2.24 Needless to say, the twin bugbears of a scientised panpsychism or an ontologically hybrid property-dualism are not the only reality-models competing for our allegiance. Yet they're the only two candidates for authentic bedrock I'll consider here. Why does The Conscious Mind decline neat panpsychism as a monist option?

2.25 Chalmers affirms that the role played by simplicity in scientific explanation "cannot be overstated". (p216). He is also a materialist, or at least a physicalist, by temperament. He disavows any mystical or religious leanings; not enough soul-stirring entheogens, perhaps. Nevertheless, he finds that sheer intellectual honesty compels him to argue for a scientifically domesticated brand of dualism. This is because, after painstakingly evaluating the explanatory options canvassed by all of today's acknowledged philosophico-scientific heavyweights, he finds that "almost everything in the world can be reductively explained; but consciousness may be an exception"(xv).

2.26 Consciousness, Chalmers argues, is a fundamental property of the Cosmos. There isn't anything more primitive in terms of which it can be explained. It nonetheless (and there is some tension here, IMO) "arises" from, or occurs "in virtue of" (p243) physical matter. Just as a matter of brute empirical fact, the physical and explanatory basis of our phenomenal judgements is, apparently, also the physical basis of qualia themselves. A first-personal aspect, Chalmers contends, is unaccountably emergent from the [notionally] third-person-understandable substrate - every minute and in a womb near you.

2.27 At this point, one can't stop oneself asking how, why, when, and in what form does momentous spark of subjectivity first occur if everything had been ticking along quite fine without it? [but see next] Why does universal insentience break down and spin off [or a-causally begin to correlate or co-vary with] a junior, intimately linked, but nonetheless irreducible partner? For what reason do physical systems with the same abstract organisation "...give rise to the same kind of conscious experience, no matter what they are made of"? If psychophysical laws exist, we will surely want to know why they exist. This urge to understand the connection is likely to nag us whether or not the question is (post-)humanly answerable.

2.28 Perhaps, as Chalmers suggests, we may eventually learn that these questions are idle or ill-posed. The linkage may constitute a fundamental law, or perhaps a meta-law, of nature: systematic psychophysical correlations are something we must just learn to accept. On this sort of account, psycho-physical laws have always existed. But until physical systems evolved that satisfied the relevant antecedent conditions, there could be no consciousness either (p171). Yet if Chalmers is right, then Nature's core principles might actually be messier and less simple, or at least their theoretical elegance more heavily disguised, than the regulative unifying ideology of theoretical physics would have us suppose.

2.29 Hidden simplicity and symmetry, however, have been two of the most fertile clues which physics has given us - or so we imagine - as to the underlying principles on which the world works. Arguably, they shouldn't be surrendered without putting up a more desperate fight. Moreover the concepts which Chalmers cites as the sorts of physical primitive which we must just take as read - for explanation must allegedly come to a stop somewhere - are in fact the topic of hard if inconclusive investigation even now: mass, via some variant of the proposed Higgs-mechanism; electric charge as a manifestation of extra compactified "Kaluza-Klein" dimensions; and space-time itself, as a derived property in a post-classical successor to general relativity.

2.30 This isn't remotely to deny there are still too many ostensibly arbitrary and ill-understood values of (what are currently treated as) basic physical parameters. These we have just to "put in by hand". Their arbitrariness must still count as provisional. We've no need, or not yet at any rate, to elevate our ignorance itself into a meta-scientific principle. Perhaps we'll theorise that broken symmetries are manifested differently elsewhere in other inflated domains of the Multiverse as an expression of some still dimly-imagined universal symmetry. Perhaps the answer will be something else again. Yet one needs to know a great deal about anything to be confident it is inexplicable; and if one doesn't, one can't.

2.31 It is worth contrasting the dualist and panpsychist options here a bit further. Chalmers advocates a research program which seeks to discover what will ideally be a simple set of psychophysical principles. His conceptual framework amounts to a sort of non-reductive functionalism. Within it, we would seek to correlate the multitudinous flavours of consciousness with a presumably equally multitudinous cast of functions. The explanatory gulf between the physical and the phenomenal is to be remedied by a series of functionalist bridging-laws.

2.32 One of the troubles with functions, however, is that they tend to be discernible only as comparatively "high-level", interest-relative constructs. They're not arbitrary, admittedly. Yet they are convention-bound and hard to individuate. Presumably some do, and some don't, 'give rise to' sentience. Yet there's nothing conventional about sentience, as distinct from our ascriptive practices in recognising and classifying it. On a dualist analysis, even if a complete set of psychophysical bridging principles were to be established, there would seem an almost irresistible compulsion to ask how, let alone why, consciousness can "arise" from matter and energy [Is there any principled reason why it can't, say, "fall out", "levitate", "capsize"? The implausibility argument against panpsychism cuts both ways; though aggressive materialism surely deserves to be the primary target] "Arising" and its spatial kith and kin is a recurrent metaphor in almost all discussions of consciousness. Materialists, epiphenomenalists and scientific property-dualists alike rely on it heavily. Yet it is a creaky, unilluminating and deeply suspect turn of speech. Both it and its motley retinue of relatives need to be painstakingly pulled apart - and perhaps discarded. For their use encourages something easy to repudiate, but hard to prevent, namely the habit of imagining some sort of diaphanous ectoplasm wafting up or hovering around gooey grey brainy wetware - even though one knows, and freely avows, that such a picture is hopelessly ill-conceived. Naturally, no one in polite society is arguing that this picture is actually correct. Yet a little introspection suggests that one's thinking 'about' consciousness is steeped in a submerged imagery of all sorts of dubious philosophical goings-on. Some of them one would rather not talk about - and for quite understandable reasons.

2.33 More function-troubles now rear their head. In living organisms, neo-Darwinism has taught us how to cash out the appearance of purpose-built design as mere causally-contrived simulation honed by the processes of natural selection. So when, precisely, do the simulations progressively wrought by low-level causal interactions need to be supplemented by an irreducible ontology of qualia-generating functions - rather than simply lend themselves more easily to quasi-functional description? Do the functions do any causal work independently of the substrates in which they are (in tainted top-downspeak) realised? and if so, how? Why do functions generate their own, wholly non-conventional phenomenology? Why don't some functions, evidently, generate their own distinctive phenomenology (group minds etc)? Can't the playing out of crass causal processes allow simulations which just get better and better?

2.34 Worse still, innumerable states of consciousness haven't been harnessed into playing any particular functional, behavioural, information-playing role at all. They are no less real. The astonishing modes of sentience inducible by DMT, for instance, are intellectually fascinating beyond belief. Yet their interest doesn't lie in their non-existent - and indeed not even counterfeit - functional role in our informational economy - though conceivably, millennia hence, they might play a quasi-informational role somewhere else. Their interest certainly doesn't lie in their (in)fidelity in tracking or causally co-varying (etc) with the mind-independent environment in genetic fitness-enhancing ways. If any sort of functionalist story is to be told here, it is at present totally obscure.

2.35 Further still, there are problems with what might seem even archetypal candidates for non-reductive functional correlates. This is because a mode of experience can sometimes get decoupled from any quasi-functional role which it does normally more-or-less play. The pain of some malignant cancers, for instance, is as nasty and intensely conscious as you can get. Yet it isn't functional to anything; and, tragically, it doesn't cease hurting.

2.36 Selection pressure, it should freely be acknowledged, has predisposed, moulded and selected our composite manifolds of sentience in such a way as they assume their present guise. It hasn't, and couldn't, create the primitive elements of the psycho-chemical architecture on which natural selection gets to work. So by contrast with a naturalised dualist strategy, a panpsychist research-program is ontologically simpler, cleaner and more theoretically elegant. It's not tied to ill-individuated and interest-relative functions for its elemental ontology. Thus it's also in principle - and here an air of paradox derives merely from an unfortunate equivocation - more objective.

2.37 In what sense? Well, for example, I can't put into words many elements of the experiential manifold (mind/virtual world) which I now instantiate. Yet - on the perspective under discussion - its constituent textures are precisely encoded by, and homomorphic with, the formalism which would more normally be taken to describe the states of my brain. These equations are, fundamentally, those of quantum mechanics. And just as we can determine what would normally be physically interpreted as the magnetic moment of the electron, for instance, to an accuracy of one part in hundreds of millions, likewise the texture of experience (I'm betting) is precisely encoded with such astonishing accuracy too. Alas the sort of intellectual travelogue found here belies the austere exactitude of the coding I'm talking about.

2.38 A more convenient approximation of the correct formalism might take the guise of the connection and activation evolution equations of the panpsychist analogue of the neural nets I exemplify. Either way, a formalism which embodies an amazingly efficient algorithmic compression of all the values of sentience is ready to hand. This is, potentially, our cognitive good fortune. The scenario couldn't have happened the other way round: a touchy-feely ontology wouldn't have helped in discovering, say, the laws of electromagnetism. Au contraire. We owe the hieroglyphics of sentience to the formal successes of traditional materialism. Finding the psychophysical Rosetta stone is another matter.

2.39 Of course, unless and until we do work out how to decode it, then laying claim to prior ownership of an accurate formalism rings hollow. It's all very well being told that naturalistic panpsychism is potentially more precise and objective than any functionalist dualism because the exact values of its qualia could be, in principle - if only we knew how to do it - exactly "read off" the QM formalism which exhaustively describes their changes. For all the practical good it does, one might as well be told the key to the cosmos lies in an structural generalisation of "abracadabra". Yet whereas a scientised panpsychism ties the values of qualia to the presumptive mathematically-expressible nature of the world - itself a form of structural invariance between currently rival physical and phenomenal conceptual schemes - the interest-relativity of functionalist idiom means the connection between the maths and the textures of consciousness on such a scheme would be far more subtle and elusive. Tying maths, physics and consciousness together by positing that contemporary science is really about the mathematical structures of sentience is far more elegant and intellectually satisfying; on my current chemical regimen, at any rate.


Is Anyone at Home?
The Big Sleep and the Worldly Dispositions Of Incoherent Minds

3.0 Crudely, if materialism or even any its kissing-cousins were true, then logically we all ought to be zombies. In Chalmers' property-dualist approach, zombies are naturally but not logically impossible. Zombies are ruled out, Chalmers would argue, because of the existence of a set of psychophysical bridging laws additional to the laws of physics as standardly conceived. On a naturalistic panpsychism, by contrast, then the quantum mechanical formalism is neither altered nor added to, simply re-interpreted. A non-redundant causal efficacy for mental states just goes with the ontological furniture. [Whether it yields a causal efficacy of a kind worth having is another issue.] So, at its simplest, the empirical evidence plus Occam's razor favour a subjectivist ontology.

3.1 Occam's razor, it might rightly be countered, is a mere methodological precept, not a law of nature. Yet Nature seems to be remarkably lazy. She has very few principles at all [perhaps even only a single principle? : the ubiquitous, scale-invariant conservation of a condition analogous to zero???]. Such simplicity of principle apparently suffices to generate the extraordinarily rich structures and phenomenal complexity we're stuck with today. A non-interactionist dualism, on the other hand, is [epistemically] feasible but still messy and ad hoc. It defeats the spirit of Wheeler's surmise that "...we will grasp the central idea of it all as so simple, so beautiful, so compelling that we will all say to each other, 'Oh! How can it have been otherwise? How could we all have been so blind for so long?'"

3.2 Panpsychism, it should be stressed, isn't a recipe for feel-good philosophy and the re-enchantment of the world. In fact generating the universal feel-good factor will demand a remarkably mechanistic strategy in all but name. Moreover we've no evidence whether the different values of brute psychons themselves are just abject 'tickles', fragments of the god-head, or something else altogether - though in some branches of the universal wave-function ersatz demi-Gods must occur via wholly naturalistic processes. Unhappily for the purposes of re-enchantment, too, the promised non-redundant causal efficacy for mental states [conceived 'narrowly'] doesn't buy, for instance, free-will or freedom from mathematico-physical law. One may recall [particularly if one has mislaid the reference; can anyone help?] the experiment where a merely locally-anaesthetised subject abruptly raised his hand in response to electrode stimulation of his psycho-motor cortex. "Wow, you did that", he said to the surgeon, or something to that effect. Then the experimenter stimulated an adjacent pre-motor area - and the subject suddenly decided to raise his arm. Interesting. Apparently the phenomenology of willed action no more indicates a radical new form of agent-causality than any other sort of tickle. Real freedom of choice would involve someone, somewhere, doing something violating the continuous, linear, unitary and deterministic evolution of the universal wave function. Not a trick I've managed myself.

3.3 Moreover though panpsychism scotches some worries about the possibility of zombies, it presents others in turn. Given a minimal panpsychist ontology as coded by the QM formalism, then zombies are logically impossible. Phenomenological minds [and the sort of substrate-irrelevant computational-functional virtual minds which phenomenological-minds sometimes simulate] both naturally and logically supervene on the properties of the stuff whose behaviour is described by the laws of physics. Yet at first blush the low-level facts don't rule out silicon etc quasi-zombies. Quasi-zombies lack true experiential manifolds. They are merely functional assemblages of quasi-punctate what-it's-likeness. Perhaps we'll be able to build them one day; though generating zombies via silicon VR rather than building physical robots might be easier. In any event, these notional quasi-zombies can be systematically interpreted as expatiating on their sentience and its mysteries. Their verbal behaviour is consistent with their agonising about The Problem Of Other Minds - but they lack the unitary phenomenal experience to match.

3.4 What's going on here? Should we worry about the possible existence of such exotic beasts? Perhaps meaning-externalists should; but ultimately, IMO, no. This is because carbon chauvinism and functionalism, an admittedly unlikely mesalliance, are actually quite natural bedfellows. For a panpsychist analogue of what we mathematically model - and naively visualise - as a carbon atom is micro-functionally unique in its valence properties. Comparatively warm, silicon etc partial functional analogues to organic psycho-wetware can't muster the presumptive quantum mechanically-described coherence to support even fleetingly unitary room-temperature phenomenal minds. So 'carbon micro-functionalism' might be a better title for this position. It's neither as naive nor as chauvinistic as popular prejudice imagines; not that popular organic prejudice runs very deep around here.

3.5 But let's assume, counterfactually, that carbon isn't uniquely unique. Grant instead that full-blown silicon quasi-zombies are practically feasible. What are they on about when they speak; or rather when they utter the sorts of vocables which we do when talking about our beliefs and desires, our pains and pleasures, our existential angst and indigestion?

3.6 Strictly, I doubt if they're on about anything; or rather the paradox arises only when two radically different senses of 'content' are conflated. Now one-paragraph theories of meaning tend to be over-ambitious. They are preferable to completely unargued one-liners; so, as usual, what the heck, this is cyberspace, here goes. There are two different kinds of content worth distinguishing here, one which is real, narrow and intrinsic; the other simulated, broad and extrinsic. The former, a.k.a. intrinsic intentionality, inherits [albeit non-additively; QM] its subtle variant textural properties from the minimal mind-dust of which it's composed. The cognitive phenomenology making up this sort of content may nonetheless for many [e.g. syntactic, linguiform] purposes be functionally irrelevant - both to the role which intrinsically intentional thought plays in the informational economy of each virtual world in which it occurs and also to its role in any broader teleo-functionally-described eco-system of which it is a part. Natural selection has allowed fundamental self-intimating, self-referential what-it's likeness - phenomenal belief episodes - adaptively to simulute what we dub 'broad' content. An intrinsic, phenomenological 'aboutness' is simulating another ineffable form of 'aboutness' which we just don't, and perhaps can't, understand. Further complications ensue because there are other ways to simulate broad content. It can be simulated by functionally analogous but quasi-zombified robots. Well-programmed or properly trained-up silicon systems apparently do the job just fine. Self-reference, on the other hand, is intrinsically intentional; this thought isn't 'about' anything external to itself. The broad/narrow distinction collapses.

3.7 We thus arrive at another reason why zombies aren't possible. It consists in what is ostensibly a uniquely human ability - but is arguably symptomatic of something elemental and omnipresent in Nature itself. Zombies are by hypothesis behaviourally and neurofunctionally indistinguishable from non-zombies. Nevertheless, they are incapable of authentically self-referential thoughts, such as this one. They are quite capable of behaving in ways systematically interpretable as protesting that of course they can host self-referential thoughts. Some parts of their functional aggregate of constituents can monitor other parts; and in a limited sense, this may be loosely analogous to self-reference. But it's actually something else altogether. Indexicality and self-reference might seem a late development in evolution: specialised, linguistic and surely of no great cosmic import. Yet though scientific culture - abetted by neo-behaviourist philosophy and cognitive science - is geared to promoting introspective illiteracy, one finds that linguistic self-reference and indexical terms have introspectibly discernible phenomenological roots. I'm going to argue their pre-linguistic counterparts are the stuff of the world.

3.8 Even on the orthodox "light-bulb" model of sentience - in which a kind of low-wattage consciousness abruptly switches on from pure insentience when a given level of neurofunctional complexity is attained - then something akin to a minimal self-intimating, self-referential what-is likeness is needed on pain of multiplying miracles beyond necessity. This isn't intuitively obvious: "ownerless" feelings, sensations or thought-episodes might seem a problem for panpsychism, but not for approaches which confine the incidence of qualia to full-blown persons or proto-persons. But unless the phenomenology of personhood and each initial infantile feeling of, say, pain switch on at exactly the same time, then rudimentary flecks of what-it's-likeness must be generated before they can be organised into anything phenomenally and structurally interesting. A primordial pain, for instance, is only ownerless in the sense it is not instantiated in a person. It is still painful by its nature and to itself - whether or not it significantly interpenetrates a wider system.

3.9 Yet surely the success of science, and escape from the false prison of solipsism, both depend on the failure of this kind of subjectivism? When one thinks, verbally or otherwise, about chairs, tables or photons, one needn't be thinking about this chair here right now. Language allows us to abstract from the specificities of time, place and person to construct the scientific 'view from nowhere'. Indexicality and self-reference are puzzling anomalies; but surely not the building blocks of a new world order.

3.10 Once again, this response underestimates the power of the stuff of the world to simulate something radically different from what a pre-reflective consideration of its intrinsic attributes would suggest. On an orthodox physicalist stance, for instance, inert matter can self-organise to simulate something described by alien laws and principles (natural selection and the whole neo-Darwinian synthesis), namely life. Silicon atoms, too, can be arranged to yield virtual worlds which simulate properties and laws radically different from their virtual parental host; hence computers. Equally, I'm arguing, fields of pure subjectivity - courtesy of substrate-neutral 'universal Darwinism' - can adaptively simulate something else entirely thanks to the pressure of natural selection. In dreams, for example, one may trustingly presuppose one is inhabiting an impersonal objective world whose features can be captured and referred to in third-person perspective. Yet the pseudo-public language one uses to do so is covertly indexical. This is because one's entire dreamworld is an autobiographical experiential manifold.

3.11 Surely it's different by day? When one speaks about tables, chairs and intermediate vector bosons, one isn't constrained to talking in some private language of thought about this table or chair or intermediate vector boson - or about myself.

3.12 Well, let's start on a boringly uncontentious note again. When in the grip of one's nightly psychoses, one assumes that one is noisily talking away in a public language about a public world too; and one is wrong. For one's body-image is applying, or lends itself to description in terms of its applying, pseudo-public criteria to make pseudo-public utterances about a pseudo-public but intrinsically subjective world. Dreaming is nonetheless contextually different from being awake in two notable ways. First, the virtual world simulations of one's dreams don't causally co-vary (etc) with the mind-independent environment. Second, an effective muscular atony stops one's extra-cranial body acting out the dramas internal to the virtual worlds which it's hosting. An organism which lacks this highly adaptive [but experimentally reversible] decoupling of its mind/brain and musculature really does act out its dreams. Occasional humans suffer from this rare and dangerous condition. Even though they may behave and speak as if awake, their motions are mere by-products of dream-dramas starring a somato-sensory-homunculus. The vocables which their host body emits while asleep are just by-products of an obliquely indexical mentalese internal to its dreams.

3.13 In the illustrative fable Alone Amongst the Zombies (HI; 2.15) I sketch how natural selection could orchestrate virtual dreamworlds into sometimes amazingly well-integrated organic virtual realities. Peripheral impulses deriving from a host organism's surface transducers serve to select dreamworld states; they don't add to the menu of potential dreamworld options. Environmentally-honed dreamworlds serve as adaptive models which dynamically simulate the extra-mental environment as (un)faithfully as our own. Over millions of years, the DNA-driven coupling of the body-image/somato-sensory cortex and the typical host musculature allows these progressively scientised dreamers to simulate a third-personal impersonal 'view-from-nowhere'. They don't enjoy any broad semantic privileges over silicon etc systems. For their symbols are 'grounded' purely internally within the alienated subjectivity of each extra-homuncular dreamworld. Lacking any muscular atony, however, the bodies of host genetic vehicles obliviously go on to construct an advanced technological civilisation as they act out internal dreamworld dramas. The indexical and self-referential properties of all their dreamworld pseudo-public idiolects gets ever more heavily disguised. Some shy folk even get embarrassed about using the first-person pronoun too freely in their very own dreamworlds; for one does not wish to seem egotistical even to oneself.

3.14 Access to an authentic third-personal perspective would be very useful. Doubtless psychic remote-viewing, too, would be highly adaptive. It might yield up an Aladdin's cave of real semantic goodies as well. Alas such folkish stories of perception are best grouped with other psi-phenomena as spectacularly unproven. If something isn't publicly on offer, however, people tend to use home-grown substitutes in its place. Pseudo-publicity is better than no publicity at all; and what can't be had can be simulated instead. At at rate, a more elaborate adaptation of the dreamworld fable could be used to illustrate how a subjectivist ontology described by laws type-identical to ours could yield a world empirically indistinguishable from our own. Spelling out the differences between them and us in a non-question-begging manner is harder.

3.15 But I'm special. Even if others might suppose me imprisoned in a false mind-set of concepts, I know my meanings roam the cosmos non-locally alighting at will; and I feel like stamping my foot to prove it - virtually or otherwise. All I need to underwrite my conviction is a naturalised theory of meaning; but this has been unaccountably delayed.

3.16 If I'm right, then zombies of a sort are thus much more common than one might suppose. When dreaming, at least, one encounters them all the time. At a minimum, then, a big part of our lives is spent as dupes of mindless phantoms spawned by our own imaginations. When we are awake, of course, then the animated, sensuous, flesh-and-blood figures popping in-and-out of existence around one's egocentric body-image don't look like zombies - yet then neither do their dream-dwelling counterparts. More pertinently, philosophers' zombies don't act like [Hollywood or stuporous Haitian] zombies either: the idea that one could "catch out" a mere humanoid is excluded by the terms in which the usual thought-experiments are couched.

3.17 Recurrent, Night-of-the-Living-Dead dream-psychoses, are thus part of the Human Predicament. But by what manner of means does one temporarily escape their madness in one's early-morning mystical (er...I mean, hey presto, 'naturalistic!' phew!) "awakening" experience? It's not at all clear that one does...

3.18 On an inferential realist analysis of perception, what's essentially changed in waking as distinct from dreaming consciousness is not that a radically different suite of psycho-cortical sub-nets is getting fired up to celebrate the new day. We don't have one set of modules used for vector transformations in dreams and another to mediate self-transcendence - a.k.a. "perception". If we embodied such amazing dual-architecture mind/brains, then one set of mechanisms to avoid thermally-induced decoherence would be needed to support our panoramic dream-experiential manifolds. A second (and frankly incredible) set of decoherence-avoiding mechanisms would have to be invoked to explain our supposedly direct awake presentation with a unitary extra-mental macroscopic world. The mind boggles.

3.19 A far better sketch of a story can be told, though it brings scant comfort to zombiephobes. It's that when one wakes, the occipito-temporal homunculi which form the zombies of one's dreams no longer spontaneously self-generate. They now get activated only after one's genetic host vehicle receives peripheral stimulation from its environment. The zombie-generating mind-dust is still all there. The zombies lurk as dispositions in one's psychoneural weight-space. Their building blocks are in place all ready to leap them into action - loveable, hateable or boring, bless 'em - given half the chance; though since in neural-net-speak they embody neither transparent nor projectible representations, the 'lurking' metaphor shouldn't be pushed too far.

3.20 Ultimately, however, zombie-infestation doesn't depend on peripheral selection for its occurrence, either as a necessary or sufficient condition: zombies are natural both to the ecology of dreaming minds and to "awakened" ones. Their antics, however, tend causally to co-vary with goings-on in other host vehicles and virtual worlds elsewhere only when one is awake. In practice, the types of zombie-pattern which co-vary with one's biological mother, for instance, were originally differentially triggered in the presence of one's natural biological female parent. It was her presence, interacting with one's genetic host vehicle, which enabled the normal trained-up unfolding of one's idiolect of the language of thought in its characteristic pseudo-public guise. Without occipito-temporally generated mother-avatars to train (set the psycho-neural weights etc) one's locally distributed language network, then the normal epigenesis of Wittgensteinian anti-private language arguments couldn't in practice occur. Neither philosophical zombies nor silicon robots are endowed with this conscious, mentalese idiolect as distinct from a grungy neuralese imitation. Nor do they enjoy a conscious virtual world in which their subjective body-image is able to use it: "it's all dark inside" [though perhaps in one sense this turn of phrase is misleading. Darkness is a mode of visual experience; whereas zombies would suffer from a generalised and congenital version of Anton's syndrome. Victims of this syndrome have lost all their visual and visual-associative cortex. They are not merely blind. They don't experience darkness. They don't know what blindness is, nor do they recognise what their residual lexicon of visual terms would normally signify. This is because visual concepts no longer have any meaning to them.]

3.21 Thus positing brute sentience as the stuff of the world doesn't automatically exorcise the spectre of zombies on the cheap. For whether electrode-stimulated or not, dreaming or awake, silicon- or organically- triggered, we each occupy [infelicitously] virtual realities all the time. A fair scattering of the Multiverse consists in them. In common with florid schizophrenics, we (almost) all hear voices which we locate "out there" in an index-linked autobiographical world. Thanks to natural selection, and (sometimes) happily for most of us, waking voices really do causally co-vary (etc) with the dramas in virtual worlds of other genetic vehicles nearby. Yet it does get a bit lonely in here at times.


The Mythology of Neural Porridge
How Narrow-Mindedness Breeds Brainless Ideas

4.0 Chalmers' own demolition job on materialism rests on a number of explicit arguments and tacit presuppositions. It relies on a distinction between low- and high- level facts; on a distinctive notion of reductive explanation; on a tricky and protean philosopher's term of art, "supervenience"; and on an implicit (and ultimately folk-derived?) theory of perception of a macroscopic world. There are advantages, but also potential problems, with all four of these concepts. I'm going to argue that most errors in the philosophy of mind and consciousness - and the reasons for the intractability of the mind/matter relation, derive from a misconceived notion of perceptual experience.

4.1 First, however, it will be as well to accept such a multi-tiered framework of explanation on its own terms. Does it disqualify, not just materialism (yes!), but any form of monism (no, IMO), from prospectively exhausting the furniture of the world?

4.2 Crucial to Chalmers' argument against the possibility of a reductive explanation of our minds is the claim that conscious experience does not logically supervene on the physical. Were mind logically to supervene on low-level facts, or were the notion of "high-" and "low-" level facts untenable, or were our notions of supervenience itself subtly incoherent or misleading, then the argument would fail. And if the equations of physics don't rule out stuff with - or consisting in - intrinsic subjective properties, then Chalmers' project of showing the failure of logical supervenience will depend on there still being an "independent logical space" (p35) for human minds to vary independently of these microphysical facts. Granted both the equations of physics and the intrinsic properties of the stuff they describe, I'm going to argue contra Chalmers that there is no way experiential manifolds can fail to "supervene". Experiential manifolds [a.k.a. minds, a.k.a. multitudes of DNA-driven egocentric virtual worlds churned out in genetic host-vehicles by evolution] support a distinctive mode of experience, nominally insentient matter. This typically gets contrasted with another mode of experience, which is merely a restricted extra-somato-sensory type of consciousness. An explanatory gap opens up when we try to explain one by reducing it to the other. Posed like this, the problem can't be solved. One could no more ontologically reduce a symphony to a landscape.

4.3 If it can't be ruled out except by fiat that complex minds do supervene on "low-level" facts - though they most certainly don't supervene on materialist factoids - then there is a more radically conservative and ontologically parsimonious option than property dualism, epiphenomenalism, pan-informationalism, or any jury-rigged system of further options. The ontology of monistic panpsychism in effect denies any "explanatory gap" between "high-" and "low-" level facts - if such an idiom is to be retained. To be a feasible proposal, the low-level facts will of course need to be essentially different in character from the tenets of classically-inspired materialist orthodoxy. The difference is in their intrinsic nature : the relational properties of micro-qualia will be captured by a type-identical formalism. This is because the inherently phenomenal micro-stuff must still accommodate all the prodigious experimental, explanatory and technological successes of contemporary science. More positively, they are far better capable of redeeming the prodigious failures of science; which tend to be far less-touted, particularly by the drug-naive.

4.4 The existence of a ubiquitous and minimal what-it's-likeness as intrinsic to the stuff of the world, or as the stuff of the world itself, is an option which Chalmers does seriously and sympathetically consider. Yet he ultimately rejects it. I want to understand, as best I can, his reasons for doing so; not least because - unsettlingly - Chalmers (see below) gives the best exposition I've come across of the family of positions one of which I'm advocating. For it is quite consistent to agree with the materialist that QM is mathematically (complications aside!) complete and yet to argue that what presently pass for physical concepts "can be given topic-neutral analyses that might pick out underlying phenomenal properties" (p135; Chalmers is here expounding the quasi-Russellian position of the late Grover Maxwell).

4.5 This approach, Chalmers acutely notes, delivers a form of idealistic monism which is radically unlike Berkeley's. For on this view, "the world is not supervenient on the mind of an observer, but rather consists in a vast causal network of phenomenal properties underlying the physical laws that science postulates" (p155). Chalmers notes that "Physical laws can be interpreted as laws that connect intrinsic properties (or properties constructed out of these) to their relational profiles (or to complex relational structures). We are led first to the relational structure of the causal network, and only slowly to the underlying intrinsic properties."

4.6 Indeed, "No set of facts about physical structure and dynamics can add up to a fact about phenomenology" (p118). Yet any conclusive inference to the failure of logical supervenience, were it to succeed, would depend on physics additionally granting us an understanding of the noumenal essence of the stuff whose behaviour its equations exhaustively describe. And this is what physics just doesn't do.

4.7 So why does Chalmers reject such an account he expounds so incisively? He acknowledges that "Physics tells us nothing about what mass is, or what charge is; it simply tells us the range of different values that these features can take on, an tells us their effects on other features"(302). He grants that "Physical theory only characterises its basic entities relationally, in terms of their causal and other relations to other entities" (p153). He's prepared to canvass an interpretation that avoids both epiphenomenalism and Cartesian dualism. He's willing to speculate that phenomenal properties "implement" the dispositions that physical theory deals in. Yet he still doesn't buy monistic idealism. If our ignorance qua physicists of what "breathes fire into the equations" really is unqualified, however, then recourse to at the very least a topic-neutral construal of the QM formalism would seem inescapable. The equations, as before, exhaustively describe the behaviour of the pro tem topic-neutrally construed stuff of the world. Our enforced agnosticism about the stuff's intrinsic nature means one might just as well allege that insentience as much as sentience fails logically to supervene on its properties. We simply don't know whether it does or doesn't; the panpsychist is betting, he fancies with inside information, that it does.

4.8 I'd guess Chalmers would argue that even if it naturally supervenes, it doesn't logically supervene. Unfortunately, any serious discussion of the issues here would demand at least a treatise on modality and doubtless a better cocktail of nutritional supplements. In this piece, I shall just for once have to dogmatise.

4.9 The notion of non-epistemic possibility, or any substantive distinction between x and (redundantly IMO) necessarily x, is empirically ungrounded and philosophically ill-motivated. In practice of course it is indispensable. I'm just not convinced it can do all the philosophical work Chalmers wants it to do. For unfortunately contingency is a deeply mysterious and ill-defined notion. Any bid to show that anything could really be different from how it is founders in assuming what it seeks to prove. There are no real grounds for believing what exists could naturally or logically be otherwise. If sometimes we don't understand why something couldn't be otherwise relative to certain background conditions, then no deep ontological consequences flow from our epistemic frailties. Logical possibility is often taken to be possibility in the broadest sense ["It is useful to think of a logically possible world as a world that it would have been in God's power (hypothetically!] to create, had he so chosen." (p35)] Yet the fact that we find the need to resort to such conceits is revealing. It shows the problems our intuitive conceptions bring when made to bear independent ontological weight.

4.10 Surely, the counter-argument might run, it needn't logically be the case that everything is the way it is? Well, it depends on your conception of logic and your choice of primitives, axioms and operators. With the right primitives and operators, perhaps everything else logically supervenes, albeit non-provably. Intuitively, one is liable to find the notion of anything existing logically absurd. The empirical evidence suggests one is massively in error. So one's concepts are wrong. Wholly at sea, one can't simply junk one's entire categorical raft altogether [Neurath]. So one tries to rework parts of it while guessing it is all rotten. Any sort of existence strikes me as daft; but I've had to learn to live with it. So assuming that something somehow analogous to 0 ought to obtain as the default condition, I look rigorously [who else? ed] to define what precisely would have had to obtain for 0 to be the case as decency suggests it should. If it does seems nonsensical and absurd that anything exists - though something-or-other manifestly does - then one seeks to explicate one's intuitive concept of 'nothingness' or complete absence of properties so it becomes formally equivalent to zero. Zero is a surprisingly rich concept of astonishing fertility in maths, however queasy one may feel about using anything which smacks of reifying "Nothing". Given the properties of this ill-understood primitive, however, than an attempt can be made to extract everything - logically, physically, phenomenologically, and mathematically - from its unique status.

4.11 No, as it happens, I wasn't on acid at the time I was delivered of this little epiphany; just feeling intellectually desperate. For at times even much of physics can seem remarkably akin to stamp-collecting. More to our purposes here, however, Chalmers still has work to do to show that our minds fail logically to supervene on the micro-facts.

4.12 Substantive possibility aside, even epistemic possibility is more problematic than one would wish. Again relative to certain background conditions, one can apparently conceive of all sorts of things as being otherwise than how they are. This is a far from straightforward idea. Inevitably, simply to get off the ground, such a notion already presupposes that one's mental episodes can possess - as distinct from simulate - an otherwise ineffable feature of the Multiverse known in the trade as "broad" content. This is the marvellous sort of relational content that "ain't in the head". All rational debate must assume something like it, even if no one quite knows what 'it' is. Calling it 'naturalistic' demystifies without illuminating its nature. In the case of contingent propositions, the problem is far worse. For one can't even invoke causal co-variation (etc) to legitimate their force. Yet unless realism about subjunctive conditionals can be reconciled with scientific naturalism, then one hasn't even really conceived of the purported referents of one's thought-episodes as being different from how they are. Scientifically legitimating indicatives is hard enough; subjunctives pose difficulties which are orders of magnitude worse.

4.13 Ascribing to some of one's real, spatio-temporally located thought-episodes the capacity to access real contingency is a practical necessity. Yet once again it's worryingly like a (sometimes) heuristically useful fiction - and just the sort of snow-job at which natural selection, played out over the aeons, excels. Even Everett's Multiverse, a false friend to the possible world enthusiast, simply is a superposition, not a set of alternate, absolutely non-interfering realties. [Actually, our little multiverse is arguably only one vacuum fluctuation among many, just "one of those things that happen from time to time". If so, then cornucopian googolplexes of multi-veses may proliferate over the place. Scary] Yet in no case does this entail that there is unactualised potentiality (or whatever) for anything being otherwise than it actually is. The notion of real contingency in any form is adaptive. In default of any substantive grounds for swallowing it, this is grounds for harbouring greater suspicion of its credentials, not less.

4.14 If contingency isn't taken to rest on some psychologistic criterion of actual conceivability, but instead on a notion(!) of possible worlds, then it might(!) seem to enjoy greater objective warrant. Yet the very concept of a possible world again presupposes the existence of the contingency which it purports to explain. [In all honesty, these one-liners should be flagged to warn the unwary that there is rather more to be said]. And granting God any say in the matter, even as a philosophical facon de parler, opens up a different can of worms altogether.

4.15 How does this review's scepticism about the force of (obscurely) literal contingency tie in with the alleged failure of logical supervenience of the conscious mind on low-level micro-facts? Well, in reality, Chalmers, like most of us, inevitably does entertain intuitions in a general sort of way about what the basic stuff of the world broadly can and can't be. These intuitions sit uncomfortably with any professed ignorance of noumenal essences. "Physics tells us nothing about what those [intrinsic] properties might be. We have some vague intuitions about these properties based on our experience of their macroscopic analogs - intuitions about the "massiveness of mass, for example -..."

4.16 Insofar as these "macroscopic analogues" really are inherently similar - and not just functional counterparts - then perhaps our intuitions could be justified; and the failure of supervenience vindicated. Yet the concept of a macroscopic analogue needs exploring carefully. It rests, in practice, on the notion that we are presented with, or granted direct epistemic access to, or apprehend transparently [or whatever] a mind-independent macroscopic world. The virtual realist favours myriad data-driven simulations of local real-world macro-patterns which our individual minds are running. A folk-sanctioned everyday macroworld, on the other hand, is supposed to be an extra-mental reality on the other side of one's skull (and not simply on the other side of a causally co-varying skull-surrogate of a somato-sensory homunculus) which perception mysteriously allows us communally to access. By contrast again, inferential realism, although committed to a vast mind-independent Multiverse as the best explanation of our autobiographical virtual worlds, is not committed to the existence of a distinctively macroscopic stratum of reality whose properties supervene on layers "beneath" it. 'Virtual' strata, yes, real strata, no. Instead, macroscopic neo-cortically-generated material objects, located in the coherently awake mind, are our reified counterparts of recurrent patterns in fields of what-it's-likeness in the inferred Multiverse beyond. Perhaps!

4.17 Moreover, even if we did have such innocent access to Reality, in just what respects are "macro-" properties analogues of the intrinsic properties of their "underlying" micro-constituents? If tepid grey porridge is supposedly the extrinsic analogue of intrinsic phenomenological mind [ pah!], then what faith can we have that our alleged "extrinsic" and relational handle on the properties of a particles/fields/superstrings(!) captures their intrinsic nature any more faithfully?

4.18 For reasons to be elaborated, if panpsychism is to seem remotely viable and a Chalmers-inspired dualism averted, two controversial conditions must be fulfilled. The first is a concession of the feasibility - if not inescapability, given our present ignorance - of a topic-neutral reconstrual of the formalism of physics. The second is the falsity of orthodox perceptual direct realism.

4.19 I'd argue that Chalmers is pushed into a semi-sanitised and non-interactionist dualism rather than the panpsychist monism to which he might otherwise lean mainly because he implicitly relies on an untenable background theory of perception. It's this theory, I think, which leads to his 'inside'/'outside' dichotomy and his proposed ontology of ubiquitous information states linking 'internal' micro-phenomenology and 'external' physics. The Conscious Mind doesn't offer a full-blooded account of its author's philosophy of (what passes as) sensory experience and its relationship to the rest of the world. Yet the assumptions of an implicit theory creep into his story in a number of places. In a crucial passage, Chalmers alleges that the panpsychist position entails a "dualism of 'accessible' and 'hidden' physical properties" (p136). The intrinsic properties of the world-stuff posited by the panpsychist aren't the "properties physics deals with directly"(153).

4.20 Yet what are the properties physics (physicists?) deal with directly? In what sense are they "revealed"(p136)? Is this an allusion to [our notional] shared access to a supposedly token-identical [and not merely type-similar] macroscopic world? This presumably self-subsistent macroworld would be where public experiments are performed. Some of its notional high-level properties would serve as analogues to microphysical primitives. Or, on the other hand, is the revelatory metaphor an allusion to explicitly represented properties of basic microphysical entities whose mathematical description the theorists play around with? If the latter, then the argument is undercut by the need for topic-neutralism given our present absolute ignorance of "what breathes fire into the equations and makes there a world for us to describe." [Or do we know something Hawking doesn't? Maybe. But not this...].

4.21 If the 'directness' and 'accessibility' of physical properties is indeed an allusion to a notional shared macro-world, then the position slides into a descendant of folk-style perceptual direct realism. And as the phenomena of e.g. phantom limbs, near-death experiences, Penfield's electrode studies, ketamine-induced out-of-the-body episodes etc corroborate, one doesn't even have direct access to the body of one's extra-psycho-cerebral host organism external to the mind's somato-sensory-homunculus, let alone exotic pastures further afield. As Kant once quipped, it's a small world. More anecdotally, let's suppose that, for instance, one is gazing down at the visual body-image one normally intimately consorts with ['my' body(-image)] when not out of one's head on the dissociative anaesthetic ketamine. In this condition, then the prospect of abandoning science for the intellectual equivalent of tea-leaf reading seems more tempting than it probably does right now. For the perceptual realist, undergoing a ketamine-induced OBE must seem like a clear refutation of scientific materialism; though I'd argue it's materialism and perception that ought to be retired, not quantum mechanics. For what it's worth, I find "in-the-body" experiences are intellectually at least as odd as "out of it" modes of existence. This is because organic mind seems too warm to allow coherent, multi-modally-bound states; and coherent states would seem to offer the best hope for superposing (pre-fronto-cortical-] self-concepts and the different [visual, kinaesthetic etc] modes of body-image.

4.22 Chalmers own commitment to the IMO fatally misleading presuppositions of perceptual direct realism is revealed in such phrases as "How could [consciousness] possibly arise from lumpy gray matter?"(p3) "Whoever would have thought that this hunk of gray matter would be the sort of thing that could produce vivid subjective experiences. And yet it does." (p251). Yet does it?

4.23 When one is dreaming, for instance, and one inspects the properties of a brain, then that lump of porridge which one's body-image manipulates isn't generating the sentience of another mind. It is simply a fleeting coalition of psychons of one's own mind-dust as described by the canonical equations. When one is in that peculiar state of consciousness self-flatteringly known as being "awake", then a more-or-less type-identical brainy experience would be activated only under the tightest selection by peripheral psychoneural impulses. These are distally caused via the activation of surface transducers in the host vehicle by patterns in the external world. Possibly, in that external world, an experimentalist or neurosurgeon is working with electrode probes in a laboratory or operating theatre. In this setting, the brain which the neurosurgeon's etc own visual-cum-somato-sensory body-image is manipulating in his experiential manifold will be serving as the causally co-varying analogue of distinctive macro-patterns of sentience in his [alert, locally anaesthetised] patient's mind/virtual world. Unreassuringly, the reality must be vastly more complicated than the prose used to express it. Yet what sounds natural on the ear would only be a telling advantage if our concepts were the gift of God; and even then, absentee landlords are not to be trusted.

4.24 By way of illustration again, it is easy to slip into thinking of consciousness as being by its nature ethereal and nebulous. Chalmers remarks on how it is "diaphanous" and "intangible"(p3). Yet tangibility and opaque solidity are highly distinctive properties of certain modes of consciousness. In one's dreams, for instance [invoking dreams is convenient when one wishes temporarily to avoid using question-begging accounts of perception], one is not simply conscious of a rock, a sunset, a table, or a brain. These rocks, sunsets, tables and brains are fleetingly-bound experiential manifolds of sentience themselves. [I think this self-referential thought qua a fleetingly bound experiential manifold of sentience myself]. Rocks, even dream-rocks, are thoroughly opaque and tangible. One can ham it up playing Dr Johnson all one wants. One can even feel the pain. One just won't enjoy any greater degree of success at refuting idealism, whether Berkeleian or naturalistic, than the robust-minded Doctor. Real philosophy is hard work.

4.25 Now when one "wakes up", the weighted connections which mediate such dream-phenomena will, just as yesterday, be activated in the normal way only by peripheral, environmentally-triggered stimulation. [In dreamless sleep there's no experiential manifold; just an incoherent quasi-punctate psychic sludge]. These weighted psychochemical patterns of one's waking hours don't inexplicably cease to manifest the same type of solid, abrasive etc modes of consciousness which dream-rocks and tables do at night. [One's life may regain a certain narrative drive; but that's another story.] Nor do these patterns of excitation take on instead the role of mere resonant vehicles [or whatever] for putative real world access. If one doubts their daytime status, then allowing electrode-stimulation of one's awake mind/brain is a splendid way of getting disabused. Another is to dim the selecting peripheral inputs, drop a lot of acid, and grant one's virtual worlds a greater measure of daytime independence than they usually get the freedom to express. My advice would be: don't do it; not yet at any rate.

4.26 To recap. If there were any such spectacle as single, mind-independent macroscopic world - rather than selfish DNA-driven egocentric travesties of salient fitness-relevant macro-patterns in the superposition of a unitary Multiverse - then the conceptual division of reality into ontological levels could do real explanatory work.

In fact, folk-inspired theories of perception are multiply misleading in other respects too.

4.27 First, perceptual realism (as distinct from inferential realism or some sort of VR-inspired data-driven simulationism) commits us to the existence of a non-branching, quantum-theoretically anomalous macroscopic world. This invites physically ill-grounded talk of dynamically collapsing wavefunctions.

4.28 Second, perceptual realism invites a division of the world into a hierarchy of levels on which the whole notion of reductive explanation and its inferred panoply of sub- and super- venience relations depends. For analytic philosophy's spatial metaphors of "high-" and "low-"level facts, and the vexed notion of supervenience with which they are so often associated, are an artefact. They turn on our tendency to divide reality into one tangible and manifest macroscopic world, and an invisible microphysical counterpart which underlies it. Invoking supervenience (once pithily dubbed "epiphenomenalism without causation") is admittedly preferable to a tendency to make "low-level" events literally cause "high-level" events (cf Searle) with which they are supposedly identical. For brain states can't cause the very same mental states with which they are alleged to be one and the same. They can cause subsequent states, which confusingly may then be known under a mental as well as physical description. Unfortunately the usual philosophical vocabulary serves as a perennial temptation to extract ontological rabbits from an epistemological hat.

4.29 In either case, it's worth recalling that if QM is complete then the Multiverse exists as a single awesomely big superposition. For sure, given the evolution of a hot, simple and symmetric universe via spontaneous symmetry-breaking phase transitions into the complex universe of this particular era, the world from our perspective simulates in varying degrees the evolution of different levels. Non-equilibrium thermodynamics throws up an increasing number of [what may be more-or-less systematically interpreted as] virtual layers. It is sometimes very useful to treat these persisting or recurrent patterns as though they were ontologically autonomous echelons of reality with their own laws - just as one might divide up the different "virtual" machines running on a computer. Yet the world itself doesn't literally instantiate, as distinct from progressively simulate, different layers. The fundamental fields/strings/n-branes/psychons or whatever just wiggle energetically in different ways taking on different values. They contrive, I think, to bewitch some of the throwaway quick-and-dirty patterns which they generate into taking an extended family of stratigraphical metaphors more literally than it deserves.


A Post-Galilean Philosophy Of Mind?

5.0 There is thus an insidious intellectual danger to any story which encourages conscious mind to believe it is ever directly "presented" with a mind-independent macroscopic world of medium-sized classical objects - such as brains. Even shop-soiled knowledge just isn't that cheap. One's everyday classical world is a psychological adaptation characteristic of DNA-driven human mentality. If the legacy metabolic pathways of a species-specific psychochemistry are mistaken for a vaster self-transcendent world, then it's easy systematically to misconstrue the nature of Everett's Multiverse as a whole - and lose much of one's mind in the process. For the properties of our gappy autobiographical toy-worlds, notably brute classical matter and thin serial consciousness, simply don't add up to an ontologically unitary world picture. Folkish perception allied to folkish brain-lore makes reductive explanation impossible. Not even the fiendish cunning of supervenience relations as conceived by analytic philosophers can reconcile matter and consciousness. It's all gone horribly wrong from the outset.

5.1 A go-for-broke program aiming at maximal simplicity, economy and theoretical depth, on the other hand, gambles that a canonically recast maths, physics and phenomenology are coextensive and exhaustive of the world. [See the technical appendix for details]. The really hard problem, I think, is why anything exists. Perhaps this is still the best bet for a truly insoluble meta-mystery from which all other puzzles ultimately derive. For the most part, however, we're still ignorant of the 'puzzles' we will have to explain, let alone the theories we'll need to do so ('The End of Science?' For Christ's sake...!!!] For sure, the new state-spaces of consciousness, new semantic primitives, and new universes of discourse to be explored are all in a sense implicit in the equation(s?) of the TOE. They'll just never be accessible to us simply by deeper thought and harder work under the psycho-chemical status quo. The proscription of experiment by the power-elite has ensured we mostly mistake parochial and unrepresentative slivers of consciousness for the whole phenomenon itself. Right now, I worry I'm just digitally doodling rather than doing real empirical research.

5.2 Yet what about The Big One? It's hard to see what methodology to use to attack the meta-mystery. Its solution may indeed be cognitively closed to us; just as it is for, say, chimpanzees. If we assume so, we'll certainly never get anywhere. So we might as well assume that it isn't. Let's suppose that [informally] an explanation is complete when one shows how what is the case is the only possible way things could actually be. We can apparently express, though not imagine, the possibility of nothing at all having existed. This would have left nothing to explain. So one might attack the Riddle of Existence via a contrastive attempt first to define rigorously and precisely what must be the case for nothing to exist or explain. [No space or time or dimensionality? No meaning or reference or properties or events? No truth or logic? Nothing to quantify over or be the case? No reified absence? Nothing which follows from this absence?]. Intuitively obvious as its meaning may seem, full-blown(!) nihilism proves exceedingly difficult to explicate: it's not clear it could potentially have anything even analogous to truth-conditions.

5.3 At any rate, counter-intuitively, it transpires on the basis of some extraordinarily (psycho-?)physical coincidences and an analogy with the rich mathematical properties of zero, that the condition of (infelicitously) nothing whatsoever existing may be formally equivalent to, and thus its description intersubstitutable with, what we currently think is the case - albeit under another description altogether. Does the non-additivity of QM superpositions [minds?] make the whole in one sense less than the sum of its (notional) parts; perhaps a universal superposition somehow analogous to 0? This bizarre idea makes sense, however, only on a further assumption. This is that everything in the world can be ultimately be explained in terms of properties derived from the conserved constants; and that the conserved constants themselves ubiquitously cancel out to zero. This still leaves quite a bit of work to do. What about consciousness? How on earth could its flavours 'cancel out'? Well, stretching a New Agey metaphor [too much pixie-dust in the synapses? ed], just as all the colours of the spectrum are contained in, and cancel out colourlessly to, white light [0?], perhaps analogously the values of subjectivity presumptively coded by the equations [universal net result: mass-energy=0; electric charge=0; angular momentum=0] somehow do the same. Whether this involves numero-linguistic legerdemain, or hints instead at an indispensable shift in our conceptual scheme wherein a explanation space will ultimately be found, I don't know; though I can sure guess.

5.4 Chalmers himself is bold, but not exactly wild. If I'm wrong and he's one of the zombies the book discusses, he mimics an extraordinarily diverse mental life; albeit in a psychedelically unenriched mode of consciousness. The Conscious Mind itself contains a wealth of material I haven't even touched on. Its discussion of idealistic monism alone justifies the purchase-price. The text as a whole demands to be rescued from the graveyards of dead trees and uploaded.

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