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Turning ‘the hard problem’upside down & sideways

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Abstract:

Instead of speaking of conscious experience as arising in a brain, we prefer to speak of a brain as arising in conscious experience. From an epistemological standpoint, starting from direct experiences strikes us as more justified. As a first option, we reconsider the ‘hard problem’ of the relation between conscious experience and the physical world by thus turning that problem upside down. We also consider a second option: turning the hard problem sideways. Rather than starting with the third-person approach used in physics, or the first- person approach of starting with individual conscious experience, we consider starting from an I-and-you basis, centered around the second-person. Finally, we present a candidate for what could be considered to underlie conscious experience: ‘sense’. We consider this to be a shot in the dark, but at least a shot in the right direction: somewhere between upside down and sideways. Our notion of sense can be seen as an alternative to panpsychism. To give an analogy, using the notions of space and time is more convenient than trying to analyse the phenomenon of motion in terms of a space-based ‘pandynamism’. Similarly, when approaching the phenomenon of consciousness, we prefer the triad of space, time and sense, over a spacetime-based form of panpsychism.

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: School of Natural Sciences, Institute for Advanced Study, Princeton, NJ 08540-0631, USA. Email: piet@sns.ias.edu 2: Email: roger@psych.stanford.edu

Publication date: 1996-04-01

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