Kicking the Psychophysical Laws into Gear A New Approach to the Combination Problem

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A new approach to the 'hard problem'of consciousness, the eons-old mind-body problem, is proposed, inspired by Whitehead, Schopenhauer, Griffin, and others. I define a 'simple subject' as the fundamental unit of matter and of consciousness. Simple subjects are inherently experiential, albeit in a highly rudimentary manner compared to human consciousness. With this re-framing, the 'physical' realm includes the 'mental' realm; they are two aspects of the same thing, the outside and inside of each real thing. This view is known as panpsychism or panexperientialism and is in itself a partial solution to the hard problem. The secondary but more interesting question may be framed as: what is a 'complex subject'? How do simple subjects combine to form complex subjects like bats and human beings? This is more generally known as the 'combination problem'or the 'boundary problem', and is the key problem facing both materialist and panpsychist approaches to consciousness. I suggest a new approach for resolving this component of the hard problem, a 'general theory of complex subjects' that includes 'psychophysical laws' in the form of a simple mathematical framework. I present three steps for characterizing complex subjects, with the physical nature of time key to this new understanding. Viewing time as fundamentally quantized is important. I also suggest, as a second-order conceptualization, that 'information' and 'experience' may be considered identical concepts and that there is no double-aspect to information. Rather, there is a single aspect to information and it is inherently experiential. Tononi's, Chalmers', and Freeman's similar theories are compared and contrasted.

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Visiting Scholar, UC Santa Barbara Psychology Department, and Lecturer, Bren School of Environmental Science & Management,UCSanta Barbara, Email:

Publication date: January 1, 2011

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