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Consciousness, self-organization, and the process–substratum relation: rethinking nonreductive physicalism

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Abstract:

Knowing only what is empirically knowable can't by itself entail knowledge of what consciousness "is like." But if dualism is to be avoided, the question arises: how can a process be completely empirically unobservable when all of its components are completely observable? The recently emerging theory of self-organization offers resources with which to resolve this problem: Consciousness can be an empirically unobservable process because the emotions motivating attention are experienced only from the perspective of the one whose phenomenal states are executed by the self-organizing processes which themselves constitute the consciousness. I argue that a self-organizing process can differ from the sum of its (empirically observable) substrata because, rather than just being realized by them, it actively rearranges the background conditions under which alternative component causal sequences can realize the self-organizing pattern into the future.

Document Type: Research Article

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/09515080050075672

Affiliations: Department of Religion and Philosophy, Clark Atlanta University, PO Box 81, Atlanta, GA 30314, USA.

Publication date: June 1, 2000

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