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Emergence and the uniqueness of consciousness

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This paper argues that phenomenal consciousness arises from the forced blending of components that are incompatible, or even logically contradictory, when combined by direct methods available to the subject; and that it is, as a result, analytically, ostensively and comparatively indefinable. First, I examine a variety of cases in which unpredictable novelties arise from the forced merging of contradictory elements, or at least elements that are unable in human experience to co-occur. The point is to show that the uniqueness of consciousness is comprehensible in terms of a more general kind of emergence. I then argue that phenomenal consciousness essentially involves synchronous activations of representations of ‘identical’ intentional objects with distinct temporal tags, and is thus a case of the emergence of novelty from forced blending of incompatible components. It follows from the general nature of such emergence that consciousness would be indefinable and hence seem mysterious. This analysis will show why phenomenal consciousness would be impossible to resolve into its constituents by the conscious subject. The result is, I hope, a happy blend of physicalist explanation with respectful acknowledgement of the robustness of subjective experience.
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Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Department of Philosophy, Nassau County Community College, Garden City, NY 11530, USA. Email: [email protected]

Publication date: 01 September 2001

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