The Problems of Consciousness
A note on "explanation"
Note that, even if we could in principle explain every objective
event in terms of other objective events, we would not
necessarily be able to predict future states of
the objective world in terms of the current state.
There might be inherent unpredictabilities in the objective
laws of the universe; in fact our current best physical theories
strongly suggest that there are, at the quantum level, exactly
So if we were to try to explain a particular objective event in terms of
other objective events, we can still count ourselves successful
even if, at some point or points in the explanation, we have to
say "and at this point a quantum event occurred; the possible
outcomes were this and this and this, and their respective
probabilities were this and this and this; and when we look at
what actually happened, it was perfectly compatible with that."
This is not enough to allow us to predict the future from the
past, but it is enough to allow us to explain it.
Is this sort of simple randomness a wide enough crack in the
objective universe to allow consciousness to sneak in?
It seems unlikely.
A unimaginably tiny structure that behaves in a limited
number of ways with a fixed set of probabilities
does not seem to be at all the sort of thing that
could connect my experienced decisions to my body's
That is, the fact that some parts of the universe behave
randomly seems to be a very different fact from
the fact (if fact it is) that parts of it behave the way
that I decide within myself that they ought to behave.
We eagerly solicit help in this endeavor; suggestions,
corrections, ideas, and references may be sent via email to
David Chess accepts all the
blame, but Steve White gets some of the credit.
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This page last updated January 15th, 2000.