The Nature of Consciousness

Piero Scaruffi

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These are excerpts and elaborations from my book "The Nature of Consciousness"

The World Of Ideas

Dualists do not doubt that the mind and the brain communicate somehow. But they are faced with the apparently insurmountable task of making two different substances communicate, even though, by definition, those two substances are not supposed to interact. One way out of this dilemma is to assume the existence of an intermediary between the two.

For example, the Austrian philosopher Karl Popper, one of the leaders in General Relativity, also subscribes to the notion that there exists a separate world of conscious states and that the mind can access that world. But Penrose's "world of ideas" is still a physicist's world: "protoconscious" information is encoded in space-time geometry at the fundamental Planck scale, and our mind has access to them (i.e., is conscious) when a particular quantum process occurs in our brain.

A more humble formulation is due to the US mathematician Rudy Rucker, who believes in the existence of a separate "mindscape". Rucker asks: "Is what you thought yesterday still part of your mind?" The question is not easy to answer if you assume that ideas are part of minds. Rucker's conclusion is that there exists a world of ideas separate from the mental and the physical. Our minds can travel the mindscape that contains all possible thoughts just like our bodies can travel the physical space that contains all possible locations. Minds share the same mindscape the way bodies share the same physical space.  We all share the same mindscape, just like we all share the same universe. In particular, the mindscape contains all mathematical objects and mathematicians explore mindscape the same way astronauts explore physical space. Ditto for natural laws and physicists. Mathematical formula and laws of nature have an independent existence of their own.

Of course, all if these are but new spins on Plato's world of ideas.

 The US philosopher John Searle rejects the idea that the universe can be partitioned into physical and mental properties to start with. After all, things such as “ungrammatical sentences, my ability to ski, the government and points scored in football games" cannot be easily categorized as mental or physical. The traditional “mental versus physical” dichotomy appears to be pointless.


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