The Nature of Consciousness

Piero Scaruffi

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

Variants on Materialism

The problem that has been haunting the endeavors of materialists for centuries is how the mental arises from the physical, how feelings originate from inanimate matter. A modern view is that the mind is indeed material, but somehow its material constituents behave differently from the matter that Physics has explained. Therefore, it is Physics that must be changed, or enlarged, to accommodate new types of natural phenomena.

John Searle's “biological naturalism” summarizes several of these materialistic opinions (despite being quite similar to property dualism). He thinks that (1) the mental is caused by neural processes and (2) the mental is a feature of the brain. We will understand consciousness when we know more about how the brain functions.

Brain processes cause mental states, but Searle objects to the common-sense conclusion that there must be both physical states and mental states, and therefore dualism. He views the mental state as a “feature of the brain”. The mental state is an emerging property, not a separate substance. Hence no dualism; and no materialism.

Mental states are nonphysical, but form a novel class of features of the brain. Mental phenomena are irreducible to traditional Physics and Chemistry. Their properties (such as meaning and awareness) are different from those of matter.

The relation between brain states and mental states is causal, in both directions, each causing the other. Consciousness is an emergent property of the brain in the same way that properties of liquids emerge from those of the molecules they are made of. The mind is material, but at the same time it cannot be reduced to any other physical property.


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