The Nature of Consciousness

Piero Scaruffi

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

The Cognition-consciousness Problem

The distinction between mind and body was clear in Descartes' times, but it is getting less obvious by the day as the physical and psychological sciences shed light on "mental" processes.  Several of these processes are not exclusive of the mind (let alone of the human mind), but quite pervasive in nature. Remembering, learning, communicating are, to some extent, present in all forms of life.  Since Descartes, the dilemma has been how do body and mind communicate.  But, today, there is no mystery in how, say, learning communicates with the body: learning is a brain process that alters brain configurations in such a way that a different behavior will occur.

Today, we know that "body" extends to the brain, and brain is responsible for many phenomena that we consider mind and that are no more mysterious than the movement of a hand. Therefore, within the Cartesian dichotomy, "body" must be enlarged to encompass brain processes and "mind" must be restricted to conscious experience. Otherwise, most of the mystery is not a mystery at all: the way "mind" remembers or learns is no more mysterious than the way a muscle gets stronger or weaker. What is mysterious is that "remembering" and "learning" are sometimes associated with conscious experience. That is the real puzzle: how does a brain process of remembering (that is ultimately an electrochemical process of neurons triggering each other) communicate with our conscious life of feelings and emotions that seems to be located in a completely different dimension?

As David Chalmers pointed out, the paradox to be explained is not that body and mind communicate but that cognition and consciousness communicate.


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