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Consciousness: how can I experience things that aren't 'real'?

Panpsychism

One of the approaches of idealists, called panpsychism, claims that both physical matter and consciousness are fundamental, and particles, energies and fields are simply forms of consciousness.

This approach tries to bridge the gaps left by dualism and materialism in our mind-boggling journey to understand consciousness and the universe.

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IDEA EXTRACTED FROM:

Consciousness: how can I experience things that aren't 'real'?

Consciousness: how can I experience things that aren't 'real'?

https://theconversation.com/consciousness-how-can-i-experience-things-that-arent-real-139600

theconversation.com

6

Key Ideas

The Mind And The Body

Neuroscience says our brain has 86 billion neurons, linked in various ways, making trillions of connections. These neuron connections are getting converted into electrical signals, making a network of electro-chemical communication inside us.

This communication is providing us with a life experience of something that may not be there at all.

Dualism: Ghost In The Machine

The mind-body paradox, also called the mind-body problem by philosophers, can be understood if we take our human mind as a non-physical entity, outside the physical world of the body and the brain itself.

The mind, with all its feelings and experiences, exists as a spiritual phenomenon and controls the body like a drone pilot controls the drone. This view is known as Dualism.

The Materialist Way

Science has done a great job observing, dissecting and manipulating physical materials (matter) and seems to think the materialist method is the best way to go for the mysteries of the brain. It does not take a good view of the dualism theory, where the soul (residing in our brain) controls the body.

The problem is that by only studying the matter, science has always excluded and neglected consciousness.

Consciousness

... is beyond matter and beyond all scientific mathematics. The euphoria of love and many such wonderful feelings cannot be captured by the quantitative methods adopted by science.

The reality of consciousness is qualitative, and the materialist and dualist theories seem inadequate.

Idealism

Idealism states that consciousness is all that exists in reality, and the physical world is nothing but an illusion, a construct generated from our own minds.

This is also discussed as The Simulation Theory, where the laws of physics and reality are nothing but rules in a simulation, like a computer game.

Panpsychism

One of the approaches of idealists, called panpsychism, claims that both physical matter and consciousness are fundamental, and particles, energies and fields are simply forms of consciousness.

This approach tries to bridge the gaps left by dualism and materialism in our mind-boggling journey to understand consciousness and the universe.

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The mystery of consciousness
The mystery of consciousness

We have made advances in understanding how the brain works and how it affects human behavior. But no one is able to explain how all this results in feelings, emotions, and experiences.

Ther...

Consciousness: A unique scientific problem

For much of the 20th century, consciousness was not a serious topic for "serious science." That has changed. The problem of consciousness is a scientific dilemma.

For one, consciousness is unobservable. We know consciousness exists through our immediate awareness of our own feelings and experiences. But you can't look in the head of someone else to see their feelings and experiences.

Using observation for an unobservable issue

When we are dealing with data, we can do experiments to test whether what we observe matches the hypothesis. But we are dealing with the unobservable data of consciousness.

The best scientists can do is to correlate unobservable experiences with observable processes. For example, the feeling of hunger is associated with visible activity in the brain's hypothalamus.

But collecting correlations does not explain why conscious experiences correspond with brain activity.

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Artificial Intelligence: Singularity and Virtual Immortality
Artificial Intelligence: Singularity and Virtual Immortality

The growth of technology and Artificial Intelligence(AI) is on track to provide us with:

  • Singularity: A merging of human intelligence and AI, resulting in Superstro...
Inner Awareness and AI

... or self-awareness is something many scientists and philosophers are discussing. The fact that there is consciousness inside us, is a big problem for those developing AI, as no matter what they do, and how technologically superior the product is, nobody can explain or even fathom the juggernaut of consciousness.

Qualia: Experiencing Sensations

Qualia relates to the raw sensations of experience, like colours, smells, sounds.

It is through our actual experience that we know what something tastes, looks or smells like, and it is not some information already drilled inside our brains on birth. We have to experience sensations to understand them.

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Consciousness And Quantum Physics
Consciousness And Quantum Physics

Understanding consciousness and how it fits in the universe is a perennial puzzle for decades. Some call it the holy grail of science.

Quantum physics is able to describe the atomic and...

The Observer Effect

Modern science is hesitant to talk about consciousness due to it opening a pandora’s box, putting their previously ‘bulletproof’ theories under suspicion.

Quantum Theory had a similar ‘uh oh’ moment when it was found that the behaviour of atomic level particles changes when we (a conscious observer) are looking at it, or not. This is known as the Observer Effect.

Objectivity Vs Consciousness

Physicists argue that objectivity might as well be an illusion, and consciousness has to be put in the picture of its worldview.

The two puzzles of Science, Consciousness and Quantum Mechanics, might as well be closely related, with one arising because of the other.

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The Hard Problem of Consciousness
The Hard Problem of Consciousness

Consciousness could be described as the feeling of being inside your head, looking out, or of having a soul.

How we learn, store memories, or perceive things, are easy prob...

Between Science And Philosophy

The problems of consciousness straddle the border between science and philosophy.

  • Some argue that conscious sensations, such as pain, don't really exist, others, that plants and trees must also be conscious.
  • A handful of neuroscientists have come to believe that the problem is about to be solved if we are willing to accept the conclusion that computers or the internet might soon become conscious too.
Ignoring The Problem

Science has been trying to ignore the problem of consciousness for a long time.

  • In the 1600s, René Descartes declared that nothing is more obvious and undeniable than the fact that we are conscious. Your consciousness can't be a fantasy. At the same time, your consciousness does not obey any of the usual rules of science. It doesn't seem to be physical. It can't be observed or really described. Descartes concluded that it had been bequeathed to us by God.
  • This Cartesian dualism remained the assumption into the 18th century. But it was unacceptable to the secular scientist that took the position that only physical things exist.
  • As late as 1989, the British psychologist Stuart Sutherland declared that it is impossible to specify what consciousness is, what it does, or why it evolved.
  • In 1990 Francis Crick and Christof Kock mentioned in a paper that most of the work in both cognitive and neurosciences makes no reference to consciousness because most don't know of a useful way of approaching the problem.

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The Question of Free Will

The centuries-old question about human beings having free will or not is still unanswered but is fundamental for our moral codes, justice systems, religion and even the very meaning of life.

Randomness and Determined Choice

Randomness is when things have no pattern in them. Our free-willed choices cannot be random as the process of randomness can produce any pattern whatsoever, by mere chance.

As determined or predetermined choices are by default not in free will, it is concluded that free will can neither be random nor determined.

Phenomenality

Our entire life is a stream of felt and perceived phenomenality. This is the content of consciousness, something that fills all metaphysics and materialism. 

We feel all our emotional states like fears, desires, inclinations, and these states are not merely neurons firing in our brains, at least how we experience them, known as 'felt volitional states'.

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Many insights of Albert Einstein are now part of popular imagination: black holes, time warps, and wormholes show up in movies and books.

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Some changes don't change anything

The most fundamental aspects of nature stay the same.

For example, Einstein's papers on relativity show that the relationship between energy and mass is invariant, even though energy and mass can take on many different forms.

Even though matter produces energy, the energy-matter content of the universe never changes. Matter and energy are less fundamental than the underlying relationship between them.

Relationships over things

We often think of things as the heart of reality. But most often the relationship is more important, not the stuff.

We may think "stuff" like space and time are unchangeable aspects of nature. In reality, the relationship between space and time stays the same.

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About Consciousness
About Consciousness

Consciousness is everything you experience - taste, pain, love, feeling. Where these experiences come from is a mystery.

Many modern analytic philosophers of mind either d...

Searching For Physical Footprints

What is it about brain matter that gives rise to consciousness? In particular, the neuronal correlates of consciousness (NCC) - the minimal neuronal mechanisms jointly sufficient for any conscious experience.

Consider this question: What must happen in your brain for you to experience a toothache?

Neuronal Correlates of Consciousness (NCC)

The whole brain can be considered an NCC because it generates experience continually.

  • When parts of the cerebellum, the "little brain" underneath the back of the brain, are lost to a stroke or otherwise, patients may lose the ability to play the piano, for example.  But they never lose any aspect of their consciousness. This is because the cerebellum is almost wholly a feed-forward circuit. There are no complex feedback loops.
  • The spinal cord and the cerebellum are not enough to create consciousness. Available evidence suggests neocortical tissue in generating feelings.
  • The next stages of processing are the broad set of cortical regions, collectively known as the posterior hot zone, that gives rise to conscious perception. In clinical sources of causal evidence, stimulating the posterior hot zone can trigger a diversity of distinct sensations and feelings.
  • It appears that almost all conscious experiences have their origin in the posterior cortex. But it does not explain the crucial difference between the posterior regions and much of the prefrontal cortex, which does not directly contribute to subjective content.

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The northern lights, or aurora borealis
The northern lights, or aurora borealis

The magnetic fields of the sun distort and twist as the Earth rotates on its axis. When these fields become knotted together, they create sunspots. Usually, these sunspots occur in pairs.

A...

Auroras on other worlds

Auroras also occur on planets such as Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, and Neptune. These gas giants have thick atmospheres and strong magnetic fields. These auroras are a little different from Earth's as they are formed under different conditions.

Venus has an aurora generated by its magnetotail. Mars experiences local auroras due to magnetic fields in the crust. There are also northern hemisphere auroras caused by particles hitting the Maritan atmosphere.

Cycles and particles

Northern lights occur roughly every eleven years. Record-keeping of the sun's activity began in 1749. Since then, there have been 22 full cycles.

Particles ejected from the sun travel 93 million miles toward Earth before they are drawn toward the magnetic north and south poles. As the particles move through the Earth's magnetic shield, they mix with the oxygen, nitrogen, and other elements that result in the display of lights.

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Science providing anwers
Science providing anwers

Despite the advances in science over the past century, our understanding of nature is still limited. Scientists still don't know what the vast majority of the universe is made up of or how cons...

Mysterian arguments

"Mysterian" thinkers give an important role to biological arguments and analogies.

Late philosopher Jerry Fodor argued that there are bound to be thoughts we are unable to think. Similarly, philosopher Colin McGinn claimed that all minds suffer from "cognitive closure" about particular problems. Just as animals will never understand prime numbers, so human brains are unable to consider some of the world's wonders.

Mysterians and pessimism

Mysterians present the question of cognitive limits in fixed terms: either we can solve a problem, or we will never be able to.

A possibility that eludes mysterians is one of slowly diminishing returns. We keep slowing down, even as we exert more effort, and there is no point where progress becomes impossible.

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Spirituality
Spirituality

The term spirituality has one of two connotations: One is a classic religious one; the other is inspired by New Age Culture. Both categories embody spirituality better than cold, hard...

Reason is more of a guide

In a world where we can have complete information about everything, reason can give us certain answers. However, the world we are living in is not even close to having all the answers. In this world, words are fallible. So is perception and imagination.

Reason is then more of a guide than a symbol of truth.

The limits of understanding

There are limitations to what the human mind can understand. The mysteries of the Universe and our conscious experience are too complex to be restricted to words and formulas. 

We mostly operate on faith and habit in ways that aren’t obvious. 

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