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Three philosophical problems about consciousness and their possible resolution

Maxwell, N; (2011) Three philosophical problems about consciousness and their possible resolution. Open Journal of Philosophy , 1 (1) , Article 1. 10.4236/ojpp.2011.11001. Green open access

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Three big philosophical problems about consciousness are: Why does it exist? How do we explain and understand it? How can we explain brain-consciousness correlations? If functionalism were true, all three problems would be solved. But it is false, and that means all three problems remain unsolved (in that there is no other obvious candidate for a solution). Here, it is argued that the first problem cannot have a solution; this is inherent in the nature of explanation. The second problem is solved by recognizing that (a) there is an explanation as to why science cannot explain consciousness, and (b) consciousness can be explained by a different kind of explanation, empathic or "personalistic" explanation, compatible with, but not reducible to, scientific explanation. The third problem is solved by exploiting David Chalmers' "principle of structural coherence", and involves postulating that sensations experienced by us – visual, auditory, tactile, and so on – amount to minute scattered regions in a vast, multi dimensional "space" of all possible sensations, which vary smoothly, and in a linear way, throughout the space. There is also the space of all possible sentient brain processes. There is just one, unique one-one mapping between these two spaces that preserves continuity and linearity. It is this which provides the explanation as to why brain processes and sensations are correlated as they are. I consider objections to this unique-matching theory, and consider how the theory might be empirically confirmed.

Type: Article
Title: Three philosophical problems about consciousness and their possible resolution
Location: USA
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
DOI: 10.4236/ojpp.2011.11001
Publisher version: http://dx.doi.org/10.4236/ojpp.2011.11001
Language: English
Keywords: Consciousness, mind-body problem, brain processes, explaining consciousness, functionalism, experiential functionalism, physical explanation, empathic understanding, sensation-brain correlations, unique matching theory, hard problem of consciousness.
UCL classification: UCL > School of BEAMS > Faculty of Maths and Physical Sciences > Science and Technology Studies
URI: http://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/1329613
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