Why Multisense Realism (and PIP) Solves the Hard Problem of Consciousness
The Hard Problem of consciousness asks why there is a gap between our explanation of matter, or biology, or neurology, and our experience in the first place. What is it there which even suggests to us that there should be a gap, and why should there be a such thing as experience to stand apart from the functions of that which we can explain.
Materialism only miniaturizes the gap and relies on a machina ex deus (intentionally reversed deus ex machina) of 'complexity' to save the day. An interesting question would be, why does dualism seem to be easier to overlook when we are imagining the body of a neuron, or a collection of molecules? I submit that it is because miniaturization and complexity challenge the limitations of our cognitive ability, we find it easy to conflate that sort of quantitative incomprehensibility with the other incomprehensibility being considered, namely aesthetic* awareness. What consciousness does with phenomena which pertain to a distantly scaled perceptual frame is to under-signify it. It becomes less important, less real, less worthy of attention.
Idealism only fictionalizes the gap. I argue that idealism makes more sense on its face than materialism for addressing the Hard Problem, since material would have no plausible excuse for becoming aware or being entitled to access an unacknowledged a priori possibility of awareness. Idealism however, fails at commanding the respect of a sophisticated perspective since it relies on naive denial of objectivity. Why so many molecules? Why so many terrible and tragic experiences? Why so much enduring of suffering and injustice? The thought of an afterlife is too seductive of a way to wish this all away. The concept of maya, that the world is a veil of illusion is too facile to satisfy our scientific curiosity.
Dualism multiplies the gap. Acknowledging the gap is a good first step, but without a bridge, the gap is diagonalized and stuck in infinite regress. In order for experience to connect in some way with physics, some kind of homunculus is invoked, some third force or function interceding on behalf of the two incommensurable substances. The third force requires a fourth and fifth force on either side, and so forth, as in a Zeno paradox. Each homunculus has its own Explanatory Gap.
Dual Aspect Monism retreats from the gap. The concept of material and experience being two aspects of a continuous whole is the best one so far â€“ getting very close. The only problem is that it does not explain what this monism is, or where the aspects come from. It rightfully honors the importance of opposites and duality, but it does not question what they actually are. Laws? Information?
Panpsychism toys with the gap.Depending on what kind of panpsychism is employed, it can miniaturize, multiply, or retreat from the gap. At least it is committing to closing the gap in a way which does not take human exceptionalism for granted, but it still does not attempt to integrate qualia itself with quanta in a detailed way. Tononi's IIT might be an exception in that it is detailed, but only from the quantitative end. The hard problem, which involves justifying the reason for integrated information being associated with a private 'experience' is still only picked at from a distance.
Primordial Identity Pansensitivity, my candidate for nomination, uses a different approach than the above. PIP solves the hard problem by putting the entire universe inside the gap. Consciousness is the Explanatory Gap. Naturally, it follows serendipitously that consciousness is also itself explanatory. The role of consciousness is to make plain â€“ to bring into aesthetic evidence that which can be made evident. How is that different from what physics does? What does the universe do other than generate aesthetic textures and narrative fragments? It is not awareness which must fit into our physics or our science, our religion or philosophy, it is the totality of eternity which must gain meaning and evidence through sensory presentation.
- Is awareness 'aesthetic'? That we call a substance which causes the loss of consciousness a general anesthetic might be a serendipitous clue. If so, the term local anesthetic as an agent which deadens sensation is another hint about our intuitive correlation between discrete sensations and overall capacity to be 'awake'. Between sensations (I would call sub-private) and personal awareness (privacy) would be a spectrum of nested channels of awareness.
Multisense Realism proposes that the cosmos is an involuted, tessellated or 'Ouroboran Monism' â€“ or a neutral monism in which experienced presence defines itself by the pantomimed projection of its own absence. What is proposed is a universal sense which modulates itself through various kinds of insensitivities; deferments, delays, and diffractions. Such insensitivities or entropies, are ultimately what we know to be public space and private time. To be clear, private time is not clock time (which are public measurements of reliably changing objects), but rather the sense of narrative sequence, of evolving stories which spiral or gyrate rather than merely repeat.
It is thorough these nested diffractions of experienced sense that matter and energy can be understood as alienated experiences - experiences which have become unfamiliar to each other on some level over the history of the universal diffraction.
In the history of attempts to understand consciousness there has been much debate over what is conscious, what is not, and what the relation is between the two categories. In simplistic terms, idealism conceives of matter as a phenomenon derived from consciousness while materialists conceive of consciousness as emerging from unconscious functions of matter. Dualism conceives of matter and consciousness as two fundamentally different categories of phenomena. Neutral Monism conceives of both mental and material phenomena as derived from a more fundamental property.
Multisense Realism begins with the Neutral Monism view in which there is a meta-property from which all other discernments and relations are derived. Rather than a metaphysical field or invisible realm, the MR conjecture is that this root property could be meaningfully described as ordinary 'sense'. There are more descriptive terms to be applied, but the gist of them is very close to all of the ordinary things that we mean by sense. Consciousness is what we use to make sense of an experience which already makes sense.
The first question that MR asks is, can we make sense of a universe which does not make sense already? At this point rigid definitions of what sense is should be avoided â€“ not to obscure but to discourage jumping to conclusions. Intolerance and impatience are perhaps the two most formidable obstacles to to understanding this new approach. This is not Creationism, Dualism, Idealism, Theism or any brand of anti-scientific ideology. There is nothing being sold here. The intention of MR is to open a door to a revolutionary synthesis of all empirically real phenomena. This new view, while shocking in some ways, promises to reconcile both the Western and Eastern frameworks for explaining consciousness and physics. This reconciliation is accomplished by dissolving both mind and body in a continuum of common sense.
It is not the purpose of MR to propose that we return to a pre-Copernican worldview, nor is it to call for a repeal of any methods of science. To the contrary, MR seeks to add new tools for science to approach subjectivity on its own terms, doing for private physics in the 21st century what the Enlightenment did for public physics in the 17th century. Where the scientific revolution tapped into the power of quantitative analysis, the next revolution must add to that an appreciation of qualitative identities. This is not as easy as it sounds. It may well require a radical shift, an ontological pivot from an expectation of complexity built up from nothingness to an expectation of simplicity isolated within 'everythingness'.
MSR immodestly places itself at the end of the chain of advancing human worldviews:
Developmental Stage: transcendental voyeur (localizing motive) â€“ what is observed/transcended
Archaic/shamanic: Natural spirits (magic) â€“ alienates objectivity with direct animism
Classical/polytheistic: Named supernatural deities (prayer) â€“ alienates physicality with empathetic identification
Post-Classical/monotheistic: Absolute supernatural deity (religious devotion) â€“ alienates morality with indirect identification
Enlightenment/dualistic: Impersonal deity (reason) â€“ alienates animism with mechanistic observation
Modern/scientific: Impersonal forces and laws* (engineering) â€“ alienates subjectivity with abstract formulation
Post-modern/existential: Pure probability** (computation) â€“ alienates subjective-objective dualism with quantum reconciliation
Integral/holistic: Re-enchanted information (signifying pattern) â€“ alienates impersonal perspectives with quantized qualia.
Ouroboran: Multisense perception (motive participation) â€“ alienates alienation with qualia-quanta reconciliation.
- evacuated sense and motive
Each stage involves a stepping out of the previous system. The Integral/holistic stage steps out of all systems by considering them information. The Ouroboran stage steps out of by considering system-making and system-breaking as the final and absolute reconciliation of private unity (time) and public multiplicity (space).
The pre-Enlightenment models of the universe revered the symmetry of the universe. The creedo 'As above, so below', as well as the Eastern concept of yin and yang cite this kind of binary complementarity as fundamental. Even after this schema was abandoned by science, the fixation on binary complementarity remains inevitable. Electromagetism, Mass-energy, Space-time. Genetics has its interlocking set of bases. That's only scratching the surface. The periodic table and quantum physics are overflowing with simple patterns, inversions, variations, sequences. Despite whimsical names for the 'charm' and 'strange' quarks, the sense of personality in physics is intended ironically. The true nature of microcosmic phenomena is seen to be completely mathematical and devoid of personality, with symmetries arising purely from the expectation of simple rules rather than any vast eternal significance. The universe is assumed to be the ultimate machine, the ultimate parts of which are ultimately fragmented.
Under the Ouroboran monism proposed by MSR, the dualism itself is not as important as the capacity to appreciate difference and indifference. That capacity is deemed to be Absolute, as that which can never be experienced in any way is indiscernible from nothing at all.
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