Correspondism assumes “correspondences” or “links” between physical items and conscious items. In correspondism, “physical items” include, for example, events and things in a physical framework such as in a space-time continuum or in a spatial and/or temporal frequency spectrum; each “conscious item” is a set of one or more conscious experiences, including relations among them that are experienced, e.g. their sequence or transitions between them.
In describing correspondences, we emphasize the need for scientific validation: Until it is validated, we treat a proposed correspondence or link as a hypothesis.
Correspondism progresses by scientifically increasing our knowledge about correspondences. Researchers have already proposed many physical/conscious correspondences, and some of these hypotheses have been evaluated through experiment or other types of testing. For example, researchers often find that a certain type of physical stimulus applied to a conscious human will cause or correlate with a certain type of transition in the human’s reported experience; physical/conscious causation and correlation would be examples of correspondences.
Our scientific approach accordingly centers on hypotheses about physical/conscious correspondences; we seek both better hypotheses and also better scientific evaluation of hypotheses, i.e. determination of their likely validity. We welcome efforts to improve, or even optimize, a hypothesis, especially in cases in which scientific evaluation of the hypothesis will be difficult or expensive. In these cases, significant progress can sometimes be made by thoroughly studying and comparing a number of alternative hypotheses.
Relation to Other Approaches
As researchers continue to discover and validate physical/conscious correspondences, we hope to discover patterns that allow us to generalize, e.g. about the nature of links between physical items and conscious items. In this way, correspondism might one day support (or even dovetail with) another approach, such as a representational qualia approach.
We already recognize that representational qualia theories, including some monisms and dualisms, could in principle be reformulated as supporting camps of correspondism. In the respective camp statements of monisms and dualisms, however, we have not found an explicit emphasis on scientifically evaluating proposed correspondences.
The camp for “integrated Information”, based on Giulio Tononi’s well-known Integrated Information Theory (IIT), appears especially suitable for reformulation as a supporting camp of “Physical/Conscious Correspondism”. “Integrated Information” now appears as a supporting camp of “Property Dualism”, then “Mind-Brain Identity”, then “Representational Qualia”, and finally “Approachable Via Science”; although its camp statement does not clarify how this support hierarchy was chosen, one could infer from the camp statement that Dr. Tononi agreed.
A reformulated version of the Integrated Information camp (“reformulated IIT”) could instead support “Physical/Conscious Correspondism”, then “Approachable Via Science”, thus making its support hierarchy more parsimonious than the current support hierarchy of “Integrated Information”. Further, reformulated IIT could, for example, propose correspondence hypotheses of the form: “Physical items having integrated information values in the range X1-X2 correspond to conscious items having feature Y.” Like other correspondisms, reformulated IIT could make progress by generating and evaluating such hypotheses, without depending on property dualism, mind-brain identity, etc. as the current camp statement does.
Focus on Evolution
One focus of correspondism is biological evolution of consciousness, with particular emphasis on evolutionary hypotheses. Scientific evaluation of such hypotheses can be challenging—for example, one cannot easily go back in time to early conscious organisms and ask them to report their experiences in response to various stimuli. Similar challenges arise in evaluating hypotheses about present-day non-human organisms and about computers and other non-biological objects to which consciousness might be ascribed. In such areas, important tasks for correspondism include generation and comparison of hypotheses in order to obtain better ones; we also welcome creative new ways to scientifically evaluate evolutionary hypotheses.
Further, correspondism fits well with certain approaches to evolution of consciousness. For example, Lacalli (2020)
framed thought experiments about evolution of consciousness in topological terms; Lacalli explained that “mapping is assumed between the physical realm of neural structure and function and an abstract experience space consisting of all possible experiences.” (pp. 3 and 6) Progress in correspondism will provide scientific support for Lacalli’s assumed mapping and for similar approaches.
In sum, physical/conscious correspondism has a solid foundation in previous research. It may lead to useful generalizations about correspondences, possibly dovetailing with representational qualia theories. It offers a multitude of research opportunities in generating, comparing, and evaluating hypotheses. And its progress will support other approaches, such as to evolution of consciousness.