Can consciousness itself be measured? If consciousness is merely physical properties of the brain that obeys physical laws and causality, can it ultimately be quantified, reduced, deconstructed and objectively measured in the third person perspective in a mechanistic way? I think this question is unanswerable despite our current progress in the field of neuroscience. The study of the mind needs a paradigm shift the way physical science progressed from the Newtonian physics to relativity.
If the mind can indeed be reduced to the brain being studied in an algorithmic and empirical tradition, we must presuppose that the mind is ultimately the expression of matter that could be deduced beyond the quantum horizon. But what is matter? Matter is anything that can be ‘measured’ and quantified and embodied. But beyond the quantum horizon, what we usually called ‘matter’ is not ‘stuff’ that are dumb and stable. Matter is really just potential energy – in a wavering and dynamic flux which is full of uncertainty and random chaos that can never be directly observed and measured without altering their properties and formalities. There isn’t any ultimate “stuff” that makes up the universe. Quantum physics has revealed atoms to be fields of energy based on the principle of uncertainty. Atoms are statistical probable and spontaneous energy moving a flux that forms itself to everything else we see around us.
What could there possible be in the universe besides matter? Matter is simply a terminology that we derived from measurements that are subjected to the human experience. Matter always existed because it could be measured, and measurements are merely metaphorical human constructions of physical relations and causality between objects that are humanly imposed. When an atom comes in contact with another atom, it ‘measures’ each other by an exchange of information. Other than matter which is composed of external surfaces, there are heterogeneous experiences and qualities that arise out of internal feelings of subjectivity which could not be quantified.
Therefore, even if we can reduce the phenomenology of the human experience and of the mind by reducing the temporally first person and the spatially third person perspective of a computational meat, there are still subjective and internal experiences, intentionality, imaginations, intermediacy, sensation, and subject feelings that are undetectable. The mind “related” to the brain, but it requires, from the brain, a different ontological explanation, but each is irreducible to the other. I can put your brain under MRI and still have no idea what you are thinking about or what that piece of candy tastes like in your mouth. On the other hand, I can know what the piece of candy tastes like in your mouth (or in my mouth, for that matter), and still have no exact algorithm of the neural structures that goes on in the brain. In other words, to observe and experience the subjective phenomenon from the top-to-bottom perspective is to lose the essence of the symbols and empirical processes of the neurons. And to tackle the matter from the bottom up is to give up the phenomenon of the subjective and intuitive human experience.
I am not a dualist in the traditional Cartesian sense, nor am I a physicalist. I think to really understand consciousness, we need to step beyond the polar representations and relationships of the two extremist perspectives because each polar perspective is intrinsically related – the mind and the matter require one another to understand what they are. It’s important to synthesize the two oppositions and try not to consider them as opposing terminologies. The mind is not purely subjective and never independent of the computation of the brain while matter or the brain is not purely objective and never independent of the intentionality of the mind. I think part of the reason why the mind/matter problem has been so black and white is because we tend to fall into the grammatical and linguistic fallacy by reducing something so complex and idiosyncratic as phenomenology (or anything else) to either the ‘mind’ or ‘matter’ – both are themselves metaphorical. The least we can do is to conceptualize this metaphor in other ways: spatial/temporal, actuality/potentiality, the real and the ideal, subject and object, past and future, private and public.
I think the last two metaphors could give rise to another possible way to coagulate the mind/body problem – recognize the private and public experiences that are constantly in the process of transactions and continue to transform themselves from the discrete past to future potentials. The past could be viewed as habitual and physical because it has already taken place while the future is the mental and the temporal aspect of consciousness that recognizes itself in the process of becoming.
Anybody a dualist? or a physicalist? Or has a thought on the mind/body dualism in general?