The Non-Causal Account of the Spontaneous Emergence of Phenomenal Consciousness in Concsciousness and the Ontology of Properties edited by Mihretu P. Guta

In Anthology. New York: Routledge. pp. 126-151 (2019)

Mihretu P. Guta
Biola University
In this paper, I will give a three-stage analysis of the origin of phenomenal consciousness. The first one has to do with a non-causal stage. The second one has to do with a causal stage. The third one has to do with a correlation stage. This paper is divided into three sections. In section I, I will discuss a non-causal stage which focuses on finite consciousness as an irreducible emergent property—i.e., a simple non-structural property that is unique to the “emergent” level of reality. I will examine currently dominant accounts of the emergence of phenomenal consciousness—which require consciousness to have some sort of causal link to its base level. Those who think of the emergence of consciousness in casual terms, often have in mind, brain complexity as a source of such causality. However, the causal proposal faces two serious empirically supported objections, namely: the gametes problem and the complexity problem, respectively. The first objection deals with conception (i.e., fertilization) and the impossibility of tracking down/spotting the origin of consciousness at any point during the process of the development of a foetus. The second objection focuses on demonstrating that, no amount of analysis of the physical basis of complex brain will unfold anything substantial about the origin of consciousness. Both of these two objections show why the diachronic account of the origin of the phenomenal consciousness is hard to come by. In section II, I will discuss a causal stage which focuses on, how once it emerges, consciousness enters into the domain of causal interaction with brain states. This is the stage where we come across both ‘the explanatory gap problem’ and ‘the hard problem of consciousness.’ In section III, I will discuss the correlation stage which focuses on the manner in which phenomenal consciousness continues to co-exist with its physical base (e.g., brain). To show this, I will discuss the notion of correlation and its relation to causation. The upshot of my discussion in the above three sections will constitute the view I call the non-causal spontaneous emergence of phenomenal consciousness. According to the view I am proposing, there is no causal-link between strongly emergent property (in this case, consciousness) and its base level—although the base level (as far as we know) serves as a sufficient condition (but not as a necessary condition) for its emergence. In light of this, I conclude this paper by claiming that phenomenal consciousness is a strongly emergent property.
Keywords Consciousness, causation, explanation
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