February 2009

As long as science treats consciousness as something that exists in the world, along with ducks, thunderstorms and gamma rays, it will find out nothing. Consciousness is not something to be found in the world, it is what gives us the world in the first place. Bah.

I’m watching Evan Thompson on Neuroscience and Free Will (Part 2 here), and he is merrily talking about reconciling or aligning a third person point of view (give to us through instruments such as imaging, eeg, etc) and the phenomenological “side”. Underlying the images etc is neural activity; however, they do not record it directly. Rather, the signals presented to us are highly mediated and at some remove from the raw neural activity of an individual. Furthermore, what neural activity is to the signals we record, experience is to self-report. It is not a direct read-out of experience, and we need to better understand how the self-report arises, just as we need to know how an fMRI signal is related to neural activity. He expects his audience to get the distinction.

I waffle on about experience, and am stuck, mute, dumb when I am asked what that is. How could you possibly point to it? Sometimes we talk of the theatre where stuff happens. But that isn’t it, because a theatre is another thing. Likewise, we cannot picture or imagine an Umwelt without presupposing another Umwelt.

I think immediate experience is understandable as the experiential counterpart to the Perception/Action relation. But given that nobody seems to agree on what the word experience refers to, might one not simply turn things around, and call the P/A relation the P-world, and see what gives then?