I recently published a substack post on consciousness and am using this to write a few extra notes that I excluded from the article for brevity.
My goal with the article was to take the reader on a kind of explanatory journey, which meant that I had to take certain intellectual shortcuts and brush over some nuances.
- I start the piece with a materialist paradigm in which it’s “obvious” that chairs and atoms are not conscious. I only later question this view after identifying the hard problem. In truth, we don’t have any way of “observing” the contents of someone else’s mind, so we can’t verify or falsify the consciousness of any other entity. Until we have a robust theory of consciousness, it’s not “obvious” what is or isn’t conscious.
- In the piece I also suggest that “the one thing you can be sure of is your own consciousness”. I recognize that even this is a theory-laden claim and is not exactly something one can be “sure” of. But I think in the context of almost everyone’s basic worldview (including my own), the fact of one’s own consciousness is especially difficult to call into question, compared to almost any other fact. Perhaps the only exception here is the claim that “there is something”, which seems even more difficult to doubt than one’s own consciousness.