Future Directions

This site is a work in progress. These essays are not conclusive, but they point in a direction.

I would like to explore the distinction or lack thereof between qualitative subjective consciousness and cognition. A great deal of thought in the 20th century was devoted to questions such as: What is knowledge? What is meaning? What is a symbol? What does it mean to refer? and a whole bunch of other language and cognition-related questions. I do not know much about this branch of inquiry, but I think we should ask these questions again, but this time in a way that takes the Hard Problem seriously, and does not shy away from the possibility that the answers may depend on, or be given only in terms of, qualitative consciousness. We must abandon the archaic Platonism that lives on in epistemology.

I believe that if we think hard enough, we will find that there is no way to speak precisely about such notions as represent, know, believe, true, false, meaning, information etc. outside of the context of minds. These concepts just will not make any sense until we have solved the problem of consciousness. Specifically, we can not speak of a computer or any of its parts as representing anything, unless we are speaking loosely, metaphorically, anthropomorphizing the computer.

This is philosophy's Promontory Point, where epistemology and ontology meet head-on. What is the actual stuff out there in the universe that constitutes what we know and how we know it? The facts we know, the beliefs we hold, and the cognition we instantiate when we think, are qualitative, and as such we have no idea what they are made of and how that stuff works. We have to figure out how the qualitative aspect plays into the information processing aspect of our cognition, and we have to figure out how we can get qualia to stop being amorphous blobs of seeing red and feeling pain, and start to stack like Lego blocks.

And we will have to entertain some wacky metaphysics. Some form of panpsychism must be true. I suspect that the nature of time is involved somehow. Hard science is a bit agnostic about what time is and how it works, and I believe we have first-person evidence that time and phenomenal consciousness play together pretty closely. As Horgan and Tienson (2002) put it, experience is not of instants; experience is temporally thick.

Gregg Rosenberg has a very well worked out metaphysics in which our notions of time and space are derived from a more fundamental notion of causation, which in turn has a phenomenal aspect. His theory may or may not turn out to be true, but it is a good example of the kind of thing we should be pursuing.

I'd also like to think a bit about will and perception and the relation between the two - the phenomenon of attention will be key here. And let's not forget memory, a much more central mystery than it is generally given credit for. In short, ultimately I'd like to explore the relations (perhaps in some cases being an identity relation) between the following:

Stay tuned, and watch this site as I continue to develop these threads.

Go back up to the main page