Consciousness ~=~ self-referentiality' (was Re: Consciousness, New Thinking About

Mark Horn rama at
Mon Jun 3 13:55:43 EST 2002


With all due respect -

It seems surprisingly meaningless to suggest that "whatever 
consciousness is, it must be made of normal matter," or anything else.  
The entire endeavour of defining consciousness sits rather forlornly 
betwen philosophy and science, or a rock and a hard place.  
Circumstantially one could argue circles around any such claim that 
consciousness is anything at all.  It is problematic to say that 
consciousness is a state induced by brain function, since one could 
argue equally well that brain form and function are states induced by 
"consciousness."  It is difficult to define "state," let alone 
consciousness as being such a thing, emergent or not, quantum-mechanical 
or otherwise.  We indirectly observe what we believe to be the 
signatures of consciousness, but concrete description eludes our best 

The intellectual frustration of theorizing about "conscious state" in a 
physically self-consistent manner, stems from the nature of the five 
fundamental forces we understand, electric, magnetic, weak nuclear, 
strong nuclear and gravitation,  and how these might possibly be unified 
to yield a single fundamental theory of everything, that is, EVERYTHING.

Circumstantially it would appear that, ahead of such superunification 
(i.e., unification of all five forces), defining consciousness in 
physically meaningful terms may be too difficult.  On the other hand, 
one could also suggest that ahead of defining consciousness, 
superunification may not be possible...  Still others might argue for no 
physical connection at all between consciousness and matter as presently 
understood, or that there's a sixth force, or perhaps a well-dressed 
homunculus so small he just hasn't shown up on anyone's CAT scan.

I would suggest that defining consciousness physically might be 
analogous to the enterprise of defining the quantum wave function of the 
universe [1], and that the convergence of our efforts must ultimately 
yield a quantum cosmology that is totally self-consistent; that is, 
compatible with theories of inflation, the big bang, primordial 
nucleosynthesis, decoupling and particle decay, baryogenesis, 
large-scale structure formation and bulk flow etc.  Such primitive 
compatibility would then render evolution and "consciousness" 
self-consistent, the latter perhaps in the form of a "continuum 
primitive" model, or a "Cartesian theatre" model, or a "Multiple Drafts" 
model etc... [2].

We have currently, in seeking any theory of consciousness, only the 
standard model of particle physics and general relativity as fundamental 
physical "laws" with which to be guided with some limited assurances; 
since advanced studies in consciousness largely neglect the overwhelming 
burden of mining these laws for detailed clues, how close to "getting 
it" could we possibly be?  If the human code is DNA, what prompts normal 
matter to become DNA?  What rule of matter in motion provides the 
impetus for emergent complexity, and at what stage does material 
complexity become a reflexive, functional lifeform?  Is the regress to a 
"source" infinite?  Must we abandon normal matter as a substrate of 

We not on the wrong track, but I think we might be on the wrong train; 
this is the consciousness local... we should change at the next station 
for the physics express...


Mark Jonathan Horn

[1] "Wave Function of the Universe" J.B. Hartle and S.W. Hawking, Phys. 
Rev. D 28, 2960 (1983).

[2]  "Time and the Observer: the Where and When of Consciousness in the 
Brain" Daniel Dennett and Marcel Kinsbourne, Behavioral and Brain 
Sciences, 15, 183-247, 1992. Reprinted in The
Philosopher's Annual, Grim, Mar and Williams, eds., vol. XV-1992, 1994, 

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