John Searle one of the world’s great philosophers of mind and language, has spent fifty years stimulating thinking around the world. What he says about consciousness as a biological phenomenon will surprise you!
“Consciousness is a curiously neglected subject, both in our scientific and our philosophical culture. it is the most important aspect of our lives for a very simple, logical reason, namely, it’s a necessary condition on anything being important in our lives that we’re conscious.
Consciousness is not a part of the physical world. It’s a part of the spiritual world. It belongs to the soul, and the soul is not a part of the physical world. That’s the tradition of God, the soul and immortality.
Science is objective, consciousness is subjective, therefore there cannot be a science of consciousness.
Consciousness is a biological phenomenon like photosynthesis, digestion, mitosis —you know all the biological phenomena — and once you accept that, most, though not all, of the hard problems about consciousness simply evaporate.
Consciousness does not exist. It’s an illusion, like sunsets. Science has shown sunsets and rainbows are illusions. So consciousness is an illusion.
People always say consciousness is very hard to define. I think it’s rather easy to define if you’re not trying to give a scientific definition. We’re not ready for a scientific definition, but here’s a common-sense definition. Consciousness consists of all those states of feeling or sentience or awareness. It begins in the morning when you wake up from a dreamless sleep, and it goes on all day until you fall asleep or die or otherwise become unconscious.Dreams are a form of consciousness on this definition.
All of our conscious states, without exception, are caused by lower-level neurobiological processes in the brain, and they are realized in the brain as higher-level or system features.
It’s about as mysterious as the liquidity of water. The liquidity is not an extra juice squirted out by the H2O molecules. It’s a condition that the system is in. And just as the jar full of water can go from liquid to solid depending on the behavior of the molecules, so your brain can go from a state of being conscious to a state of being unconscious, depending on the behavior of the molecules.
Maybe we’ll be able to build a conscious machine. Since we don’t know how our brains do it, we’re not in a position, so far, to build a conscious machine.
The disappointment of robotics derives from the fact that we don’t know how to make a conscious robot, so we don’t have a machine that can do this kind of thing.
It’s really a digital computer program running in your brain and that’s what we need to do to create consciousness is get the right program.
The message I want to leave you with is, consciousness has to become accepted as a genuine biological phenomenon, as much subject to scientific analysis as any other phenomenon in biology, or, for that matter, the rest of science. “