What Zeno’s paradoxes can tell us about the hard problem of consciousness

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What Zeno’s paradoxes can tell us about the hard problem of consciousness

Stephen Davies


Quote:So what has this to do with Zeno’s paradoxes where, as we've seen, assuming that experiences of movement are made up of abstractions (dimensionless points on a line and frozen instants of time) led to the paradox that movement and motion are impossible?

[i]Materialists have fallen foul of this same type of paradox. Where Zeno questioned how motion could be possible, materialists have started to question how consciousness can be possible. [/i]Where Zeno posited abstract points and instants, materialists posit an objective and external physical world outside of consciousness. Where Zeno assumed distance and duration are made of abstract points and instants, the materialist assumes that our subjective experiences are made of their abstract formulation of an objective external physical world. Just as Zeno found that a paradox followed if distance and duration were made up of his abstractions, materialists are struggling to figure out how conscious experiences can be made up of their abstractions and measurements: they have hit the hard problem of consciousness.



Quote:The paradox is then, that (under a materialist assumption) all conscious experiences are describable in terms of, and nothing more than properties of, brain states. But the hard problem of consciousness says there is nothing about any of the physical properties of matter, of that particular brain state, that could account for a phenomenal experience of consciousness, of existential dread. The punch-line of the paradox is that the experience can’t be happening, and yet we know that it is.

[i][i]The materialists are making the same type of error as with the Zeno paradoxes of time and distance; they are assuming that an experience we know does happen, is made up of abstractions we can use to describe that experience.[/i][/i]
'Historically, we may regard materialism as a system of dogma set up to combat orthodox dogma...Accordingly we find that, as ancient orthodoxies disintegrate, materialism more and more gives way to scepticism.'

- Bertrand Russell


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