By Gerald Edelman, Giulio Tononi
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Additional resources for A Universe Of Consciousness: How Matter Becomes Imagination
Accepting this assumption does not mean that the necessary and sufficient conditions for consciousness cannot be described, only that describing them is not the same as generating and experiencing them. As we shall see, qualia can be considered forms of multidimensional discrimination that are carried out by a complex brain. We can analyze them and give a prescription for how they emerge, but obviously we cannot give rise to them without first giving rise to appropriate brain structures and their dynamics within the body of an individual organism.
As Descartes recognized and took as his point of departure, such arrogance is partly justified, since our conscious experience is the only ontology of which we have direct evidence. As Schopenhauer noted,1 this statement generates a curious paradox. The immense richness of the phenomenological world that we experience—conscious experience as such—appears to be dependent on what seems a mere trifle in the furniture of that world, a gelatinous piece of tissue contained in the skull. Our brain, presenting itself as a fleeting and minor actor on the stage of consciousness that most of us have never seen, seems to hold the key to the entire performance.
This, in a nutshell, is the special problem of consciousness—the world knot. Sometimes the best way to solve a problem is simply to ask the right question. And sometimes the best way to ask the right question is to come up with an example that makes most explicit what the problem is about. 7 Let us then consider a conscious human being performing the same task and then giving a verbal report. The problem of consciousness can now be posed in elementary terms: Why should the simple differentiation between light and dark performed by the human being be associated with and, indeed, require conscious experience, while that performed by the photodiode presumably does not?