General Science and Philosophy


Principia Qualia

Authors: Michael E Johnson

Philosophers have been wondering the nature of consciousness (what it feels like to have subjective experience) and qualia (individual components of subjective experience) for as long as Philosophy has existed. Advancements in physics and neuroscience have informed and constrained this mystery, but have not solved it. What would a systematic solution to the mystery of consciousness look like? Part I begins by grounding this topic by considering a concrete question: what makes some conscious experiences more pleasant than others? We first review what’s known about the neuroscience of pain & pleasure, find the current state of knowledge narrow, inconsistent, and often circular, and conclude we must look elsewhere for a systematic framework (Sections I & II). We then review the Integrated Information Theory (IIT) of consciousness and several variants of IIT, and find each of them promising, yet also underdeveloped and flawed (Sections III-V). We then take a step back and distill what kind of problem consciousness is . Importantly, we offer eight sub-problems whose solutions would, in aggregate, constitute a c omplete theory of consciousness (Section VI). Armed with this framework, in Part II we return to the subject of pain & pleasure (valence) and offer some assumptions, distinctions, and heuristics to clarify and constrain the problem (Sections VII-IX). Of particular interest, we then offer a specific hypothesis on what valence is (Section X) and several novel empirical predictions which follow from this (Section XI). Part III finishes with discussion of how this general approach may inform open problems in neuroscience, and the prospects for building a new science of qualia (Sections XII & XIII). Lastly, we identify further research threads within this framework (Appendices A-F).

Comments: 86 Pages.

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[v1] 2017-10-02 21:52:10

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