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Recreational Metaphysics

Any attempt to find a solution to the mind/body problem must treat consciousness as either an object, a property, or a process, regardless of the fact that consciousness does not appear anywhere within the field of experience (i.e. as an item of experience). To seek an explanatory account of consciousness in this manner would be to imagine a “bigger picture” within which consciousness plays a role (i.e. to imagine it as a part amongst other parts), but a “bigger picture” that cannot be justified on grounds of logical necessity or on grounds of empirical evidence. Furthermore, our default assumption - that every person is associated with an instantiation of consciousness - is inessential for all practical purposes (regardless of our instinct for empathy). The upshot is that the very idea of treating consciousness as an object, property, or process may be in error, but unless this assumption is made, I cannot see how to progress further with this discussion. The task, then, may be considered a recreational activity, inasmuch as it has no value in helping us to negotiate the objective world or to manipulate that world to our advantage.

In prejudicially rejecting metaphysical solipsism, my present position is that the minimum metaphysical configuration consists of a multiplicity of minds (instantiations of consciousness, fields of experience). My principal interest here concerns the set of minds that manifest as perspectives upon a common objective world, since any other kind of mind would have no role to play in any explanatory account of this set. The problem I face at this juncture is that of the inter-relatedness of minds - i.e. how it is that all of these distinct minds come to share a perspective upon a common objective world. The most prevalent view today is that there is a domain in addition to this multiplicity of minds, a domain comprised of something that is not mind (not consciousness) - something called “matter”. According to this view, distinct minds come to share a perspective upon a common objective world because the objective world (as it appears in the field of experience) is a mere facsimile of a perspective taken upon a material world that putatively exists independently of minds - i.e. a world that would exist even if there were no minds to register it in experience. I will refer to this view as materialism. This, in turn, raises further problems regarding the relationship between mind and matter - i.e. how consciousness could possibly have emerged in a world that was initially devoid of it (the “emergence problem”), how the human organism generates its associated instantiation of consciousness (the “generation problem”), how the perceived world might exert any influence upon the constituents of consciousness and similarly how the constituents of consciousness might exert any influence upon the material world (the “interaction problem”). These problems are not trivial and have been dealt with extensively by others without satisfactory resolution (see e.g. Griffin, D.R.), so I am taking the trouble here to investigate the alternative to this view - the view that there is no such material world. This brings me back to the problem of how all these distinct minds come to share a perspective upon a common objective world.

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