Tucson II Conference 1996

See the Tucson II Conference archive, including Here is the text of the abstract for Piet Hut and Roger Shepard's talk:
Having approached the problem of the relation between the mental and the physical from its opposite sides (of cognitive and physical science, respectively), the present authors have come to feel the same qualms about the currently widespread practice of speaking of conscious experience as something that arises only in certain physical systems (brains) and only when they reach a sufficient level of complexity (such as that exemplified by the human brain). From an epistemological standpoint, we believe it would be more justified to start from what one directly experiences. Instead of speaking of conscious experience as arising in a brain, one should speak (inversely) of a brain as arising in conscious experience. Accordingly, we prepose to reconsider the `hard problem' of the relation between conscious experience and the physical world by thus turning that problem upside down. Such an inversion need not entail either Berkeleyan idealism or solipsism -- positions unlikely to gain wide acceptance at a time when neuroscience is bringing daily gains in our knowledge about the brain. Such an inversion does, however, have several virtures: *It is consistent with any present or future scientific knowledge about any physical system, including the brain. *It shifts the mystery from that which should not be mysterious because it is something with which we are already directly acquainted (viz., conscious experience) to that which necessarily remains abstract and hypothetical (viz., a hidden `noumenal' world -- whether of atoms and molecules, collapsing wave functions, vacuum fluctuations, or whatever). *It dispenses with the never justified supposition that complexity is somehow required for conscious experience. (After all, what is complex about a flash of red or a twinge of pain?) *It affords a way of avoiding a seemingly arbitrary asymmetry in which only some (never physically characterized) physical processes are considered to have conscious accompaniments. *It permits a new perspective on the puzzling indications that more than one mind may be associated with the same physical brain -- i.e., the phenomena of `blind sight' and other disconnection syndromes (such as those manifested by `split-brain' patients) as well as instances in which someone else in one's dream delivers an adroit punch line or double entendre that the dreamer `gets' only in retrospect. *It provides some rational justifications for rejecting an uncongenial solipsism by recognizing two things: (a) surprises, when they are retrospectively seen to have arisen from an underlying order, can furnish evidence for other minds in much the same way as they have long been taken to provide evidence for a physical world; and (b) classical physics, whose monolithic objective reality seemed incommensurate with a multiplicity of minds, has been superseded by quantum physics, which can only be rendered objective (as in its `many-worlds' interpretation) by positing a multiplicity of worlds.
Their full presentation was My experience, Your Experience, and the World we Experience: Turning 'The Hard Problem' Upside Down, which they later extended into a longer article: Turning 'The Hard Problem' Upside Down & Sideways.

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