Where is Consciousness Located?

It may simplify the question to ask “where is physical pain located”? We are certainly conscious of it. It is pretty real when you are going through it. Clearly, animals experience pain. It does not seem to relieve pain to just say, “hey, this is just some nerves moving ions around”, but on a physiological level, that is all pain more or less is.

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You wrote:

There is simply no escape: without a supernatural soul, humans are tied down by the laws of physics. We are reduced to automatons, and the implications of this are far-reaching. Showing this to the atheist is a very good way to begin to take the roof off their false worldview.

I see no problem with this. I am an atheist and I don’t think that I have free will.
But where does consciousness originate? Well, most scientists believe that it is an emergent property of the brain. It’s safe to say that there’s more than one “master switch” for consciousness. For example, Blumenfeld (2014) reviewed and described a very interesting experiment conducted by Koubeissi et al. (2014):

During cortical mapping of a patient undergoing intracranial EEG and video monitoring, the authors stimulated a single-electrode contact and produced behavioral unresponsiveness and amnesia. The electrode was located in the region of the left extreme capsule adjacent to the anterior dorsal insula and claustrum. The effect was seen in 10 of 10 stimuli at 14 mA, and stimuli consisted of 3- to 10-s 50-Hz brief square wave pulses, using a medial frontal electrode as reference (stimulation between the medial frontal contact and other electrodes produced no behavioral change). During stimulation, the patient stared blankly and did not respond to commands. After the stimulus, the patient immediately returned to baseline with no recall of events during stimulation and no recall of words presented during stimulation. Stimulation also produced arrest of reading; however, the patient could continue repetitive hand or tongue movements for up to 4 s after stimulus onset.

Blumenfeld concludes that the claustrum may represent “a new potentially critical hub in the network of consciousness.” This does not mean that consciousness originates there. But it is clear that consciousness is governed by the activity of the brain.

But that means you didn’t arrive at your conclusion of atheism freely, and nor do I disagree with you freely, either. We are both believing what we believe due to factors outside our own control.

But that doesn’t mean it’s irrational. Rationality does not require some type of libertarian free will. I like this quote by Christian theologian Randal Rauser:

“Rather, what reason requires is the ability of an individual effectively to track the relationship between propositions, their logical relationships, and supporting evidence. And there is no inconsistency between believing that such abilities can exist in a deterministic universe.”

And determinism does not imply we are some kind of robots. People confuse determinism with fatalism way too often.


How would you demonstrate this?

I’m also not sure why emergence is a problem from a Christian perspective.

I’m not sure I understand your argument about emergence in that article, but maybe that’s something for another thread. I don’t think salt is an example of emergence, for instance.

5 posts were split to a new topic: What is emergence and how do we use it?

But if there is no freedom, then one’s ability to do that is outside of one’s own control and therefore becomes irrelevant to the person. If I am not making any genuine (free) choices as an agent when I decide to believe something, then my belief is just an attribute of the universe and says nothing of the truth or falsehood of that proposition. Reason becomes irrelevant because it is not fundamentally different from non-reason; both are just paths that people are forced to tread as they ‘dance to the music of their DNA’ and of physics.

Okay. Just ignore everything I said and restate your argument. Geez. Again your conflating determinism with fatalism.

You have not explained how this is a conflation.

I’m watching bama right now. I’ll respond later and post important papers etc.

@PDPrice start here to get a better idea of what determinism actually posits:


This as well:

Says who? Do you have support for your premise here?

If I am not making any genuine (free) choices as an agent when I decide to believe something, then my belief is just an attribute of the universe and says nothing of the truth or falsehood of that proposition.

But how can I freely choose to believe something? Belief is not a choice; it’s compulsion. I am compelled to believe what I think is true. For example, I cannot freely choose to believe in the existence of unicorns. The only alternative to determinism is randomness. If nothing causes me to believe something, then I hold my beliefs for no reason. Why would that be any better?

I think Rauser is incorrect about the requirements of rationality here: what rationality requires is the ability to choose the conclusion because (i.e. for the reason that) it bears the correct logical relationship to the premises. This requires the human reasoning process to involve intrinsic teleology in a way that no mere physical system can: physics doesn’t make any reference to reasons, so the ultimate cause of “reasoning” determined by physics isn’t actually discriminating based on reasons, and moreover, reductionistic accounts of intentionality that try to get around this have all failed. And even if you go the Aristotelian route and bring teleology back into material things, there are arguments within that metaphysical system that the intellect must be immaterial.

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If belief is compelled, then we bear no responsibility for what we believe. Then (for example) it’s not a young-earth creationist’s fault for not accepting the evidence for an old earth, right? They simply weren’t compelled by it.

Introspectively, it seems to me that we do in fact have a choice over our beliefs - when we see sufficient reason for a belief we can choose to accept it or not.

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I have a series of blog posts starting here: The Realm of the Mind, arguing for dualism regarding the mind-body problem. And since I’ve recently read his book which touches on this, I might as well point towards Ed Feser’s blog, where a search for “arguments for dualism” will turn up a lot of interesting posts.

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Correct. I don’t think that anyone can be held accountable for what they believe.

Introspectively, it does not seem to me that we have a choice over our beliefs. I cannot simply “will” myself to believe something. If you can choose to accept a belief as long as you see sufficent reason for it, then theoretically, you could also choose to accept a belief for which there is no verifiable evidence. But I bet you can’t. I am going to type in a proposition:

Unicorns exist.

Now choose to accept the validity of this proposition. You can’t. Maybe if there was some evidence to back it up, you would accept it. But notice how we just established a causal link: if the reason why you believe in a proposition is because you recognize its internal consistency and its solid evidential basis, then that recognition is what causes you to believe it.

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I don’t see any reason to accept that premise, so your argument against my position doesn’t work.

Necessary condition =/= sufficient condition.

You clearly sidestepped the issue. It is obvious that we don’t “choose” what convinces us. Either we are convinced or we are not and this is entirely beyond our control. You wrote:

when we see sufficient reason for a belief we can choose to accept it or not.

When I choose to believe in a proposition, does something cause me to believe it or do I choose to believe it for no reason? If nothing causes me to believe in it, then my “choice” constitutes nothing more than a chance event.

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I didn’t sidestep anything. You put forward an argument, I pointed out you had an unsupported premise so your argument didn’t go anywhere.

Depending on how you’re defining “convincing”, I don’t think that is obvious. If by “convincing” you mean rationally compelling belief, then sure, we can’t choose what convinces us - but that doesn’t mean we don’t have control over any of our beliefs, because not all of our beliefs are rationally compelled that way. If by “convincing” you mean whatever serves as the basis for accepting the belief, then I would say there actually are cases where we can choose what convinces us.

False dichotomy. In cases of voluntary beliefs, I cause me to believe it (I am not merely determined to by my environment or neurological state), and I do so for the reasons that I see for the belief (which are not the efficient cause but the teleological final cause of my belief).

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