By Gerald Edelman, Giulio Tononi
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Additional info for A Universe Of Consciousness: How Matter Becomes Imagination
Qxd 6/24/04 THE 12:11 PM SPECIAL Page 15 PROBLEM OF CONSCIOUSNESS 15 Finally, in accord with our view of the conscious observer, the qualia assumption states that the subjective, qualitative aspects of consciousness, being private, cannot be communicated directly through a scientific theory that, by its nature, is public and intersubjective. 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.
Another key, and apparently contrastive, property of conscious experience is its extraordinary differentiation or informativeness: At any moment, one out of billions of possible conscious states can be selected in a fraction of a second. We thus have the apparent paradox that unity embeds complexity—the brain must deal with plethora without losing its unity or coherence. Our task is to show how it does so. The range and variety of conscious phenomenology stretch as widely as one’s experience and as far as one’s imagination can go; it is everyman’s private theater.
Exploring the philosophical implications of these assumptions in any depth would lead us into territories of ontology and epistemology that would distract us from our main task—a scientific explanation of consciousness and its properties. We therefore forgo the discussion of several interesting corollaries, which we consider only at the end of the book. Here, we simply mention useful points that will help us keep in mind the proper order of things. These points follow from our three methodological assumptions and, as we shall see, are important in understanding the special problems that must be addressed by a scientific analysis of consciousness.