What is consciousness?

Faced with so many different conceptions about consciousness, the question is not rather: What can bring together all these concepts from millennia of evolution of humanity?

This multitude points to a paradox of consciousness: each accepts that the others are a phenomenon similar to itself, and each has a specific interpretation of itself. Collectivism and individualism entangled.

Science, our most orderly conceptual phalanx, is already unable to agree on the phenomenon. The two most popular theories, Global Workspace (ETG) and Integrated Information Theory (IDT), are declared rivals and are currently confronted in experiments. In vain. They do not use the same definition of consciousness.

The ETG is aimed at the consciousness of 'phenomenon experienced in a state of awakening'. The mechanism, she says, is a massive reenterate in the cortex of information already encoded elsewhere in the brain, which allows this information to "observe itself."

The TII is aimed at the 'aggregate of information' consciousness. It makes it a phenomenon directly proportional to the depth of information processing (the more information undergoes complex processing in conjunction with others, the more it forms an elaborate experience of consciousness).

Not only do the two theories not speak of the same consciousness, but they look at it from opposite points of view. The ETG is phenomenologist, that is, it starts from the phenomenon experienced and wonders where it may come from; while TII is ontological, that is, it starts from micromechanisms (the processing of information) and wonders what it can produce.

This matter of point of view is generalisable. In fact, all opinions about consciousness are classified as phenomenologists and ontological. Religions and mysticisms are phenomenonisms. God has never been observed physically. He is above our consciences and contemplates them. It's a top-down look. Physical scientists are ontologists. The micromechanisms of matter produce all phenomena, right down to consciousness. Information structure. It's a look from the bottom up.

Our problem of unification then becomes that of the meeting of these two looks. How can they be merged when causality opposes them? How can I remain a monist?

The solution I support is to reason in terms of information plans. Conflicting interpretations are almost systematically linked to the fact that their proponents do not speak of the same levels of information. We have just seen this with neuroscience, where the ETG models the 'proven consciousness' plan while the TII models the entire structure underlying this plan.

Talking about micromechanism is about determining an underlying organizational plan. But there is not a single one. Physicalists tend to talk about systems and subsystems. That's misleading. Systems are not passive productions of their subsystems. They have relative independence. Emergence is a physical reality. Information plans are often separated by abysses of size, energy and elemental duration.

In other words, dualism exists in ontological reality, but it is a multitude of successive levels and not a brutal gap between matter and spirit. It is a dualism compatible with a unique reality, monist.

From then on what consciousness becomes explicit, as does our paradox of the beginning. Consciousness is the fusion of the information that constitutes it. It is not just this information assembled, it is something more. It is the support of this relative independence formed by the organisational plan formed.

Our neurons form a significant number of these planes, from the unconscious organization of sensory stimuli to cortical synthesis and its reentry. Only the top of this organization is experienced as a conscience (the independence of the levels remains relative). If a surgeon took the cortex away from us (which does not prevent us from surviving most of the time), our consciousness would not disappear. It would become terribly coarser. Most of its depth of information would disappear. Supporters of the ETG would say that the consciousness has disappeared, because they no longer see the very organized phenomenon they have defined in this way. While the TII would be less wrong in saying that consciousness has collapsed its depth and descended to the level of a primitive animal.

Why does the paradox of the beginning disappear? Because we easily recognize that the information assembled by our brains are strictly individual collections, but their integration, the fusion phenomenon itself, is the same for all.


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