Consciousness

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Consciousness is a term used in psychology and philosophy of mind to refer to a number of different phenomena. It can refer to attentiveness or self-awareness, but the sense that has attracted the most interest in recent years is the sense of subjective experience. This sense is sometimes illustrated through such questions as "what is it like to be a bat?"

The most basic debate over consciousness in this sense is whether it can be explained in physical terms, or is in principle inexplicable in physical terms. David Chalmers, a leading advocate of the second view, defends his position primarily by appealing to the possibility of a physical duplicate of a person without any of that person's subjective experiences (the zombie argument) or the possibility of a super-scientist who knows everything about the physical aspects of perception but doesn't know what it's like to have a particular experience (the knowledge argument, or "Mary" argument for the name commonly given to the hypothetical super-scientist). John Searle has accused proponents of the physical view of consciousness of simply ignoring our conscious experiences. In response, Daniel Dennett has argued that the anti-physicalist position makes consciousness something utterly mysterious, which our scientific investigations into the brain have inexplicably failed to detect. Against the accusation that he is denying something obvious which we could not be mistaken about, Dennet has said "this is a mysterious doctrine (at least as mysterious as papal infallibility)." In order to make their views comfortable with modern science, many proponents of physically irreducible consciousness endorse a view known as epiphenomenalism, which says that conscious states are caused by the brain but do not themselves cause anything physical. In the view of critics like Dennett, however, this simply contributes to the mysteriousness of the view.

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Neurological Background Information

The organ by which we come about perceiving our world and make sense of it is the brain.

The center of cognition in the human brain is the frontal lobe, which is in addition used for executive function - i.e. pulling together information and deciding what to do with it.

Sensory perception is located in the parietal and temporal lobes; disorders which afflict this particular area include temporal lobe epilepsy, a noted subject of neurotheology (for more information, read the works of neurotheologists Richard Davidson and Robert Persinger).

The limbic system, especially the hypothalamus and amygdala, pull together and react to this information to send it to the frontal lobes. Swedish neuroscientist Bjorn Merker has in addition postulated that the brain stem produces a rudimentary consciousness which includes perception, integration, decision, and action on external stimuli. This perception and cognition and the action of executive function and the hypothalamus combine to create thought.

Argument for God

Main Article: Argument from consciousness

The argument from consciousness is based on the alleged fact that our minds are adapted to understand the universe. It is a form of argument from design. It is also related to the anthropic principle because if the universe were unintelligible, we might not even survive.

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