Up@dawn 2.0

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

14-3 Keith Ward and Consciousness

Consciousness is a major problem for materialists, who believe that everything that exists is composed of publicly observable material elements in this (or at least in some) space-time. Empiricist philosophers may have been wrong about many things, but they were probably right in thinking that all knowledge begins with experience. If this is so, Ward would agree that consciousness is the necessary basis of all theoretical knowledge, including knowledge of the human brain and its behavior.

One problem philosophers have traditionally dealt with is whether or not these immediate acquaintances can give rise to accurate theoretical knowledge of the world outside of conscious experience. Ward's advice would include that we must trust that our consciousness provides genuine knowledge by acquaintance before we can trust that any of its contents provide clues to what is real.

Brain events do cause conscious states to exist. Is this a problem?
Only if it is believed that material events can have only material effects. But that is a dogma that consciousness undermines.

After some mild group discussion outside of the JUB, some of us agreed that consciousness seems to show that materialism is false, since consciousness does not consist of publicly observable material elements in space-time. Conscious states also usually involve an affective tendency to seek or avoid their objects. So, in the absence of a conclusive rebuttal, it is reasonable to believe that conscious states influence behavior. If they didn't, then consciousness would have no evolutionary efficacy, and knowledge of a state of affairs would have no effect on behavior!

Ward further describes consciousness with:

"Consciousness is an irreducible feature of reality and is probably the ontologically primary reality. The great majority of classical philosophers have taken this view. But to work it out fully, taking into account the recent findings of evolutionary biology, neurophysiology, and quantum physics, is a formidable undertaking, requiring both bold speculation and intellectual humility."

Ward also believes that the future of science is closely bound up with somehow integrating consciousness and the material substratum of the cosmos in a coherent way. Which is something that has yet to actually occur.

I suggest reading his book More than Matter? if anyone is interested in delving more into the concept of consciousness from Ward's perspective.

Possible exam question: Who suggests that consciousness and idealism should be more of a concern than materialism?

1 comment:

  1. Ward feels a believer in god thinks god first.We should be self aware. What is conciousness? Material things take reality into question. God is the only real thing before human conciousness , its not science that bring these things. We came from god as his real things so is our destruction not of the planet from him as well?

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