Time and consciousness

Document Type: 
ASSC Conference Item
Theory of Consciousness
time consciousness qualia NCC what-it-is-like-to-be
Deposited by: 
Dr Marek Binder
Date of Issue: 
Marek Binder
Event Dates: 
23-26 June 2006
Event Location: 
Oxford, United Kingdom
Event Title: 
10th annual meeting of the Association for the Scientific Study of Consciousness
Event Type: 
ASSC Conference
Presentation Type: 
Number of Pages: 
The topic of this poster is a proposal of how to include time into our understanding of consciousness and its possible physical underpinnings.My reasoning is based on two assumptions. The first is that there exists an objective and irreversible passage of time. Despite this issue has been problematic in current physics, there are theoretical standpoints that support this view. This assumption means that every physical event in the universe, apart of its physical properties, has the property of being absolutely singular. Let us call this property a “uniqueness” of physical events. According to the second assumption every conscious experience has a neural correlate. Let us call neural events correlated with conscious experiences the “C-events”. On the basis of the above assumptions we can put forth a following statement that links phenomenal aspect of conscious experiences and occurrence of C-events: the phenomenal aspect of conscious experience (qualia) is a property of uniqueness of C-events. In other words, qualia are occurrences of C-events that take place in an environment characterized by the objective and irreversible passage of time. Conclusion is that the existence of qualia depends both on brain activity and on the global arrow of time (which has been expressed here by the property of uniqueness of physical events). In other words, qualia indicate the “unique” existence of the universe. I hope that this reasoning can help us to understand inaccessibility of the “what-it-is-like-to-be” property of consciousness. In accordance with Nagel let us assume that a bat has a certain kind of conscious experience. Thus we have accept that in its brain there happen C-events in some form. According to our assumptions the bat's brain C-events, whenever they take place, they possess the property of uniqueness and they are correlated with the bat’s qualia. It implies that our knowledge about “what it is like to be a bat” is impossible. It must be so, because by virtue of our assumptions the bat’s phenomenal experiences are unique and they are inseparably bound with the place and the time of the occurrences of the C-events in its brain.
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