Monday, December 11, 2023

Against the necessary unity of consciousness

Consider this unity of consciousness thesis:

  1. Necessarily, if x at time t has phenomenal state A and phenomenal state B at time t, then x at t has a phenomenal state that includes both A and B.

(Note that (1) seems incompatible with time travel. But that is perhaps fixed by specifying that we are talking about internal time in (1).)

Christians have special reasons to be dubious of (1).

Start with this quick thought. Around 30 AD, the Logos was suffering pain on the cross and comprehensively experiencing his infinite divinity. But the Logos did not have a phenomenal state that subsumed these two phenomenal states. For orthodox Chalcedonian theology has it that the Logos had two minds: a divine mind and a human mind. Only in the divine mind can one have a mental state that subsumes the comprehensive experience of divinity. But no state subsuming suffering can be found in the divine mind.

This argument is suggestive but not conclusive. For we might say that it is not correct to say that the Logos has the divine experience around 30 AD, because God is outside of time.

But as we learn from Aquinas, once we accept that one incarnation of the Logos is possible, we should also accept that two simultaneous ones are possible. There are no further conceptual difficulties in two than in one, and if omnipotence allows for one, it should allow for two. But if the Logos had two simultaneous incarnations, then the Logos would have, in addition to the divine mind, two temporal creaturely minds. And if one of these minds houses unmitigated joy and the other sorrow, then none of the three minds of the Logos would house a state that includes both the joy and the sorrow, and hence the Logos would not have such a subsumptive state.

Further, if (1) is true, surely so is:

  1. Necessarily, if x timelessly has phenomenal state A and phenomenal state B, then x timelessly has a phenomenal state that includes both A and B.

And now imagine that the timeless Logos engages in an analogue of the incarnation but as a timeless conscious being. Then the timeless Logos would have a divine phenomenal state and a human one which would not be unified.

Here is another thought against (1). Suppose that in heaven, Peter enjoys the beatific vision of God while enjoying Paul’s singing. A subsumptive phenomenal state that includes both the beatific vision and Paul’s singing would then be greater than either one of the included states. But no phenomenal state that Peter has is greater than Peter’s beatific vision.

There is a metaphysical version of this argument. The beatific vision has God directly as its content, rather than merely having a representation of God as its content. A state that included the beatific vision and Paul’s singing would have to have as its content God himself plus a representation of Paul’s singing. But there is no way to have a whole of which God is a proper part (Aquinas considers this to be a part of divine simplicity; but we might also think it follows from Anselmian theology—there cannot be anything greater than God).

Of course, even if (1) is false in general, a non-modal version may be true restricted to ordinary human phenomenal states, and we still will need an explanation of that fact. And it may be that some of the arguments people make from (1) against various materialist theories of consciousness would apply against the restricted thesis.

1 comment:

Heavenly Philosophy said...

Also, do you have any non-theological reasons one could use against this? Maybe an argument from eternalism and how we don't experience all time at once, so our minds are fractured. I'm also thinking of an argument from split-brain patients being one person. I'm sort of becoming more sympathetic to your view. How do you think this relates to polycephalous cases, like Cerberus or a rational equivalent, where there is one animal with multiple heads?