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Is consciousness a strongly emergent property - Essay Example

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Is consciousness a strongly emergent property

The emergentist theories on consciousness are based upon the idea that the whole of consciousness is far greater than that of the parts from which it is composed. The reductionist theories suggest that there cannot be a system in which the parts do not exist and therefore cannot be reduced from that system. In discussing the idea of the consciousness, the idea of an emergent system from which something more is created that is beyond that of the definable parts suggests that the idea of consciousness is an emergent system. The concept of consciousness is a difficult place to locate in relationship to the natural world. It is a part of the present, an aspect of the moment, but also an intangible that cannot be placed in the physical plane. Chalmer (2003) discusses the concept of consciousness in relationship to six different classes, which can then be divided into two sets. The first set is focused on the idea of consciousness as a physical process where the second is focused on the idea of consciousness which requires a “re-conception for a physical ontology” (Chalmer 2003, p.103). The idea of consciousness, although easily defined as being present or not, as in either someone is conscious or not, it is far more difficult to determine what it means to be conscious. Consciousness is essentially defined by the idea of experience. What is perceived is translated into the mind and the ability to create those perceptions can be defined as a part of what it means to be conscious. Identifying the functions and processes that are the defining concepts of consciousness and trying to separate them between the physical and the metaphysical becomes a part of how the problem of consciousness becomes more complicated. American philosopher John Searle stated that “the most important problem in the biological sciences today is the problem of consciousness…understanding the nature of consciousness crucially requires understanding how brain processes cause and realize consciousness” (Bonshek, Bonshek and Fergusson 2007, p. 3). The duality of being ‘awake’ is in the idea of the separation of mind and body. When the mind is separated from the body as a metaphysical presence, the idea of consciousness becomes far more complicated to define as a state of being. In trying to define consciousness, the two opposing theories are termed emergent or reductionist. The emergent theories of consciousness can be understood as a development of a group of parts that are all associated and when put together there is more to them than how they are valued separately. Kim (1999, p. 3) that “systems acquire increasingly higher degrees of organizational complexity they begin to exhibit novel properties that in some sense transcend the properties of their constituent parts, and behave in ways that cannot be predicted on the basis of the laws governing simpler systems”. The emergent concept allows for the idea that the parts do not have meaning when not in the function of the whole. From a reductionist perspective, the definition of the object is constructed by the understanding of how the parts work individually and are then assembled to create the whole (Bonshek, Bonshek, and Fergusson 2007). It might be said that the reductionist looks at what can be determined through tangible means and the emergent theorist looks at how the sum extends beyond the tangible provability of what is reduced to its parts. In order to look at the idea of consc ...Show more


Consciousness as a strongly emergent property Defining what it means to be conscious is a difficult task for which multiple theories have emerged from which to explore the topic. The idea of consciousness is both physical and ontological, based upon experience and perception…
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