When studying neurobiology and consciousness, I came across the idea that consciousness is epiphenominal, that is, a side effect of the brain which does not influence the body. A strange idea, certainly. Oddly, scientific data supports the notion that conscious experience is created by non-conscious processes in the brain.
When we make a choice, for example, science has showed that our brain chooses before we do. How can free will exist if your brain already chooses before you do with your supposed free will?
If you find the idea that “you” are an illusion, you will not want to read the following:
The denial of one’s own existence might seem a desperate philosophical strategy, but denying the reality of the self is a line which a number of people have taken, and Thomas Metzinger is prominent among them.
By Peter Hankins
The thesis of his massive 2003 work is summed up in the title: Being No One: The Self-Model Theory of Subjectivity. In that book, Metzinger made a commendable effort to balance philosophy and science; but the sheer size of the resulting text may have deterred some readers — I confess to being somewhat daunted myself. Now he has come back with a slimmer volume The Ego Tunnel which is aimed at a wider public and raises wider issues which Metzinger suggests need public attention.
Metzinger’s theory — the Self-model Theory of Subjectivity or SMT — suggests that subjective experience is really a kind of trick the brain plays on itself. Our brain sets up a model of the world (actually based on fairly limited data) to which it then adds a model of us, ourselves. The coherence of the model and the fact that the processes supporting it are transparent — i.e., invisible to us — yield the vivid impression of a self in direct contact with reality, and that’s where subjectivity arises; although in fact the whole thing is simply an illusion.
Metzinger’s view of qualia is characteristically complex. He has a good argument against the existence of what he calls canonical qualia, qualia conceived as subjective universals. He points out that our ability to discriminate is far greater than our ability to recognise. So, if we are presented with examples of green 64 and green 66, we can readily tell the difference: but if at a later stage we are presented with one of the examples, we have no hope of telling which it is. So there is no single thing that consistently goes along with the experience of green 64.
Concluding that at any rate we need to distinguish between ‘qualia’ available to memory and qualia available to the faculty of recognition, Metzinger goes on to distinguish a series of possible conceptions of qualia, ending with ‘Metzinger qualia’ which are available attentionally but not cognitively. These are slippery customers for obvious reasons, impossible to report and broadly ineffable — but then that’s how qualia are generally assumed to be.
Even as a summary, the foregoing is a bare and radically, probably over- simplified view of the theory, however. Metzinger actually presents ten constraints which need to be satisfied for the occurrence of subjective experience …
via The Ego Tunnel (pt 1) | Machines Like Us.
Of course, once we understand that the basic way the brain is wired is with feedback loops, the most sensible idea (and the most touch with our experience) is if consciousness feeds back into the brain as an input. This “self” input is as important and sometimes more important than input from the outside world. Yes, it happens after other experience, but we have an illusion that we live in the “now” and that we are in control. These are important illusions and very adaptive. Consciousness is a self correction program, an observer model that believes it is the main actor.