Even more on consciousness (iv). On being Napoleon. On "-And He Built a Crooked House-".

At the risk of rambling somewhat, I would like to comment about a couple of more things on consciousness.  I have no wish to be supernaturalist - indeed, I am a scientist who thus excludes any sort of supernatural explanation from how the world is (what we mean, however, by supernatural, must come later).  But if we take subjective experience and being someone seriously, it seems to me that the supertwin example (and others like it) show us that physicalism cannot account for everything we know to be true; ie that I am a person with a particular subjective experience,  Let us return once more to eternal recurrence.  Recall that in an infinitely long-lived universe, the same sets of events and circumstances will eventually recur with arbitrary closeness to previous events; and thus a person identical to me will eventually be born again.  Let us assume, in line with physicalism, that that person is really me, and I will really experience my life again.  The question then becomes; how come I end up being this particular person the whole time, and why not someone else?  Why am I never born as Napoleon, or Arnold Schwarzenegger, or Aristotle?  Why is it that my particular subjective experience is attached to brain states similar to the ones I have now, and not to those around me?  
Not me...

Of course, there is a penumbra of possible lives of people somewhat like me that would have different life outcomes; in some I might die at birth, and in others become a champion athlete.  Perhaps in some I live in a time where the problem of aging has been solved and I live for thousands of years.  After all, we know that personal identity persists through a life where every aspect of our brains, including all the molecules in it, changes; and my brain when I am eighty will be extremely different from the one I had when I was twenty.  So it seems that extreme close identity of brains is not enough to guarantee being the same person.  But then, if not that, what does?  It is in arguments like this that one feels most sympathy with the idea of an "arrow" pointing at a particular set of physical arangements with a label saying "this is person X" as a label, which seems fairly close to some sort of soul-like concept.  Let me repeat that I do not wish to endorse such a view, merely to point out that it would solve certain problems. 
Conversely, surely personality, if not subjectivity, is physically determined.  My personality changes through life to a certain extent as I have different experiences: and we know that drugs, injury and illness can all radically alter personality.  We know certain things about the physical basis for certain mental faculties such as memory, which from sea hare studies if nothing else can be seen to have a molecular basis.  And we will certainly find out more about such things. 
Because many people implicilty recognise these problems, professional philosophers have often tried hard to deny the premiss, ie that we really have subjective experience and are persons; ie the commitment to physicalism forces a certain anti-subjective view of the mind on those so committed.  But to do so seems to me to do violence to the data we all know are true; ie we really do have subjective experience; we really do have unified experience.  Sometimes people point towards mind pathologies to argue against this.  For example, examples of "split minds" caused by surgery or by certain types of schizophrenia are sometimes invoked.  In the latter, alien thoughts seem to intrude into the mind of the sufferer that do not "belong" to the rest of the person.  But still, these thoughts do still belong in the sense that they are recognised as an (albeit alien) feature of that person's mind.  So we must be careful about how we interpret such case-histories. 
If consciousness was the only point at issue - if that was the only thing we did not understand - then perhaps we might be justified in this sort of metaphysical vice, forcing consciousness and physicalism together.  But this sort of world view breaks down in cosmology too, as I already commented on.  Furthermore, some of its most basic features, in particular causality, are also highly troublesome; and I shall post more about this later.
The bizarre feeling one gets when one examines the wreckage of the science and philosophy of the mind; parts of it seem tantalisingly explicable, or as if they could be explicable, whereas others are so far from comprehension (the "hard problem") we do not even know where to start, reminds me of the various stories about extra dimensions; and I am thinking in particular of "-and he built a crooked house-", "A wrinkle in time" and "Flatland".  Here people end up in four-dimensional environments with only their three-dimensional modes of understanding.  It is not as if all aspects of this new experience is imcomprehensible; some of it is identical or similar to known modes of understanding; but then other features are totally ungraspable. And, without wishing to imply an extra dimension as the answer (this is only an analogy), this is the "feel" that problems such as cosmology and consciousness also give.  Two speculative questions: do these similar feels come about because the same sort of expansion of our explanatory world would encompass both psychology and cosmology?  And second, does our aesthetic experience, which I have hinted is similar, fall into the same category too? 

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