Is consciousness fundamental?

Discussion in 'General Philosophy' started by matthew809, Feb 8, 2015.

  1. matthew809 Registered Senior Member

    Which is more likely(or intuitive): that consciousness is an emergent property of matter, or that matter is a mental construct of consciousness?

    The latter seems to win the law of Occam's Razor, as it only requires the assumption that consciousness exists.

    On the other hand, emergent consciousness (from matter) requires the assumption that matter/space-time is fundamental to the universe and that consciousness somehow (supernaturally I suppose) emerges from matter. Yet consciousness is something so completely incompatible with matter, a relationship so nonsensical, that it is un-contrastable. It's a whole different form of existence... so different in fact, that this "emerging" consciousness may be thought of as emerging from nothing at all(a big bang of sorts). Or, it could be that matter/space-time and consciousness are fundamental aspects of existence. Either way seems incomprehensible though.

    Doesn't it make a lot more intuitive sense that consciousness is the only thing that actually exists?
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  3. Sarkus Hippomonstrosesquippedalo phobe Valued Senior Member

    I beg to differ: Occam's razor favours the former - it requires nothing knew other than an understanding of how it occurs. The latter requires the introduction of a whole new unknown class of existence.
    Occam's razor is also not about the number of assumptions but of simplicity of explanation given current understanding. More basically it is about accepting a theory that has less plurality.
    Other scholars have come up with other formulations of the razor, regarding number of assumptions (although pure numerical assessment is flawed), or natural causes before non-natural etc.

    Most formulations would have the explanation through emergent property as being preferable to anything requiring the assumption of existence of a new class of fundamental entity.
    Not supernaturally, no. No more than the wetness of water supernaturally emerges from a collection of individual water molecules. But your incredulity, and arguments thereof, are noted.
    More arguments from incredulity.
    Why is consciousness "so completely incompatible with matter"? You state it like it is an accepted truth, so please support your notion - or will you admit that your incredulity stems from ignorance?
    A simple thermostatic system regulates temperature through feedback... and consciousness is likely no different just on a vastly more complex scale. Trillions of interconnected paths rather than just one or two. We don't know the precise workings, but there is zero need as yet to invoke consciousness as a separate class of existence.
    Thanks for confirming that you are arguing from ignorance and incredulity.
    Not to me, no.
    Do you really think the universe didn't exist before the first conscious life-form? We have a reasonable idea, from physical evidence, that the universe has existed for c.13.5 billion years. Consciousness has been around for less time than that. To me that suggests the universe existed before without the need for consciousness. Why not to you?
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  5. matthew809 Registered Senior Member

    I think you have it backwards. This "whole new class of existence" isn't new at all. In fact, your consciousness is the one thing you can be certain exists, and is exclusive to the entire expanse of your existance.... everything else is questionable. Doesn't this make consciousness fundamental?

    This is something you must extensively ponder on your own(not to say that you haven't). I just feel like words could easily be misinterpreted.

    My understanding on this matter stems only from my own intuition. It makes sense to me. I claim nothing more.

    You are explaining consciousness with a materialistic analogy. Therefore I assume you don't accept the existence of consciousness per se, but only the effects of it on the material world.

    Well if the material world is just an illusion of consciousness then these questions and your concerns would have no relevance.
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  7. Sarkus Hippomonstrosesquippedalo phobe Valued Senior Member

    No. It merely places a limitation on what we can know for sure... and what we can know is that we ourselves are conscious - not what that consciousness is, not how it is arrived at, merely that it exists.
    The fact that that consciousness interacts with something outside of itself (i.e. we are aware of not just that we are aware, but of other things) is sufficient grounds for not assuming that consciousness is fundamental, and that what it interacts with may just be a different arrangement of something more fundamental.
    This is a pathetic cop-out on your part. No more meaningful than theists saying "God works in mysterious ways" to explain things. If you have no intention to support your claims or opinions, then they are best left unstated in the first place.
    Then don't dress them up as fact. State that they are your opinion, opinions that you are unwilling to support or argue, and then we can dismiss them as such without further consideration.
    If, however, you want us to consider them and respond to them, have the decency to support them.
    As it is, all I see are arguments from personal incredulity and ignorance.
    I accept the existence of consciousness as much as I accept the existence of wetness, or of any other emergent property.
    I.e. it exists as a property at a certain level of complexity and arrangements of interactions of the underlying matter (for which I include energy and all things "material" as distinguished from a non-material realm). It has no existence below that level, the way wetness does not have meaning when looking at a single molecule of water.
    So you intend to dismiss any argument that you seem otherwise to have no answer to with an "if I'm right they are irrelevant, so I'll treat them as irrelevant"?
    Whether you deem them relevant or not, how do you explain the observations and the inferences thereof, that something existed prior to consciousness?
  8. matthew809 Registered Senior Member

    When you dream, your consciousness doesn't interact with the "physical" universe that you dream up. If you somehow were able to have a super-realistic dream, wherein the "physical" universe of your dream followed consistent laws of order, would that make the "material" world of your dream any more real? Does this illusion of realness make it more likely to be fundamental? Or, does it strengthen the idea that consciousness itself is fundamental?

    Apparently I still have a lot to learn about how these forums work. I thought that I was posting appropriately for the sub-forum I started the thread in.

    You are referring to human consciousness, which has "dimensional" limits(ie. time and space). I am referring to the underlying existence of consciousness itself.
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  9. PhysBang Valued Senior Member

    At least one professional philosopher offers the claim that all matter is consciousness. What we think of as living organisms tend to have more advanced consciousness associated with their activities, but all physical interactions produce consciousness.

    It's an interesting view to consider, at least.
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  10. Sarkus Hippomonstrosesquippedalo phobe Valued Senior Member

    When you dream your consciousness does precious little. Only when you have lucid dreams do you retain any consciousness, and that is conscious interaction with internal, but no less physical, process - interactions with memories etc that have been stored through the interaction with the external universe.
    Neither. We can (or at least should) only go by where the evidence leads, and not go with a "well, you can't prove it isn't true..." mentality.
    It's a philosophy forum - but even in philosophy you need to support your notions, your claims etc. Did you think this was the pseudoscience or cesspool, perhaps?
    And there was you espousing that the only thing we can know to exist is our own consciousness, which if it isn't human...?
    So if you're now wishing to move into the realms of even further speculation and unsupported claims... feel free but again you're going to have to support whatever you claim to be true, or state that it is a mere unsupported opinion on your part and we can either discuss it in that light or dismiss it out of hand... whichever one prefers.
    But as soon as you lay claim to the truth of something, be prepared to stand by it and support it.
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  11. Magical Realist Valued Senior Member

    Yes..and for wholly self-evident reasons. Here we are for example discussing matter and the universe and consciousness. But what is this process in itself? It is a mental process going on in our own minds. This whole thread will become nothing but a mind-generated dialogue of various concepts we are having. At what point is matter or physical reality even evident here? Well thru the words we each type on these screens. That's the matter part. But beyond that we are wholly absorbed in a consciousness of these various abstract ideas. Matter itself is just a generalization--a category of the mind we use to define our experience. It is very clear to me here that the moment we start using language, we aren't dealing in the sensory world anymore but in a world constructed by the mind. Abstractions and logic and principles and cognition, NOT the physical world we are only talking about. Consciousness or mind imposes order on the senses as a conceptualized physical world. We would never experience the physical world or matter without this mental construct of a physical world being OUT there independent of us. It is simply impossible to experience the physical world in itself without it first having been projected as real by our own consciousness. Raw sensory data would be nothing more than morphing shapes and patches of colors without any pattern were it not for the intervention of the mind extrapolating it into 3D mass-possessing objects and forces and spaces.
    Last edited: Feb 8, 2015
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  12. C C Consular Corps - "the backbone of diplomacy" Valued Senior Member

    There are potentially two species of consciousness: A p-zombie version of awareness that operates and interacts in the context of nothingness [objects and their dynamics do not "show" themselves as anything]. And the commonsense version of awareness featuring exhibited validations of things and events thus so transpiring.

    Set that experience or "showing" characteristic of commonsense consciousness aside and the latter becomes just a label summing up the specialized macrophysical and microphysical activities of yet another functional organization [animal, robot, etc]. Such "awareness as a complex of systemic actions" is dependent upon mechanistic relationships and properties that were in effect before brains evolved. So in that sense its precursors are fundamental, yet describing those as "consciousness" at that level would be a classification error akin to referring to the elemental affairs of physics [at large] as "biological".

    But include the qualitative manifestations (experiences) correlated to certain neural processes and the situation does change to this extent: No phenomenal world (additionally inferred to be a structure of matter / energy) is present when minus that full meaning of consciousness. IOW, there is no empirical and intellectual evidence of such a cosmos of appearances even being the case without such visual, aural, tactile, etc "showings" and cognitions of them (linguistic thoughts and reasonings).

    Accordingly, one can then either take the popular road of arguing that the phenomenal world nevertheless does a have consciousness independent counterpart of itself -- serving as its cause -- that exists invisibly / insensibly even when there are no experiences and understandings; or take the less traveled road of contending that there's some globally distributed, incredibly resourceful formula / principle outputting the same reality from the perspectives of multiple minds (a la Leibniz, Berkeley, etc). [Alternative modification to the latter: An overarching process slash continuum of experience ("world-mind", God, etc) which contains all the lesser streams of experience who interpret themselves as discrete minds].

    Needless to say, social considerations usually force the popular view upon most: If it is morally necessary to accept that other people have a usually invisible manner of existence, then the lifeless / non-conscious objects eventually get included as a consequence, too. [A defunct reason: I've kicked chairs and buckets in dreams as do virtual computer game characters who also get killed by speeding trucks. So that kind of everyday sophistry as an historic reason for accepting the pop-view is pretty much futile to appeal today.]
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  13. matthew809 Registered Senior Member

    Disclaimer: The following thoughts are solely the opinion of myself, and are for entertainment purposes only. I am not presenting them as fact.

    So calm the heck down

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    I always wonder why there is such a thing as existence at all. I'm not just talking about the existence of matter, space, time, consciousness, logic, etc..... but why there is even potential for anything at all. It is this "potential" which is the concern of this thread. What is the fundamental nature of this potential, beyond it's manifestations?

    Logic exists. Not just human logic, but logic in general. Even in a universe of pure chaos, with no consciousness, logic would still exist. It exists because I am here writing about it right now. There's no escaping logic, not even in a hypothetical world, because it is so fundamental. Why is that?

    The laws of this known universe are perfectly suited for life, and that's why we are here to reflect upon this universe, not because it just so happens that this universe is all there is. Everything must potentially exist in order for us to perceive a conveniently filtered portion of it. But everything (every potentiality) is the same as nothing at all. The fundamental nature of existence is just pure potential, which is absolute nothingness. Yet we know this is not the case. Therefore, there is something even more fundamental than potential... consciousness. Potential can not exist without consciousness. Only consciousness can get something from nothing.

    So we have absolute nothingness and we have a fundamental consciousness. In other words, consciousness is all there is. The logic of consciousness is potential. Our universe is an actuality of this potentiality.
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  14. Dywyddyr Penguinaciously duckalicious. Valued Senior Member

    Er what?

    Non sequitur.

    Unless it's not.


    No it's not.

    Your "therefore" isn't actually a therefore.

    Neither claim is supported. Nor entirely rational.

  15. C C Consular Corps - "the backbone of diplomacy" Valued Senior Member

    "Not just" apparently suggesting a pretty crucial semantic relationship to something else. Since logic [as currently used] is indeed a local Earth product, courtesy of humans. Whether the word is used to represent invented systems of how we ought to properly think / reason [detouring into principles of computer design] or references the academic study of such formal schemes [including those concerned with mathematical affairs]. One might construe extraterrestrials concocting similar fare that could be embraced by our sign / term "logic", but even then it still points to the intellective indulgences of certain life forms (rather than general activities of a non-thinking, non-polemic, disinterested cosmos). In the most abstract sense, with all concrete / particular items of the world unplugged from association with the placeholders, "a prescription" for logic becomes an organization of rules and relationships for the bare manipulation of symbols.
    Seems like you'd have to etymologically recruit some of logic's ancient origins / usages , wherein logos might then exhume the Greek's belief of a rationality to the cosmos. I.e., logos as an "ordering principle in the cosmos" or logos spermatikos a "generative principle of the Universe which creates and takes back all things". Therein logic might return to being the kind of hypernym that could subsume nomological subjects like "the laws of nature". But even in that context, there's a herky-jerky tendency to oscillate from viewing such laws as transcendent forms that yield / govern a physical universe (outside of or a priori to it so to speak) to perversely describing them as being the universe itself.

    Dennis Overby: If the laws of physics are to have any sticking power at all, to be real laws, one could argue, they have to be good anywhere and at any time, including the Big Bang, the putative Creation. Which gives them a kind of transcendent status outside of space and time.

    [...] the idea of rationality in the cosmos has long existed without monotheism. As far back as the fifth century B.C. the Greek mathematician and philosopher Pythagoras and his followers proclaimed that nature was numbers. Plato envisioned a higher realm of ideal forms, of perfect chairs, circles or galaxies, of which the phenomena of the sensible world were just flawed reflections. Plato set a transcendent tone that has been popular, especially with mathematicians and theoretical physicists, ever since.

    Steven Weinberg, a Nobel laureate from the University of Texas, Austin, described himself in an e-mail message as "pretty Platonist," saying he thinks the laws of nature are as real as "the rocks in the field." The laws seem to persist, he wrote, "whatever the circumstance of how I look at them, and they are things about which it is possible to be wrong, as when I stub my toe on a rock I had not noticed."

    The ultimate Platonist these days is Max Tegmark, a cosmologist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. In talks and papers recently he has speculated that mathematics does not describe the universe -- it is the universe.

    Dr. Tegmark maintains that we are part of a mathematical structure, albeit one gorgeously more complicated than a hexagon, a multiplication table or even the multidimensional symmetries that describe modern particle physics. Other mathematical structures, he predicts, exist as their own universes in a sort of cosmic Pythagorean democracy, although not all of them would necessarily prove to be as rich as our own.

    "Everything in our world is purely mathematical -- including you," he wrote in New Scientist.

    This would explain why math works so well in describing the cosmos. It also suggests an answer to the question that Stephen Hawking, the English cosmologist, asked in his book, "A Brief History of Time": "What is it that breathes fire into the equations and makes a universe for them to describe?" Mathematics itself is on fire.

    Not every physicist pledges allegiance to Plato. Pressed, these scientists will describe the laws more pragmatically as a kind of shorthand for nature's regularity. Sean Carroll, a cosmologist at the California Institute of Technology, put it this way: "A law of physics is a pattern that nature obeys without exception."

    Plato and the whole idea of an independent reality, moreover, took a shot to the mouth in the 1920s with the advent of quantum mechanics. According to that weird theory, which, among other things, explains why our computers turn on every morning, there is an irreducible randomness at the microscopic heart of reality that leaves an elementary particle, an electron, say, in a sort of fog of being everywhere or anywhere, or being a wave or a particle, until some measurement fixes it in place.

    In that case, according to the standard interpretation of the subject, physics is not about the world at all, but about only the outcomes of experiments, of our clumsy interactions with that world. But 75 years later, those are still fighting words. Einstein grumbled about God not playing dice.

    Steven Weinstein, a philosopher of science at the University of Waterloo, in Ontario, termed the phrase "law of nature" as "a kind of honorific" bestowed on principles that seem suitably general, useful and deep. How general and deep the laws really are, he said, is partly up to nature and partly up to us, since we are the ones who have to use them.
    --Laws of Nature, Source Unknown NYT, 12-18-2007
    Last edited: Feb 9, 2015
  16. Finding the Elephant Registered Member

    The more a learn, the more I agree with Max Planck, the originator of quantum theory, ‘I regard consciousness as fundamental. I regard matter as derivative from consciousness. We cannot get behind consciousness. Everything that we talk about, everything that we regard as existing, postulates consciousness’.

    Planck M. Consciousness matters. The Observer, January 25, 1931, as cited in Radin, 2013, p. 311.
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  17. C C Consular Corps - "the backbone of diplomacy" Valued Senior Member

    Not that uncommon at times, back then.

    Erwin Schrodinger: "The world is a construct of our sensations, perceptions, memories. It is convenient to regard it as existing objectively on its own. But it certainly does not become manifest by its mere existence." --What is Life? Mind and Matter

    Well into the first half of the 20th century there were physicists and other researchers still influenced by the positivist and Neo-Kantian movements which developed in philosophy of science during the 19th century (with Comte's and Mach's strains eventually overtaken by logical positivism). These earlier assorted thinkers and scientists were "materialists" [quote1a below] in the sense of accepting the mechanistic relationships and causal interdependence of experienced phenomena, and the appearance of empirical objects as being bodies extended in space and changing through time. But they were not materialists in the transcendent sense, and this is the "ideological treason" which Lenin [quote2 below] disparaged in connection to Marxists who were heavily influenced by Ernst Mach. They were not "proper" materialists who firmly believed that the characteristics of "physical stuff" extended beyond the qualitative experiences and the ideas / abstractions of thought.

    The Copenhagen Interpretation, as a product of that era, is often regarded as an attempt to avoid a metaphysical stance or realism about ontological claims concerning quantum physics. But this changed with the collapse of logical positivism in the 1950s and 1960s, and its replacement by seemingly polar opposite rivals like postmodernism and scientific realism. After that, doors accordingly opened better for other QM interpretations and an influx of mathematically concocted items like string theory, holographic principle, etc.

    Both David Hume's [quote 1b] and Ernst Mach's later version of "phenomenalism" were epistemological attempts to be "philosophically neutral" [or dodge pretended knowledge] about any transcendent existence that was minus the representations and organizing principles of consciousness and intellect. Rather than the occasionally misconstrued, additional endorsement of a purely experiential existence devouring everything or a certainty that "things in themselves" were not the case.

    Note that Hermann Helmholtz [quote 3], a forefather of Neo-Kantianism, like so many others, misunderstood Kant's "noumenal world" / things-in-themselves as referring to the "external world" (as if the one of perception and commonsense, investigated by science, is not already that). As Kant writes in the Critique of Pure Reason, there are two usages for "outside us": One referring to the transcendent and the other to the exhibited environment of extrospection (or outer sense). Only the latter [in the context of Kant's empirical realism] is made real by it being verifiable / presented in space and time. IOW, it is the phenomenal / empirical world which actually received the "real" status, the one we live in consciousness-wise. Aside from that, Helmholtz did nail that a domain of "things in themselves" is only necessitated by our principle of causation, extended to where it may not be applicable. Ernst Mach dismissed the former as "superfluous" for scientific explanation (since in that methodology phenomena are internally used as explanations for each other in the widest and complex system of self-referencing circularity perhaps imaginable: the universe, or nature).

    - - - - - -

    [1a] EDWARD S. REED: [Thomas Henry] Huxley, like all the other scientists in the group--and like almost all scientists in Europe or America at the that time--was not a [metaphysical] materialist, despite his belief in the progress of mechanistic physiology. He argued in two directions: one from the external phenomena of science (say, the data of physiology) and the other from introspective phenomena (for example, our belief in free will). He was inclined to believe that most (or all) introspectively revealed phenomena would prove to be caused by externally revealed ones. But in any event he was a phenomenalist, arguing that what is real is phenomena. If the soul (or the unconscious) is not real, it is because it is not part of the phenomenal world.

    This panphenomenalism was widely labeled positivism when it was propounded by scientists. In the loosely defined meandering of the term, positivism dominated the European intellectual scene from approximately 1870 to 1890. Yet that type of positivism is inherently unstable when applied to psychology. The externalist (physiological) analysis of behavior and mind attributes all psychological states to antecedent causes. Introspective analysis reveals both intuitions of freedom and the appearance of autonomous psychological states. The two seem irreconcilable.

    Matter for Huxley was just what it was for Mach or Hertz: a set of phenomenal observations made by scientists. It is thus remarkable but true that the most reviled "materialists" of the 1880s--Huxley, Tyndall, and Clifford--were all phenomenalists of sort or another and not materialists at all.

    The positivist impulse gave new life to a variety of panphenomenalism, one whose adherents were surprisingly uncritical about the analysis of those allegedly basic mental phenomena, sensations. Thus, thinkers as different in outlook and interests as Huxley and Mach, Taine and Spencer, Wundt and Lewes all agreed that the basic "data" on which all science was to built were sensations.
    --From Soul to Mind: The Emergence of Psychology

    [1b] Panphenomenalism: David Hume (1711-1776) formulated the theory of Panphenomenalism. He denied the existence of all ultimate reality (metaphysical reality), accepting as valid data only those things experienced as sense impressions; in other words, he asserted that existence is limited to phenomena, which are objects, not of reason, but of experience. By rejecting the idea of cause and soul as substances, he eliminated the entire problem of interaction. Hume concluded that events depend upon merely repetitious or sequential activities; that nothing in the universe is ever created, or caused to act, by anything else; and that reality consists only of a series of phenomena appearing in a temporal order. --Ideas of the Great Philosophers; by William S. Sahakian & Mabel Lewis Sahakian

    - - - - - -

    [2] V.I. Lenin: "That Ernst Mach is the most popular representative of empirio-criticism today is universally acknowledged in philosophical literature . . . . The materialists, we are told, recognise something unthinkable and unknowable -- "things-in-themselves" -- matter "outside of experience" and outside of our knowledge. They lapse into genuine mysticism by admitting the existence of something beyond, something transcending the bounds of "experience" and knowledge. When they say that matter, by acting upon our sense-organs, produces sensations, the materialists take as their basis the "unknown," nothingness; for do they not themselves declare our sensations to be the only source of knowledge? The materialists lapse into "Kantianism" (Plekhanov, by recognising the existence of "things-in-themselves," i.e., things outside of our consciousness); they "double" the world and preach "dualism," for the materialists hold that beyond the appearance there is the thing-in-itself; beyond the immediate sense data there is something else, some fetish, an "idol," an absolute, a source of "metaphysics," a double of religion ("holy matter," as Bazarov says). Such are the arguments levelled by the Machians against materialism, as repeated and retold in varying keys by the afore-mentioned writers. --Materialism and Empirio-Criticism

    - - - - - -

    [3] Nadeem J. Z. Hussain: Thus, “what the recent physiology of the senses has shown by the way of experience is what Kant had tried to show for the representations of the human mind in general when he laid out the participation of the particular, built-in rules of the mind, the organization of the mind as it were, in our representations” (Helmholtz 1855, 58). Helmholtz thinks the confirmation of Kant goes further. The only way to get from the “world of sensations” to the “world of reality”, the “external world”, is through an inference. We infer that there is an external world because there has to be a “cause of our nerve excitations because there can be no effect without cause.” But, Helmholtz asks, “How do we know that there is no effect without a cause?” This is not a principle we could learn from experience since it is the principle we need in place before we can come to any conclusions about the world including the conclusion that cause follows effect. Thus, “the investigation of sensory perception also leads us to what Kant had already recognized, namely that the principle, ‘No effect without cause’, is a law of our thought given before all experience” (Helmholtz 1855, 77). --Friedrich Albert Lange; SEP entry
  18. Captain Kremmen All aboard, me Hearties! Valued Senior Member

    Nice question. Did anyone answer it?
  19. Anew Life isn't a question. Banned


    I wouldn't know if the question has been answered, b/c I don't know.

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    an hmm.. answer:

    ?thesis' definition of the word 'matter" with understanding that one cannot dwell property with matter.'
  20. eyeswideshut Registered Senior Member

    Matter is a construct of energy, consciousness is energy, so matter must be result of one of them or both ?
  21. eyeswideshut Registered Senior Member

    Or is it like that matter and energy are interwined like rhytm and melody, one isnt much without the other, where does that lead us ? Neverending loop without beginning or the end ?
  22. youreyes amorphous ocean Valued Senior Member

    I think that consciousness emerges from matter, but it also emerges on different levels, and also not just from matter, there are other possibilities.
  23. francy Registered Member

    I think Matter is Construct of energy

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