Core controversy surrounding Consciousness
Summary: A controversy has always been prevalent in human society as to
whether consciousness preceded origin of universe or followed it. It has been
rationally concluded that consciousness preceded origin of universe.
Consciousness is the ability of nature to perceive reality and respond to it. All of
us have experienced this natural ability and therefore there can’t be any
controversy about its existence.
However of origin of consciousness is surrounded in controversy. Some say it
preceded creation of universe while others say that it came in to being in the
course of progressive development of nature and universe. Therefore, it is a horse
and cart problem – whether the horse is before the cart or cart is before the
Matter is divided in to nonliving matter and living matter. Majority of thinkers
have held nonliving matter to be devoid of consciousness and it is further held
that somewhere along the path consciousness crept in to matter to give rise to
living matter or life. But this view does not explain origin and source of
Majority of religious philosophers have sought to resolve this dilemma by drawing
a strict line of distinction between soul and body. They say that body is different
and soul is different and accordingly realization of this difference is one of the
pious goals of human life. Almost all the religious philosophies except Buddhism
hold that soul is eternal, different and separate from body even though residing in
body and death means soul deserting the body. Buddhists preach that soul has no
separate existence from body and it is all in the ensemble. However even
Buddhist leave one question unanswered “Who is the designer?”.
Lewes in the first volume of Problems of Life and Mind (1874) endorsed the
Buddhist view. He stated that regrouping of physical motion of molecules in to
chemical action lead to emergence of novelties and the same is true of vital
phenomenon, social phenomenon and psychical phenomenon, there is
regrouping, not the introduction of new material, above all not a casting away of
old. However I wish to point out that mere regrouping is not sufficient to explain
emergence of novelties (not detailed).
However Hegel in The Phenomenology of Spirit (1807) portrayed a self actualizing
universe which came to understand itself through the minds of conscious beings.
Hegel noted that in human species mind evolved through discontinuous,
ascending perceptive levels.
Jain philosophy recognizes ascending perceptive levels as ranging from organisms
with a single sense to organisms with five senses.
Sherrington explicitly described the core controversy surrounding consciousness
as two alternatives:-
“We are once more at a crucial parting of ways. And I think at bottom it
comes to this. One route leads to the view that mind is emergent in the course of
evolutionary history. The other path leads to the view that mind is not emergent.
It is not an evolutionary stage in the natural history of the psychical correlates of
physical events. It enters the world endowed with an original capacity for
apprehending that world, with its several categories, through the use of sense-
organs and brains, evolved to that end in a manner which it is for biologists to
disclose. This apprehension is part of the mind’s inherent activity which with the
conduct it sub served, affords instances of a kind of causality elsewhere not to be
found in nature. The two views are …irreconcilable.”
Therefore, which view is correct has to be decided but direct evidence to decide
the issues is inaccessible, since it is not possible to travel backward in time to the
conditions that preceded creation of universe. Therefore, one has to rely upon
the other two properties of truth i.e. rationality and plausibility to determine and
test the truth.
For any particle to keep existence, several mandatory conditions have to be
satisfied all the time. There are inherent contradictions among these mandatory
conditions which need to be kept resolved all the time through appropriate tools,
techniques, controls, mechanisms etc. (Existential dilemma). Hence, for existence
of any particle pre-existence of appropriate tools, techniques, controls,
mechanisms etc. has to necessarily precede its origin/creation.
Therefore, if we assume for the sake of discussion only that physical universe
began with origin of photons, being the simplest of particles, then we find that
even photons in order to keep their existence needed to conserve their energy
against the tendency to energy flow in accordance with 2nd law of
thermodynamics. Therefore creation of appropriate mechanism i.e. oscillating
electromagnetic field and time lag to onset of entropy had to necessarily precede
origin of photons. This raises a question about the agent responsible for origin of
these mechanisms. The agent responsible for creation of these mechanisms can
only be consciousness or is consciousness.
This view is plausible in its essence without exception with the entire evolutionary
progress of physical and biological universe. It is not being detailed further herein
for the sake of brevity. In short consciousness is an original property of the world
endowed with capacity for apprehending the world, which is capable of resolving
existential dilemma. However as the consciousness has evolved, so has the
physical world. Therefore elevation of consciousness is the common thread to the
evolutionary history of the world.
Summarizing all above, consciousness had to precede origin/creation of physical
universe, is embedded in its material creations and has evolved to the level of
human mind in order to explicitly realize itself.
Consciousness, since origin of universe up to evolution of man has proceeded
subconsciously or without self awareness as hidden conditions behind things and
events and has been described as involuntarily consciousness, since its bearer has
no control over its activities but in man it has evolved to the level of awareness or
voluntary consciousness permitting not only self realization but also apprehension
of the world and individual control. Therefore, it can be readily seen that in
universe Involuntary Consciousness has played a much bigger role then Voluntary
Consciousness. Even Sachin Tendulkar can not explicitly calculate before hitting a
ball, it has to be in his subconscious.
Author: Dr Mahesh C. Jain is a practicing medical doctor has written the book
“Encounter of Science with Philosophy – A synthetic view”. The book begins with
first chapter devoted to scientifically valid concept of God and then explains
cosmic phenomena right from origin of nature and universe up to origin of life
and evolution of man. The book includes several chapters devoted to auxiliary
concepts and social sciences as corollaries to the concept of God. Consciousness
is one of the aspects of and had to precede origin of universe. This is the only
book which deals with origin of nature and universe from null or Zero or nothing.