When one starts thinking about the problem of consciousness in the way that Damasio suggests, the question of whether or not a machine can be conscious begins to appear rather ridiculous. Some day this question might only be asked by people who are unfamiliar with the essential neuroscientific facts about consciousness. Consciousness has everything to do with being embodied, with awareness of one’s bodily state in relation to what is going on around one. Moreover, this mechanism seems to have evolved only because bodies have needs. Consciousness is therefore deeply rooted in a set of ancient biological values. These values are what feelings are, and consciousness is feeling. It is therefore very difficult to imagine how, why, and where a disembodied machine would generate consciousness. This does not rule out the possibility of an artificial system with self-monitoring properties. But the self that it monitors would have to be a body (and preferably one with a long evolutionary history) if it is really going to generate feelings.
Mark Solms – The Brain and the Inner World: An Introduction to the Neuroscience of the Subjective Experience p.94
David Chalmers – one of the philosophers participating in the interdisciplinary field of “cognitive science” – argues that one aspect of the mind-body problem is “easy” and the other “hard.” In this way, he divides the issue into two separate problems.
The easy problem is the one that most neuroscientists are concerned with, and it is the one discussed by Crick in his Scientific Search for the Soul. Crick attempts to solve the problem by neuroscientific means. His research strategy is to try to find the specific neural processes that are the correlates of our conscious awareness (he calls them “the neural correlates of consciousness,” or NCC for short). Finding the neural correlates of consciousness is a problem of the same general type as finding the neural correlates of anything – language or memory for instance. Neuroscience has made great progress in solving such problems in the past. Finding the brain regions and processes that correlate with consciousness is simply a matter of directing an existing research strategy from areas of previous success (language, memory) not a different aspect of mental functioning (consciousness).
We should not underestimate the difficulty of finding the neural correlates of consciousness, but Crick is only looking for which brain regions or processes correlate with consciousness and describing where they reside. He does not attempt to explain how that particular pattern of physiological events makes us conscious. This is the hard problem. The hard problem is a conundrum of a different magnitude – it raises the question of how consciousness (“you, your joys and your sorrows, your memories and your ambitions,…”) actually emerges from matter. Modern neuroscience is well equipped to solve the easy problem, but it is less clear whether is is capable of solving the hard problem. Science has few precedents for solving a problem that philosophers have deemed insoluble in principle.
Mark Solms – The Brain and the Inner World: An Introduction to the Neuroscience of the Subjective Experience p.47
The third view, advanced by Aristotle, attempted to correct what he thought to be the errors in the two extreme views. In his conception of human nature, man is neither just a body or a collocation of atoms nor a union of two quite distinct and separable substances, one material and the other spiritual – one a body and the other a rational soul or mind.
In Aristotle’s view, man is a single substance and, in that respect, is like every other individual thing in the physical cosmos. However, unlike every other corporeal substance, man, as a single substance, is composite of matter and spirit, of material and immaterial aspects – the immaterial aspect consisting in the intellectual power that distinguishes man from other animals.
According to this third view, man is neither entirely a material thing, composed of elementary particles of matter or quanta of energy, nor is he compounded of two substances as alien to one another as body and soul or matter and mind. He is a living organism like any other animal, but he is distinguished from all other animals by virtue of having a mind or intellect – the powers and operation of which cannot be explained by the action of the brain.
Brain action is a necessary, but not a sufficient, condition for the occurrence of mental operations or processes. There is, in short, something immaterial about man, something spiritual in the sense that it is not reducible to bodily parts or movements and not explicable entirely by reference to them.
Mortimer J. Adler – The Angels and Us p.148
Machine – Of all the things in the universe, those which are most intelligible, not in themselves but to us, are the machines that we ourselves contrive and produce. We understand them better than we understand ourselves or any living organism that is besouled or animated.
Mortimer J. Adler – Adler’s Philosophical Dictionary p.140