Two Axioms

It might be useful to start this blog by making explicit two propositions I consider axiomatic in the field of consciousness. These are:

1) Intrinsic qualia exist

2) Contra-causal, causally efficacious free will (‘true free will’) exists

I do not consider it necessary to prove these, in fact I consider them impossible to prove or disprove. They are, however, supported by over fifty years of observation. We can discuss whether or not they are consistent with particular scientific theories, but in the event of a conflict I would suggest reconsidering the theories; scientific theory should be subservient to observed fact.

There is, of course, a lot of scope for discussion as to exactly what is meant by terms such as qualia and free will. Those are reasonable questions. But the basic fact that intrinsic qualia and true free will exist in some form is, for me, undeniable. The challenge is to find a model of how they fit with the physical world.

Given the strong connection between experience and action, it seems probable that qualia and true free will are two different facets of the same conceptual entity, namely ‘consciousness’. However that might not be the case and I do not treat it as axiomatic.

There are also other foundations to some of my views. For example, I consider moral responsibility to require choice. However I would characterise this as a position rather than an axiom in that it represents an opinion rather than a fact.

One consequence of my axioms is that any argument or model which assumes or implies the non-existence of qualia and/or true free will is one I am unable to accept. That does not prevent me from considering the implications should such models be correct.

In particular, I can see no way to reconcile true free will with a deterministic universe and physical causal closure. Perhaps this makes it easier for me to embrace incompatibilism; having rejected determinism, I am not concerned by the conclusion that determinism precludes moral responsibility.

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