2017 | Bronze and Stainless Steel | 44 x 44 x 47 cm
Scientists have long been trying to understand consciousness — the subjective ‘stuff’ of thoughts and sensations inside our minds. There used to be an assumption that consciousness is produced by the brains, and that in order to understand it, we just need to figure out how the brain works. But this assumption raises questions. Apart from the fact that decades of research and theorising have not shed any significant light on the issue, there are some strange mismatches between consciousness and brain activity.
The neuroscientist Giulio Tononi has pointed out that brain cells fire away almost as much in some states of unconsciousness (such as deep sleep) as they do in the wakeful conscious state.
If you held a brain in your hand, you would find it to be a soggy clump of gray matter, a bit like putty, weighing about 1.3 kg. How is it possible that this gray soggy stuff can give rise to the richness and depth of your conscious experience? This is known as the ‘hard problem’ of consciousness.
As a result, many eminent philosophers (such as David Chalmers and Thomas Nagel) and scientists like Christof Koch and Tononi have rejected the idea that consciousness is directly produced by brain processes. They have turned to the alternative view that it is actually a fundamental quality of the Universe like gravity or electormagnetism.
If this is true, we need to re-look at our relationship with all of mother nature.