Form, Qualia and Time: The Hard Problem Reformed

Mind and Matter 2:153-181 (2013)
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The hard problem – focusing essentially on vision here – is in fact the problem of the origin of our image of the external world. This formulation in terms of the “image” is never seen stated, for the forms populating our image of the world are considered computable, and not considered qualia – the “redness” of the cube is the problem, not the cube as form. Form, however, cannot be divorced from motion and hence from time. Therefore we must examine the classical, spatial metaphysic of space and time, for practical purposes initiated by Galileo, wherein the real has been equated with the quantitative and wherein quality has been stripped from the material world. In this metaphysic, which sees form as quantitative or computable, the origin of qualia is problematic, with a problem of even greater primacy becoming the “memory” that supports the transforming events of perception, e.g., rotating cubes, buzzing flies, twisting leaves. It is this memory, supporting time-extended, flowing events, that necessarily supports all qualia. The concept of storage of “snapshots” of time-flowing events, a notion which the classic metaphysic engenders, is unworkable as a solution to the perception of these flows. Form, in fact being dynamic and defined over flowing fields, equally is a quality, equally requires this memory, and since forms populate the image, the origin of the entire image is indeed a problem. The counter-proposal becomes Bergson’s temporal metaphysic wherein motion is indivisible (or non-differentiable), the global motion of the universal field itself then carrying an intrinsic form of memory. In this framework, with this field viewed as holographic, Bergson provides a unique solution – one that leaves the problem of representation behind – as to how the brain specifies the qualitative image of the dynamically transforming external world.

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