Structural Foundations of Consciousness and Freedom

"Threading a needle requires a conscious effort. Laying a book on a table does not. What differences account for the need for concentrated consciousness in the first task but not the second?" (Opening paragraph of the paper, available for download below, part of a natural-science approach to questions raised by selected phenomena involving consciousness and freedom.)


Human limitations prevent us from wholly explaining consciousness and freedom, but analysis of structure allows us to partially penetrate their mysteries. Structure pervades experience and provides a stable framework. Instabilities may arise, however, during formation of images, when selecting among competing alternatives, or while coordinating faculties, such as eye and hand. Such instabilities arouse consciousness. Resolving instabilities commonly involves isolating unstable matters from one another, embedding each such matter in a structurally stable matrix, and imposing structure on each one separately. Resolution of an instability may call for an exercise of freedom, evidenced by suspending judgment and responding to happenstance opportunities presented by the problem. General principles are stated and applied to particular problems in language, logic and law.


Review of the examples presented above reveals a common theme. In each case, consciousness is directed toward adjusting one form of experience to conform to the discipline of another. That this theme should emerge from an investigation into freedom is perhaps astonishing.

The three examples of Part Two carry this theme even further, for in these the discipline arises from idealistic influences such as Truth and Justice. Speculation about such idealistic influences is, of course, very old; but has been almost abandoned in modern thought. Nonetheless, it doth return.

Might we not also speculate about yet another idealistic influence, namely Freedom? This too has its discipline. We recall a famous saying of the French physiologist, Claude Bernard: "Stability of one's internal environment is a condition of free life."

Science and its models are pathways in the climb toward the mysteries that call to us out of the heavens. They are not answers to the mysteries but the products of the climb. Answers are beyond our reach. There is no failure in this. The climb itself is freedom.

You can download a copy of "The Crucible" in .pdf format to be viewed on Adobe Acrobat Reader.

Copyright © 1998 Robert Kovsky

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