A Quora answer to the following question. Nothing new for me here 
probably, but It's maybe organized in a more concise way.

> Philosophy: If human beings are nothing more than matter, why are you 
> conscious as 
> yourself?<http://www.quora.com/Philosophy/If-human-beings-are-nothing-more-than-matter-why-are-you-conscious-as-yourself>
> The implication of materialism is that we are in essence wet robots, 
> without free will, just chemical reactions. But if this is true and we are 
> conscious, then does it logically follow that all chemical reactions have 
> "consciousness" to some degree? If the human mind is just an extremely 
> advanced computer, then at what point does "consciousness" occur? 

We don’t know that chemical reactions are unconscious, but if they were, 
then it makes sense that the entire universe would also be unconscious. It 
is very tricky to examine the issue of consciousness and to draw parallels 
within common experience without unintentionally smuggling in our own 
expectations from consciousness itself. This is the Petito principii or 
circular reasoning which derails most fair considerations of consciousness 
before they even begin in earnest. 

Unlike a clock which is made up of gears, or a particular sized pile of 
hay, the addition of consciousness has no conceivable consequence to the 
physical function of a body. While we can observe a haystack burst into 
flames because it has grown too hot, we cannot look at the behavior of a 
human body see any special difference from the behavior of any other 
physical body. There is complexity, but complexity alone need not point to 
anything beyond an adjacency of simple parts and isolated chains of effects.

Just as no degree of complication within a clock’s mechanism would suddenly 
turn into a Shakespearean sonnet, the assumption of universal substitution 
is not necessarily appropriate for all phenomena, and for consciousness in 
particular. To get a color image, for instance, we need to print in colored 
dots, not black and white. Color TV programs cannot be broadcast over a 
monochrome display without losing their color. 

Unlike chemical or mechanical transformation, the nature of awareness is 
not implicated in the shuffling of material particles from one place or 
another. Any natural force can be used to do that. We have no scientific 
reason to insist that conscious participation and aesthetic appreciation is 
derived from some simpler functioning of complex systems. To the contrary, 
‘complexity’, and ‘system’ can only make sense in the context of a window 
of perception and attention. Without some teleological intent to see one 
part as part of a whole, and to compare remembered events with current 
perceptions, there is no such thing as ‘function’ at all. 

There are several important points wrapped up in this question, which I 
will try to sum up.

*1. The failure to consider consciousness metaphysically.*

This is the most important and most intractable issue, for three reasons:

   - because it is difficult for anyone to try to put their mind outside of 
   mind. It’s annoying, and winds up feeling foolish and disoriented.
   - because it is difficult in particular for the very people who need 
   most to get past the difficulty. I have found that most people who are good 
   with logic and scientific reasoning are not necessarily capable of doing 
   what others can. The skillset appears to be neurological, like handedness 
   or gender orientation.
   - because those who do have difficulty with thinking this way are often 
   not used to intellectual challenges that escape their grasp, their reaction 
   is so defensive that they react with intolerance. It’s not their fault, but 
   it cannot be cured it seems. Some people cannot see 3-D Magic Eye art. Some 
   cannot program their way out of a paper bag. In this case it is the ability 
   to consider consciousness from a prospective rather than a retrospective 
   view which can prove so inaccessible to so many people, that frothing at 
   the mouth and babbling about unicorns, magic, and the supernatural is 
   considered a reasonable and scientific, skeptical response. Of course, it 
   is none of those things, but it takes a lot of patience and courage to be 
   able to recognize one’s own prejudices, especially when we are used to 
   being the ones telling others about their biases.

*2. The taboo against metaphysics, panpsychism, and transrationality*

Long after Einstein, Gödel, and Heisenberg shattered the Humpty Dumpty 
certainties of classical math and physics, we are still trying to piece him 
back together. Regardless of how much we learn about the strange properties 
of matter, time, energy, biology, and neurology, there are a huge number of 
very intelligent people who are convinced that we will only know the truth 
about the universe when it all looks like a vast deterministic mechanism. 

The compulsion to reduce awareness to passive mathematical or physical 
states is ironic, given that the defense of automaticity is often 
accompanied by very hands on personal intention. Even when it is pointed 
out that arguing against free will is futile (since someone without free 
will could not change their own opinion about it even if they wanted to, 
let alone someone else’s opinion), the mind of the determined determinist 
will always find a way of insist upon being in the right, even when they 
are ultimately sawing of the limb that they are sitting on.

When it comes to anything that suggests the possibility of non-human 
awareness, many people not only become personally uncomfortable, but they 
become socially uncomfortable as well. The taboo against unconventional 
views on science (even when backed by anthropological universality) is so 
pervasive and xenophobic that it is career suicide for a working scientist 
to publicly acknowledge them in any but the most condescending tones.

*3. The pathetic fallacy*

The pathetic fallacy is to take a metaphor in which some inanimate object 
is given a human quality (“The camera loves you”), and take it literally. 
While I count myself among those who once saw computation and pattern as 
being the only ingredient necessary for awareness or life, my understanding 
now is that no pattern can exist without a capacity for pattern 
recognition. The ability to receive and make sense of the real world is not 
a matter of generic relations of disembodied bits of “information”, but is 
in fact the concrete reality of the cosmos. The universe does not exist for 
us humans, but it cannot exist as silent, unconscious, intangible physics 
for billions of years and then suddenly invent the whole of sensation, 
emotion, intuition, cognition, etc, just for some hominids on this 
backwater planet. It now strikes me as profoundly anthropocentric to 
imagine that the entire universe could be devoid of perceptual content 
until life evolved.

In my view, the universe itself is nothing but a continuum of qualities of 
consciousness. These qualities, however, relate to experienced contexts. We 
cannot take the human-ness out of a human and put it into a machine. 
Biology has mechanisms and performs computation, but if that’s it was doing 
then the inside of the brain would look like logic, not like sex and 
violence and musical theater.

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