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Is it intuitive to envision multiple conscious entities within the same person

I recently found it fun to think about the idea of whether or not there are separate consciousnesses in a single brain.

There's the famous example of a Corpus callosotomy producing split-brain people, where seemingly tow rational but poorly-communicating entities exist within the brain. I think many people may get the intuition that it's likely that both entities in this case (both hemispheres) are conscious in some way.

People also get the intuition that animals with brain processes far different from ours (rats, cats, cows... etc) may experience/produce something like consciousness.

Even more so, when comma patients wake up and tell story of being conscious during the comma, just unable to act, we usually think that this is also a form of experience similar to what most of all call consciousness (if not exactly the same).

Yet there doesn't seem to be a commonly-shared intuition that our own brain might harbor multiple conscious entities, despite the fact that there's nothing to indicate the contrary.

Indeed, I would say that if our intuitions go something like:

  1. Larger than {x} CNS => consciousness

  2. Splitting up CNS of size 2*{x} into two loosely linked bits => 2 consciousness

  3. Consciousness does not require a definable pattern to exist, or at least whatever pattern is required doesn't seem to be a consistent opinion between people

I can see no reason why those intuitions couldn't be strained to say that it is plausible and possibly even intuitive for there to be 2, or 3 or n conscious experiences going on within a brain at the same time, fully unaware of each other.

Indeed, I would say it might even be more likely for my brain to have, say, 5 conscious experiences that don't intersect going on at the same time, than for a rat with a brain much less developed than mine to have a single conscious experience.

Granted, I think functional MRI data might have a few things to opine about the former being less likely than the later, but there's still nothing fundamentally different about the two hypotheses. We are no more aware if a rat is conscious than we would be aware if our own brain had something in it that was conscious.

Note: for the sake of argument I'm assuming we all share a definition of consciousness along the lines of "consciousness is what it is like to be and experience". I'm also assuming a non-solipsistic viewpoint. I'm also assuming that, based on the fact that we are conscious, we can deduce other people are too, rather than being philosophical zombies.

Published on: 2020-01-27



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