The Ncc is Earlier or Later Than the Experience

The NCC happens earlier than the conscious event. For example, the neurons fire, then there is a conscious experience. Here is one possible reason that the NCC is earlier than the experience: a standard conception of physical causation has causes happening before their effects. NCCs happen before experience because they cause the experience with which they are correlated.

This has some intuitive appeal. For example, you eat an ice cream; the ice touches a sensitive tooth; a physical nerve signal travels from the tooth into your brain, firing neurons; these neural firings then cause a rush of feeling—a rush of pain.

Objection 1: Denies the Possibility of Mind-Brain Identity Theory

However, that the NCC is earlier is problematic given a specific form of phys- icalism: mind-brain identity theory (Blackmore 2003; Heil 2004). Mind-brain identity theory is the position that the NCCs are identical to the correlating experience; “correlation” is not the correct word for what holds between them; what holds between them is identity.

If NCCs are identical to experience, then they happen when experience happens. This is the indiscernibility of identicals (Leibniz’ law): if A is identical to B, then any property that A has В has too, and any property that В has, A has (for more on this law, see Chapter 3).

If NCCs happen before consciousness, they do not happen when consciousness happens. The NCCs do not have the same temporal properties as the experience.

As such, NCCs that happen before consciousness are not identical to consciousness. Mind-brain identity theory is false.

Furthermore, this difference in time between NCC and the experience means that the experience cannot itself be physical. Recall that NCCs are the most immediately relevant physical events. There are no closer physical events to experience; otherwise, they would be the correlates of consciousness. But, if the NCC and experience are separated in time, then experience happens at a time when nothing physical happens; otherwise, it would be the NCC.

For the NCC to be at a different time, the experience must happen at its own time. This suggests dualism in this model of consciousness. And, of course, unless consciousness and NCCs are self-causing, causation alone prevents their identity; “to hold that [NCCs] are the causes of states of consciousness [...] is misguided. It implicitly involves an undesirable dualism of matter and mind” (Polak and Marvan 2018, abstract).

One might simply insist that NCCs are before conscious events, or vice versa, and not bring causation into it at all. However, this still leaves the issue of nonidentity between them. There is no obvious gain in doing this.

Again, like possibility A, what applies to NCCs being earlier than conscious events also applies to conscious events being earlier than NCCs. For example, consciousness causes NCCs: consciousness happens and is followed by the neurons firing. The separation of cause and effect, and the separation in time, means that consciousness and NCC are not identical.

Objection 2: It is Difficult to Know From Empirical Research When Consciousness Happens

There is also a secondary issue. We may ask what is the duration that separates the NCC and conscious event? If we do not know, then this raises a problem similar to the second objection against possibility A. We do know when the conscious event happens by looking at the NCC (or vice versa); there could be any duration between them.

This problem is relevant to a well-known experiment on the timing of free will. The scientific methodology has recently been discredited. However, the philosophical thought underneath it is useful for illustrating the problems of timing, as well as more general issues around simultaneity and consciousness.

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