Since I'm not privy to the Secret of Ultimate Reality, naturally I don't know whether this letter-writer's thesis is correct: that subjectivity is innate to material reality.
But what Godwin says in his letter in the December 10 issue of New Scientist is both provocative and possible.
He raises good questions. "What would be the substance of a universe with no subjectivity, unable to experience its own existence? How could such a universe ever be shown to exist, and by and to whom?"
At first I thought this sounded unduly anthropomorphic. However, on second thought this letter points at issues raised in my recent post about a book that advocates for an "information rather than stuff" approach to understanding the universe.
For example, how do unconscious particles "know" how to behave in accord with the laws of nature? What is the foundational nature of the universe in the absence of an observer? Can we say that it is anything at all absent observation?
Perhaps, as Godwin suggests, the universe is observing itself in some way we currently can't grasp. Read on...
From Nick Godwin, Edinburgh, UK
I write in opposition to the view that consciousness somehow of necessity arises from matter, rather than being intrinsic to it. That view is implied several times in Anil Ananthaswamy's review of Susan Greenfield's book A Day in the Life of the Brain (29 October, p 44).
He says, for example, that “objective neural activity turns into the ‘wine’ of subjective conscious experience.” The statement that “we fade into unconsciousness during anaesthesia” reflects the error. In my experience, anaesthesia acts with the immediacy of a switch: the only way I could detect that I had been “under” was that the anaesthetist appeared suddenly to “flip” to the other side of my hospital bed.
It seems to me more likely that the essence of consciousness (albeit in a simplified state) forms part of the primary substance of material reality. The part played by neural activity would then be not to “give rise” to consciousness, but to create a path of connection to an innate subjectivity existing behind all of material reality.
Don't misunderstand me, this is not a call for belief in some kind of “mystical being”. Rather, it is a call to consider the possibility of something intrinsic to reality that takes the form of subjective perception. After all, what would be the substance of a universe with no subjectivity, unable to experience its own existence? How could such a universe ever be shown to exist, and by and to whom?