The Double-Aspect Theory of Consciousness

In this thread, I will seek to outline the double-aspect theory of consciousness expounded by Arthur Schopenhauer, and then upgraded by later philosophers, such as Friedrich Nietzsche and Peter Sjöstedt-H.

Here are my three premises that I will delineate:

1.) Consciousness is not identical, nor reducible to the physical brain.

2.) The physical universe is a mode of representation, not an objective reality independent of the mind.

3.) Reality consists of individual, primal forms of consciousness - all of which are competing for power ( panexperientialism a la ’ will to power ’ ).

Premise 1.)

Many within the scientific and philosophical communities, today, subscribe to the position that the physical brain caused consciousness to spring into existence, or that awareness ( consciousness/mind ) is identical to the brain.

The former position doesn’t take into account the ’ hard-problem ’ of consciousness; how does non-conscious, physical material generate immaterial, subjective experience?

The latter, erroneously, conflates the mind with the brain. Yes, the mind and the brain are correlated, but correlation doesn’t entail identity, nor causation. One could, easily, make an argument for Berkeley’s subjective-idealism. As prior mentioned, correlation doesn’t mean identity, nor causation per se.

Premise 2.)

The external world that we experience is a mode of representation, not an objective reality independent of our minds. The naive position that the external world exists just as we perceive it is called " direct-realism ". This position is so ingrained in most people, that even some, nay, many academics still hold to it; but any honest and educated individual realizes the folly of this position. The external world is a mode of representation correlated to our human minds. The color green, for example, that we perceive on the grass is not an inherent property of it; but rather a form of qualia. We project the greenness unto the grass, as it were.

Immanuel Kant ( Schopenhauer’s greatest influence ), believed that even space and time are a priori projections of the mind, that they are parts of our human ’ spectacles ', which allow experience to be possible.
Double-aspect theory proposes that the universe, the spatio-temporal world, is a mode of representation correlated to human minds. Other organisms will represent their ’ worlds ’ in unique, idiosyncratic ways.

Premise 3.)

Arthur Schopenhauer believed that the ultimate nature of reality ( the Will ) was a-causal, a-temporal, a-spatial — non-dual; but Nietzsche departed from Sch. in two ways: he didn’t believe that the Will was one or non-dual, but rather plural. And he didn’t think that the nature of the wills were primarily centered around survival, but rather power, hence the ’ will to power '.

I agree with Nietzsche that reality consists of individual, primal forms of wills to power ( energy with intent ). We can observe how plants seek to acquire power by extracting nutrients from the soil and energy from the sun, in order that they may grow, expand, become ( I.e., acquire power ). Even in the inorganic, we can see how matter strives for power, which we represent as gravity and gravitation.

Note that I don’t believe that plants and inorganic matter are conscious in the same way that humans are ( self-reflective consciousness ). These lesser forms of will-to-power systems possess primitive forms of subjectivity. It would be better to think of them as energy with intent.


This amalgamation of pan-experientialism, the will-to-power, and double-aspect theory, I believe, solves the ’ hard problem ’ of consciousness, and more plausibly accounts for the nature of reality.

I think it’s not a good idea to collect concepts from different authors and disciplines and use them like pieces in puzzles in building theories. You cannot just “amalgamate” them into a coherent theory.

Using agent-type entities in explaining other agents functionalities is also a problem. If you use Schopenhauer’s “Will to Live”, Nietzsche’s “Will to Power” or Bergson’s “Élan Vital” as an explanation of consciousness, doesn’t it mean that all those concepts already contain consciousness? Where’s the explanation? Doesn’t it just lead to infinite regress of conscious agencies?

Good question.

Consciousness ( subjectivity ), according to this theory, is fundamental. I haven’t come to a clear-cut decision on whether there is an infinite regress of wills to power, or if there is a final point. But that’s somewhat negligible; irrespective of that specific issue, this theory proposes that organic consciousness didn’t come into existence, magically, by neuronal activity in the brain; but rather that consciousness, as such, is a collection of a multiplicity of subjective agencies that form a unified system. Consciousness is ’ built ’ up by other forms of consciousness, instead of magically appearing from non-conscious, physical matter.

There are probably a lot of different meanings people have of consciousness. But when do you become conscious of a thing? Only when the thought comes in between what is there in front of you and what is supposed to be there inside of you. That’s consciousness. So, you have to necessarily use thought to become conscious of the things around you, or the persons around you. Otherwise, you are not conscious of the things at all. And, at the same time, you are not unconscious. But there is an area where you are neither conscious nor unconscious. But that ‘consciousness’ – if I may use that word – expresses itself in its own way; and what prevents that consciousness to express itself in its own way is the movement of thought. And thought is slower and limited. Unless by some way thought can be consistent with it, that consciousness will be too vast of an area that thought cannot capture.

Yes, I understood that this theory presumes that consciousness is fundamental. Is it possible to say whether it is property or substance?

I also understood that this theory solves the problem you wanted to solve: that consciousness wouldn’t “appear magically from non-conscious physical matter”. - Asking how the fundamental consciousness has appeared is like asking “who created God?”. Still that question has been posed.

Regarding Chalmers’ Hard Problem of Consciousness, this theory doesn’t solve it but passes it. It is a reductionist theory: major forms of consciousness are built from minor ones without producing essentially new properties. Consequently all problems are easy problems.

I guess that would depend on the particular definition of those words. Substance, usually, implies physicality - as does ’ property '.

Yes, the question has been posed, but I think it’s an invalid question; it presupposes an erroneous conception, e.g., in the case of God, that he is not the " Alpha and Omega " — that he was created and not eternal.

Perhaps " solves " was a misnomer. A more apt term would be ’ plausible '. This pan-experintilialist theory is more plausible, than materialism.

I generally agree with all of the above. Instead I don’t understand what you mean by the rest. Would you enlighten it e.g. with an example?

Doesn’t appear to be a hard problem at all.

You can easily make an argument for anything. It doesn’t mean the argument is sound or cogent. Some like Hume f.e. would go as far as to say there is no causation at all, that just because two events occurred in different time doesn’t mean one follows from the other. However, that’s extreme skepticism detached from practical standards of evidence and reality. Fact is that every mind we know of so far required a physical brain or at least a part of it. Does it prove causation beyond all doubt? No. Is it a massive amount of evidence for causation which renders the opposite position quite silly in comparison? Yes.

If anything, the greenness is projected unto the grass by the electromagnetic waves. Us humans then perceive that. So in some sense, yes, colors do exist in the “outside” world. Also, what would it even mean to say that the external world exists “just as we perceive it”? Our perception depends on how the brain is functioning. I’m inclined to think that statement is meaningless, a categorical error. I’ll give it some more thought.

I’ve always found it hard to even think about things like “subjective reality” or “mode of representation”. What is that supposed to mean? How can reality be subjective (dependent on the mind)? If there is something in reality I don’t like, I’m not in control of, then obviously it isn’t just sort of an extension to my mind, for how could I not be in control of my own mind? What is it that predetermines me if there is nothing but me? How am I not in control of everything? I don’t know, either I’m lacking in knowledge/intelligence to tackle such issues sternly (possibly), or I have a mind too healthy and too deeply entrenched in reality to be able to conceive of such flawed, contradictory ideas (possibly) :laughing:

Atheris wrote:

It’s a phrase coined by David Chalmers.

How does subjective experience emerge from non-subjective matter? Thus far, there hasn’t been any sound materialistic arguments for how this is possible. To think that consciousness, magically, emerges from unconscious matter is fantastical. It doesn’t logically follow.

No, you mean that electromagnetic waves exist in the outside world, but the subjective, first-person experience of greenness ( qualia ) does not. Electromagetic waves ( objective ) and colors ( qualia - subjective - E.g., greenness ) are distinct. Careful not to conflate, even though they are associated.

Gravity and mass are correlated, but would you say that gravity IS mass? That gravity is the same thing as mass?

Just because something is subjective, that doesn’t necessarily mean you have some sort of control over it. When you experience pleasure from eating a nice meal, do you consciously summon the feelings of pleasure, or do they naturally arise? Even in dreams, you don’t have full control over all the subjective experiences that occur. Also, it seems like you conflated the will with the mind.

Btw, I’m not trying to claim that you are the sole reality ( solipsism ). I subscribe to a theory, which posits that reality is dual in nature ( mental and physical ), that these two aspects are mutually irreducible, yet distinct. And that they are both of one kind of ’ substance ': the will(s) ( to power ).

Double Aspect Theory: … visionary/


Still not seeing the “hard problem”. Nor what is magical about it, quite the opposite, naturalistic/materialistic explanations are grounded in science. Souls, spirits, wills to power and such… those are much closer to magic.

[i]A fallacy of division occurs when one reasons logically that something true for the whole must also be true of all or some of its parts.

An example:

A Boeing 747 can fly unaided across the ocean.
A Boeing 747 has jet engines.
Therefore, one of its jet engines can fly unaided across the ocean.


Your objection is based on a fallacy, and not one, but two. The first one is the above noted fallacy of division, the second is argument from personal incredulity, which should be self explanatory.
Also, why are you assuming that the matter from which the experience emerges is non-subjective? Also, are you assuming matter being subjective excludes the possibility of it being objective? The way I see it, we are all subjects AND objects, while unconscious things are only objects.

I would say that the electromagnetic waves cause us to perceive certain colors and not others, which means they are objective, as are colors.
As for gravity and mass, well, they don’t exist one without the other as far as we know, just like the brain and the mind/consciousness. As for their causal relationship, I’m not sure, it’s not really something that can be empirically verified… I think.

Point taken. But, if I am not in control, what is? What is it that is determining my mind if not something outside of it, something which my mind is dependent on?
We experience reality subjectively, but it doesn’t make it subjective.

Now you got me confused. How can physical be reduced to will to power? Does a rock have will to power?
Also, what about the scientific or even purely empirical evidence to the contrary? Our mind is dependent on the body and brain in a number of subtle ways we don’t notice in everyday life, but one thing you surely can notice if you ever drank alcohol is how much it can affect a person’s mind. Now, if they are distinct, mutually irreducible, how come that something physical (alcohol) can influence/interact with, be in a causal relationship with something which is mental (the mind)? Also, drugs, not only can they alter your brain activity (mind), they can completely change your biological makeup.

I’m not even sure if the theory you’re proposing can be named dualism as those 2 substances can be further reduced to 1 (will to power). Nevertheless, speaking of Qualia I was reminded of a YouTube user by the name of QualiaSoup who made an excellent (IMHO) 2 part video on substance dualism, for people interested:


Atheris wrote:

The problem lies in the strong emergence, the sheer novelty of consciousness. Logically speaking, consciousness should not exist in a universe of unconscious matter. Sure, more complex systems can emerge from matter, but the sudden and mind-blowing (supposed) emergence of consciousness from this subjectiveless matter doesn’t quite make any sense, not according to a materialist theory.

Answer me this: How does unconscious matter give rise to immaterial, subjective, first-person experience? How does matter give birth to its literal anti-thesis? It’s like when atheists ask theists ( dualists - body and soul ) how the soul can possibly have an influence upon the body/matter. It does not logically follow or make sense, so likewise, it doesn’t make sense to believe that matter can have an influence or give rise to subjectivity/awareness.

I offer a more sound, a more plausible alternative: that matter is a mere representation of our minds, not an actual substance in objective reality. Matter is not a noumenon ( thing-in-itself ). Kant, Schopenhauer, Bergson, etc have shown the naivety and falsity of the mechanistic theory of existence. Ultimate reality consists of energy ( with intent — I.e., will to power ).

Well, the whole free-will vs determinism debate can have a whole thread for itself, so I won’t delineate much on that, except for stating that just because something else determines certain things for you, that doesn’t mean it’s matter or some physical substance. According to my theory, there are a plethora of wills to power, so I would just say that other wills to power ( energies with intent ) have an influence upon you. We experience reality inter-subjectively, btw.

Yes, a rock has a will to power; it is made up of energy, and all energy is active ( willing ). The will to power of a rock is its gravitation.

What scientific or empirical evidence? Examples?

Our mind is dependent on the body? You mean, our minds are correlated to the body and brain. One could easily make the opposite case that the body is dependent on the mind: when one focuses on, say, a profound experience they had ( mental/subjective activity ) in a Church, the hairs on their body/arms ( chills ) will stand up subsequently! Look! Proof that the body is dependent and influenced by the mind!

As Bergson points out, there is also a perfect correlation between a radio set and the program it’s playing. Change the radio’s circuitry and you’ll change the perceiving of the program.
One could even predict/read the program from investigating the radio’s circuitry.
But, of course, this perfect correlation does not imply that the radio sufficiently (totally) causes the program!
Neither does the perfect correlation imply that the radio is (identical to) the program.
In fact, in this case, the radio merely picks up and translates the program, which has its source elsewhere.

Correlation does not entail causality, nor identity ( either way ).

Logic tells us nothing about what should or should not exist. You’re speaking from your intuition and/or experience derived from reading and being influenced by writers that mystify consciousness more than it actually is mystical (another possibility, admittedly, is that I haven’t given it as much thought). We can construct a cogent inductive argument, some would even say we can deduce, based on empirical data, approximately the part of the body from which the consciousness emerges, the part of the body necessary to consciousness.

If you chop off a finger of a human, he/she remains conscious.
If you chop off another finger, he/she remains conscious.
If you chop off a toe, he/she remains conscious.
Proceed to do the same with every part of the body, the person will remain conscious. Even if you tear out their heart, they could remain conscious for a few seconds before they die.

Chop off their brain though, and consciousness is instantly gone. It’s like an on/off switch, with brain there can be consciousness, humans who had their brains removed or were born without them never exhibited any form of consciousness, not even in some freak accidents (that I’m aware of).

So yeah, I stay by my statement - your issue is personal incredulity. Unlike you, I have no trouble imagining consciousness emerging from non conscious matter. My answer, which is kind of Aristotelian in nature, would be that certain matter contains potential for forming consciousness, which is ultimately material in nature as well. So no, I don’t think that the consciousness is a literal anti-thesis of matter but rather a specific type of arrangement of matter.

Regarding dualism, I think that’s a fair question the monists/physicalists/materialists ask. If there are 2 substances which are irreducible and mutually independent of each other, then how come that they appear to be in a relation, that what we call soul/immaterial has the capability to influence the body/material and the other way around, that the body/material influences the soul/immaterial?

Possible, but I doubt it. I haven’t studied any of them in depth so I can’t comment on that.

I wasn’t trying to say that what determines me is matter or a physical substance, my argument was for objective reality - that if I am not in absolute control of everything then there must be something which determines me, something that I, my mind, my body are dependent on and a part of but that isn’t a part of me, something beyond myself and independent of me - something objective.

A bit of an extreme anthropomorphisation but I see your point.

Aside from that, I don’t think psychology and biology of the brain as science would be possible at all if human psychology couldn’t ultimately be reduced to something physical, something which can be studied.

That’s why I think the distinction of mind and body is artificial. They can’t really be separated, mind/brain is a part of the body. The body without it is nothing but a vacuous sack of meat and the brain dies out and is incapable of manifesting itself, its will without the senses to help orient itself, the muscles for motion, and the organs supplying energy in form of nutrients to the organism as a whole.

Atheris wrote:

This begs the question: How do you even know they are conscious in the first place? These other people could be extremely complex hallucinations from your mind, they could be ’ zombies ’ ( see David Chalmers’ concept ). Whatever the case, how do you know, or prove that these other people are, really, conscious and not simply organisms that are moving about, as if they were conscious?

How do you know if their consciousness is gone or not? Would you not have to be that person, experience their subjectivity, in order to know for sure? For all we know, their consciousness could be disembodied, in another realm, still connected to the body; but diminished, and many other possible scenarios. You are only assuming that their consciousness would be instantly and completely gone.

Some food for thought: Jelly-fish do not have brains, yet they exhibit behavior which seems indicative of subjectivity/consciousness. Do Jelly-fish have subjectivity?

I have to pitch in with Atheris on this one.

Consciousness is merely the active process of remote recognition. The fact that the conscious mind cannot watch itself performing the act makes it seem a bit mystical, awareness appearing out of nowhere. But there is nothing inexplicable about consciousness arising from unconsciousness any more than airliners arising from dirt and rock.

Consciousness is not a material substance…

Rocks, dirt, and airliners are made of physical substance…there is a congruency.

Airliners arising from material substances is logical and explicable, because airliners are made of the same substance! ( E.g., atoms — physical material ).

Consciousness, as has already been demonstrated, is itself nonphysical. Physical substance giving rise to other, more complex forms of physical substance logically follows, but it does not follow that consciousness should arise from unconsciousness! They are diametrically opposed…there is no congruency in that regard.

An engine idles in Idleness. It races in harmony. It is physical.
But is idleness or harmony physical?

When you are following instructions, step by step like a computer, are your mental actions in doing so, physical? Wouldn’t they be similar in make to a computer program at that time. Isn’t a computer program physical?

Being conscious is an action, a process and thus physical. Consciousness is no more or less of a “thing” than running (both expressed as nouns). Is running a physical “thing”? For the exact same reason, so is consciousness.

Anything and everything that changes or represents changing, is physical.

Nothing is ever, really, ’ idle '; it only appears that way to our consciousness — reality is flux, constant change, constant motion.

Idleness and harmony are associated with physical activity ( and associated with non-physical activity, though this part can be ignored right now ); but idleness and harmony as things-in-themselves simply don’t exist; they are abstractions, so actually they are non-physical in that sense lol.

Mental activities can be correlated to physical ones, but that doesn’t mean the mental aspect IS physical. Mental activities are mental - physical activities are physical.

Not sure how you go from " consciousness is an action " to " thus physical ". Not all actions are necessarily physical.

Running is associated with physical activity, yes; but one could easily make the case that it is also a non-physical activity - that some ’ élan vital’ is involved in the process too.

Really? Qualia changes, e.g., colors can change before my eyes, when viewing, say, some trippy video on youtube. Qualia is itself non-physical, though it IS correlated to physical activity, i.e., electromagnetic waves; but the qualia and electromagnetic waves are distinct, not identical. Careful not to conflate.

So your claim is that categorical properties (qualia) like;
and Consciousness

are not physical. And you can’t see how any of those can arise from the physical, but are correlated to it.

You can create such and ontology for your truth model. But in such an ontology, physicality itself would also not be physical nor would it arise from the physical.

You seem to be making an arbitrary distinction between properties of things and the things. What is a thing other than the aggregation of its properties? Remove every single property from anything, what is left? Nothing.

Yes, this is the basic subject/object distinction. There is a clear and obvious distinction between first-person experience ( subjective ) and third-person experience ( objective ).

I may be able to look inside of your brain, locate the neuronal activity ( the objective aspect ) associated with your happiness, but I can never feel the numerically same happiness that you experience ( the subjective aspect ); that is privy to you alone. The subjective and objective are not the same. They are correlated, indeed, but in regards to reducibility, that has yet to be shown ( either way ).

Erik wrote:

I.e., consciousness is not necessarily reducible to the brain.

How so? Explain further.

Not an arbitrary distinction at all; it’s a logical and well-reasoned distinction.

Here is the fundamental distinction between our views:

You believe that consciousness comes into existence from subjective-less/non-consciouess bits of matter.

I believe that matter is infused with a subjective element ( energy with intent ) and that these lesser forms of subjective energies coalesce to form higher degrees of subjectivity.

Your theory proposes that magic occurs - that unconscious matter can suddenly give rise to something totally other, a sheer novelty: consciousness ( unconsciousness >>> consciousness ). There is a huge gap in your theory; in my theory, there is no such gap — human-consciouness is a gradation of other subjectivities; it is a continuous process from lesser forms of awareness to more complex forms of awareness.

Please pardon my perspective, but this is one of those things that I have always seen as a silly thing for serious philosophers to be wondering about and one of the reasons that I don’t hold extremely high respect for those who did so. But on the other hand, it serves as an exercise in trying to make the obvious more certain.

You are distinguishing properties of things from the things. Physicality is a property shared by all physical things. But you claim that such abstract properties are not physical (an ontological distinction of choice). So in accord with your ontological structure (your category breakdown for what is what) physicality is not physical. My question is then, if physicality is not physical, what is?

Unambiguously define “physical” in your ontology so that we aren’t wasting time (please).

And as far as “magic”, realize that if I merely push things around a bit, I can “magically” cause roundness, a circle, to appear from what was never a circle, perhaps from a square. I can push things around a bit and cause a house to appear out of what wasn’t a house. And I can also push things around a bit and form consciousness to appear from what wasn’t consciousness.