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Creating the World

An Enquiry into the Relation between Consciousness and the Universe

by John R. Downie    [Category: Philosophy]

Portrait of John Downie by Tim Wilson (PersonaMedia)
image by PersonaMedia

Seen scientifically, the world consists entirely of physical events causing other physical events. But in that case, how can a subjective event, such as a thought or a decision, have any influence on the world, and how does a physical event, such as an electromagnetic wavelength or a change in hormone levels, bring about a subjective event such as a colour sensation or an emotion? Indeed, what is our consciousness? It appears to be non-physical, so how can it arise in an entirely physical universe? And why should it arise? If every physical event in the world is caused by some other physical event, then presumably the world could continue to operate just as it does without anybody or anything being conscious at all.

This is the "problem of consciousness". It lies at the core of the traditional "mind-body problem" of philosophy and is what philosopher David Chalmers has called the "hard problem". John Downie looks for the answer to it, not in the world itself, but in the way we think about the world, and has come up with a radical new theory, which some of his readers regard as the first convincing solution to it. To do this he examines how the very young child first develops the notion of a world of separate things that has both objective and subjective qualities, and shows how the very possibility of language arises out of this interpretation. He then goes on to show how this basic conception relates to our modern, scientific view of the world. In the process he casts light on many diverse issues, such as the relation between parts and wholes, the inevitability of paradox in any complete language, the incomprehensibility of quantum theory, Kant’s unknowable ‘noumenon’ and the relativity of any understanding of the world to the human condition, showing how these and many other topics relate back to the same foundation in early childhood.

His theory can be downloaded free of charge in two forms. Click the relevant link to go to the Download page.

  1. The whole book, Creating the World: An Enquiry into the Relation between Consciousness and the Universe.
    The main text of this is aimed at the intelligent general reader and is written in a deliberately non-academic style. It does not assume any previous knowledge but does assume a deep interest in the subject and a willingness to abandon everyday assumptions about reality.
    About 40% of the book consists of notes. These are not essential to an understanding of the main text. Some are technical, and may assume a previous knowledge of the subjects and writers they refer to. Others explore matters that are related to the main text but are not directly relevant to the argument being presented in it.
    (PDF file, 2209KB, 381 pages including notes, bibliography and index, current version 150505. For the version history click here.)

  2. A Synopsis and Summary of the book.
    This presents the whole argument in highly condensed form. The first-time reader may have difficulty in following it on its own, and its main benefit will be to outline the various topics that have to be understood in order to grasp the argument. For those reading the actual book, it may be useful to print out the synopsis as a reminder of the chapters previously read.
    (PDF file, 249KB, 23 pages, current version 090115. For the version history, click here.)

Both the book and the synopsis include a 3-page summary of the theory. This presents the elements of the theory without any argument and in a different order from the one in the book, based on the inherent logic of the theory itself. (The order in the book - and therefore in the synopsis - is dictated by the need to build up in sequence the concepts required to understand the theory.)

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