In the twentieth century, Jean-Paul Sartre famously said that existence precedes essence, which is the reverse order of what the Medieval philosophers believed. In this line of thinking, a thing first exists, and then due to its form of existing, it has essence bestowed upon it by observers. This is where the Existentialist idea of radical freedom came from. In the Medieval philosophy, you were your essence first, and it was God that bestowed upon you your existence. But that means your essence is immutable. In Existentialism, it is you that creates your essence to be what you want, and your essence is only determined by what you do, not by your intentions. What this idea ultimately concludes is that there is nothing special about an existing object apart from the meaning given to it by minds, or being-for-itself in Sartre’s parlance, denoting the objectness of the mind. But if the mind is an object, then what is it about the mind that makes it special, allowed to bestow meaning on the objects around it?
In this section I discuss why materialism offers only an incomplete explanation for consciousness.
This idea of a non-physical realm that transcends the physical has been a persistent one. What this even means will usually depend on who you ask. However, it usually has something to do with ethereal spirits working within arbitrary laws that have little or nothing to do with the physical laws we are familiar with. Sometimes it is the realm ghosts inhabit – the disembodied spirits of people who’ve died. Sometimes it is described more as a divine realm where angels and souls exist, somehow able to communicate actions into the physical realm when it pleases them. What spiritualism always has in common, though, is that it has everything to do with human beings.
In this section I discuss why spiritualism is, at best, a hypothesis that should be rejected as an explanation for consciousness.
Cartesian dualism has been a point of contention in philosophy since at least, well, Descartes. The dispute is whether the mind is a separate, immaterial entity from the physical body. Problems have plagued the dualist view since the time of Descartes, primarily how it is that the immaterial mind and material body interact.