On the heels of the Daily Grail's new essay anthology Spirits of Place -- featuring Alan Moore, Maria J. Warren Ellis, Gazelle Amber Valentine, and many more writers and thinkers -- the Grail's Greg Taylor conducted a deep interview with Moore about populism, time, language, science, and other heady topics. From the Daily Grail:
What are your thoughts on the importance, or non-importance, of including consciousness, imagination and subjective experience in any theory of what 'reality' is?
AM: Is it helpful to observe that subjectivity is the only thing that we know is objectively real, or does that just muddy the waters even further, as with so many of the well-intentioned things I say? I mean, we do not experience the universe directly: we experience it only through our limited senses, with our sensory impressions arranged moment by moment into this immersive psychic movie that we agree to call reality. From this point of view, our entire universe can only ever be a subjective neurological phenomenon, at least to us, and a quick glance around will confirm that it’s only us who seem to be much bothered either way about this ontology business. I think Nagel is correct in his criticism of the materialist worldview, and I would further state that even should science ever accomplish its goal of unifying classical and quantum physics, of achieving a grand ‘Theory of Everything’, then if it only describes the physical universe and does not take account of the marvellous, supernatural phenomenon – consciousness – that has arrived at this theory, it is nowhere near a theory of everything, is it? It’s more a theory of everything we perceive, which by definition does not include our own act of perception.
In fact, were we to derive at a theory of reality from only consciousness, imagination and subjective experience, I think we’d have at least as good a chance of arriving a workable and comprehensive model of how reality works. After all, as an essay in one of Dennett’s own excellent anthologies, The Mind’s I, points out, if current quantum theory suggests that our reality to some degree depends upon having us here as observers, then a dismissal of consciousness and subjectivity would seem a bit intellectually reckless, even from a materialist perspective. I think it’s time that we stopped trying to exorcise the Ghost in the Machine and perhaps, instead, tried communicating with this haunting presence, trying to find out what it is, what it wants, and why it cannot rest easily. Maybe then, and only then, will consciousness find peace and stop chucking our mental furniture about or sucking our children into malefic television sets.