Wednesday, 27 December 2023

Hamlet's famous question was thus, from a more modern perspective, ill posed. Because human consciousness is fundamentally and at every level a complex of normal chemical and mechanical processes, we cannot seriously entertain the fantasy of not knowing ourselves. And without an assurance that the universe — or universes — will come to a definite final conclusion or that matter will cease organizing itself into complex configurations, the circumstances that have conspired to produce our consciousness at, say, this moment, will, with all probability, eventually reoccur. Given enough time or, to use a more cautious phrase, given just enough variation, the configuration of the universe at this moment (or the configuration of that subset of it which allows each of us a sense of his or her consciousness at this moment, and every moment), is sufficiently probable. Circumstance will produce the moment again as surely as two dice, rolled enough times, will produce two aces. Vast gulfs of what we think of as time and distance may separate the little intervals that are ourselves, but that matters not to us. We will not feel the pauses.