“Consciousness and Causality: Perspectives from Integrated Information Theory, Phenomenology and Kashmir Shaivism” by Dr. (Prof.) Nithin Nagaraj, Dr. Shankar Rajaraman, and Dr. Saurabh Todariya.


Tononi’s Integrated Information Theory (IIT) of Consciousness is a leading neuroscientific theory of consciousness which is fast gaining a lot of attention.  Departing from other scientific theories of consciousness, the mathematical axioms of IIT are built directly on the phenomenology of conscious experience and it claims to be a nonreductive and testable theory of consciousness. The central idea of Tononi’s IIT is to link subjectivity with causality that is measured as integrated information of neurological systems. Boldly, Tononi claims that “there is an identity between phenomenological properties of experience and informational/causal properties of physical systems” (see Oizumi et al., PLoS: Computational Biology 8 (2014) ). Paralleling the debate on the mind-body problem between Tonini and other non-reductionists on one hand and material reductionists on the other is an ancient Indian debate between Buddhists (particularly the Vijnanavadins) and Kashmir Monistic Shaivites. This debate, as summarized by Utpaladeva in his AjaDapramAtrsiddhi, is centered around the concept of causal efficacy (Artha-kriyA-kAritva) with the former attributing it to momentary, external, existent objects (as contrasted with non-existent objects like a hare’s horn) and the latter to Consciousness. Abhinavgupta, the Kashmir philosopher and aesthetician, identifies Kriya (action) as the essential part of the subjectivity. Consciousness, rather than as witness, causes the world. In fact, in Kashmiri Shaivism, the same energy manifests outwardly as object and inwardly as inner subjective awareness. Both these approaches (Tononi and Abhinavagupta) can be appreciated through the notion of synthesis proposed by Husserlian phenomenology. It argues that consciousness is essentially synthetic in nature and as such, it constitutes the object by playing the active rather than the passive, mirror-like role. The synthetic nature of consciousness produces both the experience of the object as well as the subjective feeling of awareness; however, while doing so it gives primacy to the subjectivity as the constituting entity. In this thematic presentation, we shall shall explore the relationship between Consciousness and Causality – taking insights from Integrated Information Theory, Phenomenology and Kashmir Shaivism – and how these approaches converge/diverge.

Disclaimer – The Opinions Endorsed by the speaker is solely his and not in any way endorsed by the organizers.

Abstract Excerpt from “The Reading Glass” CSP thematic discussion  on 25 October 2019, by Dr. (Prof.) Nithin Nagaraj, Dr. Shankar Rajaraman and Dr. Saurabh Todariya.