Of all the Philosophical Skeleton Keys I have written about, this one is the hardest. Not because it is inherently complicated, but rather because it is so simple, and so powerful; and because the moment I understood it so many perplexities so completely vanished that I have now but little recollection of them. So well did this Key dispose of so many problems, that I cannot now well remember what most of them even were!
I use this Key all the time; so often, that I don’t usually notice having done so.
It opens all sorts of locks, but I suppose that the most important of them is the Hard Problem of Consciousness, as David Chalmers has called it: namely, how do you get awareness out of the coordinate activities of trillions of particles that – on the usual modern construction of “matter” – are not themselves at all aware? The Hard Problem is the difficult and apparently incorrigibly perplexing nub of the Mind/Body Problem; the other aspects of the Mind/Body problem are what Chalmers calls the Easy Problems. Translating the Hard Problem into the terms I shall employ in what follows: how do you get lively acts from dead facts?
Here’s the key: you don’t. You *can’t.* You get facts from acts, and not ever vice versa. A fact is a completed act. Facts no longer act. They do exert effects, to be sure. But those effects are mediated by other acts, which are enacted in the context of an environment of completed acts: an actual world.
What neurophilosophers struggling with the Hard Problem call the brain is a congeries of facts; of completed acts. Because they are already completed acts, facts can’t do anything at all. To ask how they might act so as to generate awareness is then to fall prey to a category error.
That facts are generated by acts means that of the two, acts are the more basic. Worlds are constituted *of* facts, but they are constituted *by* acts. Acts are then prior to facts. An act begins by taking account of its factual environment, and then, combining the apprehended properties thereof in itself, constituting itself a new fact.
Facts are then as it were the fossils of acts; are their outward appearance.
So, the brain doesn’t produce the mind. The mind produces the brain. The brain then does not explain the mind – although it does, to be sure, explain the data of the acts of the mind. Rather, the mind explains the brain.
Analogously, the state of the economy doesn’t produce decisions about resource allocation, but is rather constituted of them.
All sorts of perplexities vanish when we remember that facts don’t act.