My belief is that the explanations of “emergent” phenomena in our brains - for instance, ideas, hopes, images, analogies, and finally consciousness and free will - are based on a kind of Strange Loop, and interaction between levels in which the top level reaches back down towards the bottom level and influences it, while at the same time being itself determined by the bottom level.
Douglas Hofstadter from “Godel, Escher, Bach”
At least one of these loops exists in the world of mathematics… the “true but unprovable” statements that Kurt Godel proved must exist in any sufficiently complex model. Typographically, these statements will never result from dumbly generating theorems by using rules of inference. Yet, the reason they will not be produced cannot be found in the typography, only in the higher level “meaning” of the statement itself. In a sense, the high level meaning reaches down to exert a condition on the lower level symbols, which then procede to bear out the meaning of the statement.
One can get dizzy thinking about it.
On whether Consciousness actually is an instance of this strange looping behaviour happening in the brain (as opposed to in mathematical systems), I’m not sure I agree. As materialist theories go, this is the one that comes closest to raising the hairs on the back of my neck. It is a beautiful, hard to grasp theory that bears out some of our intuitions. Still, I can’t help but look for the sound of trombone and the smell of roses, and having a hard time seeing where they make their appearance.
Drawing by (who else?) M.C. Escher.