“Ah, good, Data. At least you’re functioning.”
“Data, intoxication is a human condition. Your brain is different, not the same as–”
“We are more alike than unlike, my dear Captain. I have pores, humans have pores. I have fingerprints, humans have fingerprints. My chemical nutrients are like your blood. If you prick me, do I not .. leak?”
Picard and Data in Star Trek the Next Generation “The Naked Now”
The easy answer is that Mormons believe that our spirit that gives us consciousness. (I love giving answers to questions no one has asked).
Rene Descartes, is sort of the go-to guy when you want to starting thinking about Western consciousness studies. Some of his insights and questions are still in play today. He thought there were two kinds of things in the world, regular stuff—all the material things in the world, and then some non-material thinking stuff from which we get our consciousness. Our soul was made of this non-material stuff. He even speculated they might be connected in the pineal gland—a pea-shaped structure that lies in the center of the action in the brain. He spent a lot of time thinking about consciousness and how soul and body link up. There are rumors he built an android, but the sailors became so disturbed about this on his way to Sweden (and his death), that they tossed it overboard. He called it his daughter. (There is also an episode of Star Trek where Data builds a daughter. It breaks my heart when she dies.)
We call Descartes a substance dualist. Are we substance dualists?
There are other kinds of dualists. Process dualists believe that there are two kinds of things in the universe material and consciousness but consciousness comes about through certain material processes. Consciousness is a part of the universe different from matter, but conditioned on what matter is doing. Are we process dualists?
I think we are one of the two (I could be persuaded otherwise as this ins neither a dear nor well-thought out stance). There are also many other species of ‘ists’ who think about consciousness. Eliminativists who say it’s an illusion and there is nothing to explain. Monists who say consciousness just is mater in motion, not something new or surprising in the universe. Other folks that say consciousness will never be explained. We call them appropriately Mysterians. There are as many kinds of consciousness thinkers as there are dominations of any major world religion. So let’s just stick with dualism for a moment.
The tricky thing is that we are materialists of a sort. We believe all spirit is matter (only purer). And, as far as I know, we have no clue where the consciousness in our spirit comes from. Something seems skrewywompous trying to use the usual tags we use in thinking about consciousness. Saying we get our consciousness from our spirit seems like cheating. (Like the panspermia theories that life originated somewhere else in the universe and came to earth on a comet or piece of a planet. It begs the question since we are immediately faced with the same problem about how life started in that place. (And I do think science will crack this in the next fifty years.)). So are we process dualists once removed? Or are we substance dualists with the ‘intelligences’ providing the res cogitans (as Descartes called the substance of consciousness. I, however, prefer the more scientific and technical term ‘thinking stuff.’)
Speculate wildly (this is the bloggernacle after all):
If we prick a spirit does it leak? Where does our consciousness come from?
Note: There are a variety of opinions on this from a number of early general authorities—From views that intelligences come from a kind of pool of intelligence stuff that the Lord draws on to animate spirit bodies, to intelligences just are a sort of unembodied ‘soul’ (for want of a better word). But as far as I know we have no clear doctrine on the matter. I am, however, willing to be taught differently.