The « strange loop » of consciousness
If you have followed the previous episodes (I speak of My story and the articles on the page Consciousness, thoughts and emotions), you have arrived at a first synthesis of my search for a definition of consciousness. At this stage, presenting the thought of the philosopher Michel Bitbol is rich in meaning. On the one hand, he addresses this question himself, in particular in his book La conscience a‑t-elle une origine ? (Does consciousness have an origin?) . On the other hand, the training he received in medicine and physics  allows him to have a scientific view on the subject. I would add that, through philosophy, medicine and physics, it covers precisely the fields from which I explore the question myself.
The inner experience
According to him, everything starts from experience : « We begin our investigation about the material bodies, about the brain, about everything, from experience, the inner experience. (…) This is the most basic fact » . And, in fact, my experience is both the starting point and the reason of being of this blog.
Michel Bitbol reminds us that the experience never stops, it is always present. Whatever we are experiencing, we can always connect with the experience that is taking place. However, he does state that :
« Experience is not an object. The object is an entity that is supposed to exist beyond situations, subjective states and being-present. On the contrary, conscious experience is situated, it is what it feels like to be at this moment. » 
For him, it is even « pure experience [which] must be the true meaning of consciousness » . He quotes Kitaro Nishida, a Japanese philosopher who sought to link Western philosophy and Eastern spirituality, i.e. to establish a link between phenomenology  and Zen practice. He proposed « not to consider that knowledge will seek its object, but [to] put down any quest for an object in order to be only in pure experience, presence, things as they appear. » 
I’ll make one little clarification here. I’m not going to quibble about the term « Presence », because it seems to me that in the end we’re talking about the same thing. The use of words is not easy to manipulate this kind of subject. Michel Bitbol also points out that his speech is not the language of designation, but the language of suggestion. That is, it is simply trying to get something recognized – in this case pure experience – rather than making it an object by defining it. I recognize this experience for having lived it, but given my use of the word « Presence », I cannot associate it with « pure experience ». Indeed, for me presence is a state beyond experience.
When it manifests itself, then we can no longer formulate anything. Except to go back into the experience and try to talk about this state. Removing ourselves from the presence does not mean that we are no longer connected to it. In fact, we can’t not be connected to it. We can only be unconscious of our relationship as long as we have not switched into presence and recognized this state consciously.
The mystery of consciousness
« Consciousness cannot be shown, it shows itself »  says Michel Bitbol. So, can we define it ? The word « definition » is not appropriate, according to him, because determining what consciousness is implies determining what it is not. But we cannot exclude anything from consciousness because everything is consciousness. All states of consciousness are part of consciousness and they are as real as each other.
« Consciousness is mysterious, and its mystery stems from its absolute proximity. » 
The subject can never detach himself from his questioning about consciousness, because he is entirely part of that questioning. A questioning that is only made possible by consciousness. Thus, conscious experience creates a vertiginously self-referential configuration. But to clearly perceive this requires a new state of consciousness, considerably enlarged compared to the one we have most often.
In this regard, the philosopher mentions a sociological fact that I can only attest to : the vast majority of people who have experienced altered states of consciousness no longer believe in reductionist explanations. In particular, the hypothesis that consciousness is a by-product of brain function . However, this hypothesis is put forward by neuroscientists, for whom « consciousness is the power of synthesis of partial and fragmentary representations formed by various specialized areas of the cortex. Consciousness is also about metacognition, which is about being aware of knowledge. » 
The experience of the knowing subject
But for Michel Bitbol, it is an objectified definition of consciousness, from which it is easy to give an objectified explanation of its functions, which are themselves objectified. What does that mean ? This means that neuroscientists connect objective phenomena with each other but miss the point. They establish causal relationships between visible, perceptible – that is, objectifiable – phenomena, but at no time do they have access to the person’s experience.
My own experience with the Glasgow scale illustrates this discrepancy, as the objectivized criteria on which it is based offer a considerably restricted view of my experience. Establishing these criteria also presupposes that we know what consciousness is and what it is not, and when it is supposed to manifest itself or not.
Why is the Glasgow scale nonetheless effective ? Because it works by extracting an invariant, something stable that neuroscientists agree on. From there :
« They build knowledge that is equally valid for everyone and that can be improved collectively. However, this approach is based on an exclusion, the exclusion of ourselves : we agree on criteria without taking into account the experience of the knowing subject. » 
All this leads us, according to him, to a situation that is paradoxical to say the least. On the one hand, our understanding of consciousness is at an impasse. On the other hand, we have made a lot of technical progress in predicting the « return to consciousness » of people in comas. I would add that this progress depends on the correlation we have established, rightly and wrongly, between the functioning of the brain and consciousness.
For a neuroscience applicable to consciousness
Neural process and lived experience
Michel Bitbol also mentions the fact that we can stimulate certain parts of the brain, and obtain certain experiences, certain very specific contents of consciousness. However, he immediately clarifies that « describing a certain neural process is not living it, is not living the experience that goes with it. (…) You can have any brain processes you want, yet you have absolutely no argument in principle that they should be associated with lived experience. » 
Thus, observed correlation does not automatically mean causality. Especially since there are several types of causality. A simple causality : events in the brain produce consciousness. Or reverse causality : it is conscious events that cause brain events. Or a bidirectional causality, i.e. the brain is the cause of consciousness and vice versa : in other words, the brain and consciousness co-emerge dependently .
Brain and consciousness : what are the links ?
This brings us back to one of the questions that my experience raises : perhaps that night, the change that took place in my consciousness made me come out of a certain structure of information to immerse myself in a space beyond any form of structure ? Unless it was the modification of these structures that caused the change in consciousness ? Or as Eckhart Tolle would say :
« Any change in consciousness has an effect on the body, and any change in consciousness will reconnect everything in the brain (…), but who comes first, the egg or the chicken ? Are we awakening because our brain cells are mutating or are the cells mutating because we are awakening ? I don’t know and I don’t need to know. Maybe both are true, who knows, maybe both perspectives manifest themselves simultaneously. So the egg or the chicken that came first I don’t know, but I’m sure it happened. » 
The strange loop
This last possibility, close to the Buddhist point of view, seems to show that there is in fact a mutual relationship between brain and consciousness. Together, brain, consciousness, and the relationship they have with each other belong to experience. This forms what Michel Bitbol calls a « strange loop » . His search for a neuroscientific approach to consciousness does not ignore this strange loop, and thus offers the possibility of making neuroscience applicable to it. But one that is neither reductionist nor materialistic.
It is based in particular on the work of the Chilean neurobiologist and philosopher Francisco Varela, who : « did not try to have an objective science of subjectivity. He wanted to have a science that cultivates both the objective and subjective viewpoints, and to connect them. He didn’t want to grab one into the other, he wanted to connect both. » 
Do you want to know more about the links between subjectivity and objectivity ? You can continue your exploration by reading the article Objectivity and subjectivity : the unified perception.
Notes and references
 BITBOL Michel, La conscience a‑t-elle une origine ? Des neurosciences à la pleine conscience : une nouvelle approche de l’esprit, Paris : Flammarion, 2014, free translation
 See in particular the article Reality and quantum physics
 BITBOL Michel. (January 20, 2013). La conscience a‑t-elle une base matérielle ? In : Fleurs du dharma, Mind and Life XXVI : Esprit, cerveau et matière, p.4, free translation
 BITBOL Michel, La conscience a‑t-elle une origine ?, op.cit., p.8, free translation
 BITBOL Michel. (June 6, 2014). La conscience a‑t-elle une origine ? In : France Culture : Les chemins de la philosophie [podcast], free translation
 Phenomenology is a philosophical current that focuses on the study of phenomena, lived experience and contents of consciousness.
 BITBOL Michel, La conscience a‑t-elle une origine ? [podcast], op.cit., free translation
 BITBOL Michel. (February 5, 2014). Plongée dans les abysses de la conscience avec Michel Bitbol (partie 2/2). In : Monde des grandes écoles et universités, free translation
 BITBOL Michel. (March 12, 2014). Aux sources de la conscience. In : CNRS Le journal [en ligne], free translation
 The history of the neuroscientist Eben Alexander is remarkable about that (article online soon).
 BITBOL Michel, La conscience a‑t-elle une origine ? [podcast], op. cit., free translation
 Ibid., free translation
 BITBOL Michel, La conscience a‑t-elle une base matérielle ?, op.cit., p.2, free translation
 For a better understanding how phenomena appear dependently, you can also consult the article Indeterminism and entanglement.
 TOLLE Eckhart. L’éveil modifie-t-il le cerveau ? In : BlogBug
 BITBOL Michel, La conscience a‑t-elle une base matérielle ?, op.cit., p.5, free translation
 Ibid., p.8, free translation