The Consciousness Deniers

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The Consciousness Deniers

by Galen Strawson


Quote:Who are the Deniers? I have in mind—at least—those who fully subscribe to something called “philosophical behaviorism” as well as those who fully subscribe to something called “functionalism” in the philosophy of mind. Few have been fully explicit in their denial, but among those who have been, we find Brian Farrell, Paul Feyerabend, Richard Rorty, and the generally admirable Daniel Dennett. Ned Block once remarked that Dennett’s attempt to fit consciousness or “qualia” into his theory of reality “has the relation to qualia that the US Air Force had to so many Vietnamese villages: he destroys qualia in order to save them.”

One of the strangest things the Deniers say is that although it seems that there is conscious experience, there isn’t really any conscious experience: the seeming is, in fact, an illusion. The trouble with this is that any such illusion is already and necessarily an actual instance of the thing said to be an illusion. Suppose you’re hypnotized to feel intense pain. Someone may say that you’re not really in pain, that the pain is illusory, because you haven’t really suffered any bodily damage. But to seem to feel pain is to be in pain. It’s not possible here to open up a gap between appearance and reality, between what is and what seems.

Some people not only deny the existence of consciousness; they also claim not to know what is being presumed to exist. Block responds to these deniers by quoting the reply Louis Armstrong is said to have given to those who asked him what jazz was (some people credit Fats Waller): “If you got to ask, you ain’t never gonna get to know.” Another response is almost as good, although it’s condemned by some who follow Wittgenstein. If someone asks what conscious experience is, you say, “You know what is from your own case.” (You can add, “Here’s an example,” and give them a sharp kick.) When it comes to conscious experience, there’s a rock-bottom sense in which we’re fully acquainted with it just in having it. The having is the knowing. So when people say that consciousness is a mystery, they’re wrong—because we know what it is. It’s the most familiar thing there is—however hard it is to put into words.
'Historically, we may regard materialism as a system of dogma set up to combat orthodox dogma...Accordingly we find that, as ancient orthodoxies disintegrate, materialism more and more gives way to scepticism.'

- Bertrand Russell


(This post was last modified: 2018-11-14, 10:26 PM by Sciborg_S_Patel.)
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I found that an interesting read, and it is nice to read a top philosopher describe the idea that consciousness is an illusion, or doesn't exist as " The Great Silliness". He repeats that in various forms as you go through the article.

I also liked the way he describes some of the pysycological reasons why academics (this is not just philosophers) get a thrill out of holding a really absurd position - I suppose it is a bit like a weightlifter, who likes to lift weights that would also be absurd to the rest of us - or indeed anyone addicted to extreme activities. For example:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6iM6M_7w...e=youtu.be

However he seems to want to argue that there is still room within physics for something that could give rise to consciousness - something beyond the sheer equations. (The fact that the equations are extremely intractable for anything larger than small molecules, may or may not be relevant.) This would permit consciousness to conform with naturalism!

When he suggests this, I wonder if he realises that QM doesn't just account for gross features of matter, it gives us the whole richness of chemistry and biochemistry, and holds together every molecule, including DMT and LSD! There doesn't seem to be much room left for a get out from the conclusion that consciousness doesn't exist, unless you relax the idea of naturalism.

You would think that at least he would acknowledge this obvious point, and maybe explain why, for him,  naturalism just has to be true!
(This post was last modified: 2018-12-02, 12:00 PM by David001.)
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The opinions of consciousness deniers are just random nonsense that happened by chance. Tongue
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(2018-12-03, 11:52 AM)Brian Wrote: The opinions of consciousness deniers are just random nonsense that happened by chance. Tongue

The words may comeback to haunt you..
(2018-12-03, 12:01 PM)Steve001 Wrote: The words may comeback to haunt you..

How? Ghosts aren't real.
"The cure for bad information is more information."
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(2018-12-03, 11:52 AM)Brian Wrote: The opinions of consciousness deniers are just random nonsense that happened by chance. Tongue

Some of them even think "opinions" are illusions -> See Alex Rosenberg's Atheist Guide to Reality:


Quote:A more general version of this question is this: How can one clump of stuff anywhere in the universe be about some other clump of stuff anywhere else in the universe—right next to it or 100 million light-years away?

...Let’s suppose that the Paris neurons are about Paris the same way red octagons are about stopping. This is the first step down a slippery slope, a regress into total confusion. If the Paris neurons are about Paris the same way a red octagon is about stopping, then there has to be something in the brain that interprets the Paris neurons as being about Paris. After all, that’s how the stop sign is about stopping. It gets interpreted by us in a certain way. The difference is that in the case of the Paris neurons, the interpreter can only be another part of the brain...

What we need to get off the regress is some set of neurons that is about some stuff outside the brain without being interpreted—by anyone or anything else (including any other part of the brain)—as being about that stuff outside the brain. What we need is a clump of matter, in this case the Paris neurons, that by the very arrangement of its synapses points at, indicates, singles out, picks out, identifies (and here we just start piling up more and more synonyms for “being about”) another clump of matter outside the brain. But there is no such physical stuff.

Physics has ruled out the existence of clumps of matter of the required sort...

…What you absolutely cannot be wrong about is that your conscious thought was about something. Even having a wildly wrong thought about something requires that the thought be about something.

It’s this last notion that introspection conveys that science has to deny. Thinking about things can’t happen at all...When consciousness convinces you that you, or your mind, or your brain has thoughts about things, it is wrong.
'Historically, we may regard materialism as a system of dogma set up to combat orthodox dogma...Accordingly we find that, as ancient orthodoxies disintegrate, materialism more and more gives way to scepticism.'

- Bertrand Russell


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(2018-12-03, 07:29 PM)Sciborg_S_Patel Wrote: Some of them even think "opinions" are illusions -> See Alex Rosenberg's Atheist Guide to Reality:

More damned fools.
(2018-12-03, 09:24 PM)Steve001 Wrote: More damned fools.

Agreed, but where is Alex Roseberg - himself a materialist - wrong about what materialism entails?

Of course if he is wrong, and his conclusions foolish....doesn't this mean materialism is foolish and wrong?
'Historically, we may regard materialism as a system of dogma set up to combat orthodox dogma...Accordingly we find that, as ancient orthodoxies disintegrate, materialism more and more gives way to scepticism.'

- Bertrand Russell


(This post was last modified: 2018-12-03, 09:35 PM by Sciborg_S_Patel.)
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(2018-12-03, 09:34 PM)Sciborg_S_Patel Wrote: Agreed, but where is Alex Roseberg - himself a materialist - wrong about what materialism entails?

Of course if he is wrong, and his conclusions foolish....doesn't this mean materialism is foolish and wrong?

I couldn't care less about materialism or any ism. I thought you knew that.
(2018-12-03, 10:37 PM)Steve001 Wrote: I couldn't care less about materialism or any ism. I thought you knew that.

So you don't think everything is reducible to atoms that lack consciousness?
'Historically, we may regard materialism as a system of dogma set up to combat orthodox dogma...Accordingly we find that, as ancient orthodoxies disintegrate, materialism more and more gives way to scepticism.'

- Bertrand Russell



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