Theories of Consciousness: An Introduction and Assessment

Theories of Consciousness: An Introduction and Assessment

Theories of Consciousness: An Introduction and Assessment

Theories of Consciousness: An Introduction and Assessment

Synopsis

The most remarkable fact about the universe is that certain parts of it are conscious. Somehow nature has managed to pull the rabbit of experience out of a hat made of mere matter. Making its own contribution to the current, lively debate about the nature of consciousness, Theories of Consciousness introduces variety of approaches to consciousness and explores to what extent scientific understanding of consciousness is possible. Including discussion of key figures, such as Descartes, Foder, Dennett and Chalmers, the book covers identity theories, representational theories, intentionality, externalism, and the new information-based theories.

Excerpt

. . . for Descartes, mind-body problem is the problem of consciousness for there is, according to his understanding of the mind, nothing else for the mind to be. It is consciousness that sits square across the advancing path of the scientific world view. I doubt that Descartes, were he to admit the possibility of unconscious mentality, would think that it posed any serious challenge to a materialist view of the world.

I think it was the growth of psychology as a potential and then actual science that forced upon us the idea that there could be a generalized mind-body problem, of which the problem of consciousness would be but one aspect. Scientific psychology both posited and seemed to require unconscious processes that were in their essential features very like the more familiar conscious mental processes of perception, inference and cognition. And far from retreating, the contemporary science of psychology, along with the upstart sciences of artificial intelligence and cognitive science, has shown ever more reliance upon the hypothesis of non-conscious mental processes. Thus, just as psychology carved out a problem-domain independent of consciousness so the philosophy of mind saw its task redirected on to a mind-body problem whose focus was on the mental processes appropriate to the new problem space (especially the problems of mental representation and the nature of cognition). Is it an unworthy suspicion that the absence of consciousness was not unwelcome?

Then it came to seem that perhaps consciousness could be relegated and confined to one esoteric and increasingly baroque scholastic corner of the mind-body problem which has come to be known as the ‘problem of qualia’. What are qualia? They are the particular experienced features of consciousness: the redness of the perceived or imagined poppy, the sound of an orchestra playing in your dreams, the smell of burnt toast (perhaps as evoked by direct neural stimulation as in the famous experiments of Wilder Penfield). They are what makes up the way it feels to be alive and they are, I

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.