Along the lines of last night’s post, Keith Frankish has an article at Aeon describing and defending the illusionist viewpoint, that phenomenal consciousness is an illusion. It’s an excellent introduction for anyone who isn’t familiar with the basic argument.
As noted before, I think the illusionists are right about the reality, but I’m not sure using the word “illusion” is productive. We could just as easily say that yes, phenomenal consciousness exists *subjectively* but not objectively, and this is how that subjective experience is constructed. There is some value in using stark language to get people’s attention, but it also frequently gets their summary dismissal.
I’m also not entirely sure it’s all in the introspection mechanisms. Phenomenal qualities seem useful in discriminating between different objects, and the affect lacing the brain weaves in also clues the deliberation engine on how to regard those objects. It seems likely that our introspective representations of these perceptual representations are value added rather than entirely constructive. Thinking the latter implies a lot of processing overload for introspection, which doesn’t necessarily feel adaptive to me.
What I definitely think is an illusion, however, is the notion that qualia exist as something above and beyond the neural processing in the brain, that it “arises” in some fashion from that processing. A physicalist might talk in those terms in a metaphorical manner, but what they usually mean is that it is the processing.
Anyway, Frankish’s piece is worth checking out, particularly if you think illusionism is prima facie false.