This interview is pretty much classic Daniel Dennett. He starts off pointing out that introspection is unreliable, that our beliefs about our inner experience are what need to be explained, not necessarily what the beliefs purport to be reality. He doesn’t name the meta-problem, but it’s clear that, and related concepts, are what he’s talking about.
What’s worth noting here is the discussion on the hard question: “and then what happens?” At its root, this question gets at the fact that phenomenal experience can’t be considered in isolation, but has to be assessed in terms of the its downstream effects, how it fits in overall survival framework. He uses this to disseminate the nature of something like pain, and of seeing a blue sky.
(This video is about 41 minutes.)
Dennett did a paper on the hard question, which I’ve been meaning to read, although I really already buy it’s main premise.
The so-called hard problem of consciousness is a chimera, a distraction from the hard question of consciousness, which is once some content reaches consciousness, ‘then what happens?’. This question is seldom properly asked, for reasons good and bad, but when asked it opens up avenues of research that promise to dissolve the hard problem and secure a scientifically sound theory of how the human brain produces the (sometimes illusory) convictions that mislead us.
Unfortunately, despite the obvious play on Chalmers’ hard problem, I doubt if this concept will spread like it did. The hard problem seems to affirm our own importance, the hard question sheds a clarifying light that often does the opposite. Still, for anyone trying to understand this stuff, it’s an important question.
People always seem to have strong opinions about Dennett, probably related to his role in the New Atheism movement, but I’ve generally found his views on consciousness to be far more informed than most in the philosophy of mind. But then I often agree with him, so I would.
What do you think of the hard question? Or about the other topics discussed in the video?