This old talk by Daniel Dennett touches on a lot of topics we’ve discussed recently. Dennett explains why it’s wrong to regard phenomenal consciousness (the “what it’s likeness” or “raw experience” version) as separate from access consciousness (the cognitive access of information for decision making, memory, report, etc).
Note that Dennett doesn’t deny the existence of phenomenal consciousness here, just the idea that it’s something separate and apart from access. He even passes up opportunities to dismiss qualia, although he does provide a reduction of them.
This video is about 66 minutes long. Unfortunately the video and sound quality aren’t great, and the camera operation is annoying, but the talk is worth powering through.
I agree with just about everything in this talk, but I do feel a little compelled to defend Victor Lamme since I read his stuff recently and it’s still relatively fresh in my mind. Dennett says that there’s no rational provided for why recurrent neural processing leads to phenomenality. Lamme, to his credit, actually does take a stab at it, citing the enhanced synaptic plasticity associated with recurrent processing, leading to the formation of memories, albeit very brief ones in the cases he’s considering. But as I noted in my post on that theory, it’s arguably more about the preconscious, pre-access sensory processing, than consciousness itself.
The main thrust of Dennett’s remarks are that phenomenal content isn’t something that access consciousness makes use of, phenomenal experience is a result of access processing. Therefore, studying access consciousness is studying phenomenal consciousness. They are one and the same, just seen from the outside or the inside respectively.
Dennett also talks about the element people often feel is missing from strictly information processing accounts, referring to it as “the juice” or “the sauce” (a cute acronym for “subjective aspect unique to conscious experience”) before, in politeness to his host, settling on “feeling”, but pointing out that feelings must be felt, and felt is a form of access.
There have also been some conversations recently about the hard problem of consciousness, particularly at James Cross’ blog. It’s worth noting that phenomenal consciousness is the version typically associated with the Chalmers’ hard problem, while access consciousness is associated with his “easy problems” (discrimination, attention, reportability, etc). But if phenomenal and access consciousness are one and the same, then the hard problem is simply an agglomeration of the easy problems. Meaning that as the easy problems are solved, the hard problem will gradually be solved.
So, a lot of good information in this talk, which I’m sure won’t be controversial at all. 🙂
(via Richard Brown)