Consciousness, illusions, and definitions

Strawberries

I've discussed many times that the word "consciousness" has a variety of meanings. But most commonly, the various meanings can be grouped into two broad categories. One refers to some combination of functionality, typically the information processing that happens in the brain enabling an organism to take in, assess, and use information about itself and … Continue reading Consciousness, illusions, and definitions

Susan Blackmore’s illusionism

Susan Blackmore's Consciousness: A Very Short Introduction may have been the first book I read on consciousness many years ago. Recent conversations rekindled my interest in her views. I'm pretty sure her discussion of consciousness as an illusion was the first time I had encountered that idea. Strong illusionists such as Keith Frankish and Daniel … Continue reading Susan Blackmore’s illusionism

What does it mean to be “like something”?

Common Vampire Bat

When it comes to my philosophy of consciousness, I've noted many times that I'm a functionalist, someone who sees mental states, including conscious ones, as being more about what they do, their causal roles and relations, than what they are. Since functionalism focuses on functionality exclusively, it often gets lumped in with illusionism, which typically … Continue reading What does it mean to be “like something”?

Perceptions are dispositions all the way down

(Warning: neuroscience weeds) Some years ago, I reviewed Antonio Damasio's theory of consciousness, based on his book, Self Comes to Mind. (He has a newer book, The Strange Order of Things, which I haven't read yet, so this may not represent his most current views.) In that book, Damasio makes a distinction between two types … Continue reading Perceptions are dispositions all the way down

The problem with the theater of the mind metaphor

A theater in the head

In the last post, in response to my criticism of Chalmers for relying on the standard but vague "something it is like" definition of phenomenal consciousness, someone pointed out that Chalmers has talked before metaphorically about a movie playing in our head, notably at the beginning of his TED talk on consciousness. I think this … Continue reading The problem with the theater of the mind metaphor

The unproductive search for simple solutions to consciousness

(Warning: neuroscience weeds) Earlier this year I discussed Victor Lamme's theory of consciousness, that phenomenal experience is recurrent neural processing, that is, neural signalling that happens in loops, from lower layers to higher layers and back, or more broadly from region to region and back.  In his papers, Lamme notes that recurrent processing is an … Continue reading The unproductive search for simple solutions to consciousness

Regular people: What hard problem of consciousness?

The hard problem of consciousness, a term coined by philosopher David Chalmers, asks how physical systems can produce phenomenal consciousness.  Chalmers' term, coined in the 1990s, applied to an older problem that's been around for along time, the mind-body problem.  More recently, Chalmers noted his intuition that the hard problem is widely and intuitively held … Continue reading Regular people: What hard problem of consciousness?

There is no phenomenality without access

How do we know whether any particular system is conscious?  In humans, we typically know because most humans can talk about their conscious experience.  Historically, if we can report on it, it's conscious; if we can't, it's in the unconscious.  But this raises a difficulty for any entity that doesn't have language, including non-human animals, … Continue reading There is no phenomenality without access