PHIL 255: Philosophy of Mind, Week 9

9a, Clark and Hardcastle

Philosophical positions on consciousness

Spiritualistic dualism: The mind is the soul, and only non-material souls have consciousness.

Naturalistic dualism: Consciousness isn't spiritual, but it cannot be explained in physical terms.

Identity theory: Consciousness is a brain process.

Functionalism: Consciousness is a functional process that could be instantiated in various entities besides brains, e.g. silicon chips in robots.

Behaviorism: Consciousness does not exist.

Eliminative materialism: Consciousness is part of folk psychology that should be eliminated in favor of neuroscience.

Mysterian materialism: Consciousness is a physical process, but is too complicated for us ever to understand (compare naturalistic dualism).

Questions to ask about a thought experiment

(E.g. zombies, the neuroscientist Mary, neuron-silicon replacement)

1. What assumptions does the thought experiment make about what is physically and logically possible?

2. Could the experiment ever occur in reality?

3. If the experiment were done, would its results have to be those assumed by the philosopher who proposed it?

4. Is the thought experimenter confusing logical and physical possibility? The former is consistency with the laws of logic, the latter is consistency with the laws of the physical sciences.

5. Is the thought experiment being used to generate hypotheses (this is the valuable role that thought experiments often play in science) or is it being used in an attempt to demonstrate hypotheses?

Alternatives to thought experiments

1. Pure reason: reach conclusions true a priori (independent of any experience). But no one has convincingly established any a priori truths.

2. Inference to the best explanation: adopt whichever theory (e.g. dualism, materialism) that provides the best explanation of all the evidence, including experimental psychology, neuroscience, and ordinary experience.

3. Relativism: there is no truth about the nature of mind and consciousness.

Clark vs. Chalmers

Any cognitive system operating at our level of computational-executive organization would be a home for qualitative states.

Qualia are not generated: they just are types of functional organization. Qualia are identical with higher level functional processes that explain structural coherence and other aspects of Chalmers' theory of consciousness.

Qualia do not have any determinate intrinsic nature, so there is nothing to explain about them.

Qualia exist, but can be indentified with certain sorts of neurally instantiated representational states. Consciousness is not something special that is produced by brain processes; it consists of brain processes.

Hardcastle vs. Chalmers

Consciousness is no more mysterious than the wetness of water or aliveness of organisms.

Science will lead to alteration of concepts of conscious so that it will no longer seem mysterious that we are conscious.

9b, More deflationary perspectives

What is consciousness analogous to?

Consciousness is like God, i.e. spiritual and unexplainable by science (spritual dualism).

Consciousness is like energy, space, and time, i.e. a basic explanatory concept, not something to be explained (naturalistic dualism).

Consciousness is like ghosts, levitation, and phlogiston, i.e. non-existent so there's nothing to explain (behaviorism, extreme eliminative materialism).

Consciousness is like life, wetness, and light, i.e. a complex phenomenon that will eventually receive a scientific explanation (identity theory, moderate eliminative materialism, functionalism).

Consciousness is like the economy, i.e. too complex for us ever to understand (mysterian).

When are people not conscious?

What are the brain differences among these states?

Do these differences provide any clues about what constitutes consciousness?

Do the neurological effects of consciousness-altering drugs tell us anything about consciousness?

O'Hara & Scutt vs. Chalmers

The hard problem is not serious and should be ignored.

Methodological reason to ignore it: the easy problems are ones we know how to approach, and we don't know how to approach the hard problem.

Philosophical reasons:

Price vs. Chalmers

Explanatory gaps are common in our scientific understanding.

Our feeling of understanding derives from our psychology of causality, i.e. how we perceive causality.

What does it mean to say that brain processes BP cause consciousness C?

I think that consciousness is a hard problem because we have trouble seeing how brain processes could have the causal power to produce something so different as consciousness.

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