Consciousness Deniers?
Eliane Mitchell

10 May 2018

The idea that consciousness is an illusion may be a familiar one. Thinkers like Daniel Dennett, Brian Farrell, and Richard Rorty espouse this basic notion: That conscious experience, as a result of collective physical processes in the brain, does not itself exist.

But philosopher Galen Strawson, calling this idea "the Denial," argues that the denial of consciousness in philosophy is "the silliest claim ever made." He first explains the eminence of "the Denial" as a "mistaken interpretation of behaviorism" and later reasons why their claim is contradictory. Having consciousness is knowing what consciousness is like, he argues; there is no difference between what is and what seems

Read on for Strawson's full argument:

Comments (1)

Harold G. Neuman's picture

Harold G. Neuman

Friday, May 11, 2018 -- 8:54 AM

Pretty funny. Almost as funny

Pretty funny. Almost as funny as calling our subconsciousness UNconsciousness. In his excellent book, THE CONSTRUCTION OF SOCIAL REALITY, John Searle offered his thinking on this sort of reduction. He was not, shall we say, impressed with those who claim that things about which we think should spring, as if by magic, from a state in which we are functionally helpless and insensate. This would be roughly equivalent to considering humans to be as non-conscious as an earthworm. Or a rock. Or, funnier still, might we just as well say 'the collective physical processes in the brain' do not exist? I'm with Searle on this one. I just don't buy it. I have thought about these sorts of mental slight-of-hand maneuvers for several years. In coming to my own theory about it, I decided that it is every bit as possible that Freud was on the right track, though there was no way for him to prove it, nor is there any way for any of us to prove it, now---maybe even ever. I have looked at this from an 'origins' stance (and written an essay or two, as well). Primary consciousness and higher-order consciousness have been the two descriptors used by such researchers as Edelman and Tononi, et. al. In my writing, I have proposed another intermediate step which I dubbed primal consciousness---well beyond the primary, yet not as advanced as the higher-order.

In mentioning Freud and his work, I was giving credit to his notion of a subconscious in human beings. I believe it possible that such a state preceded both the pre-linguistic and linguistic consciousness that cognitive neuroscience has postulated of late. Again, this illustrates my notion about origins, which are necessary for almost anything and more so for anything alive which has undergone evolutionary change. We do not get something from nothing. At least, nothing as important as consciousness. I'll support Strawson's notion on THIS one. Those who deny consciousness ARE making a silly claim. It may not be the silliest ever made, but that is not the point. Finally, it should be clear that thinking (among even early human ancestors) preceded language and this is just how things were. Origins, again. Children think, before they ever utter MAMA or DADA. We have to start with something, not nothing...