Monday, March 10, 2008

Schlinger, Henry D. "Consciousness is Nothing But a Word." eSKEPTIC February 27, 2008.

In 1991, Daniel Dennett published his tome, Consciousness Explained. Yet, ten years later he penned an article titled “Are We Explaining Consciousness Yet?” If he had to ask the question, the answer seems obvious. English-speaking philosophers and psychologists have been trying to understand consciousness at least since John Locke introduced the word into the English language in the 17th century. But despite the best efforts of those who’ve thrown their hats into the ring, we haven’t made much progress. Obviously, a different approach is needed. . . . Read the rest here:

1 comment:

  1. Posted on behalf of someone in the USA:

    I've just read "Consciousness Is Nothing But a Word," and while I
    found it a very parsimonious indeed, I can't keep myself from telling you that it's just wrong. I can offer two "proofs": 1) The first is introspective: having a moderate degree of face blindness, I can assure you that I am never MORE conscious (or self-conscious, self-aware, aware of my own cognitive processing) than when I see someone (usually an actor) and find myself unable to say the person's name or to know with any confidence whether I'm seeing Jim Caviezel or Eric Roberts. If you yourself need introspective proof that you think and are conscious of thinking without benefit of words or mediation through words, let me tell you my favorite theory: the theory is that when something falls to the earth (an apple, a rock, or a space station), the object does not move toward the earth, but the earth
    itself moves toward the object. I guarantee you will have rejected
    the theory -- and be fully conscious of having rejected the theory --
    long before you can put in words what is wrong with it as a theory.
    2) My second proof is derived from many years observing house cats.
    These animals have so little use for language, they won't even respond to their own names, and yet it would be perverse to deny the clearly observable thinking and consciousness of thinking in their various behaviors. Without doubt, they spend a good portion of their lives daydreaming or floating in a non-conscious state. They lie in the sun or a shelf in front of the window, and while I cannot prove that they're thinking deep thoughts or trying to solve the problem of evil, when they shift to ALERT mode, they come "awake" and engage in clearly
    purposive behavior. You don't need to go to the window to determine whether a squirrel has come to the feeder in the tree or whether the orange tom cat has crossed the lawn, or whether it's a little after 4:00 and your chances of being let out into the garden for a while have just improved dramatically. Your take on consciousness is very like the behaviorists' take on language: parsimonious but contrary to what we "know" about language processing. When Chomsky said that language was too complex, too abstract, too creative, and so not dependent on IQ in its acquisition
    by language learners, he said something that was stunning in its
    brilliance and perfectly obvious once you understood it. Feline behavior is way more than procedural knowledge -- like typing
    or driving -- and consciousness is both more and less than putting
    thoughts into words.