[ExI] Raymond Tallis: You won't find consciousness in the brain

Lee Corbin lcorbin at rawbw.com
Mon Jan 11 06:14:21 UTC 2010

Damien Broderick wrote:

> New Scientist: You won't find consciousness in the brain


<We cannot therefore conclude that when we see what seem to be neural
correlates of consciousness that we are seeing consciousness itself.
While neural activity of a certain kind is a necessary condition for
every manifestation of consciousness, from the lightest sensation to
the most exquisitely constructed sense of self, it is neither a
sufficient condition of it, nor, still less, is it identical with
it. If it were identical, then we would be left with the insuperable
problem of explaining how intracranial nerve impulses, which are
material events, could "reach out" to extracranial objects in order
to be "of" or "about" them. Straightforward physical causation
explains how light from an object brings about events in the
occipital cortex. No such explanation is available as to how
those neural events are "about" the physical object.>

I don't understand what is being claimed here.

An image developed on a photographic plate is similar
in structure to some "extra-camera" physical object,
and for me to have thoughts about an extra-cranial
object seems similar. So how is this different?

Also consider

<And there is an insuperable problem with a sense of past and future.
Take memory. It is typically seen as being "stored" as the effects
of experience which leave enduring changes in, for example, the
properties of synapses and consequently in circuitry in the nervous
system. But when I "remember", I explicitly reach out of the present
to something that is explicitly past. A synapse, being a physical
structure, does not have anything other than its present state.>

Well, a computer program, or even a pretty simple
electromechanical device, can consult records!

It seems likely to me that the writer is simply
reiterating in some subtle way the desire on the
part of many for a "first-person" account of
consciousness. Which, I think, is impossible
(for the simple reason that as soon as this
account is recorded extra-cranially, it becomes
objective and no longer first person).


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