[ExI] Chalmers

Dan TheBookMan danust2012 at gmail.com
Tue Dec 17 02:01:28 UTC 2019

On Monday, December 16, 2019, 02:18:41 PM PST, William Flynn Wallace via extropy-chat <extropy-chat at lists.extropy.org> wrote: 
Someone in an earlier post, said that he was their favorite philosopher.  I see
in a recent Aeon article that he thinks consciousness is an illusion and is a

Actually, Chalmers is a dualist (though a properties one and not a substance one), and that almost has to entail that he doesn't believe consciousness is an illusion. The best known philosophers know who believe (how I don't know) consciousness is an illusion are Paul Churchland and Daniel Dennett. Of course, I'm going by what I've read years ago, so maybe Chalmers has changed his mind. (IIRC, the late Jaegwon Kim was a physicalist (oversimplifying: mind can be reduced matter or to physical processes), but latter became a dualist (oversimplifying: mind can't be reduced to matter or to physical processes). I've heard told that in philosophy of mind circles, this isn't unusual: quite a few people who going from being dualists to physicalists or vice versa.)

Maybe you could share a link to the article to clear this up.

I would love to see the day when metaphysical explanations are entirely in
the past, but probably won't.

What exactly do you mean by a "metaphysical explanation" here? There already was a sort of death of metaphysics phase in philosophy. All this really meant was avoiding metaphysical questions (questions about the nature of being and first principles) and presuming a certain metaphysical stance. (The usual thing is when someone believes metaphysical inquiries and ideas are somehow bad or nonsensical is that they're usually holding a very strict set of metaphysical beliefs they don't want to have challenged -- usually, unwittingly. Thus, many logical positivists did hold metaphysical views: views about the basic nature of reality, about what constituted a fact, etc.)

So - it's an illusion.  Does that mean that I think I am seeing typed words on my
laptop screen but actually I am not?

I do think the general stance of consciousness as an illusion falls prey to this kind of self-referential problem. So does radical skepticism and view like "there is no self."

In the same article it seems that the terms 'sensation and perception' are no
longer used, in favor of 'access consciousness' and 'phenomenal consciousness'.
  How are these terms any improvement other than to get further away from the
common person's understanding?  ("Have to be esoteric or people will think we
are full of shit."  which possibly they are)

That's not exactly how the terms are used. Access consciousness (A-consciousness) means stuff you're aware of. You have access to this, including introspection. It can be things like your awareness of a book on a table and it can also be awareness of a process of reasoning or of recalling a memory. Phenomenal consciousness (P-consciousness) is the "what it's like" of particular acts of consciousness -- e.g., what stubbing your toe feels like and what the sound of a screeching tire sounds like (how these things differ from each in a phenomenal way). You might look at as A-consciousness is about what you're aware of -- usually immediately aware of and what you're attending to -- and P-consciousness is how you're aware of it. Ned Block introduced the distinction and I hope I'm not mangling it.

Also, often the problem in any discipline is coming up with new terms to avoid confusion or to elucidate a distinction that isn't already found in ordinary language. It's not always about some attempt to sound important or technical. To be sure, that does happen, but I wouldn't run to that as the explanation for things like Ned Block's above terms.

Also, like any other discipline -- formal logic, topology, quantum field theory -- not everything can be clearly understood by people who aren't willing to put in the effort. You can't always look for fast food answers here. If you want to avoid asking gourmet questions, then forget about anything but the introductory level stuff, and even then you're going to get oversimplified answers. Presumably, you don't want that. But then you might have to go to places like reading a decent book on philosophy of mind or browsing through the SEP:



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