Joe Cruz is a professor of philosophy at Williams College. He specializes in the philosophy of the mind and the theory of knowledge. His articles have appeared in Mind and Language, Behavioral and Brain Sciences, and Knowledge and Skepticism. He teaches a range of Williams courses, including skepticism and relativism, perception and reality, philosophy of animal life, cognitive science, embodiment and consciousness, and contemporary epistemology.
when I look at how the rhetoric of the “hard” problem is being used it looks more and more like a sort of Kantian move to make a safe place for some god-term to exceed the grasp of science but still be accessible, a sort of pomo god of the gaps:
Exactly that. We are energetically potent flesh systems with the biological capacities for sensory experience and higher order identification. We are recursive metabolic systems that hallucinate our worlds via a cognitive simulacra of sense-ability and symbolic/information indexing. What’s so damn hard about explaining to ourselves that consciousness happens? I believe its our addiction to nouns. We want “consciousness” to be a thing, but it is not. Conscious-ness is action-potential generating a performance of a multitude of processes.
There is no “hard problem”. The only thing hard about sentience-capable systems is finding ways to teach them and have them accept what they are.
yep, I’ve never been able to grasp their arguments myself, likewise still not sure what people mean by “mental states” when they aren’t talking in physicalist terms, ah well.
The argument is that the physicalist words we use fail speak to the qualitative experience of being conscious. Thus they believe there is more to be said about it that would ease peoples desire for addressing (locating) the properties of said experience. My guess is its more about secretly and subconsciously wanting souls to exist so that there is continuity of personality after death. People don’t except biosocial explanations and wording because it is uncomfortable.
What is “consciousness”? It is what primates (and other assemblages) with central nervous systems are capable of given certain conditions. They can do conscious-ness. If we know the composition and functions of a sentient assemblage and its ecological conditions of operations then we know what kinds of conscious-ness that can be generated.
Doesn’t the concept of a hallucination presuppose an experiencer and a “true” experience that sets up a contrast between reality and hallucination? It doesn’t seem like this terminology and conceptual system will do the work you’re trying accomplish with it. Your argument also presupposes some kind of identity between two things we experience in different ways without proving that they’re actually identical. No one will deny that the sensation of seeing something blue is something distinct from witnessing a brain scan representing neural activity during a blue perception, and in everyday experience it remains baffling how a sensation of blue can be present inside another person’s mind without also being experienced by our own. The best scientific evidence can only establish a causal connection of brain activity and sensation, and this leaves open many possibilities for how the two are actually related. It’s also not clear that we can really understand how sensations and perceptions seem to the creatures we study from the outside. For example, octopus consciousness is likely very different from ours because of the presence of neurons on the tentacles.
Hi Michael James, I would like to see you answer the question,
“Doesn’t the concept of a hallucination presuppose an experiencer and a “true” experience that sets up a contrast between reality and hallucination?
Sorry, just found this in the in-box. I think the notion of experience presupposed an experiencer and hallucinations are a variety of experience. I hallucinate therefore I am? I think that any dichotomy between reality and hallucination is a false one. Hallucinations are real biological and cognitive events, and as such are in the ontological mix one might say. There are no “true” experiences, only experiences that are more or less perceptually adequate to the tasks at hand – be they navigating, predicting, anticipating, interpreting, etc. All experiences are temporal synthetic compositions semiotically mediated and affectively loaded, evolved to cope and survive in complex contexts. The end.