Thursday, November 25, 2010

Fascinating Rejection of the Philosophy of Mind


  1. Very interesting, and rather difficult to grasp. I have to say I have never quite understood what Nagel's "what it's like" analysis amounts to. I assumed it was a sort of metaphor that still needs teasing out -- but that Nagel had done us a great service in posing the question of how to characterize a non-reducible feature of our reality.

    It seems to me Hacker poses an odd false dichotomy between consciousness as the outcome of an evolutionary process and consciousness as an emergent feature of inanimate stuff organized in a certain way. I have always assumed that whatever it is that makes consciousness possible was (as Hacker says) a path-dependent, evolutionary development via sentience -- and that this describes the precise way in which rocks (i.e. their component minerals, etc.) are capable of consciousness.

  2. “Consciousness ‘arises’ from the evolution of living organisms.”
    It seems that under the right conditions, matter can become the stuff of living organisms. So, perhaps the table, though not conscious, might be the raw material for a living organism in a billion years? But, what’s most curious is that consciousness seems to be an epiphenomenal event. (Blackburn?) ‘Arises’ suggests that consciousness is the result of a particular grouping of inanimate and animate matter that in turn informs the body/brain – and this happens in both a mental and physical sense? Is this “like” an engine that creates steam (e.e.) and then that same steam is necessary to run the engine? But what started the engine in the first place? This circumvents its way back to dualism, and also might suggest a 1rst consciousness that gives rise to a 2nd consciousness. Evolution...or?

    “I’d like to say something tolerably sensible about the good, and the good of man. I’d like to say something about the role of value in human life before I toss in the towel. I should have started all this ten years earlier.”

    I like this; it suggests that knowledge of the good is accessible through our sense phenomena. Practical knowledge/experience is of value to human life.

  3. Here’s what I think I mean. If the potential for consciousness exists in matter/living organisms, then we have to account for this potential. I see why Aristotle posited the “unmoved mover” as a first cause of actuality; to prevent infinite regress. But, the ‘first cause’ might have to be both actuality and potentiality. In the case of consciousness, somewhere outside of our consciousness exists another consciousness. A first consciousness may give rise to a secondary intermediary consciousness that is responsible for all the necessary elements for life, but as we have no direct access to the first consciousness, our consciousness must be a third consciousness. This seems compatible to the idea that God (consciousness) might have created a second potential consciousness that gave rise to evolution.

    “There is no such thing as a brain’s thinking, wanting, reasoning, believing or hypothesizing.”

    No ‘brain in a vat’ for Hacker – how does a human being think? I agree with Hacker, electrochemical gray matter cannot explain consciousness or thinking. This is puzzling, it might mean that my thoughts are interpretations of chemical reactions, and might not represent actual knowing. We might be certain that we are thinking, but we cannot be certain that our thoughts reflect accurately the electrochemical energy; has language ‘bewitched’ us?

  4. Sounds like a course or two in the philosophy of mind is in order.