Mind Chat’s Philip Goff and Keith Frankish on Why We Are Conscious?

Saga Foss

April 4, 2023

Among the most important debates in contemporary science is over conscious. For decades, philosophers have battled to rewrite the story of this mysterious phenomenon.

The prevailing view, functionalism, views consciousness as a product of global information sharing in the brain. But some think it’s more than that.

What Is Consciousness?

Consciousness is a term that refers to the sensations or feelings that you experience. It includes everything from the sweet taste of chocolate mousse to the throbbing pain of a toothache.

Without consciousness, errors and ruts in neural processes might cause a complex brain to break down. The emergence of consciousness and its attendant power of volition would have helped remedy this problem by subjecting the brain to conscious management.

There are many competing theories of the origin of consciousness. The global neuronal workspace (GNW) and panpsychism are two of the most prominent.

Is Consciousness Intentional?

One of the most important issues in the contemporary philosophy of mind is whether consciousness is intentional. There are two main schools of thought about this: naturalism, which argues that intentionality is simply a property of the mental, and phenomenal intentionality theory, which argues that conscious states of affairs are the product of consciousness.

Phenomenology philosopher Edmund Husserl is perhaps best known for his theory of intentionality, which takes first-person conscious awareness to be epistemically basic. He argues that a systematic study of this consciousness can have major implications for other areas of philosophical interest, including the theory of perceptions, judgments and memories, and aesthetic experience.

Is Consciousness Phenomenal?

Whether consciousness is phenomenal is often seen as one of the most challenging in the philosophy of mind. There are several different approaches that philosophers have taken to this question, most of which fall under the general category of “phenomenalism.”

The most common approach to this problem is identity theory, at least strict psycho-physical type-type identity theory (Hobson 1997), which identifies conscious mental properties, states and processes with physical ones, most typically neural or neurophysiological ones. This reductive approach does not account for qualitative conscious experience.

Is Consciousness Real?

Consciousness is an enduring philosophical puzzle, and several theories attempt to explain how it arises. The two broad and traditional theories are dualism (or physicalism) and materialism.

Both hold that consciousness is non-physical in some sense. However, dualism and materialism have their significant criticisms and objections.

Is Consciousness Physical?

One of the most basic questions about consciousness is whether it is physical. Many philosophers and scientists argue that it is not; however, consciousness seems likely to be a material phenomenon in some sense.

Various reductionist theories attempt to explain conscious mental states in physicalistic terms. Some are more specific than others, but they all aim to reduce consciousness somehow.

Is Consciousness a Controlled Hallucination?

Many scientists and philosophers have tackled how consciousness emerges from the brain in one way or another. Some have argued that it is an intrinsic quality of matter (as with panpsychism), while others have declared it an illusion that science can never study meaningfully.

In his 2021 book Being You, neuroscientist Anil Seth argues that our experiences of being and having a body are controlled hallucinations built up from a cacophony of sensory inputs. This is an important insight, and it also helps us understand unusual perceptual states, such as psychosis or psychedelia.

Is Consciousness a Science?

Whether consciousness is science is a question that has intrigued philosophers and scientists alike. The scientific study of consciousness has emerged as a field in its own right, largely from the work of psychologists and neuroscientists.

Many approaches to a scientific explanation of consciousness adduce properties of the brain, typically electrical properties such as spike rates. This is one way of understanding the nature of consciousness, but which property provides the most fruitful explanatory basis remains an open question.