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Consciousness? No hard problem!

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Graziano’s evolution of consciousness theory

From scientist and novelist Michael Grazziano at the Atlantic:

It’s just the brain describing itself—to itself.

but … Wait …

Let me be as clear as possible: Consciousness doesn’t happen. It’s a mistaken construct.

Well, that one’s been tried before. As here, it involves speculations about human evolution based on one or two slender skeins of evidence.

The human brain insists it has consciousness, with all the phenomenological mystery, because it constructs information to that effect. The brain is captive to the information it contains. It knows nothing else. This is why a delusional person can say with such confidence, “I’m a kangaroo rat. I know it’s true because, well, it’s true.” The consciousness we describe is non-physical, confusing, irreducible, and unexplainable, because that packet of information in the brain is incoherent. It’s a quick sketch.

So, if believing I am conscious can make me so, why doesn’t believing  make it true for anything else? Why didn’t it work for the kangaroo rat?

Let me be as clear as possible: Consciousness doesn’t happen. It’s a mistaken construct. … The study of consciousness needs to be lifted out of the mysticism that has dominated it. Consciousness is not just a matter of philosophy, opinion, or religion. It’s a matter of hard science. … More.

If so,this is hardly the way to go about it.

A friend notes that he seems to be undercutting science while appealing to it. THoughts?

See also: Neuroscience tried wholly embracing naturalism, but then the brain got away

and

Would we give up naturalism to solve the hard problem of consciousness?

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3 Replies to “Consciousness? No hard problem!

  1. 1
    gpuccio says:

    The hard problem about this Michael Graziano is: is this guy simply stupid?

    It seems he is not. The Wikipedia page about him depicts him as a very intelligent operator: a professor of Psychology and Neuroscience at Princeton University, a novelist.

    So, the hard problem about Michael Graziano becomes: how can an apparently intelligent and brilliant person say such stupid things?

    I suppose that a possible answer is that his intelligence is a mistaken construct. Whatever that means.

  2. 2
    nightlight says:

    “Let me be as clear as possible: Consciousness doesn’t happen. “

    At least he proves that there are Chalmer’s zombies — the previously only hypothesized beings that behave and act exactly like humans, but there is no one home. Or maybe he is just faking the faking.

  3. 3
    vjtorley says:

    Hi News,

    Philosopher Ed Feser puts his finger on the problem with the kind of approach Graziano is proposing in a 2012 post:

    [Philosopher Thomas] Nagel’s point was that the very nature of the practice of giving a reductionist account of a phenomenon seems to preclude its application to the realm of conscious experience. For a reductionist account is couched in entirely “objective” terms, that is, terms that make no essential reference to the point of view of a particular observer. For instance, the way red looks or the way heat feels, since those are tied to the points of view of particular observers, are stripped away and relegated to the “subjective” realm of conscious experience. A reductionist account of color might define it instead in terms of the surface reflectance properties of objects, and a reductionist account of temperature might define it in terms of molecular motion — features which are “objective” in the relevant sense. But when it comes to explaining the “subjective” point of view of the observer himself, and in particular the conscious look of red or conscious feel of heat themselves, it is hard to see how the same procedure could possibly be applied. For to strip away the subjective element in this case would just be to ignore that which is to be explained, and thus not explain it at all. As Nagel puts it: “If the subjective character of experience is fully comprehensible only from one point of view, then any shift to greater objectivity—that is, less attachment to a specific viewpoint—does not take us nearer to the real nature of the phenomenon: it takes us farther away from it.”

    Or as philosopher Richard Swinburne writes in The Evolution of the Soul:

    All ‘reduction’ of one science to another dealing with apparently very disparate properties has been achieved by this device of denying that the apparent properties (i.e. the ‘secondary qualities’ of colour, heat, sound, taste, etc.) with which one science dealt belonged to the physical world at all. It siphoned them off to the world of the mental. But then, when you come to face the problem of the sensations themselves, you cannot do this. If you are to explain the sensations themselves, you cannot distinguish between them and their underlying causes and only explain the latter.

    I’m surprised that Graziano does not perceive this.

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