17 of 18 people found the following review helpful
"Everything But Consciousness Explained",
This review is from: Consciousness Explained (Penguin Science) (Paperback)
"Everything But Consciousness Explained." Not my quote but it is totally true. All the book's explanations of the systems associated with consciousness and perception are marvellous. There is a lot to learn here and the mechanistic approach is admirable. However, this book doesn't deal with consciousness itself.
After discussing consciousness with various people, some well educated in philosophy and science, others who are insightful and others who are just regular guys, I have come to a conclusion. There are some people who do know what is meant by consciousness and there are others who just don't. Even some of the quite clever people. It's not about explaining it, I mean just knowing what is meant by consciousness as a word when used in a normal sentence. Daniel Dennett, unfortunately doesn't seem to know.
The trouble is, all of the brilliant explanations of what happens inside a brain make you forget that the initial problem wasn't to do with how the brain can process information. It was, how can we be _aware_ of information. Or indeed, _aware_ at all. If you can see the difference then you know what the word consciousness refers to.
It's a bit like if Newton had written a book called Forces Explained. Newton deduced that forces exist and elegantly expressed their interactions with matter. However, he was well aware that he didn't actually know what forces were. He was just very good at dealing with their consequences in terms of mathematical descriptions. D.D. explains many of the consequences and issues of having consciousness but fails to understand that these don't explain consciousness itself at all.
I'm rating it high because it's a good book. Just don't be misled by the title.
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Initial post: 17 Apr 2011 00:02:32 BDT
Last edited by the author on 17 Apr 2011 00:05:00 BDT
I'd suggest that the obvious corollary of "There are some people who do know what is meant by consciousness and there are others who just don't" is that "zombies exist", and furthermore that "they are those who are unable to comprehend consciousness". (Actually, I jest, but Ned Block - the crazy old harridan - has come quite close to suggesting this.)
Might I recommend Dennett's follow up (of sorts) to this book, Sweet Dreams? It's a short compilation of lectures/essays which seek to clear up the sort of misunderstanding that leads to people saying things like "Daniel Dennett, unfortunately doesn't seem to know [what is meant by consciousness]". I find the possibility of a person being able to spend forty years in the field of consciousness studies (so to speak) without it at some stage occurring to him what people mean by 'consciousness' more than a little bit suspect. Isn't it just marginally more likely that it is you who have failed to understand what Dennett means by 'consciousness' (i.e. this book)?
In reply to an earlier post on 17 Apr 2011 15:40:52 BDT
Last edited by the author on 17 Apr 2011 15:47:23 BDT
"Isn't it just marginally more likely that it is you who have failed to understand what Dennett means by 'consciousness' (i.e. this book)?"
I would say it is completely certain. I think my understanding is more or less a layman's usage of the word and he uses it in a special expert philosopher's way - which is fine because that's what he is and experts are allowed to use key words differently. However, his usage seems to avoid the single most crucial aspect of consciousness that I find interesting and puzzling.
I don't much care who gets to keep the actual word 'consciousness' but so far I've never found DD addressing the bit that I'm interested in.
When I hear of people who don't accept qualia it seems to me like finding a fish that doesn't believe in water and so the one thing I'm fairly sure of is that some people must be using 'consciousness' to mean different things.
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