Top critical review
42 people found this helpful
Consciousness NOT explained!
on 9 June 2008
I gave this book one star ONLY because the title of the book is sensationalist. Dennett does NOT know what consciousness is, and so does not even try to explain it. I keep hoping someone will, but each time an individual makes such a claim, I am deeply disappointed.
Dennett neatly sums up his thinking in an interview. Whatever we say we are experiencing, Dennett begs to differ. According to Dennett, consciousness is merely a complex interaction of billions of brain cells, nothing more. How we experience what does not exist Dennett fails to explain. It's not so much consciousness explained as consciousness banished. Consciousness, according to Dennett, is merely our unscientific, subjective misinterpretation of the activities of a biological information processing system. We are not scientists, Dennett is claiming, and, therefore, what we say we are experiencing is not what we are actually experiencing. We are, in effect, deluding ourselves, experiencing some kind of mass hallucination, creating a rich experience of feeling alive that really isn't there. How we do this if we are not really conscious, Dennet does not explain.
This isn't science! You cannot ignore what others say they experience by claiming they are not intelligent enough to interpret their experience.
Having read some research papers on visual consciousness written by academics at London University, I know scientists don't know what consciousness is. All they can say is some brain cells are "conscious" while others are not. They can't explain why some brain cells become "conscious" while other, identical ones, do not, or why we experience what we do, what it is that we are experiencing, or how the brain creates a feeling of self. Unfortunately, consciousness is a mystery, and remains a mystery.
Dennett is like a religious person - his mind is made up before the facts are in. He has already decided consciousness is explainable, and so will use every trick in the book to avoid admitting that it is - at present! - unexplainable.
Dennett is cleverly arguing away consciousness, not actually explaining it. He claims a computer made sufficiently complex can become conscious - that is, it has acquired a property called "consciousness", but then fails to explain what that property is.
An analogy: I ask a scientist what is the colour purple? He or she responds by saying: if you mix red and blue together (cause brain cells to interact!), you get the colour purple (consciousness!). The scientist is right, I do get the colour purple, but this doesn't tell me what the colour actually is: wavelengths of light; and then what light is: energy.
In the latest research into split-brain patients (the left side of the brain is effectively detached from the right side), Michael Gazzaniga of the University of California, Santa Barbara, sheds some interesting light on consciousness: "...perhaps even more profound, he explains how, even though split-brain patients have isolated hemispheres, they experience a unified consciousness - that is, feel as though they are of one mind." (Scientific American, June 16, 2008, "Of Two Minds, One Consciousness").
Given our current knowledge, anyone who claims consciousness is explainable is tendentiously interpreting the facts.
Not too long ago, consciousness was virtually a taboo topic, but it's gaining prominence again. Unfortunately, scientists are staring THROUGH this object of interest, instead of AT IT! No one is explaining what consciousness actually is. I feel pain - what is it? I see colour - what is it? I feel a sense of self - what is it?