The felt miracle of phenomenal consciousness

Detta är en avhandling från Department of Philosophy

Sammanfattning: This thesis is about the problem of how sensory qualities relate to neural states or processes. I shall try to present an account of why dualism appears to be an attractive and intuitive position, but also point out why dualistic intuitions may be misleading. A relatively common view in philosophy of mind is that accounts of how sensory qualities relate to neural states and processes involve an explanatory anomaly i.e. the so-called explanatory gap. The alleged gap makes it hard to comprehend how a system, which basically involves electro-chemical processes, can create feels of whatever kind. However, the felt profoundness of the problem may be an exaggeration. One of the major points in this essay is to show that we do not yet know whether it is a deep mysterious philosophical puzzle or if it is a technical engineering problem, i.e. how to bring about sensory qualities by means of an underlying neural mechanism. A theme throughout this essay is to demystify the nature of sensory qualities as natural items that only under certain descriptions appear as mysterious or miraculous. For all we know, phenomenal consciousness may be plain sentience – not some fancy or unfathomable kind of consciousness, although complicated to account for due to lack of empirical knowledge about how the brain works. The argument tries to establish that it is the wiring and function of sensory observational systems that make sensory qualities appear spectacular and immaterial. It is argued that the notion of there being an explanatory gap emerges out of a misunderstanding of how sensory observation is wired and how it works. Some basic facts about sensory observation explain why “experiential concepts” and “physical concepts” reflect two logically distinct conceptual vocabularies. Given a proper description of the observational process the gap does not manifest itself as a gap but as an illusion of there being a gap. In sum, the mind-body problem is man-made and is in a profound sense a cognitive artifact.

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