We Are Now Informed: Consciousness Does Not Really Exist

News
June 6, 2021
Neuroscience, Philosophy of Mind

Rubbish. Giving up consciousness as an illusion would be like turning off the master switch. What would the ensuing darkness and powerlessness tell us?

News
June 6, 2021
Neuroscience, Philosophy of Mind

What you think is enabling you to listen with any attention to neuroscientists (your dog, coffee cup, and your toothpaste are not listening to neuroscientists) is something — some of them tell us — we should give up as an illusion:

Our position is neither obvious nor intuitive. But we contend that continuing to place consciousness in the driver’s seat, above and beyond the physical workings of the brain, and attributing cognitive functions to it, risks confusion and delaying a better understanding of human psychology and behaviour.

To better align psychology with the rest of the natural sciences, and to be consistent with how we understand and study processes like digestion and respiration, we favour a perspective change. We should redirect our efforts to studying the non-conscious brain, and not the functions previously attributed to consciousness.

This doesn’t of course exclude psychological investigation into the nature, origins and distribution of the belief in consciousness. But it does mean refocusing academic efforts on what happens beneath our awareness – where we argue the real neuro-psychological processes take place.

Our proposal feels personally and emotionally unsatisfying, but we believe it provides a future framework for the investigation of the human mind – one that looks at the brain’s physical machinery rather than the ghost that we’ve traditionally called consciousness.

Peter L. Halligan, David A. Oakley, “Is it time to give up on consciousness as ‘the ghost in the machine’?” at The Conversation

Rubbish. Giving up consciousness as an illusion would be like turning off the master switch. What would the ensuing darkness and powerlessness tell us?

The non-conscious brain is, of course, the seat of much valuable information. But the conscious brain is what discovers that. Consciousness is the main thing that distinguishes human beings from sponges or sand. The mystery is not eliminated by calling it an illusion.

Deciding to give it up sounds clever at The Conversation but — in the end — it is just nonsense. And not even wrong.


You may also wish to read: Your mind vs. your brain: Ten things to know


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