Friday, September 30, 2011

Physicalism and Consciousness

Please explain to me how Sam Harris "defeated" Chopra. All he did was admit that consciousness has no access to physicalist explanations (and by implication, physicalist explanations have no access to consciousness).

See Nagel, "What is it Like to be a Bat"

Can he be so blind to his problem?


Caleb Gates said...

You lost me there Matt. Can you explain exactly what you are asking?

Matthew LaPine said...

Chopra is basically suggesting that the causal relationship between consciousness and the material phenomenon of the brain is the opposite of what Harris is supposing. Both really have the same problem (though Harris doesn't seem to understand this). Neither can observe any sort of causal link between consciousness and physical phenomena. There is absolutely no understanding as to how one gives rise to the other or vice versa. Nagel makes the point that this presents a problem for the physicalist who wants to say that brain phenomena gives rise to consciousness. He says to sustain this claim the physicalist must have some idea as to the causal mechanism. Chopra basically asked Harris which comes first, the chicken or the egg. Harris (if I remember correctly) makes two points. First, he says that one experiencing consciousness has no access to the physical data. Second, he says that one can manipulate the physical and change consciousness. The first point is irrelevant because neither sides have access to any sort of relationship between the two. The causal mechanism is utterly mysterious. The second point is also irrelevant because it does seem that adaptations can be made on the side of consciousness to adjust the physical data as well. It's irrelevant in terms of determining cause because adaptations on either end will seem to cause changes on the other. Ideas and decisions change the physical phenomenon.

What I was pointing out is that Harris doesn't even seem to be aware of his problem.