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What is consciousness?

13 July 2012, 13:00

WHAT  IS  CONSCIOUSNESS

I believe that human consciousness is a conjuring trick, designed to fool us into thinking that we are in the presence of an inexplicable mystery. Who is the conjuror, and what can be the point of such deception? The conjuror is the human mind itself evolved by natural selection, and the point has been to bolster human self-confidence and human self-importance - so as to increase the value we each place on our own and other’s lives.   If this is right, it provides a simple explanation  for why we, as scientists or laymen, find the hard problem of consciousness just so hard. Natural selection has meant it to be hard.  Indeed mysterian philosophers, from Colin Mc Ginn to the late ,Pope John Paul II, who would bow down to the apparent miracle and declare that it is impossible in principle to understand how consciousness could arise in a material brain, are corresponding exactly as natural selection hoped they would. - with shock and awe.

    Can I prove it? It’s difficult to prove any adaptationist account of why humans experience things the way they do.  And in this case there may be an added catch. For just to the extent that natural selection has succeeded in putting consciousness just beyond the reach of rational explanation, it will have undermined the very possibility of showing that this is what it has done.     Nevertheless there may be a loophole by which science could still enter. While it might seem-and-even be impossible to explain how a brain process could actually have the quality of consciousness, it might not be at all impossible to explain how a brain process could be designed to give rise to the impression of having this quality. Consider: We could never explain why  2 + 2 = 5, But we might relatively easily be able to explain why someone should be under the illusion that 2 + 2 = 5.

    Would I want to explain consciousness this way, if I could?  That’s a difficult one. If the illusion that consciousness is an inexplicable mystery is a source of human hope,  I suppose there is a real danger that exposing the trick might send us all to hell;.
Acknowledgements:   NICHOLAS HUMPHREYTheoretical psychologistSchool professor - London School of EconomicsConsciousness regained,  A history of the mind, The mind made flesh.

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