Consciousness - New Philosophical Perspectives: Introduction
Smith (Quentin)
Source: Smith & Jokic - Consciousness: New Philosophical Essays
Paper - Abstract

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  1. Sets the contemporary scene, with most philosophers lying between the extremes of Brentano and the Churchlands.
  2. "Brentano (Franz) - Psychology from an Empirical Standpoint": uses terms differently to contemporaries, and in his terms Consciousness = Intentionality = Mentality. Qualia are physical phenomena, not mental phenomena, and we are aware of them in the same way as we are aware of (say) mountains. They are the objects of intentional acts, but don’t themselves have intentionality.
  3. "Churchland (Paul) - The Engine of Reason, the Seat of the Soul: Philosophical Journey into the Brain" states that consciousness is the neural activity of the intralaminar nucleus of the thalamus. For Churchland, what Brentano meant by Consciousness, Intentionality and Mentality do not exist. Consciousness = non-periodic variations in neural activity of the recurrent network radiating to and from the intralaminar nucleus of the thalamus, a network that extends to every area of the cerebral cortex.
  4. Other philosophers lie between these extremes, distinguishing all three of Consciousness, Intentionality and Mentality.
  5. Consciousness may be identified with phenomenal content, or with systems with higher-order self-referential beliefs or monitoring processes.
  6. Other philosophers (eg. Rey) deny the existence of consciousness, and Patricia Churchland thinks that it will go the way of “caloric fluid”. Note that the reference for the latter claim ("Churchland (Paul) - Matter & Consciousness") is incorrect. It’s “1988:277”, which I need to track down sometime.
  7. The book is non-prescriptive, but sets out the range of options in the philosophers’ own words.
  8. It is divided into four parts, the first three of which are standard topics; the last – quantum consciousness - being a new arrival, and Quentin Smith’s own area of interest.
    • Part 1- Intentionality and Phenomenal Content: the key issues are whether phenomenal contents:-
      • are intentional,
      • accompany intentionality, or
      • are objects of intentional consciousness
    • Part 2 - Knowing Mental States:
      • Nichol and Stich’s criticism of the Theory Theory
      • Nichol and Stich’s Monitoring Mechanism Theory of self-consciousness1
      • Andrews’ criticism of an assumption (the predication / explanation symmetry assumption) underlying both the Theory Theory’s and the Simulation Theory’s accounts of how others’ mental states are known.
      • Chalmers & Sosa both focus on knowledge of our own experiences and have implications for foundationalism in epistemology
    • Part 3 - Consciousness and the Brain:
      • Fetzer’s semiotic theory of the mind and body
      • Van Gulick on the Explanatory Gap
      • Papineau argues that contemporary “Theories of Consciousness” address a pseudo-question
      • Lycan develops the materialist’s2 perspectival response to the Knowledge Argument
      • Brueckner & Beroukhim reject McGinn’s Mysterian theory, whereby we are cognitively closed to the natural property that is responsible for consciousness
    • Part 4 - Quantum Mechanics3 and Consciousness: the point of this section is to show that the introduction of QM forces us to rethink the nature of consciousness, rather than just the sub-cellular physiology that ‘gives rise’ to consciousness. The more rigorous philosophical work in this area is quite different from the Penrose / Hammeroff Theory. No mathematical knowledge of QM is required.

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