Brandeis University, Philosophy Department
Fall 2003
Brandeis University Web Stite

what Is
Consciousness?

Professor Andreas Teuber
Prof. Teuber


What Is Consciousness?

"By 'consciousness' I simply mean those subjective states of sentience or awareness that begin when one awakes in the morning from a dreamless sleep and continue throughout the day until one goes to sleep at night or falls into a coma, or dies, or otherwise becomes, as one would say 'unconscious'." (John Searle)

Ways of thinking about the relation
of mind and body, if relation there be:

Dualism: the view that mind and matter (body) are distinct and independent kinds of substances ( Descartes, 1596-1650).

Subjective Idealism: the view that the body itself is nothing but a collection of actual or possible sights, sounds, touches and smells. George Berkeley (1685-1753).

Materialism: the view that the mind is reducible to matter.

Epiphenomenalism: the view that mind is not itself a material thing, but is a distinct and causally impotent by-product (an "epi-phenomenon") of the brain or the world represented by physics.

Double- or Dual- Aspect Theories: those views that deny that the mind and body are distinct and independent substances, each capable of "existing" on its own, but rather are two "aspects" of a substance that in itself is neither mental nor physical. Baruch Spinoza (1632-1677) and P. F. Strawson.

Identity Theory: the view that holds that mental events (aches and pains, sensations, qualia, thoughts and desires) are simply identical with brain processes - in the way (for an example) lightning flashes are "identical" with electrical discharges.

Eliminative Materialism: the view that mental states, as they are ordinarily understood by us, have the status like that of witches and phlogiston or the elan vital and should simply be deleted from our theorizing about ourselves. Paul Churchland.

What Consciousness is not:

Consciousness should not be confused with
    i. Knowledge,
    ii. Attention, or
    iii. Self-consciousness

What are the relations between Consciousness and the Brain?

i. Higher and lower level features of a system.
ii. Top-down and bottom-up approaches to the mind-brain problem
iii. The Modular Conception

Some Features of Consciousness That A Theory
of the Relation Between Mind and Body should Explain:

1. Subjectivity. But see also Baars: "Understanding Subjectivity".
2. Unity.
3. Intentionality.
4. Qualia.
5. Central and Peripheral Consciousness
6. The Gestalt Structure of Consciousness
7. The Aspect of Familiarity
8. Moods
9. Boundary Conditions

 

 


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