Consciousness: Dennett says it is an illusion (General)

by dhw, Tuesday, October 08, 2019, 13:25 (12 days ago) @ David Turell

DAVID: I view your effort to try to equate a conscious state with consciousness as totally wrong and an attempt to fudge the obvious difference.

dhw: I view your efforts to distinguish between being conscious and having consciousness as totally wrong to the point of absurdity. The difference is between being conscious/having consciousness and being self-conscious in the sense of self-aware/having self-awareness.

DAVID: Why have you ignored the attribute that consciousness allows conceptualization and the invention of imagined realities as in your plays? It is more than self-awareness.

You keep agreeing that our fellow animals are conscious, but their consciousness is such that it does not “allow conceptualization and the invention of imagined realities”. Our consciousness does because it is far more advanced than theirs. I don’t have a problem if you want to list all the products of our advanced consciousness – they still won’t alter the fact that consciousness is the state of being conscious!

dhw: I have always accepted the logic of design as evidence that God exists, and human self-awareness is one of thousands of examples, as listed and argued in all your posts on life’s complexities.You agreed on Saturday that we do not know the origin of consciousness, but it has evolved from comparatively simple beginnings to its current levels. (now bolded by dhw – see below)

DAVID: Nonsense! Consciousness did not have simple beginnings, but appeared all by itself in humans. Again ignoring Adler's 'difference'.

I trust it's you and not Adler making a mockery of language. You believe in common descent, you agree that animals are conscious, and so since many of them preceded H. sapiens, how can you possibly argue that there was no consciousness until the arrival of humans? We have inherited all the attributes of consciousness possessed by our ancestors: awareness of the world outside, of ways in which to acquire food, of courtship, home-building, self-protection etc. – but our human consciousness has uniquely progressed beyond that to include self-awareness, conceptualisation etc.

dhw: …and natural selection has been demonstrated by its survival (you called it a “truism”). Therefore you clearly disagree with the Egnor quote, which you keep on ignoring and in which he appears to think that evolving means originating: “…if consciousness is non-physical, how could it evolve? Darwinian natural selection can only act on a physical attribute.” Whether we believe the original source of consciousness is immaterial (God) or material (the brain) makes no difference to the truth of the truism.

DAVID: Egnor is correct. Evolution does not explain how or why consciousness appeared, and only in our brain. Material evolution produced our brain, as I know you believe. I believe through God's direction consciousness appeared within that brain.

We have agreed (as now bolded above) that nobody knows the origin of consciousness, and so of course evolution does not explain how consciousness appeared. That is what I told you, and you said it was a truism. I didn't know Egnor believed that no animal with a brain was conscious/had consciousness. You yourself have said repeatedly that animals ARE conscious, so consciousness did not appear “only in our brain”. Yes, material evolution produced our brain, as well as the brains of our fellow animals, and our eyes and ears and noses etc. etc., as the first living cells did not have brains etc. Materialists believe that materials are the SOURCE of consciousness, in which case it may have begun with the first cells (my proposal), or with the first brains (your proposal), and if it’s the latter, you could come up with the argument that evolution produced the brain, the brain produced consciousness, therefore evolution did produce consciousness and Egnor is wrong. And if as a dualist you believe the brain to be a receiver and consciousness to come from some other immaterial source, then evolution did not produce consciousness. But since nobody knows the truth, we are simply stuck with conflicting beliefs. However, no matter what might be the source, and whenever consciousness began, I cannot believe anyone would argue that it did not evolve from comparatively simple beginnings (the first cells, or the first brainy life forms) to the complexities of larger organisms culminating (so far) in ourselves, and I find it perfectly logical that increasingly complex consciousness would result in its owners having a natural advantage in the struggle to survive (which Egnor rightly calls Darwinian natural selection).


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