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I don't know if this question falls as a scientific question but to my knowledge, this is more of a question on the nature and extent of science, so I think this is more philosophical than scientific. My question is: is it possible for scientists to create a well-functioning human brain, or is the nature of consciousness so intractable that creating a brain would be next to impossible?

If scientists were to create a well-functioning human brain, I suggest it probably would have to involve the brain being part of an anatomically well-functioning body, whether the body is human or humanoid or mechanical (in which case one would have a cyborg of some kind). Philosophers have entertained bizarre thought experiments in which human brains function in vats and are subject to systematic, misleading electro-chemical stimulation, but I suggest this would not be a case of a WELL-FUNCTIONING human brain. It would instead by in a profoundly dysfunctional situation. Are there good philosophical reasons for thinking that it is impossible for scientists to create something that is anatomically an exact replica of a human being such as you and me? Some might argue that "being human" essentially involves the reproductive and nurturing processes that we underwent (and so they would seek to rule out conceptually the idea that a human brain and body can be manufactured in a lab), but this would (in my...

I don't think that consciousness is explicable on physical terms yet I don't think that that means that consciousness is necessarily any more explicable on the idea of a purely mental reality. (ie. Descartes idea of a thing that thinks and who's essence is thinking) What philosophers think along the same lines as I do?

Probably the best known philosopher who thinks along similar lines is Thomas Nagel. While he believes that consciousness cannot be accounted for or understood in light of our current conception of the physical world, he is hoping (or has faith?) that we may eventually have a conceptual revolution that would anchor consciousness in the natural world without resorting to dualism. You can get to some of Nagel's work through his home page at the New York University website for him. Colin McGinn would be another promising thinker for you to engage. A number of other philosophers believe that our current concept of what it is to be physical is problematic, including Galen Strawson and Noam Chomsky. On Descartes, you might consider a slightly different angle. He does not give center stage to the claim that the concept of a non-spatially extended thing provides a more intelligible grounding for our mental life. The way I read him (setting aside the so-called Cartesian circle) is that he first establishes...

I'm currently preparing for my A-level philosophy exam and am stuck on how a logical behaviourist would respond to the problem of qualia? The problem being that the 'what-is-likeness' of experience fails to be accounted for as there is no behaviour which reflects this sensation. So how would the behaviourist respond? or would they even deem qualia as a problem for their thesis? Thanks.

This is a tough matter. The classic paper on this you might cite is Thomas Nagel's "What is it Like to Be a Bat" PHilosophical Review 1974, reprinted in Mortal Questions, Cambridge 1979, 165-180. Nagel argued that a behavioral (and anatomical, third-person) analysis of bats would not disclose / capture / reveal the conscious state of what it is like to be a bat (the qualia involved). T.L.S. Sprigge came up with a similar line of reasoning at roughly the same time. I believe you may find his work in the OUP volume The Importance of Subjectivity. I actually think that behaviorists and their descendents (functionalists) do fail on this count to get at the intrinsic nature of subjective experience. Most of us (or so I believe) who take up this position hold that subjective states of consciousness are immediately apparent and (in a sense) require no argument on their behalf. Perhaps the best reply is the claim that those of us who appeal to qualia leave us with something entirely mysterious from...

Does consciousness presuppose: language? long-term memory? the ability to understand that you have mental states? If not, is consciousness merely a recurrent, fleeting state of awareness? If so, SERIOUSLY, is it considerable that animals have consciousness (minus long-term memory, language, social cognition)? Thanks for any insight, this has been bugging me.

The question has been bugging a lot of people! I suggest that the case for some nonhuman animals (great apes, chimps, dolphins....) being conscious is pretty strong. Sometimes the evidence includes appeal to language or communication, memory, recognition, but also a wide set of behavior (apparent pain avoidance behavior), anatomy (brain and nervous system resembling ours), and evolution. You ask about consciousness and its relationship to language, memory, and the ability to understand that a subject has mental states. Off hand, doesn't it seem that rather than consciousness presupposing language, language-usage presupposes consciousness? After all, without consciousness (and without memory) it seems that language acquisition and development is going to be difficult. As for whether consciousness would have to involve or presuppose the ability to understand mental states, the terrain is not obvious. Some philosophers have argued that one can have different levels of awareness. On this view, my dog...