[Advaita-l] Consciousness from the Western standpoint
sjayana at yahoo.com
Tue Nov 9 15:51:25 CST 2004
I just came across a good paper on the topic of Consciousness from the
Western standpoint. I know this may not directly relate to advaita
VedAnta, but since the crux of the issue in our religion is
Consciousness, I thought it might help - even if only as a curiosity -
to hear the views of someone with no connection to the advaita
tradition, on the same subject.
David Chalmers is one of the leading figures in the Philosophy of the
Mind, and has authored several papers and books in the field. His
writing, even while being simple enough to be understood by a
layperson, captures all the salient points of the latest research.
Journal of Consciousness Studies 2 (3), 1995, pp. 200-219
Facing Up to the Problem of Consciousness
"Consciousness poses the most baffling problems in the science of the
mind. There is nothing that we know more intimately than conscious
experience, but there is nothing that is harder to explain. All sorts
of mental phenomena have yielded to scientific investigation in recent
years, but consciousness has stubbornly resisted. Many have tried to
explain it, but the explanations always seem to fall short of the
target. Some have been led to suppose that the problem is intractable,
and that no good explanation can be given.
...What makes the hard problem hard and almost unique is that it goes
beyond problems about the performance of functions. To see this, note
that even when we have explained the performance of all the cognitive
and behavioral functions in the vicinity of experience - perceptual
discrimination, categorization, internal access, verbal report - there
may still remain a further unanswered question: Why is the performance
of these functions accompanied by experience?
...This further question is the key question in the problem of
consciousness. Why doesn't all this information-processing go on "in
the dark", free of any inner feel? ... We know that conscious
experience does arise when these functions are performed, but the very
fact that it arises is the central mystery. There is an explanatory gap
(a term due to Levine 1983) between the functions and experience, and
we need an explanatory bridge to cross it. A mere account of the
functions stays on one side of the gap, so the materials for the bridge
must be found elsewhere..."
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