Consciousness: creeping up on the hard problem


Jeffrey A. Gray, Consciousness: Creeping up on the Hard Problem.

I find this book very interesting. The author considers in the book actually conscious experience only, for him consciousness == conscious experience. In other words, the book is about qualia from the viewpoint of neuroscience.

P. 4. “This, then, are the ‘consciousness experiences’ that this book is about: and ‘consciousness’ refers to the (unknown) process by which they come about”.
Below there are some quotes from the book that I have divided in the three category. First is The World is Inside the Head where the author conveys that what we experience is exclusively constructed by the brain. The in Perception, Qualia and Hard Problem there is a description of the main problem considered in the book. Finally in Illusions of the Will there are quotes about casual power of consciousness. Please note that the author does believe that consciousness has casual power.

The World is Inside the Head
p. 1. “For, just like those inner sensations, that world out there is constructed by our brains and exists within our consciousness. In a very real sense, the world as we consciously experience it is not out there at all: it is inside each and every of us.”
P. 9. “I do not mean that there no real external world out there at all: there is one, and it is not located inside the skull. But our knowledge of the real external world is indirect only; and despite all appearances to the contrary, the consciously perceived world is not that real world. Rather, as I shall justify throughout the book, it is a simulation of the real world – one so effective that take it be the real world. And that simulation is made by, and exists within, the brain.”
P. 10. “The experience is constructed – on the basis of, and constrained by, what the real external world affords – by brains inside our heads. And only when the experience is constructed does consciousness – and with it the Hard Problem – enter the story.”
P. 11. “… because our brains are all built in roughly the same way, with similar tendencies to construct similar experiences given similar inputs from the world outside.
P. 18. “Philosophers sometimes endow conscious experience with an inviolable privacy, rendering it incapable of meeting the scientific requirement for replicability of empirical

observations. Nothing could be further from the truth, as attested by the reliability of visual illusions, among many other phenomena.”
P. 63. “For the good fit between conscious experience and outside reality, the idealist philosopher Berkley called in God. In this more materialist age, it is Evolution that we must thank.”
P. 135. “These experiments demonstrate yet again, by the way, that the ‘privacy’ of conscious experience offers no barrier to good science. Synaesthetes claim a form of experience that is, from the point of view of most people, idiosyncratic in the extreme. Yet it can be successfully brought into the laboratory.”
Perception, Qualia and Hard Problem
p.5. “To put this Hard Problem into a preliminary nut-shell: it arises because nothing in our current theoretical models of brain and behavior accounts for the existence of conscious experience, still less for its detailed properties.”
P. 6. “The non-scientific stance comes in two versions. The first version is philosophical. It accepts that there is an apparently Hard Problem, but attributes it entirely to sloppy thinking.



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Consciousness: creeping up on the hard problem