Why and How Does Consciousness Seem the Way it Seems?

Daniel C. Dennett, Tufts University, Jul 09, 2016
Commentary by Stephen Downes

Useful paper from Daniel Dennett summarizing some of his major arguments about consciousness. What he says about the origin of consciousness seems right to me: "the rich and complex interplay between neurons, hundreds of neuromodulators, and hormones." Crucially, there isn't some sort of internal 'viewing screen', there isn't some 'viewer', and these basic elements of perception ('qualia') are not used as 'raw materials' by some other sort of cognition, but are cognition itself. Everything we thing cognition does is actually happening in the interplay between neurons, hundreds of neuromodulators, and hormones. Because as Dennett says, where else would it be happening? The later stages of the paper are more challenging and less well supported by evidence, in my view, but constitute essentially the view that this interplay is moderated not only by our experiences of the world, but also of others' experiences of us. Consciousness is, in other words, a community phenomenon, and not merely an individual phenomenon. It becomes something like a lingua franca that enables us to interact effectively.

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