[Advaita-l] Consciousness from the Western standpoint

S Jayanarayanan sjayana at yahoo.com
Tue Dec 21 13:58:24 CST 2004

--- S Jayanarayanan <sjayana at yahoo.com> wrote:


> http://www.imprint.co.uk/chalmers.html
> Journal of Consciousness Studies 2 (3), 1995, pp. 200-219
> Facing Up to the Problem of Consciousness
> An extract:


> 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..."

Just wanted to point out that some people believe that an explanation
of Memory and Intelligence counts as explaining Consciousness. These
people DENY that there exists any such thing as "inner feel". An easy
solution to the problem of Consciousness is - "it is nothing but a
combination of memory and intelligence". One of the foremost proponents
of this theory is Daniel Dennett, who has authored the book
"Consciousness Explained", in which he claims that consciousness is "a
bunch of memories and information-processing (akin to a computer) of
the events of one's life".

Chalmers touches upon this view in the course of his paper above. A
further extract:

"The second choice is to take a harder line and deny the phenomenon.
(Variations on this approach are taken by Allport 1988, Dennett 1991,
and Wilkes 1988.) According to this line, once we have explained the
functions such as accessibility, reportability, and the like, there is
no further phenomenon called "experience" to explain. Some explicitly
deny the phenomenon, holding for example that what is not externally
verifiable cannot be real...These approaches lead to a simpler theory,
but are ultimately unsatisfactory. Experience is the most central and
manifest aspect of our mental lives, and indeed is perhaps the key
explanandum in the science of the mind...it is the central fact that
any theory of consciousness must explain. A theory that denies the
phenomenon "solves" the problem by ducking the question."

There have been several responses to the original article by Chalmers
from various neuroscientists, physicists and others, and these have
been condensed into a book called "Explaining Consciousness: The Hard
Problem, edited by Jonathan Shear". More info at

Chalmers, following the line towed by all Western philosophers,
believes that Consciousness "arises" out of the material body, but he
doesn't give an account of how and why it does so. It is precisely here
that Shankara's commentary on Brahma sUtra 3.3.53-54 becomes very



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