Consciousness: Of David Chalmers and other philosophers of mind

Inquiry 40 (4):379 – 405 (1997)
Abstract
On reading David Chalmers's book, The Conscious Mind (Oxford/New York: Oxford University Press, 1996), one is struck by the author's efforts to meet the difficulties and obscurities in understanding the human mind, as indeed most other philosophers have, by hazarding theories. Such undertakings rest on two broad, usually unexamined, assumptions. One is that we have direct access to our conscious minds such that pronouncements about it and its contents are descriptive. The other is that our actions have causal explanations which incorporate beliefs, intentions, desires, etc . (propositional attitudes) as functional elements. These assumptions are questioned in this essay. They rest upon a notion of data which is out of place in explicating the mind. The conclusion reached is that we do not know our own minds because there are no data upon which such knowledge might be founded, and, consequently, there can be no responsible theories of mind.
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