David Bourget (Western Ontario)
David Chalmers (ANU, NYU)
Rafael De Clercq
Jack Alan Reynolds
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Consciousness Research Abstracts 3 (1998)
Classical and medieval writers had no term for consciousness in anything like the modern sense, and their philosophy seems not to have been troubled by the mind-body problem. Contemporary eliminativists find strong support in this fact for their claim that consciousness does not exist, or, at least, is not an appropriate scientific explanandum. They typically hold that contemporary conceptions of consciousness are artefacts of Descartes' (now outmoded) views about matter and his unrealistic craving for epistemological certainty. Essentially, they say, our belief in consciousness is a residue of once pressing, but now irrelevant, intellectual tensions between religion and the rising new science of the Early Modern period. With the attempts of Descartes and his successors to resolve these tensions, Western thought began down a track toward the conceptual cul-de-sac of the "hard problem". Plausibly, the problem will only be (dis)solved, and the onward march of science assured, when we are able to shake off the pervasive influence of the Cartesian tradition in a way that goes far beyond the mere rejection of dualism. But when we do so, eliminativists contend, the distinctively Cartesian notion of consciousness will simply drop out of our world-picture, like phlogiston or the vital entelechy
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