Reply to commentaries on thought experiment
David Bourget (Western Ontario)
David Chalmers (ANU, NYU)
Rafael De Clercq
Ezio Di Nucci
Jack Alan Reynolds
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He describes his position as "neo-Carnapian", i.e. he is claiming that even if the question is meaningful, that doesn't mean it's worth looking into. He's probably right, in the sense that anyone can be right about a personal evaluative choice. And until I started questioning the belief that there is only one kind of physical process that could embody consciousness, I felt the same way myself. But the point about this thought experiment is that the current state of cognitive science offers us two possible candidates for the embodiment of mind. And as Bickle points out, it seems like nothing we can imagine discovering in the future could settle this problem one way or the other. If this is true, this means that, strictly speaking, all this talk about being on the verge of a scientific understanding of consciousness is hype: No matter how close we get to solving the Chalmersian easy problems, we are getting nowhere nearer to solving the hard problem. If this is true, Cognitive Scientists ought to change their description of what they are doing, even if it cuts back on publicity and grant money. But I don't want to believe this, and I think the only way to avoid believing this is to discover the presuppositions that compel this belief, and see if we can change them. It's a dirty little job, but somebody has to do it, and philosophers seem less unqualified to attempt it than anyone else. Note, however, that I am not claiming we can use a thought experiment all by itself to find the answer, the way Searle claimed that the Chinese Room experiment supposedly proved that a computer couldn't be conscious. As RONALD LEMMEN points out, the fact that we can imagine something doesn't tell us anything about the world, only about our concepts of the world. Remember that the conclusion of my thought experiment was a question, not an answer. My only goal is to help clarify the question.
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