Various reflections on the nature of consciousness, partly inspired by Alastair Hannay's views on the subject, are presented. In particular, its reality as a distinct non-physical existence is defended against such alternatives as have dominated philosophy for many years. The main difficulty in such a defense concerns the contingency it seems to imply as to the relations between consciousness and its expression in behaviour. But it only implies such contingency if some version of the Humean principle that there cannot be (...) necessary connections between distinct existences is assumed. It is more promising to see this relation as the falsification of this Humean principle and thus avoid what seems the main recommendation of behaviourism, functionalism etc. Some final reflections on the nature of the physical suggest that something like consciousness may be the noumenal essence of the physical in general. (shrink)
The disciplined investigation of consciousness is of three main types: eidetic, anthropological , and psychophysical. The first concerns the essence of consciousness in general and of its main modes. Its method involves introspection, empathy, and insight into necessities present in what these reveal. As the study of the essence of that which is the locus of all value it is of unique importance, and it is also essential as a foundation of the other inquiries. Such inquiry has been the main (...) task set for itself by phenomenology as a philosophical school, but engagement in it need not imply acceptance of distinctive doctrines of this school. English language?philosophy has developed in ways which discourage the eidetic investigation of consciousness, especially through insistence that modes of consciousness, conceived as a private possession, cannot be the referent of socially shared meanings. Its great mistake has been to expect ?consciousness? to refer to some elusive phenomenon to be looked for in the world and able to be studied as a distinctive reality only if conceptually isolable from what it reveals. Study of consciousness, however, is not primarily study of a phenomenon to be found within the world, but of the variety of ways in which the world can be present to us. (shrink)
Of the two main interpretations of Spinoza's theory of the identity of the attributes, in particular those of Thought and Extension, the objective interpretation is now almost universally preferred to the subjective. Rejection of the subjective interpretation, according to which the attributes are merely our ways of cognizing a reality whose real essence remains unknown, is certainly justified, but the objective theory comes too near to replacing the identity by a mere correlation of diff rents to be quite satisfactory. Is (...) it not better to say that Thought and Extension represent two complementary conceptions of reality which are both correct? Yes, but in saying so some commentators ascribe to mind, as Spinoza conceives it, an unplausibly abstract status. An alternative proposal is made as to a way in which Spinoza might be right in essentials, though it requires that a certain tension in Spinozism as to the nature of body be resolved in a particular direction. (shrink)
Suppose that paranormal phenomena really exist. Telepathy, precognition, psychokinesis, clairvoyance, and communication with the dead actually take place. In this article, Timothy Sprigge asks to what extent this would impact on our world view. In particular, how would it affect science, philosophy and religion?
An Important distinction between statements of fact and statements of value is widely recognised. Some philosophers are now saying that the distinction has been treated as more determinate than it is, but most philosophers would agree that the distinction is definite and important. The major contributions to Anglo-Saxon moral philosophy of this century have set out to illuminate the nature of this distinction. Ethical statements have been thevalue statements mainly at issue, but on the whole the aim has not been (...) to show wherein they differ from other value statements, but to show what distinguishes them in common with other value statements from factual statements. The characterisations of ethical statements which have become famous areones which if they apply to ethical statements at all apply equally to many other value statements as well. (shrink)
D. C. Dennett propounds a ?multiple drafts? conception of consciousness which is both materialist and anti?realist (in something like Dummett's sense). Thus there is no determinate truth as to what the components of someone's consciousness were over any particular period and the order in which they occurred. In opposition to this an anti?materialist form of psychical realism is defended here. There really is a precise something which it is like to be a conscious individual at each moment. The main difficulty (...) in accepting this view is that it seems to make it quite contingent what type of consciousness performs what function in the economy of the organism, e.g. that pleasure acts as a positive, pain as a negative, reinforcer of behaviour. There is a problem here which can only be avoided by abandoning the Humean doctrine that there cannot be necessary relations between distinct existences. (shrink)
When I perceive a physical object I am directly aware of something. This something may be called a sense?datum, leaving the question open whether it is indeed the physical object itself. Still, this question must be asked. It seems impossible that the sense?datum can be identical with the physical object for we do not always say we have different physical objects when we say we have different sense?data. On the other hand, the plain man does not think of the physical (...) object as something other than the sense?datum. It is suggested that the plain man regards the sense?datum as in a sense identical with the physical object he is perceiving. But it is a peculiar sense of ?identity? which is in question, one which does not conform to the rules logicians lay down for this word. (shrink)
Santayana's later philosophical writings contain a critique of pragmatism and idealism which still has a little appreciated relevance as a critique of verificationist styles of thought which remain markedly influential. He urged that cognitive thought essentially consists in positing objects the existence of which cannot be verified except by other thoughts which likewise do no more than posit objects, and moreover that in a sense all such posited objects are substances lurking behind their various appearances. Granted that this is a (...) general truth about the objects of thought, one can never discredit the claim to know about objects of any particular type on the grounds that this truth applies to them, nor can it be thought a recommendation of some reductivist account of objects of a certain sort that it saves their existence from being unverifiable, for it will still leave the objects to which they are reduced in the same boat. The continuing relevance of Santayana's insight here is argued for. (shrink)