Patricia and Paul Churchland on Consciousness

Patricia Smith Churchland is Professor of Philosophy at UC San Diego. Her recent research interest focuses on neuroethics and attempts to understand choice, responsibly and the basis of moral norms in terms of brain function, evolution and brain-culture interactions. en.wikipedia.org Paul M. Churchland is Professor of Philosophy at UC San Diego. With his wife and philosophical partner, Patricia, he has been an advocate of “eliminative materialism,” which claims that many of our common-sense folk-psychological conceptions of our mental lives will fail to have any explanatory role in a mature neuroscience. en.wikipedia.org en.wikipedia.org The complete 1 hour and 45 minute interview can be viewed here: thesciencenetwork.org

In this lecture, Stephen Stich attempts to answer the questions – Is moral disagreement fundamental? Can all moral disagreements be shown to be the result of disagreements about non-moral facts? Both moral realists and anti-realists agree that if it can’t be shown, then moral realism is a dead end. He takes a look at the data of several studies including the ethics of Hopi Indians, cultures of honor, the differences between American southern gentlemen and their northern counterparts, and the differences between Western and Asian conceptions of self and their relation to each culture’s morality. Enjoy and share your thoughts. Stich is primarily known in philosophy for his work in the philosophy of mind, cognitive science, epistemology, and moral psychology. In philosophy of mind and cognitive science, Stich (1983) has argued for a form of eliminative materialism—the view that talk of the mental should be replaced with talk of its physical substrate. Since then, however, he has changed some of his views on the mind. See Deconstructing the Mind (1996) for his more recent views. In epistemology, he has explored (with several of his colleagues) the nature of intuitions using the techniques of experimental philosophy, especially epistemic intuitions that vary among cultures. This work reflects a general skepticism about conceptual analysis and the traditional methods of analytic philosophy. In The Fragmentation of Reason he briefly sketched a form of epistemic relativism “in


25 Comments so far »

  1. metaldude82 said,

    Wrote on November 10, 2011 @ 4:24 am

    Ok, tell me if anyone with what I am about to say. One major mistake of eliminative materialism is the assumption that just because something like consciousness has neurophysiological mechanisms which correlate with it, that means it is entirely physical. This is very similar to the “God of the gaps” where it is assumed that God can only exist in areas where we lack knowledge.

  2. gkodekrakca said,

    Wrote on November 10, 2011 @ 4:35 am

    I can’t believe I heard an eliminative materialist use the words God and Soul.

  3. crookedfinger13 said,

    Wrote on November 10, 2011 @ 4:38 am

    @Omnicron777 Check your own words: “Consciousness is a state… which ALLOWS FOR volitive action.” I rest my case.

  4. crookedfinger13 said,

    Wrote on November 10, 2011 @ 4:47 am

    @Omnicron777 Imagine that Universe A has consciousness, and Universe B does not. What is the essential difference? According to you, it is that A is DOING something that B is not. According to me, it is that a new DIMENSION has opened up in A. In Chalmers’ terms, consciousness is an “emergent,” a synergy that cannot be predicted by the substrate. If consciousness were merely activity, then a description of brain activity would describe what being conscious is like. And it doesn’t. QED.

  5. crookedfinger13 said,

    Wrote on November 10, 2011 @ 5:42 am

    @Omnicron777 Your surly because you don’t understand my questions. (Nor did you answer them.) The purpose of any supposed activity of consciousness would be to make the condition of being apparent. Thinking is a process IN consciousness, not OF consciousness. (Machines asrguably think; that doesn’t make them conscious.)

  6. crookedfinger13 said,

    Wrote on November 10, 2011 @ 5:55 am

    @Omnicron777 Okay, let me play Devil’s Advocate for a moment. If Consciousness is a verb (and I’m practically puking just to write that), then what is the achievement of that activity? What does that activity achieve? What is its effect? Is it not to make the condition of being apparent?

    Personality Test: Are you more like a “thing that perceives space,” or a “space that perceives things”?

  7. crookedfinger13 said,

    Wrote on November 10, 2011 @ 6:15 am

    @Omnicron777 You seem unaware of the difference between doing and being. I repeat: “Last time I checked, consciousness meant awareness of the condition of being.” And, if you check, you’ll notice that “you” aren’t doing anything more to BE conscious than you are doing to simply BE at all. Consciousness is a CONDITION, not a verb. You’re hooked on slotting consciousness as a verb. Please get over it before you reduce away the entire world.

  8. crookedfinger13 said,

    Wrote on November 10, 2011 @ 6:43 am

    @Omnicron777 Last time I checked, consciousness meant awareness of the condition of being. That awareness may require neural activity–if that’s what you mean by “activity”–but that doesn’t mean that consciousness is itself neural activity. That’s confusing cause and effect and would be exactly the kind of reductionism you’re complaining about in your posts.

  9. crookedfinger13 said,

    Wrote on November 10, 2011 @ 7:25 am

    @Omnicron777 “Without the body, there cannot be consciousness.” Pray tell, how do you know that?

  10. ArcadianGenesis said,

    Wrote on November 10, 2011 @ 7:39 am

    Great. I’ll be doing a cognitive neuroscience PhD starting this fall at UT Dallas.

  11. RobertHaraldsen said,

    Wrote on November 10, 2011 @ 8:36 am

    Body language and philosophy in strife…

  12. theocean1973 said,

    Wrote on November 10, 2011 @ 9:21 am

    @drn02009 Lots of materialists use the word “soul” as a metaphor, like Dennett, who says, “Yes, we have a soul, but it’s made of a bunch of tiny robots!”

  13. drn02009 said,

    Wrote on November 10, 2011 @ 9:34 am

    Interesting…the last thing Paul says is “power that can…make us see more deeply into each other souls is knowledge we should seek.” But his philosophy says that we don’t have souls. I think he realizes (if only subconsciously) that there must be something immaterial about our cognitions and our ability to think about our own thoughts. I’m an expert in neither neuroscience nor philosophy…I’m just commenting on how I feel Paul’s closing remarks shed light on the issue and his thoughts.

  14. Alexdurrant7 said,

    Wrote on November 10, 2011 @ 9:54 am

    @FeelOfFriction Huh? Reductionism is the basis of modern science.

  15. FeelOfFriction said,

    Wrote on November 10, 2011 @ 10:03 am

    Poor reductionists.

  16. Anarch0tec said,

    Wrote on November 10, 2011 @ 10:22 am

    Thanks for Sharing ! This is incredible.

  17. Nades129 said,

    Wrote on November 10, 2011 @ 11:12 am

    Im not studying it yet fully, but Im reading many books involving cognition. Im heading there tho, probably going to UIUC, because its the only university I know in Illinois that has a cognitive science dept.

  18. AutodidacticPhd said,

    Wrote on November 10, 2011 @ 11:18 am

    Oh? Where are you studying?

  19. AutodidacticPhd said,

    Wrote on November 10, 2011 @ 11:24 am

    “The argument “we have _only_ 300 more genes than mice” is such a crock…”

    Once again, it is a problem of only looking at the statement like a bean counter. The raw number may very well be accurate, but the fact that genes can alter the expression of other genes means that instruction complexity could (though likely doesn’t) grow at an exponential rate… so a difference of 300 genes could easily mean an instruction set that is two orders of magnitude more complex.

  20. AutodidacticPhd said,

    Wrote on November 10, 2011 @ 11:30 am

    “If a human male is geneticaly more related to a male chimpanzee than to a human woman->
    than there is something wrong with genetic”

    Really it just depends on your standard of measurement. In raw number of genes, Paul has only one copy of about 1900 genes that Patricia has two of…. and the difference between chimp Y chromosomes from human Y chromosomes is not that significant… so from a very bean counter POV Pat is right.

  21. 2bsirius said,

    Wrote on November 10, 2011 @ 11:44 am

    Very interesting…Thanks for adding it!

  22. tersse said,

    Wrote on November 10, 2011 @ 12:30 pm

    and all the religious will take from this is your destroying my god your removing the gaps were i can say god did it, if you explain conciousness, you remove the mistery of creation bla bla bla, they hate man gaining new knowledge.

  23. polymath7 said,

    Wrote on November 10, 2011 @ 12:42 pm

    And Paul. I believe this is the first I’ve seen him in a video on Youtube.

  24. ScienceArtSpirit said,

    Wrote on November 10, 2011 @ 1:19 pm

    If a human male is geneticaly more related to a male chimpanzee than to a human woman->
    than there is something wrong with genetic ;-)

    Thank you for posting !

  25. renumeratedfrog said,

    Wrote on November 10, 2011 @ 1:51 pm

    The argument “we have _only_ 300 more genes than mice” is such a crock, given that we have no idea how all of these genes interact. Such a statement presumes complexity in quantity rather than quality. Reductionists always seem to think in those terms.

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