| PROF. TED HONDERICH WEBSITE [from Kompozer Index file]|
Again Honderich On Chomsky On Honderich -- About Mind, More Particularly Consciousness 1 July 2018
It was reported, implied or intimated by me, in a version of the past 1 May 2018 new start to this website -- still on view below -- that Noam Chomsky, in a very contentful discussion of my Actualism theory or analysis or laying-out of the whole nature or the facts of consciousness, denied that any theory of consciousness is possible. Denied it in his piece 'Mentality Beyond Consciousness' in the book on my stuff edited by Gregg Caruso, Ted Honderich on Consciousness, Determinism, and Humanity.
I got that understanding from his proposition for a start, a proposition of which you will be hearing a lot more, that we cannot extricate conscious from unconscious mentality. We cannot extricate consciousness from what may still be called the unconscious. If that is true, how could we have a theory of consciousness by itself -- an analysis or explanation of it? Of course asking [??? answering that] that depends on what such a theory is taken to be. But I say for a hesitant start that a successful particular theory of something is of what can be extricated from whatever else. A successful theory of something is not of what is interwoven inextricably with something else.
[??? i] Presumably inextricability/interweaving etc would raise the question and would make at least natural or allow you to have a theory of both -- or raise that possibility. I in fact allow you could have what might assertively be called a theory of consciousness that would include both of what ordinarily are distinguished -- conscious and unconscious mentality. You might give them, so to speak, equal standing, equal claims to attention. /// [???]In fact Actualism is a theory that includes unconscious mentality, but subordinately, as something causally or lawfully explanatory of consciousness. Actualism as much includes consequences or subsequent lawful connections of consciousness.
[??? ii] The difference or differences between us are not that we give equal attention or something like it to both consciousness and unconsciousness -- or of course equal attention to both consciousness and consequences of it -- but that we give principal attention to what is obviously has been and is the main question around here -- of what it is to be conscious.
[??? iii] Again, we both concern ourselves with some or all of three things, and Noam doesn't separate or advocates not separating the first two. But my concern, and the concern of almost all historic and present philosophy of mind, is consciousness. Unconsciousness does not get in as part of the main subject, which is the subject itself of what it is to be conscious, but as one of the two [??]necessary but secondary subjects, those of the causes and the effects of consciousness. [here here ???]Both are essential.
[???] Might he as reasonably, but somehow to a lesser extent, embraced the project of giving the effects of consciousness in terms of their being characterized in terms of here here representations, language, aboutness, meaning, linguistics and so on -- realized intentions or plans or the like.
[???] What it comes down to is that we both concern ourselves with one or two or all of three things, and he inseparably links the first two. But that leaves out the main things. It is indeed Shakespeare's play Hamlet without the prince in it.
[???] But that leaves us without an answer from Noam to the question [???] most naturally put as that of what its own nature is.
[???] He does allow that you can have a theory of consciousness and unconsciousness, consciousness with unconsciousness? [If so...?]
[???] The most notable thing for me, the most salient thing, is that in all this, from all this, we do not have what is rightly called an account of consciousness itself, what that that fact itself is.
[???????????] It nearly sounds as if the fact is that you can't tell them apart! You can. For a start, there are dictionaries!
[Nor, in passing, answers to the questions of the special natures of perceptual, cognitive, and affective consciousness.]
[That consciousness as ordinarily conceived is different from unconsciousness is more than respected by Actualism. We do not get from Noam, anyway on this occasion, anything of the difference between the two. What we get is a want of difference. And, not to forget, a want of respect for the differences we all make between perceptual, cognitive and affective consciousness, and philosophy or anything else that sets out to explain those differences and may succeed.
But on present showing that is not the main difference between us. I do definitely have an answer -- a developed and defended answer -- to the main subject, the nature of consciousness itself. Noam, in the piece in question offers none -- what he does is tie consciousness to unconsciousness, inseparably etc, without giving full attention, an answer, as to the nature of being conscious itself.
Compare the subjects France and Spain. If there hadn't been and wasn't now a border and a lot more distinguishing of France and Spain, could you have enlightenment on France, say a history?
OK, but what I should have said, in brief, as Noam has now noted in a kindly email, is something else. He says he hasn't and he doesn't deny we can have -- there can be -- a theory of consciousness.
Presumably or certainly I should have said that he denied only that that my Actualism theory is a satisfactory theory of consciousness. For him, it has a more or less fatal shortcoming or maybe shortcomings. It is like other existing theories of consciousness in my own view, a clear failure. It is like all the previous physicalisms of one sort or another, and all the dualisms of one sort or another.
Noam did and does assert, I now also say, if with some hesitation, that any good theory of consciousness must also in some sense or way or extent also be a theory of unconscious mentality. Anyway he comes close to that. You can't have a good theory of consciousness in a sense by itself. Do I disagree? Hang on for a full answer.
There's something else very separate to think about as well. He does at least imply it. This second thing, I take it, is that there can be no decent theory of consciousness that isn't all of it somehow in terms of aboutness, representation, meaning, etc, etc. Not only with the two sides of consciousness that are the cognitive and affective sides, taking as true etc and wanting etc, but also the side that is perceptual. With consciousness, there's aboutness everywhere. Surrounded by abouters in philosophy and probably science we are.
Well, save your verdicts for a while -- until, in this new start on this website, a couple of months after a previous one, I report some more.
To put you and me on an equal footing, I want to quote to you a whole string of Noam's propositions -- 15 of them. All of the quotes serve my purpose, I trust, despite the fact that some, one or two in particular, are a little elusive. Maybe partly because of depending on Noam's own further thinking about consciousness and unconscious mentality, consciousness and unconsciousness -- some of your unconsciousness taken by the way as somehow accessible to your consciousness, some not at all accessible.
1 'I would like to explore the possibility that the conscious and unconscious states interact so closely in explanation of overt behavior and internal thought that the elements of consciousness cannot be extricated without seriously misrepresenting mental life. Among unconscious states, I think we must include those that are inaccessible to consciousness, which also are interwoven inextricably in our mental acts.' Presumably the mental acts mentioned are conscious acts. To extricate anything, I take it, is to free it from a constraint or difficulty, distinguish it from a related thing, save it from entanglements or perplexities. (p.33)
2 With unconscious mentality, and maybe conscious mentality, we still come up against what used to be called, rightly or reasonably, 'secrets of nature'. We still do come up against them with unconscious mentality and maybe conscious. (p.35)
3 '...a review by William Braun of a new production of Alban Berg's opera Lulu opens as follows: "Just about everyone who has ever taught a class or given a lecture has had the experience: you are speaking about a subject you know fairly well, and you hear yourself saying something that must have been in the back of your mind for some time, but which you have never consciously thought about". ... I suspect...that the experience is far more general, a constant in daily life buried below fragments that emerge as inner speech; and that what is 'in the back of the mind' is commonly beyond access to consciousness'. (p.38)
4 '...we find a constant interplay between conscious awareness and unconscious principles of both types: accessible or inaccessible in principle....' (p.41)
5 'Traditionally, language is described as sound with meaning, or as audible thought. The latter rendition is closer to accurate. What seems still more accurate is that language is thought, which is occasionally audible, or externalized in some other modality (sign language is remarkably similar in design, acquisition, and use, and even neural representation).' (p.42)
6 'Returning then to the question of language and thought, ...paradigm cases of thinking...illustrate the intimate interplay of processes that are unconscious and, in crucial cases, there is intimate interplay of processes that are unconscious and, in crucial cases, inaccessible to consciousness'. (p.43)
7 'Guiding principles' of unconscious mentality although inaccessible to conscious thought are 'interweaving inextricably with what reaches consciousness' (p.43)
8 With respect to the initiation of voluntary motion, 'we are beginning to understand the puppet and the strings but have no ideas about the puppeteer' (p.44)
9 '...inaccessible unconscious processes intermingle with what reaches consciousness'. (p.44)
10 There is 'hearing yourself say something that must have been in the back of your mind for some time, but which you have never consciously thought about'. (p.44) [Cf. 1]
11 '... when you are sitting down to write an article, and don't know where to begin, all of a sudden paragraphs start pouring out fully formed, from the back of your mind. What has been happening in the back of your mind? It seems that thoughts were forming, being considered, shaped and elaborated, rejected as on the wrong track, and finally being turned into an articulated form, all without awareness, and with intimate intermingling of processes that are inaccessible to consciousness.' (p,45)
12 'Quite commonly, we search for the right words and phrases, recognizing that what we are saying to ourselves is not quite what we mean. These efforts seek to attain what we mean, but fail, which indicates that there is something that we mean, but it is inaccessible to consciousness, and we can at most try in various ways to approximate it.' (p.45)
13 'These efforts seek to attain what we mean, but fail, which indicates that there is something that we mean, but it is inaccessible to consciousness, and we can at most try in various way to approximate it.' (p.45)
14 '...the study of certain aspects of consciousness can be carred forward by placing it in a richer setting, taking into account the intimate interactions between what reaches awareness and internal processes of mental computation that are unconscious, often inaccessible to consciouness, and very likely a core feature of fundamental human nature.' (p.45)
15 'To summarize briefly, I have been trying to suggest that the study of certain aspects of consciousness can be carried forward by placing it in a richer setting, taking into account the intimate interactions between what reaches awareness and internal process of mental computation that are unconscious, often inaccessible to consciousness, and very likely a core feature of fundamental human nature.' (p.45)
So all of that -- what are we or anyway what am I to think about all of it? What is the good or right summary of it? Well, whatever the summary, my short story is that Actualism survives those objections absolutely. Maybe easily? My theory of consciousness is still at least on track. Does that confidence tell you something about here here philosophy, at least some philosophy? Could be, But think about that still more general matter some other time.
I doassert that Noam's run of objections does not preclude my account of consciousness. In fact Noam's line of objection can all be added to my account, admittedly as a modification, a modification but certainly no refutation, in fact added in a place prepared and announced -- a place explicitly left in the theory of Actualism. What can't be added to my account is that all consciousness is a matter of aboutness etc, [???]but forget about that. here here
It is fundamental to this that I grant that anything put forward as a general theory of consciousness, any general answer to the question of what consciousness is, does have three parts.
(1) It contains an answer to the question of what consciousness is, its nature. (2) It contains some kind of answer to the question of how consciousness comes about. What causes it, or more clearly, what is in a causal circumstance or otherwise lawful circumstance for it? Can we say the connection here is also one of meaning? You try. I haven't done much thinking about that but certainly haven't excluded the idea. (3) Finally, a general theory contains an answer to the question of the effects or later lawful successors of it. Mix in meaning here too?
So, being myself with you at the moment merely in the low life of online, with even The Daily Mail and The New York Post in it, not engaged in the real life of reading or writing a real book, I bravely say Actualism easily enough survives Noam's objections. It survives mainly because of its own clearer and indeed clear definiteness. And it survives, to stick to our present concern, partly because it allows for more or less what Noam asserts and depends on about some connection or connections of consciousness and unconsciousness, unspecific though that assertion is.
As for Actualism's clear definitness as a theory, which is essential to my reply to him, that is a matter of quite a few things.
One is its being an answer to an initial question made clear -- the question of what consciousness as ordinarily thought and felt about is. There isn't any of that from Noam. My answer is first in terms of a database, and the summary or anyway labelling of the database of something's being conscious as something's being actual. Then answers to the first question, or rather questions, of what is actual, and the second questions of how it comes about, the causation or antecedent lawlike or more than lawlike conditions for it, and the third question of what it issues in, its effects or resulting lawful successors, whatever can really be added to that?
That whole story includes, and has included from a beginning in earlier theories -- or anyway the story explicitly recognizes or doesn't for a minute exclude -- the complexity of the relations between conscious mentality and unconscious mentality. (The latter has never been taken by me as just dispositional belief despite a hurried and loose sentence of mine that excuses Noam's report.) The whole story includes the questions which Noam rightly takes not to be easy, indeed to be far from easy. So what? They're still there and demand answers if you get into this line of life. But not answers before a theory can be said to exist.
The Actualism theory begins from that figurative or metaphorical database that in fact you yourself share -- and in fact contribute to yourself. Consider yourself right now. Consider your admittedly figurative ordinary thought and talk about your being conscious. Your being conscious right now, for a start, is something's being there, something right there, given, somehow or other existing, something being had, immediate, open, for something else, not deduced from anything else, proximal rather than distal, and so on.
Now to brazenly seem to put myself in better company, which in fact I do not, consider a new question. Is the theory of evolution a non-starter or dead because of immense, wonderful, elusive lawful and whatever-else connections between (i) environmental changes and (ii) changes in living organisms?
Yes, Noam's piece easily persuades me again that there is more thinking about consciousness to be done, anyway attempted. Yes there is a vagueness etc in Actualism with respect to the relations between conscious and unconscious mentality. The theory didn't set out to say everything about that. Did it have to? I say no. Certainly no past or other present theory has done so. It cannot be that a theory of anything must be as full a theory of its explanatory connections. And what a thing is and what it does reasonably demands more attention than the subject of what it comes from. Is asserting that no more than what you might call personality in inquiry? I hope not.
There is less or no personality in asserting that Actualism neither contains nor involves any greater barrier or greater difficulty difficulty with respect to the unconscious antecedence of conscious mentality.
Noam's piece certainly persuades me again that there is all that to be thought about with respect to consciousness and unconsciousness in terms of relations of representation, aboutness, standing for, ideas of, meaning, language, and I guess linguistics. But the quick and conclusive response to the pretty common idea that consciousness is just aboutness or the like is that words on paper are the paradigm cases of being aboutnesses. They're not conscious things.
And his piece doesn't persuade me for a minute that all or most of what there is to be thought about with respect to consciousness and unconsciousness is representation etc. My consciousness in seeing at this moment, very likely like yours, is of a room, a place, a stage of a world -- not of something that is somehow about the thing. In a dangerous brevity, seeing itself isn't either thinking or wanting.
Can I say that Noam's false unique connection of words and the like with perceptual consciousness itself is a case of succumbing to a seduction by what one knows best? Generalizing from it? One's own special discipline, maybe linguistics? Should I say that there is something I know best if I know anything -- and it leads me into the mistake of Actualism? Well, according to me I am led there by those preoccupations of philosophy -- in short, concentration on the ordinary logic of ordinary intelligence: clarity, consistency, completeness, generalness.
Do you wonder if I assert the claim of philosophy against science with respect to general truth? Certainly. The claim of philosophy is in a way smaller, in a way larger. The persistence of philosophy over centuries against ignorance and what-not has not been owed to anything less.
Again, Noam lets us know or anyway implies that somehow in some important or significant sense there is no distinction between consciousness and unconscious mentality. No distinction to be made in any theory. Actualism in confidently distinguishing conscious from unconscious mentality was trying to do what really just can't be done. It was somehow dead wrong. You just can't think effectively of consciousness by itself? Maybe, if not pellucid, a radical objection indeed. Noam says various things in particular expression of or in defence of it.
There is the declaration that language just is thought. Language is thought 'which is occasionally audible -- or externalized in some other modality'. Does this, by the way, leave out mental images, on which Alastair Hannay has written so well? Consciousness as a whole just is language? Perceptual consciousness -- consciousness in seeing a room -- just is thought? Do consider the rest of what he has to say.
Anyway, Noam has replied to me in his email that he just didn't suggest and doesn't hold the view that there can't be a theory of consciousness. He says that he hasn't and doesn't take it to follow from 'the inextricable interweaving' of unconscious mentality and consciousness, and so and so on, that there can't be a theory of the latter, of just consciousness. OK, I accept that. He'd better get one.
Amour propre prompts me to repeat something so relevant. I have never in any moment or syllable expressed the idea that an adequate theory of consciousness could leave out unconscious mentality. I have said just the opposite, if not maybe with enough persistence -- or interest?
Still, my idea or attitude has always been and been said to be that an adequate theory or explanation of anything has those three parts -- (i) the very nature of the thing itself, (ii) the explanation of how it comes about, certainly including the causation of it and anything else explanatory, and (iii) the thing's consequences. All of those things need thinking about, of course.You will find rather a lot of pages on exactly unconscious mentality cited in the index at the back of the Caruso volume, and a lot more in the index to my Actual Consciousness and enough pages in the index to the precis-volume Mind: Your Consciousness Is What and Where?
So in a sense you can't have a good theory of consciousness in and by itself. Hang on for a fuller answer.]]] Everyone engaging around here has to say what the difference is between conscious and unconscious mentality, as distinct, say what is distinctive with respect to consciousness as far as possible, from saying what the relation is between them.
Could it be that even if I didn't leave out consciousness's having part of the explanation of its existence in unconscious mentality, I am still rightly perceived by Noam as having gone wrong in some related way? Well, as indicated by in passing by those quotations from Noam, have I failed to given enough attention to unconscious mentality in trying to answer the question of what conscious mentality is? That would not be the charge that I and so many others have tried to do the impossible -- say what consciousness is without saying much or even less about unconscious mentality?
I give in to repeating that my Actualism has the distinction, of which I remain a little proud, of making a fundamental distinction -- of following many philosophers in history otherwise engaged than with consciousness in general -- the distinction between perceptual consciousness as against both cognitive and affective consciousness -- say consciousness in seeing etc and consciousness that is sorts of thinking and wanting. Actualism answers the question of what actuality with consciousness in its three sides comes to and the question of what is actual in those cases. The answer to what is actual with cognitive and affective consciousness is indeed representations. The answer with perceptual consciousness, true to whole histories of taking it as distinct, is that what is actual is not representations, but subjective physical worlds -- that species of things along with the species objective physicality in the genus physicality in general.
Yes, I have now strayed off the project of replying to Noam on Actualism. I have strayed off by engaging in my view that he is wrong by lathering consciousness, all of it, in blasted representations. Consciousness in seeing is the existence of a subjective physical world, not something about that world or the objective physical world or anything usefully called a world. Perceptual consciousness, whatever else has to be said, just isn't just more stuff about aboutnesses, let alone stuff having to do with language -- and I guess with the science he so adorns, linguistics? On which subject start with his book Syntactic Structures.
Yes, Actualism does not pay enough attention, in going on about consciousness, to the connection between consciousness and unconsciousness, a connection it unquestionably asserts. And maybe in not going on enough, connection with either of them, about language and those connected items, say images and what-not.
Well, I plead both guilty to the charges and am also entirely persistent in what I put to you again right now. Consciousness has the three different sides, and that cognitive and affective consciousness is well enough approached from language studies, if not exclusively from there -- but perceptual consciousness absolutely isn't something just for language studies.
I also bravely say that Actualism might have paid still more attention to the dependency-relation between consciousness and unconsciousness. But, Your Honour, isn't it the case that everything written and said could have paid more attention to what is not its own subject?
Something else comes to mind. It is not missed by me and may not be missed by you that we may have something relevant here to the difference or differences between science and philosophy, including what can be wondered about -- inclinations with respect to them and indeed lives in them.
My conception of philosophy, a pretty safe and this-worldly one, mentioned above, is that it is a pursuit of truth, as science is, but distinguished from science by being a greater concentration on the logic of ordinary intelligence, with that logic taken as having to do with what can quickly be labelled clarity, consistency and other logical virtue, generality, and completeness. The conception in my use of it has never for a mad moment assigned a greater superiority to philosophy over science -- or science over philosophy. Still, acclaim the worth of philosophy I do.
I have not myself thought much of the need to defend that definition of philosophy as greater concentration on the logic of ordinary intelligence, which may well be the best content of the ancient definition of philosophy as love of wisdom. Aristotle and Plato, I'd say, are exemplars of that ordinary-logic concentration. So Locke, Berkeley and Hume, and of course Leibniz, Kant, and so on. Yes, there is room for you to do some further work on that definition of philosophy, but I say no ground for abandoning it.
Might more be said? No doubt. Conceivably aided by attention to deep unconsciousness. It would not be helped by attention to the sales-person Freud, despite his identification with the subject. More helped by his great predecessors with respect to the unconscious -- Spinoza, Leibniz, Coleridge, Schelling, Schopenhauer, Nietzsche.
Is thought of this difference between science and philosophy now forwarded a little by wondering about the particular differences between Noam, the great rescuer and advancer of the science of linguistics, and this adversary who is a pretty typical philosopher?
Given my admiration and more than admiration for Noam, not only with respect to his own science but also with respect to right and wrong in the world -- including my judgement that he is the very antithesis of Trumpery, and that the best that the present president of the United States could do in a newly rational American world would be to make a big speech giving over his position to the greatest living American -- yes, I cannot but be taken aback by Noam's response to my Actualism. But among the things I learned in from him or anyway been reinforced in by him, is something of his own independence of mind, including in my case my independence about the difference made in Actualism between consciousness and unconsciousness in my conception of the former.
Among the things I partly learned from Noam, for me science's great moral and political thinker in our age, or anyway among the things I have been reinforced in by Noam, is something of his own lovely independence of of mind -- certainly including even my independence about the difference between consciousness and unconsciousness. My admiration and more than admiration for him includes my regarding him as properly indomitable in what he believes, even if I don't believe it myself. All of us, each philosopher above all, lets down everybody by not thinking for himself or herself.
I can believe, as a result of what is to me my own advocacy, that Actualism is the best thing available just now for the philosophy and the sciences of the mind. It is beyond the hopelessness of the simplicity of objective physicalism, which, as you have heard, flies in the face of the difference and indeed the uniqueness of consciousness. It is beyond the hopelessness of the merely epiphenomenalism and the rest of brain-mind dualisms, certainly including the hopelessness of abstract functionalism.
A last somewhat unsettling answer to a decent question. The question is that of how much a good theory of something has to have in it with respect to where the thing came from as against what it is and what it does? The unsettling answer is that the answer to the question is in part, in some way, a matter of attitude. Somehow affective consciousness as well as cognitive? Somehow a tendency to be satisfied in connection with this rather than with respect to kinds of evidence? But I leave that to your own further reflection. And mine some other time soon.
Pellucid good order hasn't yet been achieved, anyway by me.
Honderich On Chomsky On Honderich -- About Mind, More Particularly Consciousness I May 2018
The theory of the nature of consciousness named Actualism, which with its several antecedents has taken up quite a lot of my life, goes along with almost all science and a lot of philosophy in taking all that exists, every particular thing and property and event that there is in space and time, as physical. Name this totality exactly just the physical world -- or, maybe better, to distinguish it from other things you'll be hearing about, the whole physical world.
This genus, with species and subspecies in it, is indeed the category of all that exists. That is to say for a start, yes, that it's all of anything that occupies or maybe is located in space and time. Thus the genus doesn't include just numbers in themselves or just ideas or concepts themselves as we usually talk of them.
Nor, by the way, does the whole physical world contain certain bits in the Quantum Theory in physics on which some remaining proponents of free will or mysterious origination quite mistakenly or at least very chancely rely to save us from determinism -- save us by saying truly but absolutely irrelevantly that those bits aren't effects -- just as 4 isn't.
Whatever else can be said about the whole physical world, which of course is a lot, the main thing for us, according to me, is that it consists of two species, parts or divisions, one of them dividing into two or three subspecies. In fact the whole physical world is further defined for present purposes as what has the two species, parts or divisions, and the subspecies. In short, you can understand what the whole physical world is in this way, by coming to know what it contains.
The first species or part of the whole physical world is the objective physical world, sometimes also known as something like the scientific physical world. Maybe sometimes spoken of not very usefully as the natural world. I sure do not begin to suppose, with Noam Chomsky, by the way, that there just is no adequate understanding of the objective physical world because of the recent and present state of science -- its departure from an earlier century of simple particles etc.
Nor do I go along with other such positions. Say the one implied quite a while ago by the admirable paper by Tim Crane and Hugh Mellor, 'There Is No Question of Physicalism'. It was so titled out of the conviction that no adequate conception of the physical was available, certainly none to be got by exclusive reliance on science.
And hence thirdly I do not suppose no adequate solution possible, by the way, to what has been known as the mind-body problem, essentially the problem of the relationhip of consciousness to brain -- the relationship of consciousness to that particular case of objective physicality. No indeed, I remark in passing, do I suppose that in place of mind or consciousness and brain, it is better to talk of David Marr's three levels -- hardware, computational level, algorithmic level. Sounds like abstract functionalism to me, but let us not go into that kettle of fish.
The objective physical world, by my new count, has 16 characteristics -- 9 characteristics of physicality and 7 characteristics of objectivity. That list, of course, which you can look at, is a further clarification of the objective physical world in terms just of itself rather than by its inclusion in the whole physical world.
The second species or part of the whole physical world is made up of subjective physical worlds. They're very likely news to you, maybe unheard of by you before now, breaking news. But you've got a hold on this consciousness, as on all your consciousness. You've got that hold right now.
Yes certainly your subjective physical world too, like the objective physical world in part, is out there. That's where it is. It's out there in space and time. It's certainly not some damned thing in your head. Not an idea or an image of something, as started to be said back in British Empiricism in the 17th and 18th centuries -- Locke, Berkeley, and Hume -- or an impression, or a sense-datum, or a perception, or a concept, or a content in a special sense, or, to be more respectful, maybe things recently called qualia in one sense of that word. Your subjective physical world is not any such inner thing or things whatever.
Certainly saying anything of that old kind, going in for what you can call an internalism rather than an externalism about exactly perceptual consciousness, has according to me been the main mistake in the philosophical and also the scientific history of mind until now. Something just asking for a calm revolution.
Yes, novel things do come up in philosophy as well as in science. These ones, subjective physical worlds, are very definable, can be made clear enough. These subjective physical worlds, stages of them, certainly in space and time, are for a very small start what you can call the stuff of perceptual consciousness. That is consciousness within perception -- consciousness within seeing, touching and so on. Subjective physical worlds as they are are in a sense what consciousness within perception comes to -- although there is a lot more to say.
These subjective physical worlds, as it turns out, like the whole objective physical world, are also definable as having 16 listed characteristics, some the same as ones of the objective physical world, some different. Some are about what they are dependent on as a matter of law.
Is Noam put off by my subjective physical worlds? I don't know. But be reassured yourself. There's nothing airy-fairy about the defining characteristics of the subjective physical worlds -- or of course the objective physical world.
Most of the characteristics are pretty obvious, such as the things in the two categories being in the inventory of science, in what it takes to exist, and being either public or private -- open to all or else open only to somebody in particular or something in particular. And that characteristic of standing in connections of scientific law with other things. Or involving points of view or not. And a matter of a lawful individuality or unity or identity that is a person -- not to be confused for a minute with a mysterious self or ego. And so on.
The third species or part of the whole physical world consists in what is very different from the subjective physical worlds. This is the species that is subjective physical representations or aboutnesses. Each one means or stands for something. They are not arcane. They are something like what comes into being when you name a child. They are the stuff not of perceptual consciousness but rather of cognitive and affective consciousness. Those two, again to be madly brief, are various kinds of thinkings etc. and various kinds of wantings etc -- and also mixes of the two, say intendings.
Subjective aboutnesses or representations are distinct from consciousness in perception, despite very often going along with consciousness in perception. Your attending to some particular one of the things you're seeing now is cognitive or/and affective consciousness.
These subjective physical aboutnesses or representations also have 16 characteristics, related to those of the objective physical world and those of subjective physical worlds. Some being the same and some different. Subjective physical aboutnesses are in a clear sense private rather than public -- and so on. Related to but certainly not the same as words printed on pages. But nothing deep here either, let alone airy-fairy.
Look up the various lists sometime if you're diligent in a couple of tables in that recent volume Ted Honderich on Consciousness, Determinism, and Humanity, edited by Professor Gregg Caruso of the State University of New York.
It's pretty safe to say, to come on to something else, that all previous accounts of the nature of consciousness in general, all of consciousness, the whole breadth of it, flattening accounts, and all accounts of chosen parts of consciousness, have divided into what have been named just physicalisms in a sense -- objective physicalisms or materialisms in a sense -- and dualisms.
The physicalisms or materialisms in short being that the mind just is the brain, has only the properties of the brain, is just all those objectively physical neurons in their complex networks. The dualisms or spiritualisms (yes, the latter including those abstract functionalisms already mentioned) being in short that the mind is not the brain but is somehow related to it, maybe somehow above it. Mind maybe ghostly stuff, indeed something recently obscurely called just abstract.
The physicalisms -- the objective physicalisms re consciousness -- fail in making consciousness not different, which we sure know it is.
The dualisms, also including more of what can be called the recent computerisms, which are not benighted objective physicalisms, fail in making consciousness itself unreal and ineffective, which we know it is not.
Both the physicalisms and the dualisms also have lesser failings.
The physicalisms do not recognize at all the mind-body problem, better called the mind-brain problem. They disable themselves from giving solutions to this obvious and overwhelming problem of the relation of consciousness to the brain by in effect denying the problem. The problem arises, despite the denial of it, because there is indeed some fundamental difference between mind and brain -- including at least a question, some question, about the physicality of consciousness.
As for the dualisms, yes, their making consciousness unreal and not effective, their epiphenomenalism, more or less excludes them from consideration with respect to the mind-body problem -- excludes them even just by their denial of the problem, wholly unpersuasively. They should be left in their own past century, first left there by all our neuroscientists, notably what I take to be the philosophically gullible ones.
The Actualism theory of consciousness, to go on with that, is different fundamentally and you might say completely from objective physicalisms and dualisms.
It is that consciousness is actual in several defined and clarifiable senses. So it is both different and also not unreal or ineffective. Still, is the theory clear and unavoidable -- or conceivably idiosyncratic or just batty? The first alternative of clarity and unavoidability isn't proved since there just aren't proofs in philosophy. One reason philosophy isn't easy.
That isn't to say with Noam Chomsky, by the way, as you will be hearing from me, in fact our main subject here, that no theory of the nature of consciousness is possible at all -- say advanceable with good reason.
The Actualism theory begins from a figurative or metaphorical database that in fact you yourself share -- and in fact contribute to yourself. Consider yourself right now. Consider your admittedly figurative ordinary thought and talk about your being conscious. Your being conscious right now, just for a start, is something's being there, right there, something given, somehow or other existing, something being had, immediate, open, for something else, something not deduced from anything else, proximal rather than distal, and so on and so on.
The Actualism theory in beginning from a database is in that good sense empirical.
And the theory goes on to give as or rather defend as the figurative summary of consciousness, in fact of the database, that it is something's being actual. Defend an understanding of what consciousness is in general -- understand it as what can indeed be called just actual consciousness. Ordinary conciousness is actual consciousness.
Yes, the Actualism theory for good or ill is definitely new. Well beyond, indeed out of sight of, say, William James's still cited but entirely unexplained 'stream of consciousness'. Mainly and most obviously new in the matter of subjective physicality as defined and its sorts. For good or ill, the theory is really different from what preceded it about mind and consciousness in philosophy and science. Not only from objective physicalism and from dualisms.
Also different from five leading ideas of consciousness, including the goodish but elusive idea from Tom Nagel that a thing's being conscious is there being something it's like to be that thing. And the idea of phenomenality, whatever that is, and so on. The ideas, even what is to me usually a kind of mumbling about qualia, remain important. In their failing they provide criteria that have to be shown to be satisfied by a successful theory -- and are I say satisfied by Actualism.
Actualism is also different from my own preceding struggles with consciousness. Different from what was called the Union Theory of mind and brain, also called the theory of Consciousness as Existence, the solution of 'psychoneural pairs', and a little beyond Radical Externalism, and so on -- all looked back on and summed up, by the way, in the book Philosopher: A Kind of Life, which is half life and half philosophy.
You could say in sum that Actualism is an attempt at a little Copernicanism, an attempt at a real change in our view of ourselves, if not quite as grand as the revolution of getting the relation of the sun and the earth right.
If that newness unsettles you, do have the true thought or maybe recollection that it has very commonly been said in recent decades by philosophers and indeed some scientists that what is needed about mind and consciousness is indeed something different, something very different.
Colin McGinn, my old colleague at University College London and also the writer of the most savage review of a philosophy book (one of mine) ever written, and now as companionable as I am, used to be known partly for saying exactly that something brand new about consciousness was needed. Including something to replace what was called by others his own mysterianism about consciousness, which mysterianism included the idea that we humans have as much chance of understanding consciousness as chimps have of doing physics, more particularly Quantum Theory.
The Actualism theory, to go on still nervously with this new and very quick introduction to it, unlike other general, complete, or encompassing theories of consciousness, athough Actualism too gives a general or complete or summary account -- something's being actual -- Actualism gives one that also really divides all of consciousness into the three parts, involving fundamental differences.
Thus, if you are still worried by newness, you can have the reassurance that Actualism goes along in a way with -- continues -- the whole history of the philosophy of mind and maybe science when that hasn't been wholly general or universal, when it hasn't been saying just what all consciousness shares, when instead it distinguishes the three sides of consciousness, gives different accounts of one or more of them.
Actualism, so, goes along in particular with the past philosophy of mind when that has indeed been concerned not with all of consciousness, a general property of it all, but has been concerned with one or the other of (i) consciousness in seeing, hearing, touching and other perception, (ii) consciousness that is thinking in its various kinds, and (iii) consciousness that is sometimes called attitudes -- having to do with wanting and the like -- including valuing things and so on, and thus including ethics. So there's a continuity as well as a discontinuity with the past. In particular with respect to perception and attitudes.
But all that is quite enough preface, which everything up to here has been. On to the theory of Actualism itself, in its three parts.
Your being perceptually conscious right now -- being conscious within perception, which certainly is not the whole story of perception, which includes eyes for a start -- your being perceptually consciousness right now consists in one of those subjective physical worlds out there and an explanation of what it depends on. Again, your being perceptually conscious right now consists in a stage of a world, maybe a room. Certainly not identical with the objective physical world mentioned back at the beginning here. It is lawfully dependent for its existence on that objective physical world, and, to be brief, on you neurally.
But your cognitive consciousness, so different from your perceptual consciousness, as you know already and certain philosophers shouldn't have forgotten about for a minute, does in fact consist in certain aboutnesses or representations or the like within you. Inner things but related in kind to the most familiar of aboutnesses -- those outer aboutnesses, words out there on pages and pictures on walls and maps and so on. What else needs to be said, if quickly, is that your cognitive consciousness in particular consists in representations or aboutnesses, somehow including words, that have to do somehow or other with truth, somehow with whether something is true.
Truth itself, thank God, is no great mystery. Truth is of course what has been called correspondence to fact. It's not propositions just hanging together consistently or more closely, or being what is called being coherent, or anything like that. But correspondence to fact, of course, needs explaining.
According to my own idea, which certainly has antecedents, anything's being true at bottom is something's referred to really having a property that it is described as having. But truth isn't just something just about language, only about linguistic acts, about referring and describing. Correspondence to fact of the basic kind as just understood also is truth being something in the world being a certain way. As in the case of the weather being cool. Or of Chomsky having started his career by rescuing the whole science of linguistics from Behaviourism, which he did. Rescuing the science forever from the ruling idea, to be a little quick with it, that your wanting to buy a book is your going to a bookshop, your legs taking you there.
To go beyond the referring-describing or a-way-the-world-is foundation of language, and to say something of the case of the truth when it is not of a referring-describing statement but rather of, say, consider just the existential rather than referring-describing statement -- the existential statement 'Lions exist'. That truth comes to its being the case that somewhere or other the referring-describing statement 'That's a lion' is such that what is referred to is as it's described to be -- something in the world is that way. Other categories than true existential statements are true in virtue of different relations to referring-describing statements.
So much for cognitive consciousness. Your affective consciousness is certainly different.
Your affective consciousness now also consists in aboutnesses or representations but ones having or having something to do with something quite other than just truth-valuing in the sense just summarized. Affective consciousness consists in aboutnesses or representations that are your taking something to be somehow good or the like -- maybe lovely, maybe neat, proper, maybe morally right, true to Conservatism or Democratic Socialism, maybe of essential consequences rather than anything else. The ends justifying the means? do I hear you ask. What else could?
It's natural to say, then, as people do, that affective consciousness unlike the other two sides, perceptual and cognitive consciousness, consists in attitudes. A lot of them will be among those to be examined in, if it gets written, that now has the possible title The Reasons of Our Societies -- and Retorts To Them.
The Actualism account of perceptual consciousness, to go back to it, whatever else has to be said in the whole account, which can't be simple, and whose sequence of construction as already indicated isn't simple -- the Actualism account of perceptual consciousness is distantly related to if far beyond, or anyway shares what you can call some motivation with, old theories or understandings of perceptual consciousness that are known as naive realism or direct realism. Those, if common-sensical, are somehow only vaguely to the effect that in perception we are in direct or immediate or unmediated touch with the world -- I guess what above called the objective physical world.
The Actualism accounts not of perceptual consciousness but of cognitive and affective consciousness are also related to but very far beyond much contemporary and past theorizing about all of consciousness having to do with aboutnesses or representations. Beyond just universal or pure or exclusive representationism. For Actualism, aboutnesses are indeed like words on pages and drawings on walls -- but very different in being actual -- in including being actual -- in a defined and wholly literal sense. But cognitive and affective consciousness aren't all consciousness.
As you won't have forgotten, perceptual consciousness in Actualism is very different. It is the existence of those subjective physical worlds. To which can be added that they are dependent as a matter of lawful connection -- this connection being what you can call despite-whatever-else-is-happening connection -- a matter of natural or scientific law. They are dependent on both the objective physical world and on a perceiver, say a perceiver neurally. So your subjective physical world right now, very likely a room, is partly dependent on you. I won't try go further into all that now.
Please don't sneak out of this online mini-lecture early, right now, for any reason. Let alone in a huff at unfamiliarity or a different terminology -- or at necessary complication. There is in fact relatively little in any of Actualism that is open to the charge, by the way, of being metaphysics -- if that is taken as something really deep. There's nothing really deep around here, even if there are the various conceptions of related things to be kept distinct and straight and remembered, which maybe isn't easy. Like in some science? Most of it?
Yes, Actualism is metaphysics in what can be taken as a perfectly respectable sense. Here metaphysics can be said to be a philosophical inquiry into fundamental concepts, as Wikipedia reports -- or rather, of course, to be more specific, inquiry into their subjects. what the concepts are of. The examples given, arguably enough, if certainly not the only ones, are said to be being, existence, reality, space and time, causality, physicality, maybe knowledge, and freedom.
Maybe the self -- our selves, whatever those are -- a different answer to which is one of the side-recommendations of Actualism. It turns the subject of the self, ego, the subject and all that old jazz into the different and known subject of personal identity -- in the ordinary sense who you are, what person.
Real or decent metaphysics, of course, has nothing to do with metaphysics in the pejorative sense, where it is or may also be elusive or elevated talk with no basis in reality. Maybe talk in our democratic politics, brought to its perfection by Trumpery. The philosopher you are reading, like all philosophers half worth the name, are honourably far above or rather honourably far below metaphysics in the pejorative sense.
The work or struggle of some of us, by the way, is in another category -- naturalism. But I leave you to clarify that, maybe with a little help from a few entries in The Oxford Companion to Philosophy.
There's also a simplicity in what you've been hearing -- clarity and continuity despite the necessary complexity. The genus whole physical world in general, as you've heard, is defined principally in terms of or by way of the species and subspecies making it up. The species objective physical world is defined unspeculatively in terms of those 16 related but partly different characteristics. So with the species subjective physical worlds and the species subjective physical aboutnesses -- thinkings and wantings -- and their partly different characteristics.
The Chomsky-on-Honderich subject mentioned in my title above, now to get around to that, more than a little late, but after what has been an absolutely necessary preparation, is his piece 'Mentality Beyond Consciousness'. It's in that volume edited by Professor Caruso. For more details of the Caruso volume, go online to https://www.palgrave.com/gb/book/9783319667539
I repeat, about what you've heard here so far on consciousness, that if you're brave about getting more of a quick understanding, you could do worse than glance at just the table of the physicalities on p.6 of the Caruso volume -- the table of physicality, objective physicality, and the sorts of subjective physicality. The table in part summarizes everything of Actualism. It's also in my recent thing Mind: Your Consciousness Is What and Where?
If you are a glutton for trying to get all or anyway more of a quickish understanding early, there is also an enlarged table, something prompted exactly by our present concern -- Noam on me -- the enlarged table of physicalities on p.119 of the Caruso volume. It includes unconscious mentality specifically.
Come now to another and smaller subject, but in fact the real aim of this whole piece you're reading, That is a particular defence of Actualism, a self-defence of me by me, to which everything said so far has in fact been an anticipation -- if a very necessary anticipation, in fact the whole premise of what follows, my conclusion or self-defence in response to objection by Noam.
Come on in part to the subject so far only mentioned of unconscious mentality -- as against conscious mentality or consciousness. And in particular to an objection to Actualism in connection with unconscious mentality, the objection raised and developed by Noam. An objection to the whole shebang of Actualism and to an awful lot else. A pretty fatal objection if it stands up? He does go for the jugular in a friendly way.
Of course unconscious mentality couldn't possibly be entirely avoided by me in advancing the theory of Actualism. The theory as you've heard has indeed been a theory of consciousness itself -- but the connection of that with unconscious mentality couldn't conceivably be entirely avoided. A full theory of something includes not only its own nature and its effects, but also its causes, its explanation in that sense. And so now, prompted by Noam, I have done a little more work in this neighbourhood. But just made something more explicit.
The result is what is useful and has not been hard to add -- another species to that genus that is physicality in general, and the sub-genus, so to speak, that is objective physicality. The particular further species that is that fourth one that you might expect -- objectively physical unconscious mentality. As you've heard. it gets included in the enlarged table on that p.119 of my responses to Noam in Professor Caruso's volume.
Noam for his part has it or anyway at least contemplates something pretty confidently. if certainly radically -- by God, it's news if true, as much news as Actualism itself.
It's that the philosophy of mind, anyway this main part of it, rightly becomes just something like a part of Noam's great specialism -- linguistics. Anyway to be carried forward in terms of it? At least aided by it? Conceivably uniquely aided by it? Noam wouldn't be entirely alone in that sort of thing. Or anyway -- certainly a lesser proposition by others -- Is consciousness or does consciousness involve a language of thought, something asserted but not much clarified by others? I remark just in passing that that definitely is just not true at all of exactly perceptual consciousness as we have been understanding it -- as distinct, of course, from any thinking within the course of it.
I have at moments been a little less than entirely certain about what Noam's conclusions come to -- what their burden is, what Noam's thesis about me is. It cannot be, I take it, that I do not recognize the causal role of unconscious mentality with respect to consciousness. I bloody do. There is repetition of that -- see the indexes to books -- my Actual Consciousness and elsewhere. He, you and I agree or can agree on that.
Noam's variously expressed general conclusion about consciousness and unconsciousness is supported by a whole battery of arguments and claims of evidence, about 14 of them, from ancient Greek philosophy about not being able to step into the same river twice, to at least sympathy with the 17th Century talk about real or inescapable 'secrets of nature', and right up to contemporary neuroscience. Even to Wittgenstein, whose respected presence on his subject of dolls and spirits in any real thinking surprises me. I myself would get very worried if it turned out the flatulent sage of Cambridge was on my side.
But the general conclusion about consciousness and unconsciousness being inextricable, interwoven, somehow language-sharing, something like indicated or proven to be such by an ordinary experience spoken of in terms of something having been in the back of the mind -- the general conclusion does seem to me at best to be wholly ineffective. To be bullish, it's to me really a complete non-starter, for plain reasons.
If so, by the way, this proposition of mind against inextricability will be good news for neuroscience as well as the philosophy of mind. If there is the inextricability etc. is a fact, that will be exactly as sadly consequential for the possibility of a theory of the brain as well as of consciousness.
To stick to our own present business, however, I have the nerve to deny Noam's general conclusion about the inseparability of consciousness and unconscious mentality not by way of further engagement here with the battery of Noam's arguments or anyway assertions in and the help from 'secrets of nature' proclaimed by Locke in the 17th Century, and Wittgenstein on dolls.
My denial is owed to the patent size and I trust strength of the case on my side, Actualism as laid out.
There is all that distinguishing in my stuff on consciousness, hardly any of which distinguishing has a real counterpart with unconscious mentality. And whatever in unconsciousness that is causal or otherwise lawfully connected with consciousness, that fact does not make consciousness and unconscious mentality indistinguishable. In fact, of course, causal or other lawlike connection requires difference.
So I bravely say conscious mentality has been distinguished from, has been separated from, unconcious mentality. I say so despite and maybe in illustration of my belief that philosophy does indeed consist in advocacy aimed at truth rather than proof -- advocacy sometimes effective or strong, advocacy that is at least good persuasion.
What my case comes to, the separateness of consciousness, is indeed my bag of stuff, the sum of the philosophy indicated already by what you have ploughed through above, as follows.
(1) Clarification of the subject of all ordinary consciousness in its three sides -- as actual in the full definition -- and of course thereby precisely or anyway almost entirely its difference from unconscious mentality. A lot to do with different lawful dependencies. To believe that ordinary consciousness has been clarified, of course, and that it is not identical with unconscious mentality, must be to take Noam's 14 reasons advanced against that fact to be at the very least insufficient.
To repeat, also, my reflections distinguish conciousness from unconscious mentality by specifying and elaborating those properties of consciousness that we all know unconscious mentality lacks -- whatever the facts of its causal or other lawful connection with determinism.
(2) This sum, to say a bit more, begins from something mentioned at the start here, your hold in memory on your consciousness, your remembering right now an item a moment or a minute ago, which hold certainly isn't any kind of inner peering. Not anything made suspect by superior talk of 19th Century or subsequent 'introspection'. Whatever help you may have got from Freud et al. you have no hold at all -- none of the given kind -- on your unconscious. By God that's a difference already.
(3) There's also that pre-philosophical database of our shared conceptions of consciousness, indubitably conceptions even if admittedly more figurative than literal. Talk, definitions, axioms, principles, etc. The 40 items. They are or are mainly or at least include properties of consciousness that patently are presented as and are not properties at all of unconscious mentality itself.
This sum is itself, in my view, a lot more than just a very good start on making a distinction, a distinction that is that summation of consciousness but certainly not unconscious mentality, as something's being actual -- a figurative summation capable of being made otherwise, being made a lot more.
I confess to thinking that here by itself we have what distinguishes consciousness from unconsciouness. If the job in hand were only just distinguishing consciousness from unconscious mentality, surely there would be little need to go further. But in fact an awful lot of other distinguishings follow.
(4) What follows after the database, apparently as in so much of science, a very early part of the scientific method, is an advance from that admittedly figurative database to a wholly literal and very full account of the causes or other necessary conditions of actual consciousness, and of course its own nature, and its effects. A lot of work and time -- the main struggle -- goes into the different literal accounts of things being actual.
(5) There is in particular the whole clarification of the actuality of consciousness being its subjective physicality, or rather the different and defined and discussed subjective physicalities of perceptual, cognitive, and affective consciousness. This meat of Actualism is what first makes the difference between consciousnness and unconscious mentality.
Consciousness as against unconciousness, I maintain, is clarified by a pile of things -- including its relation to perception itself, point of view, primary and secondary properties to an extent, private and public, privileged access or common access, an individuality or unity consisting in dependencies, no funny self or ego in you -- real personal identity or individuality instead. You could say that clarification of consciousness as against all else, of course including unconscious mentality, is pretty much the whole campaign of Actualism.
(6) Perceptual consciousness, to repeat myself, is laid out partly in terms of its dual dependency -- subjective physical worlds being lawfully dependent both on the objective physical world and on a perceiver neurally. Cognitive and affective consciousness are laid out in terms of thoughts and feelings also clarified.
(7) As for the mind-body problem Actualism of course grants that the problem has arisen and stayed risen despite the responses of physicalism and dualism. Actualism has good reason to take the problem arguably as solved. It does so by making consciousness subjectively physical in ways, such as to be in relation with brain as objectively physical, The relation, of course, is simply lawful connection, which is fully open to the whatever-else understanding. If you're diligent, by the way, you can also look that up in my past.
Of course there is the assumption in my consciousness stuff, for a start, although the matter is not much looked into, that with respect to consciousness, there is some counterpart division of unconscious mentality -- and conceivably or even presumably a counterpart unconscious fact for each and every conscious fact.
But no, and I trust Noam agrees, it doesn't follow at all from that that Actualism makes not enough distinction between conscious and unconscious mentality. I repeat that things found to be causally or lawfully related aren't thereby found to be somehow one thing or on the way to one thing. Indeed if they are causally or lawfully related, they just can't be one thing.
If of course there is a little sense in which you can't extricate consciousness from unconsciousness, the sense in which unconciousness enters into a conception that includes the explanation of the occurrence of conscious events and states, there plainly is also a sense in which you can't have a theory of just consciousness. But evidently there is another sense in which what is extricated from consciousness is also plainly and obviously included in the conception of consciousness.
Yes Actualism doesn't try to answer a question it isn't trying to answer -- the question of the full nature and causal or other role of unconscious mentality. Of course it doesn't have to. Any more than it has to answer the general and large questions of the various effects of consciousness. Actualism, you can say, just is the full distinguishing of consciousness -- itself, causation or the like of it, consequences of it. That's what Actualism does and is.
Maybe instead, if you do ask for more, just give attention to the first third of Caruso's volume on my stuff. The contributors on consciousness in addition to Noam are Paul Snowdon, Alastair Hannay, Barbara Gail Montero, and Barry Smith. Although Barry for one has grumpy doubts about my getting somewhere on the reality of consciousness, there is nothing by any of the contributors against the distinction between consciousness and unconsciousness. Yes, they might all be wrong, sharing an illusion, but....
Do you also ask if there's just too much in Actualism, or ask worse about the whole thing resisting getting hold of? Too many damned categories etc? Complexity? Too much walking around, too much English pedestrian philosophy, in the database? Too much in all of Actualism to be manageable? Manufactured complexity? All the lines in the bloody tables? Too much to be at least a good start on truth?
Well, have another look at or just think of something in a higher class, the highest class. The really great theory of evolution, out of sight of Actualism. If necessary, start on evolution with Wikipedia and the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. The theory always was overwhelming. It's still overwhelming, maybe moreso. There's been a lot of thinking and rethinking too. It's a pile.
One question that can't be left out in my defence of Actualism is or has to do with at least the temptation of asking whether the relations I myself assert between consciousness and unconscious mentality can really effectively be conceived as not only lawful but somehow conceptual -- of course not joining Noam in making consciousness and unconscious mentality indistinguishable. We do not have to exclude conceptual connection, but as Actualists we don't have to work at it.
Our theory, I also say, is a fertile theory. And there are spin-offs like one about determinism and freedom. In short, as I myself have no doubt, Actualism is a lot better theory in this way than dualism/subjectivism or physicalism/materialism -- a lot better than dopey ghosts or else mere brain cells no matter how wonderfully richly connected.
In farewell, sorry a very little about the complexity or anyway richness of the theory, and sorry more about the imperfection of this boiling down of it, this incompleteness. A boiling down a little way on the way to the lowest form of intelligent life, which is pop philosophy. This piece isn't perfect, far from it, like the one that precedes it here.
But what you've heard shows or indicates, doesn't it, that just about everything in Actualism distinguishes consciousness from unconsciousness? Very likely, as some fellow has said this week in a little row in The Royal Institute of Philosophy here in London, some member of the new dime-a-dozen class of Professors with a capital P, that I'm just a 'mediocre' philosopher. Could well be. But I put it to you anyway that Actualism is more than worth thinking about.
And there's more in defence of it against Noam in my remarks on him in that Caruso volume. And also remarks in that same volume on determinism or explanationism, to which consciousness isn't irrelevant at all. And on morals and politics -- which is a good part of affective consciousness.
All of which -- consciousness and mind, determinism or explanationism, and right and wrong -- the last of which according to me and conceivably also Noam is humanity as against inhumanity -- fit together well enough.
One last thing that Noam doesn't mention in the piece in the Caruso volume that we are considering is more than worth remembering.
He tells me by email that he continues to maintain that there just is no adequate conception of the physical. There is none as a result, to be brief, of the advance of science and of physics in particular far beyond relatively simple particles etc. As you will not have forgotten, I have implicitly denied, and in effect explicitly denied, that there is no adequate conception of the physical. To be on the way to details of my conception of the physical, of course advanced as adequate, study that table or rather those two tables of physicalities already mentioned in the Caruso volume.
If we were to accept that there is no adequate conception of the physical in science, would we be forced to Noam's proposition that somehow -- somehow or other -- there is is no distinction between consciousness and unconscious mentality?
That is not the case, or in sight of being the case in terms of my analysis in Actualism of the subjective physicality of perceptual, cognitive and affective consciousness -- as against objective physicality and in particular the objective physicality of unconscious mentality. As remarked before now, look at the enlarged table of all of physicality on p 119 of the Caruso volume -- including the additional column on unconscious mentality prompted by Noam. Of course the table it is not in sight of ruling out distinction between conscious and unconscious and is itself a detailed denial of no distinction.
I add, as well, that even acceptance of there being no distinction would not get in the way of a rewriting of Actualism into a kind of remnant of itself -- but one that still made a difference between consciousness and unconsciousness. I leave consideration of this to any volunteer. Maybe an additional postgraduate volunteer.
If you are hale and hearty, and want a lot more evidence for my confidence in Actualism or anyway very good hope for it, go to and work through that pile of instruction and detail in the 402 pages of Actual Consciousness (Oxford University Press, 2014). Of course, in particular, although it can't be a main or even a big subject, there is a good deal about exactly unconscious mentality in the book. See the entry on it in the index.
Or you could give attention to that precis-book Mind: Your Consciousness Is What and Where? (Reaktion Books, University of Chicago Press, 2017). Its index too.
But still more comes to mind right now. Have I not seen and rightly weighed exactly Noam's line of argument against me? Has the haste of amour propre made for mistake? Imperfection in presentation? Too far above and away from pop philosophy? No doubt. Admitted.
Start your own inquiry with his book Reflections on Language. Or Neil Smith's fine book on him Chomsky: Ideas and Ideals. Go on to Louise Antony and Norbert Hornstein, Chomsky and his Critics, these being philosophers, and, for the possible aid of something on larger but maybe distantly related issues, the collection of political philosophy by Noam himself, Necessary Illusions: Thought Control in Democratic Societies.
A new postscript. My own final scorecard in this week of the World Cup in football? Scorecard of Philosophy v. Linguistics About Consciousness? Goals in the end after extra time? Well, I say Philosophy 3, Linguistics 1.
Now to leave the two stages of 'Honderich on Chomsky on Honderich' with respect to conscious and unconscious mentality, and to say more in advance of what is on this whole website, it does indeed consist in philosophers' pages. In them are many more writings by me, some by others.
One commitment in all this is to mainstream philosophy. Not pop philosophy. Mainstream philosophy is not ownership of but is a greater concentration than that of science on the logic of ordinary intelligence. That logic has the characteristics of (i) clarity, usually analysis, (ii) consistency and validity, (iii) completeness, and (iv) generalness. In short, thinking about facts rather than getting to them? Not to be confused with formal or mathematical logic, which has not solved and maybe has not advanced any philosophical problem.
There is a full index at the end to everything on the website, but here is a quick summary, anyway a start on one.
1. A lot of papers on what consciousness and mind are -- and where they are, which latter question has not been enough asked. Also on the relation of mind and brain, the mind-body problem.
2. The announcement of and introduction to the 2018 book on consciousness etc. Mind: Your Consciousness Is What and Where?, from the publishers Reaktion Books and Chicago University Press. A kind of precis-book of and in some ways an advance on the 213,000 words of Actual Consciousness, 2014, Oxford University Press.
3. A tale of a row about consciousness, more or less academic, more or less philosophical, with another philosopher, Colin McGinn, thought to deserve space in The New York Times and other respectable organs. And the row ended.
4. Some papers on determinism and freedom. On the clarification and truth of determinism or explanationism and the resulting nonexistence of one kind of freedom -- origination or free will. But the continued existence of a second freedom, voluntariness. Also, despite the lack of origination, a standing we have in virtue of the truth about consciousness -- and hence our subjective physical worlds.
5. Some papers on right and wrong -- the fundamental general principle of right and wrong, the Principle of Humanity. The principle in brief is that what is right is what is any rational means to the end of getting and keeping people out of bad lives, these being defined in terms of the great human desires.
6. A few papers on terrorism and what is rightly named terrorist war. Also on punishment by the state and in particular the reality of retribution.
7. Papers on a pretty wide variety of more particular subjects and philosophers -- for example Bertrand Russell's Theory of Descriptions, the worth of A. J. Ayer as philosopher, and on the philosophers Simon Blackburn, Burge, David Chalmers, Donald Davidson, Jurgen Habermas, Anthony Kenny, Alasdair MacIntyre, Tom Nagel, Derek Parfit, John Searle, Peter Strawson, Bernard Williams -- and such a scientist or two as Benjamin Libet.
8. Visiting lectures and talks and something from an autobiography-with-philosophy.
9. A speech or two, as political as philosophical, one to the Oxford Student Union, another to the occupation of St. Paul's Cathedral in London, and an interview or two.
10. A record of a scandal in and of Germany about Zionism and Neo-Zionism, racial prejudices or alleged prejudices or just racisms of Anti-Semitism and of Semitism, including a confident self-defence.
11. A television programme alas, made from the book Humanity, Terrorism, Terrorist War.
A past day's public lectures
Senate House, University of London, Malet Street, February 2013
The Royal Institute of Philosophy, of which he was a useful chairman, was pleased to announce a day celebrating the work of Ted.
Five speakers considered one or more of sides of Ted's philosophy or a piece of one and he made responses -- all of which you can find online by clicking here.
Prof. Noam Chomsky. MIT, ‘Unconscious Mentality: Some Speculations’
Prof. Gregg D. Caruso, SUNY, ‘Origination, Moral Responsibility, Punishment, and Life-Hopes: Ted Honderich on Determinism and Freedom’
Prof. Tim Crane, Cambridge, ‘What is Actually in Consciousness? Comment on Ted Honderich’s Actual Consciousness’
Prof. Paul Gilbert, Hull, ‘Ted Honderich and Terrorism’
Prof. Paul Snowdon, University College London, ‘Ted Honderich on Consciousness’
Prof. Anthony O’Hear of The Royal Institute presided.
A book of papers
The arranged contributors on consciousness and mind were Chomsky, Snowdon, Alastair Hannay of the University of Oslo, Barbara Montero of the Graduate Centre of the City University of New York, Barry Smith of the Institute of Philosophy, University of London.
Those on determinism or explanationism and freedom etc are Derk Pereboom of Cornell University,
Caruso, Paul Russell of the University of British Columbia and the
University of Gothenburg, and Kevin Timpe of Calvin College,
on right and wrong, the Principle of Humanity, terrorism etc are Mary
Warnock of Oxford, Paul Gilbert of Hull University, Richard
Norman of Kent University, and Michael Neumann of Trent University.
Saul Smilansky of Haifa University considered right and wrong in Israel
and Palestine as well as determinism and freedom.
Ted's lecture handout on the day
CONSCIOUSNESS -- THE ACTUALISM THEORY
This, if it is a workplace rather than a final theory or a so-called one, is indubitably a long way from those two main fairy tales still told or remembered --
(1) Consciousness is just objectively or scientifically physical stuff in your head, soggy grey matter as Colin McGinn contemplated, anyway only neural networks, however generally functionally-related within themselves or to other things.
(2) Consciousness is ghostly stuff, as in the old, old Greek theory of mind-brain dualism, to go on misappropriating that term for there being two things with one not physical and somewhere above the other. Or the entirely similar ghostly stuff in the abstract functionalism of very much cognitive science, tied to the more than chancey proposition of multiple or variable realization -- that exactly and precisely the same thought or hope or whatever can go with different brain states.
We do not have to wait for an Einstein of consciousness. We do not have to be pessimistic about solving the problem right now.
There is something we can start with. That is a rich figurative database on consciousness in the primary ordinary sense, derivable from the language of philosophers, scientists and others. About 40 items, including their taking being conscious in this sense as being the having of something, its being there, its being open, its being transparent in the sense of being clear straight-off, its not being deduced, inferred, constructed or posited from something else, its being given, its being right there, its somehow existing, being what gives rise to philosophical talk of content or object, its being present, its being presented, its being what McGinn speaks of as vividly naked, and so on. (??? To full database below.)
The database can be summed up as initially adequately identifying primary ordinary consciousness as being something's being actual, as being actual consciousness.Patently this consciousness is not all of the mental or the mind, where the latter is what includes more than consciousness in this sense, say what enables me right now to do what is different, think for a moment of my age.
The figurative database, with some significant help, including contemplation of various shortcomings of existing theories of consciousness and thus the assembling of certain criteria for a good one, leads somewhere, as in many different cases in the history of science. To an entirely literal theory -- in this case Actualism.
The theory consists in answers as to (i) what is actual in the three different sides of consciousness -- perceptual, cognitive, affective -- and (ii) what being actual is. Of course it is a dualism in the sense that any sane theory is -- it makes a difference between consciousness and the rest of what there is.
In perceptual consciousness, what is actual is subjective physical worlds out there, stages of them, often rooms. Worlds no more myriad in number than piles of things in science. Their being actual is exactly their being subjectively physical. In cognitive and affective consciousness, what is actual is representations-with-attitude, in here, cranial. Their being actual is their being differently subjectively physical.
So, without any leap to theory or hurry to generality about any of the physical, but pedestrianly -- here is a comparative table of summation. It shows the genus of all physicality, consisting of two species and then two sub-species of the second species. Thus samenesses and differences between three things.
/ / \
/ / \
In short, perceptual consciousness does indeed consist in certain dependent worlds out there, not representations or images or anything of the sort, whatever registration-without-representation there may be of the objective physical world on a perceiver. Cognitive and affective consciousness, however, are representations-with-attitude in here -- the attitudes having to do respectively with truth or with good.
None of ancient or
contemporary ghostly stuff in this story. None of sense data or 'mental paint',
or the vagueness of 'content', or something discernible but transparent, or a
theatre of the mind with a spotlight. And nothing of the behaviourism from which Chomsky
awakened several whole professions and their fans, or physical functionalism on
its own as against being a possible component elsewhere in the theory of Actualism. Or in this story of
perceptual consciousness itself any vulnerability to the tired objections from
illusion and hallucination. Or any representions elsewhere in the wider category
of the mental.
Nor in Actualism is there the elusiveness of talk of phenomenality, let alone the circularity of so much thinking on consciousness, such as it consisting in what it's like to be something. Or my own old Union Theory of interdependent effects. Or Galen Strawson's breathtaking revival of the aspectual theory of panpsychism. Nor entities of the all-inclusive, blanketing and flattening previous contemporary externalisms -- meanings or individuators or whatever, theories seemingly advanced of all of perceptual, cognitive and affective consciousness -- those of Hilary Putnam, Tyler Burge, Andy Clark, and Alva Noe.
Of course there are questions about Actualism. Say Chomsky's implied and unsettling one about whether we can have an adequate conception of the physical at all despite science not having provided one since about as far back as Newton. And of course questions about the relation of consciousness to the rest of the mental, thus the relation of Actualism to mentalism in a very general sense -- or in Chomsky's particular sense. A question too of whether Actualism will defeat the fortress of intentionality or aboutness as the nature of all consciousness, standing since the mediaevals and Brentano in the 19th Century, so newly fortified by Tim Crane. And is Actualism the very nerve or strength of Searle's lovely and celebrated Chinese Room argument against computerism about consciousness?
conscousness, consciousness in the primary ordinary sense, actual
consciousness, the right subject of consciousness? There isn't one right
subject. But this is the necessary
one. All others depend on the primary ordinary sense.
 DETERMINISM / EXPLANATIONISM AND FREEDOM
old and doubted
and condescended-to story is true. All spatio-temporal events or
states of whatever extent or duration without exception, everything
taking up some space and time, are effects or lawful correlates. All
events as distinct from
anything else, say '2+2=' and '4', any merely logically, conceptally,
mathematically, abstractly, or theoretically connected items or stages,
maybe bits of
Quantum Theory. Again, each thing that happens or lasts for a while has
a fundamental explanation.
To clarify this explanatory connection, each event or whatever is such that if or given a particular causal or other lawful circumstance or set of conditions happened, whatever else were also happening, the event or whatever would still have occurred. Causation and lawful connection in sum, no mystery or problem, is as plain as that strong or whatever-else conditional statement, that piece of plain English. When you hit the egg on the marble floor with the hammer a minute ago, whatever else had been true, it would still have broken.
Explanationism, as I
myself am now more inclined to call it, in order to avoid the misleading heavy connotations
of 'determinism', shared with
'fatalism' and 'predestination', is at the very least a reasonable assumption, in fact the gravamen of
naturalism and empiricism -- those fundamental recommendations of science. Despite talk of our supposedly revealing personal
'could-have-done-otherwise' experiences just after having decided or acted.
Explanationism stands despite wonderful interpretations or understandings of the mathematics of Quantum Theory, pieces of weak philosophy rightly spoken of as weird etc. About as hopeless as Schrodinger's cat, which, according to that thought-experiment in aid of an interpretation, is both alive and dead until it is observed. Also the impertinent nonsense, indeed tripe, that Einstein was a determinist because he was neurotic and needed to have a kind of reassurance about the world or God or something.
Also, in the absence of real chance or randonment in roulette wheels or levitating spoons at breakfast or any such wonders etc anywhere, it is necessary, if we turn to the brain or whatever, to suppose either that even if there were indeterminism down below in it, it doesn't translate upward to where it would count -- say the neurons. Does anybody at all say that neurons, neural activity, what neuroscience knows about, isn't cause and effect or any lawfulness? Just final and forever mystery?
Something else, in this case something philosophical, is also up the spout. The historical doctrines of traditional Compatibilism and Incompatibilism about determinism and freedom have been falsified, demonstrably so. I claim a little old credit there -- have a look at How Free Are You? or the heavy tome from which it comes, A Theory of Determinism: The Mind, Neuroscience, and Life-Hopes. Hume was wrong in taking our freedom as we understand it to be compatible or consistent with causation. Kant was just as wrong in taking our freedom as we understand it to be inconsistent with causation.
This is the case
simply since in our conceiving, indeed our ordinary thinking and feeling, as distinct from fact, there is both
(1) incompatible freedom (free will, origination, lawless and
unexplainable control, funny responsibility, exactly a fairy story about imaginary beings) and also (2) compatible
freedom (voluntariness -- choice and
action according to desire, thinking and doing out of embraced
Again, we have the idea or anyway the temptation towards the idea (i)
of choices and decisions that in the end somehow come from nowhere at
all -- everything could have been the same and they might not have
happened -- and (ii) not being in jail, not facing a man with a gun, or
your inner desire to be like everybody else not overwhelmed by the
neurotic compulsion to wash your hands 12 times a day.
It's obvious to your ordinary fifth former in my experience, most punters in Hay-on-Wye, if not to every neuroscienstist, that there not just one idea of freedom that we have, but the two. There is not one idea --which of course would have to be either inconsistent or not with something else. We've got two, one consistent and one inconsistent.
In place of Compatibilism and Incompatibilism, all that past, there is a related but alternative true-enough story called Attitudinism.
In short the real problem of determinism has been that of accomodating ourselves to the frustration of certain attitudes -- at bottom certain desires, stuff of Affective Consciousness rather than Cognitive or Perceptual. We run up against a conviction owed to reflecting on our own past lives. That conviction is that an attitude akin to the one tied to Indeterminism, that way of holding yourself lawlessly morally responsible, has some or other basis despite the truth of determinism. We need to look for a radical escape here, get out of cart tracks that have never got anywhere, be nearly as brave as the daredevil interpreters of the mathematics of Quantum Theory, but stay with our feet on earth. Even if we need to find a solution as radical here as Actualism is with the problem of perceptual consciousness. We need what I call an escape from dismay and intransigence about our lives into an attiutude you can call affirmation.
More particularly, such astute students as Bob Kane of free will or origination or inexplicable responsibility -- see his two vols called The Oxford Handbook of Free Will and The Oxford Handbook of Free Will revised edition -- have in fact allowed that in wanting the thing, we are in fact wanting something you can say is real, a certain human standing. We are wanting to be above nature or at least above the rest of nature. Not like the trees and the chairs.
We won't get this elevation, according to me, in more free will cogitation about funny powers, new randomness, God's gift, wonderful metaphysics, 'could have done otherwise' rewritten, neuroscience in the person of Libet having shown the mind is after the brain in time and then turning out to show it's before it, thereby saving free will. We won't get our elevation either, say, by what is to me the absurd argument that for determinism there is no sense in which we are in control when we decide to cross the street because we aren't in control of a train of past causes. See Wikipedia. We need something that will have to be very different.
The Actualism theory of consciousness provides this uniquely, as well as truth to our irrepressible conviction of subjectivity. In brief, very brief, it provides it as follows.
Each of us has the stages of a subjective physical world dependent on us as well as dependent on the objective physical world. You have such a room dependent on you right now.To be rhetorical, therefore, each of us is a little god, however petty. Still more seriously, really and absolutely seriously, each of us is lawful unity of perceptual, cognitive and affective consciousness that is also an individuality and a personal identity. That reality known to you, you could say lived in, and no inner entity, no such self, no spook, is the referent of your 'I', your use of the first-person pronoun.
Surely a case of a
little concentrated thought about one's self doing the trick?
There is a morality to which we are all committed, by two things, the first being its accord with the fact of our Affective Consciousness. More particularly with the fact of the great goods of our lives, the objects of what I count as our six great desires. Which great goods issue in each of us making and being certain of a moral judgements about each of us as distinct from anyone else having them, a seeming moral personal necessity, rightness. That is human nature. I have a claim to food, to be able to sleep....
The second thing, which must cut against this self-interest, is our minimal rationality, just the fact of our having reasons, including moral reasons necessarily as general as any other reasons. So we are committed, despite our disregarding it, anyway most of us, to a certain morality of good consequences for all by our individual human nature. This is a kind of moral truth, the fundamental moral truth.
More fully, we all desire (1) the great good of going on existing, including a personal world going on longer. (2) We want a kind of existence that has to do with our bodies -- not to be in pain, etc. (3) We want particular freedoms and powers. We do not want to be coerced by various personal circumstances arranged by others, subjected to compulsion, bullied, unable to run our own lives, weakened. (4) We want goods of relationship to those around us, closer and wider relationship. (5) Also respect and self-respect. (6) And the goods of culture, starting with being able to read.. All of us want at least some of the latter cutural goods. Many of us want the practice and reassurance of a religion, or the custom of a people, or a homeland, a real rather than a pretended one.
A bad life is to be defined in terms of the deprivation of the six great goods.
The Principle of Humanity then is simply that the right or justified thing as distinct from others -- the right intention, action, practice, punishment, struggle, institution, government, body of law, society, or possible world -- is the one that according to the best judgement and information is the rational means in the sense of being effective and not self-defeating with respect to the end of getting and keeping people in general out of the bad lives -- in well-being instead.
Of course a consequentialism as against the veils and paint-jobs over and on self-concern in which most morality consists. And of course not the nonsense that the end justifies the means, by the way, but the truth that the end and the means justify the means.
To the Principle of Humanity are attached certain policies, several fundamental ones having to do with redistribution of the means to well-being, starting with redistribution from possessors who in fact would not be significantly affected by the transfers. Another having to do with the necessity of escape from restraining conventionality in expression, societally-based constraint against moral truth. Less academic 'balance', less parliamentary language, less moderateness, less respect, less of a lot more.
The Principle of Humanity preceded but is consonant with and takes some support from recent humanitarian causes including armed interventions and pretences of them. It is the principle of the Left in politics when the Left is true to itself. The principle is superior to a slurry of attitudes in politics, international relations and conflict. E.g. talk, cant, ideology etc of deserts, equality, legality, our oligarchic and not merely hierarchic democracy, free enterprise, OK omissions as against terrible acts with just the same effects, moniedness in our societies, spurious sectional freedoms, 'our values', loosenesses about 'the just war', political traditions such as conservatism, liberalism, economism, etc.
All that is a mess, part of our own lower form of life. It raises the question of what to do.
With respect to terrorism as tolerably defined, the moral law that is the Principle of Humanity issues explicitly and arguably, for just one example, in a moral right for the Palestinians in what is known as their terrorism against neo-Zionism as distinct from Zionism. It issues of course in such a right as is also unfailingly claimed inexplicitly but in effect exactly by neo-Zionism itself, entirely wrongly, in its terrorism against the Palestinians, in its taking of the last one fifth of the land or liberty of the indigenous people of Palestine. A terrorism arguably different, by the way, from that of Zionism itself in 1948.
The Principle of Humanity also condemns terrorist war, including our war on Iraq, and certainly the war criminals and mass murderers Blair and Bush. It is respectable in not respecting wretched little evasions. In eschewing the pretence of fact, even by courts, the Principle of Humanity condemns the ongoing ethnic cleansing of neo-Zionism and the attack on and invasion of Gaza in 2015 by its army, arguably terrorist war at least more to be condemned than any concerted action of Palestinians at any time.
With respect to Islamic State, in Syria and Iraq, what is necessary for us is not only to act against barbarism and primitivism but to keep in mind our own civilized recent killing of a million or so more people than the barbarians.
Such a proper orientation, rational moral insecurity, denial of self-sanctification, must issue in real negotiation, negotiation that will give up on things -- negotiation mindful of our Sykes-Picot self-interested drawing of lines in the sand after World War 1, and all our subsequent exploitation and toleration of exploitation of peoples, and our ideology and our realpolitik and our terrorist air war in destruction of the society of Libya, and letting refugees/migrants drown in the Mediterranean, children among them, getting only the attention of photographers.
Only an inane political class, notably in England the morally stupid leaders of the party called New Labour, joining into the affective consciousness of Conservatism only minimally cognitive, only those speechifying violators of the tradition of democratic socialism, and in America uneducated and perhaps ineducable and hence unawakened but dreaming members of the Democratic Party -- only these could pretend otherwise, that there is nothing to be said on and for the other side.
The few signal exceptions in politics at this moment (12 February 2016) are of course the English and American Corbyn and Sanders. There is some hope there.
One ancient one still tempting such neuroscientists as Dave Chalmers is Dualism: that your consciousness is something non-physical, different in kind from your physical brain. Abstract Functionalism, owned by such as Ned Block, is all too close to it. That is to the effect that your conscious states and events are causes and effects somehow floating above your brain. All that is good in making consciousness different, which everybody knows, and a disaster in making it non-causal, which everybody also knows it is except Australian epiphenomenalists.
The commonest inclination in neuroscience and the like, I take it, is Physicalism. It is that your being conscious right now is a state or event of your objectively or scientifically physical brain. That is good in making consciousness causal, which we bloody know it is, but a disaster in making it just the same in fundamental nature as the chair under you or your toenails
The third theory is Actualism, which is what you and I believe. It starts uniquely by getting an adequate initial clarification of what we're talking about, consciousness -- before getting to a theory, an analytic account of its nature.
There's a database here, collected from the language of a lot of philosophers and the rest of the world, not just a philosopher's bright idea on Monday morning, or a neuroscientist's thought when she's off work on Sunday.
The database, by way of a descriptive label, is that being conscious is something's being actual. That label is metaphorical or figurative, just like what has issued in a lot or even most science on everything. It results in two questions that a good theory, of course perfectly literal, will answer. What's actual? What's its being actual?
Just as good as starting with a database, there's what we all know, that there's a big difference between consciousness in seeing, consciousness in any kind of perception, and consciousness that is just thinking and consciousness that is just wanting. Perceptual, cognitive, and affective consciousness.
What is actual with your perceptual consciousness in seeing the room you're in right now is a bloody room. Notice I said a, not the. Nothing else. Absolutely no sign, image, representation or anything of the sort. You know the difference between what's a sign o image and what isn't. So do I. A picture that is up on a wall is an image, but a room isn't.
What's actual with you thinking a thought about consciousness, or your wanting to be somewhere else, however, is exactly a representation -- with an attitude attached to it related somehow to truth or to something like what's good.
And what is it for the room or the representation to be actual? It's for it to be physical, but subjectively rather than objectively physical. Physicality in general divides into the two big categories --objecive and subjective.
What is it for the room to be subjectively physical? It's to be out there in space with a lot of other properties, 16 I think, nothing like anything behind your forehead, and for it to be lawfully dependent -- not exactly causally dependent but related to that -- on both the objective room out there and also on your brain.
And an idea or hope of yours, cognitive or affective consciousness, is differently subjectively physical. It is an aboutness as we can say, just as a room is a room, and it is subjectively physical in having a lot of properties related to those of the room, and being dependent on the rest of you -- on you neurally, also known as the personal identity that is you.
It's all written down in a paperback book out more or less today. Get it. Join the future before it gets here. Stuff boring dualism and abstract functionalism. Stuff boring scientific or objective physicalism. If you want to join the future still cheaper, go to the T.H. website.
FREEDOM IN FLAMES
Audience handout that didn't get handed out -- reasonably enough since meeting was a panel discussion with Barry Smith, Susana Martinez-Conde, and the chairman Michael Crick.
A condescended-to story is true. All apatio-temporaral events or happenings or states, as distinct from anything else, say merely logically, conceptally, linguistically, mathematically or theoretically connected items or stages, maybe bits of bloody Quantum Theory, are effects or lawful correlates. Each has a fundamental explanation. I.e. each is such that if or given a particular causal or other lawful circumstance or set of conditions, whatever else were also happening, the event or whatever would still have occurred.
Explanationism, as I myself am now more inclined to call it, in order to avoid the misleading heavy connotations of 'determinism', shared with 'fatalism', maybe 'predestination', is at least a reasonable assumption, in fact the gravamen of naturalism and empiricism. Despite our supposedly revealing personal 'could-have-done-otherwise' experiences after having decided or acted. Also despite wonderful interpretations of the mathematics of Quantum Theory, rightly spoken of as weird etc., about as hopeless as Schrodinger's cat, which, according to that thought-experiment, is both alive and dead until it is observed.
Also, in the absence of real chance in roulette wheels or levitating spoons at breakfast or water that doesn't freeze no matter the temperature, any such wonders etc, it is necessary, if we turn to the brain or whatever, to suppose either that there isn't indeterminism down below in it or around it. Or that if there is, mad idea as that is, it doesn't translate upward to where it would count.
In fact explanationism as against real chance is simply the proposition for which there is more evidence than for any
other general proposition about the world and our existence. All of
science except the cooky interpretation of the mathematics of Quantum
Theory is solid for explanationism. The evidence is overwhelming, and
that it is not seen to be must be owed to some 'non-rational' cause. At
bottom it must be owed somehow to desire or desires, interest or
interests in that sense. It must be owed to something, indeed, in which
politics in a general sense has a part. It is my view, anyway
speculation, that it is owed to a very general tradition that can have
the name of being conservatism.-- the ruling ttradition that has as its basis the principle of desert,
whatever that principle comes to. If it comes to nothing, then
conservatism is unique among political traditions that has no principle
to justify the self-interest that it shares with the rest of us.
The two big historical doctrines, that explanationism is compatible with freedom and that it is not, are up the spout. This is the case simply since in our conceiving, as distinct from fact, there is both incompatible freedom (origination, free will, lawless and unexplainable control and responsibility) and also compatible freedom (voluntariness -- choice and action according to desire, embraced desires, etc, and thus quite unfated). There is not one idea --which of course would have to be either inconsistent or not with something else.
short story for the subject of 'Freedom in Flames', then, if that is
meant to convey the proposition that explanationism is true and so
there isn't freedom,
There is a related but alternative true-enough story called Attitudinism.
The real problem of determinism has been that of accomodating ourselves to the frustration of certain attitudes -- at bottom certain desires, stuff of Affective Consciousness. We run up against a conviction owed to reflecting on our own past lives. That conviction is that an attitude akin to the one tied to Indeterminism, that way of holding yourself lawlessly morally responsible, has some or other basis despite the truth of determinism. More particularly, such astute students as Bob Kane of free will or origination or inexplicable responsibility have in fact allowed that in wanting it, we are in fact wanting something you can say is real, a certain human standing. We are wanting to be above nature or at least above the rest of nature.
We won't get this elevation, according to me, in more cogitation about funny powers, new randomness, God's gift, neuroscience showing the mind is after the brain then turning out to show it's before it, or what is to me the absurd argument that for determinism there is no sense in which we are in control when we decide to cross the street because we aren't in control of a train of past causes. See Wikipedia. We need something that will have to be very different.
The Actualism theory of consciousness provides this uniquely, as well as truth to our irrepressible conviction of subjectivity -- as follows.
Each of us has the stages of a subjective physical world out there -- not a damned image -- dependent on us as well as dependent on the objective physical world. To be rhetorical, each of us is a god, however petty. Still more seriously, really and absolutely seriously, each of us is lawful unity of perceptual, cognitive and affective consciousness that is also an individuality and a personal identity. That reality known to you, you could say lived in, and no inner entity, no such self, no spook, is the referent of your 'I', your use of the first-person pronoun. Surely a case of a little concentrated thought about one's self doing the trick of giving us some human standing
There's more on the website with my name on it. And How Free Are You? is the precis-book of A Theory of Determinism: The Mind, Neuroscience, and Life Hopes.
HAY-ON-WYE 2015 FESTIVAL RECOLLECTION OF AN EVENT:
Humanity, Conservatism, David Aaronovitch, Edwina Currie.Ted Honderich
Wrongly not deferential to fellow panellists? No, about right.
PHILOSOPHERS OF OUR TIMES
An introductory lecture prompted by the book of that title below to the Edinburgh Book Festival, by Ted Honderich. Not as worthwhile as the lectures by others in the book of that title. Accessible though.
A NEW BOOK
Oxford University Press
From the jacket of the paperback edition:
‘I admire Honderich’s insightful self-reflective re-examination of the facts of consciousness
as he perceives them. That Honderich’s discussion of actual consciousness opens so many
avenues for philosophical exploration is the measure of its success and likely long-lasting
contribution to the study and understanding of consciousness. The book is highly
recommended for its topic, approach and new perspectives on the challenging problem
of adequately understanding consciousness in a scientific philosophy of mind. For those
with minimal objection to countenancing as many actualities as there are perceiving minds,
then the subjective actuality of consciousness may have found an ideal situation in
Honderich’s theory of actual consciousness.’
Dale Jacquette, Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews
‘Honderich’s thought in Actual Consciousness is as always entirely accessible . . . For its genre
this is an unusual book, not least, though engagingly, for the virtually “actual” presence of
its author on every page. Honderich’s checklists and their interrelations should provide
themes for many seminars to come.’ Alastair Hannay, Philosophy
‘This audacious venture should certainly be praised . . . good philosophy presses readers to
think for themselves, and Actual Consciousness gives us much food for thought.’
Roberta Locatelli, Times Higher Education
‘Oddly engaging . . . a good start for a theory of consciousness, and his approach makes
sense of what most people assume when they take the reality of their experience
for granted.’ Janna Thompson, Australian Book Review
‘Meticulously researched and extensively cited.’ The Guardian
Ted Honderich is Grote Professor Emeritus of the Philosophy of Mind and Logic at
University College London and visiting professor at Yale and the CUNY Graduate Centre.
He has lived in London for most of his life, and lectured in much of Europe and the East.
Cover image: The Woman in Blue, 1874, by Jean Baptiste Camille Corot.
Louvre, Paris, France/Giraudon/The Bridgeman Art Library
Author's sketch / a very brief recollection of Actual Consciousness:
To understand what it is to be
conscious, don’t start with any of five leading philosophical ideas --
what it’s like to be something, traditional subjectivity,
intentionality, phenomenality, or
any bundle of them. Start with a large figurative database. It leads to
consciousness in the primary or core sense being initially adequately
kind of clarification is essential to inquiry and real agreement and
disagreement. This consciousness, speaking as figuratively, is something's
The resulting wholly literal and explicit theory of consciousness, Actualism, first is that with consciousness in perceiving, what is actual is a spatio-temporal piece or stage out there of a physical world, usually a room, certainly not a room in a head. Not sense data, any other representations, a self, functional or cognitive-science relations, some constitution or structure of consciousness, or whatever else from the histories of philosophy and science. No matter what roles such things or related ones play in the associated unconscious mentality.
With thinking and with wanting as against perceiving, what is actual, to be briefer than brief, is only representations-with-attitudes.
Being actual, in all cases, is being subjectively physical, differently so with perceptual consciousness as against each of cognitive and affective consciousness. No representationism by itself, and not the representationism in Actualism, is a sufficient account of cognitive and affective consciousness. Representations being actual have to be in a sufficient account.
The subjectively physical as a whole, its parts being open to full and explicit characterization, no gesturing, is one great category of all physicality, the other being objective physicality.
Actualism, right or wrong, is therefore a wholly different physicalism from predecessors. It is different too in being partly an externalism and partly an internalism or cranialism.
It deals exclusively with the prime subject with respect to the philosophy and science of mind, the necessary subject. It is argued to satisfy assembled criteria better than any competing theory. It denies absolutely any really unique mystery about mind. It claims to explain the fact of subjectivity fully, which is essential to any theory of consciousness, only partly by having a real physical world dependent not only on the objective physical world but also on you neurally.
Despite being persistently worked out, is it also a programme? It may be philosophically as well as scientifically fertile. Certainly it is wholly consistent with, and respects, and registers the past progress of the science of consciousness. It is a full partner to science, as science is to it.
Author's comments on 2006 papers by others on his earlier stuff that issued in Actual Consciousness --- papers by Harold Brown, Tim Crane, James Garvey, Stephen Law, E.J. Lowe, Derek Matravers, Paul Noordhof, Ingmar Persson, Stephen Priest, Barry Smith, Paul Snowdon. In Radical Externalism: Honderich's Theory of Consciousness Discussed, edited by Anthony Freeman, and also Journal of Consciousness Studies, 2006.A SECOND NEW BOOK
PHILOSOPHERS OF OUR TIMES
Royal Institute of Philosophy Annual Lectures
Oxford University Press
The 17 lectures in this volume are in five groups, as listed just below, about (i) the philosophy of mind, (ii) value, (iii) the mixed bag of free will, personal identity and religion, (iv) political and social philosophy, and (v) philosophy itself. They are preceded by brief introductory summaries by the chairman of all the lectures, Prof. Honderich.
Turn if you wish to the general introduction to the volume. Turn too if you wish to the introductory summaries of the lectures listed below.
Thomas Nagel, Conceiving the Impossible and the Mind-Body Problem
Ted Honderich introductory summary
Peter Strawson, Perception and Its Objects
Tyler Burge, Perception: Where Mind Begins?
Jerry Fodor, The Revenge of the Given: Mental Representation Without Conceptualization
Ned Block, Attention and Mental Paint
John McDowell, Intention in Action
Christine Korsgaard, On Having a Good
Tim Scanlon, Reasons Fundamentalism
Simon Blackburn, The Sovereignty of Reason
Mary Warnock, What Is Natural and Should We Care About It?
John Searle, Freedom of the Will as a Problem in Neurobiology
Derek Parfit, We Are Not Human Beings
Anthony Kenny, Knowledge, Belief and Faith: Is Religion Really the Root of All Evil?
Noam Chomsky, Simple Truths, Hard
Choices: Some Thoughts on Terror, Justice, and Self-Defence
Alasdair MacIntyre, Social Structures and Their Threats to Moral Agency
Jurgen Habermas, Religious Tolerance: The Pacemaker for Cultural Rights
Bernard Williams, Philosophy as a Humanist Discipline
David Chalmers, On the Limits of Philosophical Progress
First newspaper review of Philosophers of Our Times: http://tinyurl.com/q4zmmqw
FOR EVERYTHING ON THIS WEBSITE, DO HAVE A LOOK THROUGH THE FULL INDEX. BUT HERE IS ANOTHER SURVEY of the larger and smaller categories of papers, chapters, lectures, reviews, a speech or two, some television and other media and so on on.
1. Consciousness, its sides, the mind, functionalism and cognitive science, Davidson's Anomalous Monism, mental causation, mind-brain dualism, traditional physicalism, Roland Penrose's inner tubes, David Papineau's physicalism, that left-behind Union Theory of consciousness and brain now succeeded by Actualism.
2. Politics and hence right and wrong, consequentialism about rightness, equality and its obvious problem, the Principle of Humanity, maybe its holiness, conservatism and liberalism, hierarchic democracy, civil disobedience, Marx and Mill, Anti-Semitism and also Semitic Inhumanity, a respectable instance of neo-Zionist philosophy, terrorisms, the moral right of the Palestinians to their terrorism, war and the terrorist-war criminal Blair.
3. Determinism's truth and its relation to freedom and responsibility, the absurdity of both the ideas that determinism is compatible and that determinism is incompatible with freedom, philosophical autobiography, philosophical attacks and defences and rows, and more.
4 General and miscellaneous. Russell's great Theory of Descriptions and Strawson's objection, two views of the Logical Positivist A. J. Ayer, against the idea of effects as merely high probabilities, interviews and broadcasts, several fusses.
And here, from each of these four categories, a few quick selections.
1. Consciousness and mind
John Searle and Property Dualism
Actual Consciousness, the 1st review, Times Higher Education
Actual Consciousness: Why it makes consciousness a subject for still more science
Actual Consciousness: An author's oversight already, the tyranny of the present, grandiosity
Descartes, dualism, objective physicalism, the true physicalism -- another summary of a book of 213,000 words
Hay-on-Wye videos -- consciousness lecture
Davidson's Anomalous Monism and the Champion of Mauve
Roger Penrose and Ted Honderich on consciousness
Excerpts from 11 papers by others and from Honderich's replies in a book on his now outlived thinking about consciousness and radical externalism
From that past book, seeing things & intentionality in seeing
2. politics and right and wrong
Thoughts after the book After The Terror on our culpable omissions in a loss of 20 million years of living time in Africa
Jurgen Habermas on After the Terror
A book interview with Ted Honderich on American state terrorism
Occupy London talks to the occupiers at St. Paul's Cathedral
A tv interview & transcript about Palestine
Full lectures (Chomsky, Honderich etc) in a series on terror
Hay-on-Wye videos -- debate on terrorism -- & the talk Terrorisms, Wars, The New Teletubbies
The Neo-Zionist libel of anti-semitism and the fall and rise of a book in Germany
On Understanding, Endorsing or Inciting Terrorism
A Greek interview -- Mass Civil Disobedience Today
Chomsky on simple truths about terrorism etc
Postscript to the German book-banning having to do with purported anti-semitism: The Absent Prof. Brumlik
Our air war on Libya
Reviews by the politicians Michael Foot and Enoch Powell of After the Terror
3. determinism, freedom, responsibility
Dan Dennett, a review of Honderich A Theory of Determinism: The Mind, Neuroscience, and Life Hopes
A. J. Ayer review of Honderich determinism book above
A recent and different idea on determinism and our human standing owed to thinking about consciousness
Doyle on Honderich on determinism and freedom
On the curious idea that effects are only high probabilities
Galen Strawson on free will
Ch.1 of the book How Free Are You? in French
The general paper Effects, Determinism, Neither Compatibilism Nor Incompatibilism, Consciousness
Maybe true if traditional articles on determinism & freedom by McCall & McCann
More on determinism and freedom by Manuel Vargas & Ted Honderich
4. general, miscellaneous
Thinking about the nature of time -- the relations of (a) before and after as against (b) past and present
A letter to the editor against a distinguished scientist about philosophy as dead, time, etc.
A tiff in a Moral Maze on the BBC, and what would have been said if....
On Bernard Williams on moral luck, and other philosophers on other items, thoughts on them
Terrorist-war criminals such as Blair
Danish interview, gratifying to the subject
English interview at the Garrick Club
Is the mind ahead of the brain or behind it? Superior thoughts on the neuroscientist Libet.
You gotta read it -- a review of Searle on mind, language and society
Honderich, McGinn, Strohminger -- academic rows and insults about two reviewed books, one being Honderich's On Consciousness
One Oxford Union speech, this one about money and politics etc
Catherine Wilson review of Honderich, Philosopher: A Kind of Life
T.H. LECTURES, TALKS
9 February, talks in Macmillan Hall, Senate House, University of London, to do with Ted Honderich's work on consciousness, determinism and freedom, right and wrong, by Noam Chomsky (by Skype), Gregg Caruso, CUNY, Tim Crane, Cambridge, Paul Gilbert, Hull, and Paul Snowdon, University College London. Responses by T.H. Details from Royal Institute of Philosophy.
9 March, 5 pm, lecture. 'Your Consciousness Is What? Where?' Institute of Philosophy, School of Advanced Study, Senate House, University of London.
9 May, Oxford, Wycliffe Hall
28 May, 12 noon, Hay-on-Wye, How the Light Gets In, consciousness lecture
2015 Kings College London, 24 Jan
Royal Institute of Philosophy, 28 Feb
St. Andrews, Apr 1
Hay on Wye, lecture on consciousness, 27 May
Hay on Wye, panel discussion with Thomas Pogge on world poverty, also 27 May
New York University, consciousness, Sept 29
Graduate Centre, CUNY, consciousness, Oct 1
Muswell Hill Bookshop, Oct 17
Magdeburg, Germany, Nov 25
Berlin School of Brain and Mind, Humboldt University, Nov 27, 2015
University College London, Philosophy Dept, Feb 12
Oxford Brookes, Feb 16
Birkbeck College, Mar 27
Oxford, Rewley House, May 16-17, 2015
Hay on Wye, May 25, talk on consciousness, panel with David Abramovitch, Edwina Currie
Edinburgh Book Festival, August
University of Bern, Nov 26