Actual Consciousness: Database, Theory, Physicalities, Criteria -- a Lecture
to Lecture handout or Powerpoint
five leading ideas, is disagreement about consciousness owed to no
adequate initial clarification of the question?
conscious in the primary ordinary sense, to sum up a wide metaphorical database, is
to be initially clarified as something’s being actual – clarified as actual consciousness.
method like the scientific method includes transition from the metaphorical to
objective physical world, has specifiable general characteristics, 16 of them, including
spatiality, lawfulness, being in science, connections with perception, and so on.
literal theory or analysis of actual consciousness, is that actual
consciousness has counterpart but different characteristics.
consciousness is thus subjectively physical – consciousness in the case of perception is
only the existence of a subjective external physical world out there, often a room.
But thinking and
wanting, cognitive and affective consciousness, are internal -- subjectively
physical representations with attitudes, representations that are actual.
Actualism uniquely satisfies criteria for an adequate theory or analysis, including
naturalism and fully explaining both the reality and the subjectivity of consciousness.
Actual consciousness is a right subject and is a necessary part of any inquiry whatever into consciousness.
1 NEED FOR ADEQUATE INITIAL CLARIFICATION OF
You are conscious just in seeing this room you are in,
conscious in being aware of it in one ordinary sense of that latter word. That is not to say what is
different and more, that you are seeing or perceiving the room, with all that
can be taken to involve, including stuff about your visual cortex and maybe
retinas. To say you are conscious just in seeing this room is not itself to
say, either, what is often enough true, that you are also attending to the room, fixing
your attention on it or on something in it.
You are now conscious, secondly, I am sure, in having certain
thoughts, no I hope about what you are hearing.
are conscious, thirdly, in having certain feelings, maybe the hope that
everything is going to be clear as a bell in the next hour, maybe in intending to say so if
What are those three states, events, facts or things? What is
their nature? What is the best analysis or theory of them? What is what we can
call perceptual consciousness, cognitive consciousness, and affective
There is also another question, as pressing. What is common to
the three states, events or whatever? What is consciousness in general? What is
the kind of state, event or whatever of which perceptual, cognitive, and
affective consciousness are three parts, sides, or groups of elements? As I shall be
remarking later in glancing at existing theories of consciousness, the known
main ones try to answer only the general question. Could you get a good general answer without getting the particular answers?
We can ask the three particular questions and the general question, as we shall, in
mainstream philosophy. That in my view is a greater concentration than that of
science on the logic of ordinary intelligence: (i) clarity, usually analysis,
(ii) consistency and validity, (iii) completeness, (iv) generality –
generalness. Is it safe enough to say, then, that philosophy is thinking about facts
as distinct from getting them?
Another main preliminary. There are ordinary and there are other
related concepts of things, ordinary and other senses of words -- say
stipulated or technical ones. Let us ask what it is to be conscious generally speaking in the primary ordinary sense, in what a good dictionary also calls the core meaning of the word -- and what it
is to be conscious in each of the three ways in the primary ordinary sense. Do
you ask if that is the right question? Assume it is and wait for an answer in
We have what Searle rightly calls a common sense definition,
something he calls unanalytic, of what seems to be this ordinary consciousness
-- presumably must be ordinary consciousness since it is common sense. This
consciousness in the definition is states of awareness that we are in except in dreamless sleep. That has the
virtue of including dreaming in consciousness, which surprisingly is not a
virtue of all definitions, notably a slightly mad Wittgensteinian one – anyway
slightly mad to me. But how much more virtue does Searle’s common sense definition
have? Awareness obviously needs
defining as much as consciousness.
Certainly there seems to be uninformative circularity there.
Each of us also has something better than a common sense
definition. Each of us has a hold on
her or his individual consciousness. That is, each of us can recall now the
nature of something a moment ago, perceptual consciousness of the room, or a thought, or a
feeling. I guess that is what has been called introspection, and doubted
because it was taken as a kind of inner seeing, and people or subjects in
psychology laboratories were asked to do more with it than they could. Forget
all that. We can be confident right now that each of us can recall that event or state of
consciousness a moment ago, say the look of a thing or a passing thought or an urge.
There are lesser and greater pessimisms about our answering the
general question of consciousness. Greater pessimists have included Noam Chomsky,
Tom Nagel, David Chalmers -- and Colin McGinn, who began by saying we have no
more chance of getting straight about consciousness than chimps have of doing
physics, but ended by saying an awful lot less.
Here is a first question for you, a first piece of this
lecture. Are those pessimisms and also, more importantly, the great seeming
disagreement about what consciousness is, a pile of conflicting theories, owed at least significantly to one
fact? Is it owed to the fact that there has not been agreement on what is being talked about,
no adequate initial clarification of the subject matter, people talking past
one another, not asking the same question? In a sense, of course, that is not
disagreement at all, but a kind of confusion.
Here and still more hereafter, by the way, indeed as before
now, this lecture is a sketch of a sketch – a bird’s-eye view of a big book,
with the bird flying high and fast. I worry that someone once said to Van Quine of Karl
Popper that Popper lectured with a broad brush, to which Quine mused that maybe
he thought with one too.
2 FIVE LEADING IDEAS OF CONSCIOUSNESS
I'd say there are five leading ideas of consciousness. They
are about qualia, something it's like to be a thing, subjectivity, intentionality,
and phenomenality. Fly through them with me, in fact over them.
Qualia Dan Dennett says qualia are the ways things seem to us,
particular personal, subjective qualities of experience at the
moment. Nagel says qualia are features of mental states. Very
unlike Dennett, he says
it seems impossible to analyse them in objective physical terms, make
them as objectively physical. Ned Block has it that they include not
experiential properties of sensations, feelings, perceptions, wants,
emotions. They are also such properties of thoughts,
anyway our thoughts that are different from the sort of thing taken to be the
functioning of unconscious computers -- computation or bare computation. Others disagree in several ways with that.
Do we get an adequate initial clarification of the subject of
consciousness here? No. (1) There is only what you can call a conflicted
consensus about what these things are to be taken to be. (2) In this consensus, worse,
one thing that is very widely assumed or agreed. Qualia are qualities of consciousness, not what has
the qualities, consciousness itself, maybe its basic or a more basic quality.
(3) Another thing mostly agreed is by itself fatal to the idea of an adequate initial
clarification -- that qualia are only part of consciousness. There's the other
part, which is propositional attitudes - related to my cognitive consciousness.
Something it's like to
be a thing That idea of Tom Nagel in
his paper 'What It's Like To Be a Bat', however stimulating an idea, as indeed
it has been, is evidently circular.
Searle in effect points to the fact when he says we are to understand the words
in such a way that there is nothing it is like to be a shingle on a roof. What
we are being told, it seems to me, is that what it is for something to be
conscious is for there is something it is like for that thing to be conscious. What else could we
being told? Also, you can worry, no reality is assigned to consciousness here.
Can there be reality without what Nagel declined to provide, an assurance of physicality?
or familiar subjectivity Here, whatever
better might be done about subjectivity, and really has to be done, there is
circularity. Consciousness is what is of
a subject, which thing is a bearer or possessor of consciousness. There is
also obscurity. Further, a subject of this kind is a metaphysical self. Hume
famously saw off such a thing, didn't he, when he reported that he peered into
himself and could not espy it?
idea was brought into circulation by the German psychologist Brentano in the
19th Century and has as its contemporary defender and developer Tim Crane. It
is usually and better spoken of as aboutness,
where that is explained somehow as also the puzzling character of spoken words
and seen images. There is the great problem that when intentionality is made
clear enough by way of likeness to words and images, it is evident that it is only
part of consciousness. As is often remarked, it leaves out aches and objectless
depression. Crane argues otherwise, valiantly but to me unpersuasively.
Block speaks of the concept of consciousness as being hybrid or mongrel, and
leaves it open whether he himself is speaking of consciousness partly in an
ordinary sense. He does concern himself, certainly, with what he calls phenomenal consciousness, as does
Dave Chalmers. This is said by Block, not wonderfully usefully, to be 'just
experience', just 'awareness'. Circularity. I add in passing that he takes there to be
another kind of consciousness, access
consciousness, which most of the rest of us recognise as what we call
unconscious mentality, say brain-workings.
Here, I remark in passing, is a
first and striking instance of philosophers or scientists definitely not meaning
the same thing as other philosophers or scientists. Nagel sure wasn’t on about
access consciousness. How many more instances do we need in support of that idea about the explanation of disagreement?
last remark about the five ideas. It is notable that
Chalmers takes them all to come to the much the same thing, one thing,
to pick out
approximately the same class of phenomena. He is not alone in that
But evidently they’re different. Certainly the essential terms aren't
what he calls synonyms. Those five lots of thinkers are indeed
thinking about different things, as indeed they say.
a last question. Is it not only the case that none of the five ideas
provides an adequate initial clarification of consciousness, but also
that a comparison of them in their striking variety indicates directly the
absence and lack of a common subject?
3 SOMETHING'S BEING ACTUAL
Is confession good for a philosopher's soul? Well, it might
help out with your getting an early sight of a lecture.
sat at in a room in Hampstead some years ago and said to myself stop reading all this madly
conflicting stuff about consciousness. You're
conscious. This isn't Quantum Theory, let alone the bafflement of moral and
political truth. Just answer the question of what your being conscious right now
is, or more particularly what your being conscious of the room is, conscious in just
seeing the room. Not thinking about just seeing. Not liking it or whatever. You
know the answer in some sense, don't you? You've got the hold.
The answer in my case, lucky or unlucky, was that my being conscious was
the fact of the room being there, just the room being there.
Later on, as you will be hearing, I preferred to say that a room was being there.
You will be more reassured, I'm sure, to hear that that I do
not just discard all that philosophy of mind just glanced at -- the five
leading ideas, and a lot more. On the contrary, it must be that there is
something in it all. It's hard to have a view about the value of consensus in
philosophy or in science, about what you can call democracy about truth. But
who can say there isn't any value at all? If you go through the philosophy on
qualia, what it's like, subjectivity, intentionality, and phenomenality, you
can get to what is the first of three or four main things in this lecture.
find all those philosophers using certain terms and locutions. Suppose, as you
very reasonably can, that they or almost all of them are talking about
consciousness in the primary ordinary sense. They think about it in a certain way,
have certain concepts, use certain language for it. Further, this is shared with philosophers and
scientists otherwise concerned with consciousness and with what they call the
mind. I am confident that it is shared with you.
If you put together the terms and locutions you get what we
can certainly call data. You get a database. It is that in the primary ordinary sense, in any of the three
ways, your being conscious now is the following:
the having of something, something being had -- not in a general sense, the sense in which you have ankles,
hence something being held,
possessed or owned,
your seeing, thinking,
wanting in the ordinary active sense of the verbs,
hence the experience in the sense
of the experiencing of something,
something being in contact,
met with, encountered, or undergone,
awareness of something in a
something being directly or
immediately in touch,
something being apparent,
something not deduced,
inferred, posited, constructed or otherwise got from something else,
something somehow existing,
something being for something else,
something being to something,
something being in view, on
view, in a point of view,
something being open,
something to which there is
some privileged access,
in the case of perception,
there being the world as it is for something,
what at least involves an
object or content,
an object or content's coming
to us, straight-off,
something being given,
hence something existing and
something being present,
something being presented, which is different,
something being shown,
revealed or manifest,
something being transparent
in the sense of being unconveyed by anything else,
something clear straight-off,
something being open,
something being close,
an occurrent or event, certainly not a
disposition to later events,
something being vividly
something being right there,
in the case of perception,
the openness of a world.
That, I say to you, is
data, and I sure bet you it exists in other languages than English. We can
await reassurance from the Germans and no doubt even the French. Probably Latvians. It is a database.
To glance back at the five leading ideas, it's not a mediaeval technical term
in much dispute, or a philosopher's excellent apercu but still an apercu,
or a familiar or traditional idea or kind of common talk, or an uncertain truth based on words and
images, or an uncertainty about consciousness that seems to slide into
Without stopping to say more about generalizing about the database,
except that in character it has to do with both existence and a relationship,
is both ontic and epistemic, we can of course note that certainly it is
metaphorical or figurative. To say consciousness is given is not to say it's just like money being given.
There is an
equally figurative encapsulation of it all, which I will be using. It is that
being conscious in the primary ordinary sense is something being actual – which certainly isn’t open to the
objections of circularity. We can also say that what we have is an initial conception of
primary ordinary consciousness as being actual
consciousness. Can we follow in the history of so much science by starting
from but getting beyond metaphor?
This start immediately raises two general questions. What is actual with this consciousness?
And what is it for whatever it is to be
actual? And, remembering this consciousness has three parts, sides or group
of elements of consciousness, there are the questions of what is actual and
what the actuality is with each of perceptual, cognitive and affective
So the first two criteria – of what will be eight -- for an
adequate theory or analysis of ordinary consciousness, for a literal account of its
nature, is the theory's giving answers to those questions about (1) what is
actual and (2) what its being actual comes to. Certainly we have to get to the
will get better answers, however, if we look at a few other things first.
4 FUNCTIONALISMS, DUALISMS
It is prudent, whether or not required by a respect for
consensus, for democracy about truth, to consider existing dominant theories of
anything. If you take the philosophy and science of consciousness together,
certainly the current philosophy and science of mind, you must then consider abstract functionalism and its
expression in cognitive science -- computerism about consciousness and mind,
which of course might be or anyway might have been right.
it be that abstract functionalism is usefully approached
in a seemingly curious way, approached by way of what has always been
taken as an
adversary, traditional dualism, which goes back a long way before
Descartes? This dualism, often taken as benighted, is the proposition
that the mind
is not the brain. That, in a sentence only slightly more careful, is to
effect that all consciousness is not physical. It is, as maintained by
have followed Descartes, spiritual. There are, of course, reputable and
leading philosophers and scientists of mind who are in some sense
Chalmers is one. There are other more metaphysically explicit dualists,
including Howard Robinson. Has Block been a fellow traveller?
You may excuse me saying of dualism, since I have a lot of my
own fish to fry, that it has the great recommendation of making consciousness different in kind, which it sure is. And
that it has the great failing of making it not
a reality. Your being conscious, rather, is something with a history that began and
will end. Who now has the nerve to say it is out of space? It is now real. It now exists. It's a fact.
Evidently all this is bound up with the clearer and indeed dead clear truth
that it has physical effects, starting with arm movements. This is only denied
in Australia,where the sun is very hot. Elsewhere there is the axiom of the
falsehood of epiphenomenalism. But, however, to go back to the first point, as
the dictionary says mind is somehow different from matter -- or from some or
There is no more puzzle about what, in general, abstract
functionalism is. Certainly the elaboration of it in cognitive science has been
rich. Abstract functionalism is owed to a main premise and a large inspiration.
large inspiration is that we do indeed identify and to an extent distinguish
types of things and particular things in a certain way -- by their relations,
most obviously their causes and effects. We do this with machines like carburettors,
and with kidneys, and so on, and should do it more with politicians and our
The premise, more important now, is the proposition that one
and the same type of conscious state somehow goes together with or anyway turns
up with different types of neural or other physical states. This is the premise
of what is called multiple realizability.
We and chimps and snakes and conceivably computers can be in pain that goes
with quite different physical states.
My own short story of abstract functionalism, my own objection,
which I skip past, is that a conscious state or event is itself given no reality in this theory that allows it to be a cause
of actions etc. It goes together with traditional dualism in this respect, and
is therefore to me as hopeless. There is a place within other and very different
theorizing for what you can call physical
functionalism, which is better, partly because it puts aside the very dismissible multiple
realizability, which has been too popular by half, but that too is not a subject for right now.
5 OTHER THEORIES, MORE CRITERIA
are more existing theories and sorts of theories of
consciousness than dualism and abstract functionalism. Note that like
abstract functionalism, they make the nature of consciousness or
at least principally or essentially or primarily uniform as,
incidentally, do the five leading ideas -- despite our own initial
division of consciousness into the perceptual, cognitive and affective
kinds, sides, or groups of elements.
own list of existing theories and sorts of theories has on it Non-Physical Intentionality and Supervenience, Davidson's
Anomalous Monism, the Mentalism of much psychology and science as well as philosophy,
Block's mentalism in particular running together conscious and unconscious mentality,
Naturalism, the important and in a way dominant Representational Naturalism,
such Aspectual Theories as Galen Strawson's Panpsychism and Double Aspect Theory, Russell's
Neutral Monism, the different Physicalisms of Papineau, Searle, Dennett, and of
neuroscience generally, the Higher Order Theory of Locke and Rosenthal, the
audacity of the Churchlands seemingly to the effect that it will turn out that there
aren't any beliefs or desires, the wonderful mystery of Quantum Consciousness,
certainly the explanation of the obscure by more than the more obscure, and the Externalisms -- Putnam, Burge, Noe, Clark.
I save you consideration of and incidental objections to these
existing theories of consciousness, and say only a few things.
One is that while all of these theories are crucially or at
least centrally concerned one way or another with the
physical, physical reality, they do not slow down to think about it. They do not come close
to really considering what it is, going over the ground. Was that reasonable? Is it reasonable?
And just in passing, do these theories concern themselves with
the same question? For a start, was supervenience about the same question of
consciousness that representational naturalism was about? Plainly not.
A third thing is important, indeed crucial, for anyone who
believes, as I do, that despite such original tries as Frank Jackson's there are not proofs
of large things in philosophy, which is instead a matter of comparative
judgement between alternatives. The thing is that a good look through
theories gives us more criteria for a decent theory or analysis of
consciousness -- additional to answers to the questions you’ve heard of
is actual and (2) what the actuality comes to. Also criteria additional
to two others aleady announced to you, that a decent theory of
consciousness will indeed
have to recognize and explain (3) the difference
of consciousness from all else. It will also have to recognize and explain (4) the
reality of consciousness and the
connected fact of its being causally efficacious.
condition of adequacy is (5) something just flown by so far in this talk -- subjectivity, some credible or
persuasive unity, something quite other than a metaphysical self or homunculus. Another is (6)
the three parts, sides or kinds of
elements of consciousness. It is surprising indeed that the existing
general theories of consciousness do not include in their generality the
distinctness of perceptual, cognitive and affective consciousness. Another
requirement (7) is that of naturalism, essentially a relation to
science. A last one (8) is the relation
or relations of consciousness to a brain or other basis and to behaviour
and also other relations.
Something else I should provide here, since I know where this
lecture is going, is a scandalously speedy reminder of the theories that are
the externalisms. Putnam said meanings ain't in the head but depend on science.
Burge cogently explained by way of arthritis in the thigh that mental states are individuated
by or depend on external facts, notably those of language. Clark argued that
representation with respect to consciousness is a matter of both internal and
external facts – minds are extended out of our heads. And Noe theorizes that
consciousness partly consists in acting.
is a very different externalism.
6 THE OBJECTIVE PHYSICAL WORLD
To make a good start on or towards the theory we will call Actualism, think for just a few minutes,
whether or not you now suppose this is a good idea, about the large subject of
the physical, the objective physical world. The existing theories of
consciousness, from dualism and abstract functionalism to the externalisms, do
one way or another include presumptions about or verdicts on consciousness
having to do with physicality -- by which they always mean and usually say is
objective physicality. I ask again whether they come to be judged for their still passing by the
subject. I hope so.
Anyway, having spent some time on that database, and flown
over a lot of existing uniform theories of consciousness, and put together the criteria for
an adequate theory or analysis of consciousness, let us now spend even less
time on the objective physical world, on what it is for something to be
objectively physical. If there are a few excellent books on the subject,
notably those of Herbert Feigl and Barbara Montero, it is hardly considered at
all by the known philosophers and scientists of consciousness. Or they take a
bird’s-eye view, far above a pedestrian one. I’m for walking around, going over
the ground. Not that it will be done here and now.
let me report convictions or attitudes of mine owed to a respect for
science and philosophy. I abbreviate what is a substantial inquiry in
into the objectively physical, the objectively physical world. I boil it down into a fast checklist of characteristics.They
are properties that can be divided into those that can be taken
as having to do with physicality, the first nine, and those having to
objectivity, the other seven.
1. Objective physical properties are the properties that are
accepted in science, or hard or harder science.
2. They are properties knowledge of which is owed or will be
owed to the scientific method, which method is open to clarification.
3. They are properties that are spatial and temporal in extent,
certainly not outside of space and time.
4. Particular physical properties stand in lawful connections,
most notably causal connections, with other such properties. Two things are in
lawful connection if, given all of a first one, a second would exist whatever
else were happening. Think about that truth dear to me some other time.
5. Categories of such properties are also lawfully connected.
6. The physical macroworld and the physical microworld are in
relations to perception, diffent relations -- the second including deduction.
7. Macroworld properties are open to different points of view.
8. They are different from different points of view.
9. They include, given a defensible view of primary and
secondary properties, both kinds of properties.
And, to consider objectivity rather than physicality, the
properties of the objective physical world have the following characteristics.
10. They are in a sense or senses separate from consciousness.
11. They are public -- not in the consciousness of only one individual.
12. Access to them, whether or not by one individual, is not a matter of special or privileged access.
They are more subject to truth and logic than certain other properties.
14. To make use of the idea of scientific method for a second
time, their objectivity, like their physicality, is a matter of that method.
15. They include no self or inner fact or indeed unity or other such fact of
subjectivity that is inconsistent with the above properties of the objective
16. There is hesitation about whether objective physicality
So very much more could be said about all that. You will be hearing about two counterparts to this checklist. It will guide us in two other locales.
elsewhere it comes to mind to remark that philosophy is as alive and good and with as much future as science -- since it is thinking more about facts as distinct
from getting them. A good idea not get out of sight of them, though.
7 PERCEPTUAL CONSCIOUSNESS – WHAT IS AND ISN’T
we go now from that database, the encapsulation of it, the
pile of theories of consciousness, the criteria, and objective
physicality. It seems to me and
others that if we learn from the existing pile of theories of
the resulting criteria, and to my mind the plain thinking about
physicality, we need to
make an escape from the customary in the science and philosophy of
consciousness. There is a fair bit of agreement about that. McGinn is
really declares it.
need to pay our very own attention to consciousness, some untutored attention.
We do not need to turn ourselves into what psychologists used to call naive
subjects or to demote ourselves to membership of the folk --
of whom I am inclined to believe that they are distinguished
by knowing quite a few large truths about consciousness. We do
need to concentrate, for a good start, on those two
general and main questions at which we have arrived and respond to them
directly out of our
holds on being perceptually conscious. Here is an anticipation, in
brevity, of what seems to me the right response.
What is actual for me now with respect to my perceptual
consciousness, my perceptual consciousness as distinct from my cognitive and
affective consciousness, is only the room, what it will turn out to be sensible to call a room, but a room out there in space, a
room as definitely out there in space as anything at all is out there in space.
God knows it’s not in my head.
is actual with you and me now, so far as perceptual
consciousness is concerned, is a room, most certainly not a
representation of a
room or any such thing whatever, called content or whatever else. We
can all very well indeed tell the difference between a sign and a thing that isn't one.
Perceptual consciousness is not just or even at all about that room, but in short is that room. No metaphysical
self is actual either, or direction or aboutness, or any other
philosophical or funny stuff. What is actual is a subjective physical world in the usual sense
of a part of it. Saying so is comparable to familiar talk of being in touch
with the world as ordinarily thought of, or the objective physical world, in
virtue of being in touch with a part of it. There is reason for the rhetoric,
sense to be given to it.
Is a subjective physical world a phantom world, just a phantom
world? Is it insubstantial, imaginary, imagined? If you are caught in a good
tradition of philosophical scepticism, maybe scepticism gone off the deep end, and feel like
saying yes, making me feel sorry for you, hang on for a while. Hold your
horses. This is philosophy in English, not deep, not literary.
8. PERCEPTUAL CONSCIOUSNESS – SOMETHING'S BEING ACTUAL IS IT'S BEING
SUBJECTIVELY PHYSICAL IN A WAY
What about question 2? What is a room's being actual?
is its existing in a way not at all metaphorical or otherwise figurative, but a
way to be very
literally specified -- ways guided by what was said of the objective
physical world. This existence of a room is partly but not only a
matter of a room's occupying that space out there and lasting through
time, and of its being in lawful connections including causal ones
itself, and of two great lawful dependencies that mainly distinguish
of existing in particular.
The first is the lawful categorial dependency of what is
actual on what we have just inquired into or anyway glanced at, the
objective physical world, or rather on parts or pieces or stages of the
objective physical world we ordinary speak of perceiving, whatever that
perceiving comes to. The second dependency with my world is a dependency on my
objective properties as a perceiver, neural properties and location for a
start. Note in passing that this clarifies something mentioned before, the both epistemic and ontic character of our data.
So my being perceptually conscious now is the existence of a part or piece or stage of a sequence that is one subjective physical world, one among very many, as many as there
are sets of perceivings of single perceivers. These myriad worlds are no less
real for there being myriads of them and for their parts being more transitory
than parts of the objective physical
world. Myriad and momentary things in the objective physical world do not
fail to exist on account of being myriad and momentary. I speak of a
room, of course, not at all to diminish it or to allow that it is
flaky, but mainly just to distinguish it from that other thing.
physical worlds and their parts or whatever are plain enough states of affairs or
circumstances, ways things or objects are, sets of things and properties. These
subjective worlds are a vast subset, the objective physical world being a
one-member subset, of course of many parts, of the single all-inclusive world
that there is, the physical world,
that totality of the things that there are. Here
is a summary table of these and other facts. It also covers what we
will be coming to, cognitive and affective consciousness.
A TABLE OF PHYSICALITIES
/ / \
OBJECTIVE PHYSICAL WORLD
SUBJECTIVE PHYSICAL WORLDS:
SUBJECTIVE PHYSICAL REPRESENTATIONS: Cognitive and Affective
in the inventory of science
in the inventory of science
in the inventory of science
open to the scientific method
open to the scientific method
open to the scientific method
in space and time
in space and time
in space and time
in particular lawful connections
in particular lawful connections
in particular lawful connections
in categorial lawful connections
in categorial lawful connections, including those with the objective
physical world and conscious thing
in categorial lawful connections, including those with the objective
physical world and conscious thing
macroworld perception, microworld deduction
constitutive of macroworld perception
not perceived, but dependent on macroworld perception
more than one point of view with macroworld
more than one point of view with with perception
no point of view
different from different points of view
different from different points of view
no differences from points of view
primary and secondary properties
primary and secondary properties
no primary and secondary properties
separate from consciousness
not separate from consciousness
not separate from consciousness
truth and logic, more subject to
truth and logic, less subject to?
truth and logic, less subject to
open to the scientific method
open to the scientific method despite doubt
open to the scientific method despite doubt
includes no self or unity or other such inner fact of subjectivity
inconsistent with the above properties of the
objective physical world
each subjective physical world is an element in an individuality that
is a unique and large unity of lawful and conceptual dependencies including
each representation is an element in an individuality that is a unique
and large unity of lawful and meaningful dependencies including much else
hesitation about whether objective physicality includes consciousness
no significant hesitation about taking the above subjective
physicality as being that of actual perceptual consciousness
no significant hesitation about taking this subjective physicality as
being the nature of actual cognitive and affective consciousness
Just attend, first, to the left hand column in the
lower section of the table. You will not need telling that summarizes
what was said earlier of
objective physicality. Subjective
physical worlds, our present concern, characterized in the middle
column, are one of two subsets of subjective physicality. That subjective physcality, like objective physicality, subjective
physicality, as already remarked, is a subset of
general. You will know
that I pass by an awful lot of stuff in the table and in
all of what I have to say here in my hour. Very broad brush.
Subjective physical worlds are about as real, I repeat, in pretty
much the sum of decent senses of that wandering word, as the objective physical
world, that other sequence. This is so however
and to what limited extent the objective physical world is related to
subjective physical worlds. It is because of the dependencies on the objective
physical world and on perceivers, and for other specific and large reasons,
that these perceived worlds rightly have the name of being subjective.
You can say, then, that my being perceptually conscious now
just is and is only a particular existence of something like what most of the
leading ideas of consciousness and the existing theories of consciousness
half-seem to take or may take perceptual consciousness merely to be of or about,
say a room. They also take perceptual consciousness to be a lot
more than just the existence of a room. Evidently the characteristics
of subjective physical worlds clarify and contribute content to
what was said earlier of the epistemic and ontic character of our data
as to ordinary consciousness.
If you fancy aphorisms, you can also say about perceptual consciousness Berkeley wasn't near
to right in saying esse est percipi, to be is to be perceived. The better
aphorism is to be perceptually conscious
is for something in a way to be.
In talking of subjective physical worlds, we're not discovering
a new thing, a new category. We're just noting and
distracted from and using an old thing, putting it into a theory of
consciousness, making a theory of perceptual consciousness out of it.
There has certainly been talk and theory of some or other physical
world being there for us, in the
ordinary sense of a part of it being there. There's been talk of the world as experienced. There's one for
you right now, isn't there? You're immediately in touch with one of those right
now, aren't you? If this familiar fact doesn't give you a proof of Actualism
with respect to perceptual consciousness, it's a very helpful pull in the right
So much for an anticipation of the main body of the theory of
Actualism with respect to just perceptual consciousness, whatever is to be said
about cognitive consciousness and affective consciousness -- including whatever
is to be said of the beliefs and also the desires in which perceptual
consciousness does not consist at all, but by which it is often accompanied or
to which it commonly gives rise.
AND AFFECTIVE CONSCIOUSNESS – THEORIES & WHAT IS AND ISN’T ACTUAL
To turn yet more cursorily to these second and third parts or sides of
consciousness, what is actual with your cognitive consciousness, say your just
thinking of your mother or the proposition of there being different
physicalities, or your attending to this room or something in it?
My answer is that what is actual, we need to say, and absolutely all that is actual, is
a representation or a sequence of representations. And what it is for
it to be actual is for it to be subjectively physical, differently subjectively physical
than with a room. Cognitive
consciousness, further, is related to truth. To come to these
propositions, of course, is to come away entirely from the figurative to the
With respect to affective
consciousness as against cognitive, say your now
wanting a glass of wine, what is actual is also representation,
physical, but related to valuing rather than truth. For both cognitive
and affective consciousness, as already anticipated, see the the
right hand column of that table. Note in passing, not that the point is as simple and
without qualification as too much in the philosophy of mind, that given
the differences between (1) perceptual consciousness and (2) cognitive
and affective consciousness, we do not have the whole nature of consciousness
as uniform or principally or essentially or primarily uniform.
That in itself is a recommendation of Actualism, a theory's truth to
your hold of your consciousness. You know, for a start, how different
consciousness in seeing is from thinking and wanting.
If there is a lot of existing
philosophical and scientific theory with respect to perceptual consciousness,
maybe there is still more with respect to cognitive and affective
consciousness. Since I am getting near the end of my lecturing hour, and discussion is
better, here is no more than just a list of good subjects in another pile that you might want to bring up, a
list of subjects having to do with representation -- a list with just a comment or two added.
Pure, and Other
Representationism. My representationism, as you know from what has been
of actual perceptual consciousness, where there is no representation at
all, is not universal representationism. As you will be hearing in a
minute or two, it is definitely is not pure. The representation in
cognitive and affective consciousness necessarily is with
something, one element of the fact.
Our Knowledge of Thinking and Wanting,
Our Holds -- and the essential comparison with Linguistic Representations.
Linguistic Representations -- a Simple
Classification from the excellent work of Austin, Searle and others. A large and worthy subject on which we depend
Languages of Thought. A lot more than Fodor's one, mentalese, intriguing though it is, starting with English
Evolutionary Causalism, also known by other
names, for example as Biosemantics and Teoleological Semantics. Hopeless in my not wholly humble view.
or computerism, with some physical rather than abstract functionalism
in it. Also hopeless with actual consciousness. Hard to believe it has
ever been a clear-headed answer to a clear question about anything like
Lingualism as I call it -- philosophy of
language applied to philosophy of mind. Must be part of the truth..
The Durable Truth of Some Representationism or Other in the philosophy of mind. It has to be there.
Dependency, Convention, Unicorns, how
conventions come about and so on – Searle again.
His perfect Chinese Room Thought
Experiment -- and whether it’s an argument for precisely Actualism. I myself say so.
So much for the list of
subjects having to do with representation that you might want to bring
up. I say one other thing in passing. As with functionalism,
dualism and the raft of other theories we glanced at, all of these
important subjects make
or at least tend to make consciousness uniform. It isn't.
10 COGNITIVE AND AFFECTIVE CONSCIOUSNESS – BEING ACTUAL IS BEING SUBJECTIVELY
PHYSICAL IN A WAY
Put up with just a few words more on some of that pile of subjects,
the representational theories of and related to cognitive and affective
consciousness. They admittedly do begin from reflection on our spoken and written
language, English and the rest, linguistic representations, and in effect move
on from that reflection to an account of conscious
I report that it seems to me that none of this by
itself can work.
Searle, admire him as I do, can't succeed in reducing any consciousness to this. Absolutely plainly, there is
and large difference between (1) a line of print on a page or a
sounds and (2) a conscious representation or a sequence of such things.
The relation of a conscious representation to language is only part of
Actualism saves the day. The greatest of philosophers
in our tradition, David Hume, began or more likely continued a certain habit of
inquiry when he was in a way frustrated in coming to an understanding of
something, in his case cause and effect. 'We
must...,' he said, 'proceed like those, who being in search of any thing, that
lies concealed from them, and not finding it in the place they expected, beat
about all the neighbouring fields, without any certain view or design, in hopes
their good fortune will at last guide them to what they search for'. Pity he
didn't get to the right answer about cause and effect. But let me be hopeful in
my own different endeavour. In fact I take it there is more than good reason for
Our maybe reassuring
circumstance right now is that if we need to look in another field than the
two-term relation of representation, we can in fact do that without going to a
wholly new field. If we have to leave the field of thoughts and wants and of
representation when it is understood as being somehow only a relation between
the representation and what is represented, only a parallel to language, we can in fact do that, by way of
another field that is not a new field.
I mean we can stay right in
and attend to the larger field that we've never been out of, always been in
since before getting to cognitive and affective consciousness. Never been out
of it since we began by settling our whole subject-matter of consciousness in
general, since we settled on an initial clarification of consciousness in the
primary ordinary sense -- consciousness as actual, actual consciousness. The
smaller field is in the larger.
Cognitive and affective
consciousness, thoughts and wants, are not only representations as first
conceived in relation to spoken and written language. They are not only such
representations, most saliently propositional attitudes, attitudes to
propositional contents, the latter being satisfied by certain states of
affairs. Rather, thoughts and wants are such
representations as have the further property of being actual. That is the
burden of what I put to you. That is the fundamental difference between a line
of print and conscious representations. Representational consciousness
consists in more than a dyadic
relation. It is not purely representational, not to be clarified by pure representationism.
For the contents of that contention, you will rightly expect
me to refer you again to that table -- to its list of the characteristics of
subjective physical representations. The right-hand column.
Yes, questions and objections are
of course raised by Actualism. One is prompted by the recent history of the
philosophy of consciousness and some of the science of it. Supposedly
sufficient conditions having to do with consciousness, it is claimed, fail to
be such. Zombies could satisfy them, as Bob Kirk explained. Do you simply say about
Actualism that exactly the conditions for consciousness now set out in
Actualism -- say perceptual consciousness -- could be satisfied by something
but the thing still wouldn't be conscious at all?
There is a
temptation to say a kind of replica of me or you that it could satisfy exactly
the conditions specified and the replica wouldn't be conscious in the way we
know about? That it would indeed be, in this different setting of reflection, just one
of those things we’ve heard about in other contexts, a zombie ? Put aside the
stuff in zombie theory about metaphysical possibility and all that, which I myself can
do without pretty easily. Do you say there could be something without consciousness
despite it and the rest of the situation being exactly what actualism says is
what being conscious consists in?
Well, sometimes the best form of defence is counter-assertion
because it is true.
In the heatwave of the
English summer of 2013, at a lunch table in a club, a medical man gave me a free opinion
about diabetes. It led me, after reading up on the internet that the symptoms
are thirst, tiredness, seeing less clearly and so on, to the seemingly true
proposition about me that I had a lot of the symptoms. I fell into the illusion
that I had diabetes -- the diabetes illusion.
Think of my diabetes propositions
about myself in relation to the 16 propositions on the checklist on the
physicality of representations and hence on cognitive and affective
consciousness, and the previous 16 counterparts with perceptual consciousness. Is it an illusion that our 16 propositions do not capture the nature of consciousness in its three sides? Is it an illusion that there is
something else or more to consciousness? If you fortidudinously do a lot of reading of what
this lecture comes from, that bloody book, will you share with me at least on most days the idea
that a persisting elusiveness of perceptual consciousness really is an illusion? That
it really is an illusion that there is more
to consciousness than we have supposed, more that we have got hold of? I hope
so. Keep in mind that there are more kinds of illusion than
personal ones.There are illusions of peoples, cultures, politics, philosophy,
and science. Hierarchic democracy for a start.
Is it possible to say something more useful quickly about and against the
more-to-consciousness illusion? Well, Let me gesture at another piece of persuading.
You need to keep in mind
all of the characteristics of
perceptual consciousness and the other
of consciousness. But think right now just of our large fact of
subjectivity. In Actualism, it is a unity that is individuality,
akin to the living of a life. A long way from a ruddy homunculus. Think
in particular of the large
fact itself that your individuality includes and partly consists innothing less than the
reality now of a subjective physical world, certainly something out there.
Now add something pre-theoretical. It
is pretty certain, and I'd say ordinary reflection proves it, if
you need what you bravely and too hopefully call a proof,
that there is at least strangeness about consciousness. Consciousness is more than just different. It is different in a
particular and peculiar way. When you really try to think of it, it pushes
rather than just tempts you to a kind of rhetoric, in line with but beyond our
database. You want to say consciousness somehow is an assertive,
confronting fact, for a moment or for a while a big-screen and mesmerizing fact. Actualism
explains this, doesn’t it? Consciousness for Actualism is those things, is on the way to
mesmerizing, because in its fundamental part it is no less than the existence of a world. Actualism has this special and
I’d say great recommendation that goes against the temptation of the zombie objection. You get a suitably
whopping individuality with Actualism which I have not slowed down to talk
about. You get an individuality that brings in an individual world --
a real individual world not of rhetoric or poetry or Eastern mysticism but of plain
propositions. It can be said, although the words aren't exact, that with
Actualism you are a unity that includes the size of a world. That definitely isn't to
leave something out.
So actualism rings true to me. It gets me somewhere
with consciousness. I don't think that's because I'm too perceptually
conscious, not cognitive enough.
Do you now maybe entirely change your tune? I've known it to happen in seminars. Do you
say that this externalism with perceptual consciousness isn't crazy, in need of exclamation marks, too rhetorical,
circular, against good sense, strange, or in one of the other ways unsatisfactory?
Those were more of Colin's McGinn's ideas about a premature predecessor of the present
Actualism. Do you say more or less the opposite -- that Actualism is old hat,
or at least half or somehow old hat? That despite leaving uniformity behind what it comes to is philosophically some
familiar idea -- the idea that perceptual consciousness has content, with the
addition, no doubt already made by somebody else, maybe the acute Burge, that the content is external?
Well, Actualism doesn't come to that,
even with just perceptual consciousness before we get to the great difference of reflective and
affective consciousness. What it comes to, in terms of a headline, is that the
the fact of an
existence of the content -- a content properly and differently
conceived and described. In place of perceptual consciousness as
something internal in some relation to something external, we have
consciousness as something external in lawful connection with
something else external as well as something internal. And there's
no more to the fact of being perceptually conscious than dependent
content. There's no vehicle or any other damned thing in a
variety put up or glanced at by
various philosophers, including a brain-connection, sense-data,
aspects, funny self, direction or aboutness, a higher or
second order of stuff, and so on and so forth. And none of that stuff
except the existence of representation and
attitude in cognitive or affective consciousness either.
Do I have to try harder here? Will some
tough philosophical character, maybe some lowlife psychologist, maybe even Ned or Dave, say that there
is no news in all this verbiage? That Actualism is blunder from Bloomsbury?
Will he say that it is a truism that we all know that the world, something
close to the objective physical world as defined, is part of, maybe the main
thing with, perceptual consciousness as somehow ordinarily understood -- with
another main thing in the story of it being some kind of representation of it?
Well, I don’t mind at all being in accord
with some or other truism of this sort. But it would be strange to try to
identify Actualism with it,
try to reduce Actualism to it. Even crazy. Actualism is the
contention that being perceptually conscious is itself precisely a
existence of an external world, not the objective physical world. Actualism is absolutely not
say, that what the story of perceptual consciousness comes to is bloody representation and also the
physical world. It is not some
proposition somehow to the effect that what perceptual consciousness
comes to is some kind of represented world
-- what by the way does indeed seem to be and deserves to be called exactly a kind of
Actualism sure isn't naive realism
either, mainly resistance to sense-data and all that, and to the effect that in
perception we’re in some unexplained
relation to the objective physical world. Actualism isn't any other externalism
either -- Putnam or after. And of course we we haven't just engaged in what is often called semantics
-- just made a change to the
standard use of a word for some purpose. We haven't just more or less
arbitrarily transferred the noun
'consciousness' from a state in a perceiver or from a relation of that
an outer thing -- arbitrarily transferred it to a kind of outer thing
on the end of an explained
relation. We began from a database, ploughed on with the logic of
philosophy, and we have a different view of what is out there, its
physicality, and it has no unexplained relation or anything else
unexplained in it.
And to say just a word about cognitive and affective consciousness, not
only is actualism not a universal or monolithic representationism about
consciousness generally, it isn't a pure representationism either where
it is a representationism. Cognitive and affective consciousness are
not a matter just of representations. They are, to revert to the
metaphor, a matter of actual representations.
11 CONCLUSIONS SO FAR AND MORE
So we have seen something of
the satisfying of two criteria for a decent theory or analysis of consciousness
in the primary ordinary sense, which is to say that consciousness clarified as
actual consciousness. That is, we have seen something of answers to the two questions of
what is actual and what actuality is. There remain other criteria. I pass by
or say no more about all that. I just put it to you that Actualism does very well with the criteria
of reality and causation, difference in kind, subjectivity, the three sides of
consciousness, naturalism, and the relations of consciousness.
It is my own attitude, then,
that Actualism is a defeat of pessimism
about understanding consciousness. More needs to be said about Noam Chomsky in
particular here – but that is for another day. Chalmers’s hard problem of
consciousness, if Actualism works as well as I propose, is just solved.
is also the greater hope, as you know, that Actualism despite not being Naive Realism makes sense of
Realism, which always seemed to have good sense in it despite mystery and the
condescending labours on sense data of Freddie Ayer and those American
allies. There is also the hope that Actualism liberates consciousness-science from a
common hesitancy or tentativeness about consciousness. It sure does, I say, put paid to the
mad neuroscence-with-philosophy, say that of Popper and Eccles or
does it make more than a contribution to an old chestnut, the subject
determinism's consequences for freedoms and responsibilities? It gives us a standing
that that saves us from propounding uncausal origination, a standing
first having to do with my being a necessary condition of a subjective
There remains a last matter for us now.
Was ordinary consciousness in the primary ordinary sense, the core sense, the right
consciousness to consider? My short answer cannot be yes, since there is no
possibility of showing that any consciousness is the right one.
In the free world of
philosophy, anyone can follow the crowd that considers the consciousness that
in our terms consists in both ordinary-consciousness mentality plus mentality
that is not ordinary-consciousness mentality. They can be still freer and
consider consciousness where it also includes such facts of perception as
those having to do with retinas. They can, differently, consider consciousness that consists
in our perceptual consciousness plus
the cognitive and affective consciousness that consists in the large fact of
attention. They can consider, as many do, in my view fatally, consciousness in general without
distinguishing our perceptual consciousness from our cognitive and affective
But one thing that maybe can be
said for our choice of ordinary consciousness is that no inquirer can leave out ordinary consciousness,
of which we can have an adequate initial clarification. This consciousness must
surely be, in fact it is, what serves to
identify the other additions, most obviously the addition of the mentality that
is not ordinary consciousness. This combined subject needs to be distinguished
from other explanations of behaviour, say mere musculature, and it cannot be
distinguished without reliance on exactly ordinary consciousness. If Actualism
is a defensible theory of ordinary consciousness, no general theory can leave
it out. It is essential. I don’t think that is true of any other initial idea of consciousness.
The conclusions are the result
not of proof, for which philosophy as against science is too hard,
but of the weight of argument and judgement. Actualism, it is hoped, is a case
of satisfying Hume's hope for pieces of philosophy -- an inescapability of conclusions given prior
acceptance of at least reasonable premises.