Centre for Cognitive Science (COGS)

Professor Ted Honderich: Being Conscious is Something's Being Actual - What and How?


Ted Honderich, Professor of Philosophy, University College London
November 3rd, 2009 

Is the melée of disagreement in the philosophy and science of consciousness owed to no adequate initial clarification of the subject, ordinary consciousness in the primary sense? Is there an initial clarification in five leading ideas about consciousness? Qualia; something it is like to be something; subjectivity; intentionality or aboutness; two kinds of consciousness? No initial clarification, but thoughts and impulses of value. Can be summarized. Being conscious is something's being actual -- ordinary consciousness is actual consciousness. Of course metaphorical. Cf criteria of adequacy for theory of consciousness in existing theories, e.g. abstract & physical functionalism. Of use but secondary. Main criteria must be being answers to (1) what is actual and (2) how or in what sense actual? What is actual re your perceptual consciousness now is a room, and absolutely nothing else, e.g. content in some other sense. What it is for this to be actual is for a room to exist -- spatio-temporal etc. A true externalism rather than a meaning-externalism. Also satisfies secondary criteria. But a partly internalist account of reflective and affective as against perceptual consciousness. Is ordinary consciousness, actual consciousness, the right subject? Yes.