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  • Print publication year: 2005
  • Online publication date: June 2012

8 - Two Steps Closer on Consciousness


For a solid quarter century Paul Churchland and I have been wheeling around in the space of work on consciousness, and though from up close it may appear that we've been rather vehemently opposed to each other's position, from the bird's eye view, we are moving in a rather tight spiral within the universe of contested views, both staunch materialists, interested in the same phenomena and the same empirical theories of those phenomena, but differing only over where the main chance lies for progress. Our purely philosophical disagreements are arguably just matters of emphasis: we agree that folk psychological assertions limn real patterns in the world (to put it my way) and that these are (only?) useful approximations. Are they truths-with-a-grain-of-salt (my glass of mild realism is half full) or intermittently useful falsehoods (Paul's glass of eliminativism is half empty). We agree that there is no good motivation for shoehorning these folk categories into neuroscientific pigeonholes via a strict type identity theory, and even a strict functionalism would require some Procrustean labors that might better be postponed indefinitely, since the domain on the left hand side of the equation – the folk categories – is composed of items that are just not up to the task. This is true of folk categories more generally, not just the familiar terms of folk psychology. We also don't need counter-example-proof functionalistic definitions of charisma, moxie, or bizazz, though these are real qualities I have always admired in Paul.

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