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Susan Blackmore on Consciousness

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Susan Blackmore has written Consciousness: A Brief Insight. 

To reward her for that, I've posted her photo here.

She's described on the back cover as a "psychologist, freelance writer, and lecturer."  I've never heard of her before I happened to pluck this book off a shelf at a local library. It seems designed to give a brief (less than 200 pages long) survey of the field.

Starts with a definition of the "hard problem of consciousness," which as per David Chalmers she understands as the question: how can a physical brain, a measurable structure, give rise to something as ineffable as qualia? "Qualia" is philosopher-speak for private experiences, all the severable droplets int he stream of consciousness. Blackmore notes that Chalmers invented the term "hard problem" to distinguish this question from various easier problems to which philosophers draw are attention when they can't solve the hard one and want to draw our attention from it.

One of my usual procedures with a book like this is to look for the name "William James" in the index. Here there are several page numbers listed next to that name. So Blackmore obviously has some sense of the history of her subject.

Anyone, one of her points, which I'll simply paraphrase here without comment, is that human
experience exhibits a unity of consciousness. Assuming that one is beyond a certain (very young) age and assuming non-pathological conditions. This unity involves three things:

1) At any given moment, there is a unity to the things that "I" am experiencing. The buzzing of the bee is known together with the sight of a blooming flower, and they are known together without confusion.

2) Over time, there is continuity. My present state is understood by introspection to follow from a quite recent state, which in turn followed from one before that, and when I woke up this morning I reconnected with the mind-world that existed as I was falling asleep.

3) There is a "me" somewhere in some sense -- an experiencer as well as a cluster of experiences.

Any full philosophical anthropology will have to account for each of these three unities or, to put it differently, will have to account for this one triple-sensed unity.


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