Some questions about radical externalism

Matravers, Derek (2006). Some questions about radical externalism. Journal of Consciousness Studies, 13(7-8) pp. 95–108.



It is hard not to sympathise with Professor Honderich's starting point. It is easy to feel pessimistic about philosophy's ability to throw light on the nature of consciousness. What, then, to do? One option is to persist with the various current approaches. It is clear that Honderich thinks this would be akin to putting more effort into trying to work out the temporal priority of the chicken and the egg. The thought of the orthodox is that an account of consciousness is going to be either fundamentally materialist or fundamentally dualist. The first of these is untenable as consciousness has other or more than neural properties. The second is untenable for various reasons, Honderich's favoured one being that it renders consciousness as out of space and of a mysterious nature. A second option would be to follow Colin McGinn's lead, and think that the problem is of such a nature that it is necessarily unsolvable (McGinn, 1989). Alternatively, we should be more radical and think creatively, not necessarily respecting our current conceptual boundaries between the mental and the physical, the inside and the outside. The solution, Honderich says, lies in the thought that 'my consciousness now consists in the existence of a world' (Honderich, 2004, p. 130). I shall say a little about what I understand by this claim, by raising what I take to be three obvious questions, looking at Honderich's answers them, and inviting some further clarification. Throughout I will address only the question of perceptual consciousness.

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