At a recent talk I attended at UC Santa Barbara, Professor Marcus Raichle, one of the pioneers of brain imaging, jokingly referred to consciousness as the “C word.”
His little joke highlighted the fact that for many working neuroscientists and others who think about the brain, trying to explain what consciousness actually is – as opposed to explaining the various functions of brains – is still a bit frowned upon. It also seems that many neuroscientists who do think about the “hard problem” of consciousness – the mind/body problem by a different name – believe that once we explain the functions of brains there’s really not much, if anything, left to explain about consciousness itself.
I find in my discussions on consciousness that arguments about “emergence,” well, emerge as a response from critics time and time again. Consciousness is, in this view, simply an emergent property of complex biological structures like brains.
I’ve written a number of essays (and an unpublished book) defending the alternative panpsychist view of consciousness. The type of panpsychism I find compelling is that developed into a comprehensive system by Alfred North Whitehead, Henri Bergson, Charles Hartshorne, David Ray Griffin, and many others during the 20th Century. It is growing in popularity, but still a minority view.
Read the rest at the Independent.