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Understanding Consciousness - Is Materialism Compatible with Qualia - Essay Example

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This paper "Understanding Consciousness - Is Materialism Compatible with Qualia?" focuses on the fact that the concept of consciousness has baffled philosophers and scientists throughout the ages. The answer to the question ‘what is consciousness?’ promises an explanation of what humans are. …
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Download file to see previous pages Descartes perhaps illustrated the proof of the idea of consciousness best when he indicated “I think, therefore I am.”  This often-quoted statement came about as Descartes attempted to prove that even if there is some sort of great deceiver working to alter his perceptions of his own existence, the fact that he could be fooled proved he had a conscious mind. “Doubtless, then, I exist, since I am deceived; and, let him deceive me as he may, he can never bring it about that I am nothing, so long as I shall be conscious that I am something” (Descartes, 1989). This concept of separating thought from physical perception also led to the development of a theory of consciousness called dualism, which stipulated that the conscious mind was something other than and apart from the physical brain, yet also somehow connected so as to receive the sensory impressions of the body while exerting a tremendous amount of control over it. Dualism has since been thrown over in favour of the concept of materialism, in which it is thought the mind and the brain are somehow one and the same entity, yet how thoughts form and where imagination takes place remains elusive. This paper, then, will explore the concepts of consciousness beginning with a current understanding of the term and the basic ideas involved in materialism before investigating the concept of qualia to determine whether materialism and qualia are compatible.
In attempting to determine a solid definition of the term ‘consciousness’, one will discover it is a very difficult idea to pin down in specific words. “Like most words, ‘consciousness’ does not admit of a definition in terms of genus and differentia or necessary and specific conditions” (Searle, 1999). When attempting to determine a specific definition, distinctions are made between what Sigmund Freud termed as ‘conscious’ and ‘unconscious’ which helps to clear up the issue somewhat. Conscious thoughts are generally recognized as those that deal with identifying the textures and feelings of the various objects around the physical body, the plans one might have for how the day should be spent or the daydreams of what the future might hold.    ...Download file to see next pagesRead More
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