Past Meetup

NJ Talk Philosophy: Is Consciousness Just a Glorified Computer Program?

This Meetup is past

6 people went

Montclair Vegan

10 Park St · Montclair, NJ

How to find us

Harkness table in the back

Location image of event venue


Last night was a good time. We kicked around theories of consciousness as outlined by Dennett in "Consciousness Explained."

We began with Descartes and his concept of Hyperbolic Doubt: a thought experiment requiring one to doubt anything and everything that has even the slightest possibility of being untrue.

Descartes uses this method to doubt our physical reality: it is possible an evil demon is sending us false sensory information and therefore tricking us into believing the world is how it appears. Descartes consequently reasons all knowledge coming from the external world via the senses is unreliable.

Distraught, Descartes wonders if there is anything at all he can "know." Wondering, it dawns on him that there is a wonder-er. From this he concludes he can know he exists as a subject wondering: a "thinking thing." This premise is immune to Hyperbolic Doubt, for even if he were to doubt his existence, the presence of that doubt implies a doubter, and therefore a thinking thing.

Such is the foundation of dualism: the concept that there is a mind separate from the physical body.

Dennett's project in "Consciousness Explained" is to reject dualism and supply an alternative model of consciousness explained simply by different regions of the brain communicating with one another.

The problem is, we missed the meat of his explanation by reading only the first and last chapters! So, while we speculated about wheat and chessboard, purple cows, chinese rooms, and ghosts in machines, we were unable to come to any substantial conclusions about Dennett's theory.

We decided to remedy this by reading Chapter 5 of "Consciousness Explained" for next week, which lays out Dennett's Multiple Drafts theory in contrast to the Cartesian Theatre!

See you there,

PS: We are meeting one night earlier than usual. Many of you have messaged me saying Fridays are no good so we're experimenting with a Thursday instead!