| PROF. TED HONDERICH WEBSITE|
These are a philosopher's pages. Writings by him are in them, many on what consciousness is and where it is, also on what is called mind and brain, many on right and wrong in societies, including the Principle of Humanity, some on determinism or explanationism and freedom, a few on terrorism and terrorist war, punishment, and a variety of subjects -- for example Russell's Theory of Descriptions, the worth of A. J. Ayer as philosopher, Blackburn, Burge, Chalmers, Davidson, Habermas, Kenny, MacIntyre, McGinn, Nagel, Parfit, Searle, Strawson, Williams -- and such a scientist or two as Libet. Also a speech or interview or two, and a scandal in and of Germany about Zionism and Neo-Zionism. Also papers by others on determinism and freedom. One commitment in all this, to which there is an good index, is to mainstream philosophy. That is not ownership of but it is greater concentration than that of science on the logic of ordinary intelligence -- (i) clarity, usually analysis, (ii) consistency and validity, (iii) completeness, (iv) generalness. In short, thinking about facts rather than getting to them? Not to be confused with formal or mathematical logic, which has not solved and maybe has not advanced any philosophical problem. Of course not pop philosophy. Another commitment of these pages, about what is right, is indeed to that Principle of Humanity: Take all and only means to the end of getting people out of bad lives as well defined.
Philosophy of Ted Honderich -- A Day's Lectures
Macmillan Hall, Senate House, University of London, Malet Street, 9 Feb, 2-6.30 pm
Consciousness -- The Actualism Theory
Determinism/Explanationism and Freedom
Right and Wrong and Humanity and Terrorism and Terrorist War
The Royal Institute of Philosophy was pleased to announce a day celebrating the three interdependent parts of the philosophy of Ted Honderich, Grote Professor Emeritus of the Philosophy of Mind and Logic at University College London -- on Consciousness and the Mind, Determinism and Freedom, and Right and Wrong Including Terrorism. Among his many books are Actual Consciousness and the forthcoming Your Being Conscious Is What? Where?; A Theory of Determinism: The Mind, Neuroscience and Life-Hopes and How Free Are You?; After the Terror and Humanity, Terrorism, Terrorist War. He is also the author of many articles and the editor of The Oxford Companion to Philosophy and Philosophers of Our Times.
Five speakers considered one or more of the three parts of Ted's philosophy and he made responses -- all of which you can find online by clicking here.
Prof. Noam Chomsky. MIT, ‘Unconscious Mentality: Some Speculations’
Prof. Gregg D. Caruso, SUNY, ‘Origination, Moral Responsibility, Punishment, and Life-Hopes: Ted Honderich on Determinism and Freedom’
Prof. Tim Crane, Cambridge, ‘What is Actually in Consciousness? Comment on Ted Honderich’s Actual Consciousness’
Prof. Paul Gilbert, Hull, ‘Ted Honderich and Terrorism’
Prof. Paul Snowdon, University College London, ‘Ted Honderich on Consciousness’
Prof. Anthony O’Hear of The Royal Institute presided.
book of papers to come:
Out of the day came the idea by Gregg Caruso of a
collection to be published containing pieces by various philosophers on
Ted's philosophy in its three parts.
The arranged contributors on consciousness and mind are Noam Chomsky of MIT, Barbara Montero of CUNY, Barry Smith of the University of London., and Paul Snowdon of University College London.
Those on determinism or explanationism and freedom etc are Caruso of SUNY, Robert Kane of the University of Texas, Derk Pereboom of Cornell University, and Saul Smilansky of Haifa University..
Those on right and wrong, the Principle of Humanity, terrorism etc are Mary Warnock of Oxford University, Paul Gilbert of Hull, Akeel Bilgrami of Columbia University, and Michael Neumann of Trent University. Saul Smilansky also considers this category as well as that of determinism/explanationism and freedom.
Ted will make a short replies to each contributor.
Philosophy of Ted Honderich Day -- Ted's Opening Handout on Three Subjects
 CONSCIOUSNESS -- THE ACTUALISM THEORY
This, if it is a workplace rather than a final theory or a so-called one, is indubitably a long way from those two main fairy tales still told or remembered --
(1) Consciousness is just objectively or scientifically physical stuff in your head, soggy grey matter as Colin McGinn contemplated, anyway only neural networks, however generally functionally-related within themselves or to other things.
(2) Consciousness is ghostly stuff, as in the old, old Greek theory of mind-brain dualism, to go on misappropriating that term for there being two things with one not physical and somewhere above the other. Or the entirely similar ghostly stuff in the abstract functionalism of very much cognitive science, tied to the more than chancey proposition of multiple or variable realization -- that exactly and precisely the same thought or hope or whatever can go with different brain states.
We do not have to wait for an Einstein of consciousness. We do not have to be pessimistic about solving the problem right now.
There is something we can start with. That is a rich figurative database on consciousness in the primary ordinary sense, derivable from the language of philosophers, scientists and others. About 40 items, including their taking being conscious in this sense as being the having of something, its being there, its being open, its being transparent in the sense of being clear straight-off, its not being deduced, inferred, constructed or posited from something else, its being given, its being right there, its somehow existing, being what gives rise to philosophical talk of content or object, its being present, its being presented, its being what McGinn speaks of as vividly naked, and so on. (To full database below.)
The database can be summed up as initially adequately identifying primary ordinary consciousness as being something's being actual, as being actual consciousness.Patently this consciousness is not all of the mental or the mind, where the latter is what includes more than consciousness in this sense, say what enables me right now to do what is different, think for a moment of my age.
The figurative database, with some significant help, including contemplation of various shortcomings of existing theories of consciousness and thus the assembling of certain criteria for a good one, leads somewhere, as in many different cases in the history of science. To an entirely literal theory -- in this case Actualism.
The theory consists in answers as to (i) what is actual in the three different sides of consciousness -- perceptual, cognitive, affective -- and (ii) what being actual is. Of course it is a dualism in the sense that any sane theory is -- it makes a difference between consciousness and the rest of what there is.
In perceptual consciousness, what is actual is subjective physical worlds out there, stages of them, often rooms. Worlds no more myriad in number than piles of things in science. Their being actual is exactly their being subjectively physical. In cognitive and affective consciousness, what is actual is representations-with-attitude, in here, cranial. Their being actual is their being differently subjectively physical.
So, without any leap to theory or hurry to generality about any of the physical, but pedestrianly -- here is a comparative table of summation. It shows the genus of all physicality, consisting of two species and then two sub-species of the second species. Thus samenesses and differences between three things.
/ / \
/ / \
In short, perceptual consciousness does indeed consist in certain dependent worlds out there, not representations of any kind whatever, whatever registration-without-representation there may be of the objective physical world on a perceiver. Cognitive and affective consciousness, however, are representations-with-attitude in here -- the attitudes having to do respectively with truth or with good.
None of ancient or contemporary ghostly stuff in this story. Or sense data or 'mental paint', or the vagueness of 'content', or something discernible but transparent, or a theatre of the mind with a spotlight, let alone the behaviourism from which Chomsky awakened several whole professions and their fans, or physical functionalism on its own as against being a possible component in theory. Or in this story of perceptual consciousness itself any vulnerability to the tired objections from illusion and hallucination. Or any representions elsewhere in the wider category of the mental. Nor in Actualism is there the elusiveness of talk of phenomenality, let alone the circularity of so much thinking on consciousness, such as it consisting in what it's like to be something. Or my own old Union Theory of interdependent effects. Or Galen Strawson's breathtaking revival of the aspectual theory of panpsychism. Nor entities of the all-inclusive, blanketing and flattening previous contemporary externalisms -- meanings or individuators or whatever, theories seemingly advanced of all of perceptual, cognitive and affective consciousness -- those of Hilary Putnam, Tyler Burge, Andy Clark, and Alva Noe.
Of course there are questions about Actualism. Say Chomsky's implied and unsettling one about whether we can have an adequate conception of the physical at all despite science not having provided one since about as far back as Newton. And of course questions about the relation of consciousness to the rest of the mental, thus the relation of Actualism to mentalism in a very general sense -- or in Chomsky's particular sense. A question too of whether Actualism will defeat the fortress of intentionality or aboutness as the nature of all consciousness, standing since the mediaevals and Brentano in the 19th Century, so newly fortified by Tim Crane. And is Actualism the very nerve or strength of Searle's lovely and celebrated Chinese Room argument against computerism about consciousness?
conscousness, consciousness in the primary ordinary sense, actual
consciousness, the right subject of consciousness? There isn't one right
subject. But this is the necessary
one. All others depend on the primary ordinary sense. They depend on a hold on
 DETERMINISM / EXPLANATIONISM AND FREEDOM
An old and doubted and condescended-to story is true. All apatio-temporaral events or happenings or states of whatever extent or duration, without exception, as distinct from anything else, say merely logically, conceptally, linguistically, mathematically, or theoretically connected items or stages, maybe bits of Quantum Theory, are effects or lawful correlates. Each has a fundamental explanation. I.e. each is such that if or given a particular causal or other lawful circumstance or set of conditions, whatever else were also happening, the event or whatever would still have occurred. Causation and lawful connection in sum, no mystery or problem, is as plain as that strong or whatever-else conditional statement.
Explanationism, as I myself am now more inclined to call it, in order to avoid the misleading heavy connotations of 'determinism', shared with 'fatalism', is at least a reasonable assumption, in fact the gravamen of naturalism and empiricism. Despite our supposed revealing personal 'could-have-done-otherwise' experiences of having decided or acted. Also despite wonderful interpretations of the mathematics of Quantum Theory, rightly spoken of as weird etc, about as hopeless as Schodinger's cat, which, according to that thought-experiment, is both alive and dead until it is observed.
Also, in the absence of real chance in roulette wheels or levitating spoons at breakfast or any such wonders etc, it is necessary, if we turn to the brain or whatever, to suppose either that there isn't indeterminism down below in or around it, or that if there is, it doesn't translate upward to where it would count.
The historical doctrines of traditional Compatibilism and Incompatibilism about determinism and freedom have been falsified, demonstrably so. I claim a little old credit. Hume was wrong in taking our freedom as we understand it to be consistent with causation. Kant was wrong in taking our freedom as we understand it to be inconsistent with causation.
This is the case simply since in our conceiving, as distinct from fact, there is both incompatible freedom (origination, free will, lawless and unexplainable control and responsibility) and also compatible freedom (voluntariness -- choice and action according to desire, embraced desires, etc, and thus quite unfated). There is not one idea --which of course would have to be either inconsistent or not with something else.
There is a related but alternative true-enough story called Attitudinism.
The real problem of determinism has been that of accomodating ourselves to the frustration of certain attitudes -- at bottom certain desires, stuff of Affective Consciousness. We run up against a conviction owed to reflecting on our own past lives. That conviction is that an attitude akin to the one tied to Indeterminism, that way of holding yourself lawlessly morally responsible, has some or other basis despite the truth of determinism. We need to look for a radical escape here, get out of cart tracks that have never got anywhere, be nearly as brave as the daredevil interpreters of the mathematics of Quantum Theory, bu with our feet on earth, find a solution as radical here as Actualism is with the problem of perceptual consciousness. An escape from dismay and intransigence about our lives into affirmation.
More particularly, such astute students as Bob Kane of free will or origination or inexplicable responsibility have in fact allowed that in wanting it, we are in fact wanting something you can say is real, a certain human standing. We are wanting to be above nature or at least above the rest of nature.
We won't get this elevation, according to me, in more cogitation about funny powers, new randomness, God's gift, neuroscience having shown the mind is after the brain then turning out to show it's before it, or what is to me the absurd argument that for determinism there is no sense in which we are in control when we decide to cross the street because we aren't in control of a train of past causes. See Wikipedia. We need something that will have to be very different.
The Actualism theory of consciousness provides this uniquely, as well as truth to our irrepressible conviction of subjectivity -- as follows.
Each of us has the stages of a subjective physical world dependent on us as well as dependent on the objective physical world. To be rhetorical, each of us is a god, however petty. Still more seriously, really and absolutely seriously, each of us is lawful unity of perceptual, cognitive and affective consciousness that is also an individuality and a personal identity. That reality known to you, you could say lived in, and no inner entity, no such self, no spook, is the referent of your 'I', your use of the first-person pronoun.
Surely a case of a
little concentrated thought about one's self doing the trick?
There is a morality to which we are all committed, by two things, the first being its accord with the fact of our Affective Consciousness. More particularly with the fact of the great goods of our lives, the objects of what I count as our six great desires. Which great goods issue in each of us making and being certain of a moral judgements about each of us as distinct from anyone else having them, a seeming moral personal necessity. I have a claim to food, to be able to sleep....
The second thing, which must cut against this self-interest, is our minimal rationality, just the fact of our having reasons, including moral reasons necessarily as general as any other reasons. So we are committed, despite our disregarding it, anyway most of us, to a certain morality of good consequences for all by our individual human nature. This is a kind of moral truth, the fundamental moral truth.
More fully, we all desire (1) the great good of going on existing, including a personal world going on longer. (2) We want a kind of existence that has to do with our bodies -- not to be in pain, etc. (3) We want particular freedoms and powers. We do not want to be coerced by various personal circumstances arranged by others, subjected to compulsion, bullied, unable to run our own lives, weakened. (4) We want goods of relationship to those around us, closer and wider relationship. (5) Also respect and self-respect. (6) And the goods of culture, starting with being able to read.. All of us want at least some of the latter cutural goods. Many of us want the practice and reassurance of a religion, or the custom of a people, or a homeland, a real rather than a pretended one.
A bad life is to be defined in terms of the deprivation of the six great goods.
The Principle of Humanity then is simply that the right or justified thing as distinct from others -- the right intention, action, practice, punishment, struggle, institution, government, body of law, society, or possible world -- is the one that according to the best judgement and information is the rational means in the sense of being effective and not self-defeating with respect to the end of getting and keeping people in general out of the bad lives -- in well-being instead.
Of course a consequentialism as against the veils and paint-jobs over and on self-concern in which most morality consists. And of course not the nonsense that the end justifies the means, by the way, but the truth that the end and the means justify the means.
To the Principle of Humanity are attached certain policies, several fundamental ones having to do with redistribution of the means to well-being, starting with redistribution from possessors who in fact would not be significantly affected by the transfers. Another having to do with the necessity of escape from restraining conventionality in expression, societally-based constraint against moral truth. Less academic 'balance', less parliamentary language, less moderateness, less respect, less of a lot more.
The Principle of Humanity preceded but is consonant with and takes some support from recent humanitarian causes including armed interventions and pretences of them. It is the principle of the Left in politics when the Left is true to itself. The principle is superior to a slurry of attitudes in politics, international relations and conflict. E.g. talk, cant, ideology etc of deserts, equality, legality, our oligarchic and not merely hierarchic democracy, free enterprise, OK omissions as against terrible acts with just the same effects, moniedness in our societies, spurious sectional freedoms, 'our values', loosenesses about 'the just war', political traditions such as conservatism, liberalism, economism, etc.
All that is a mess, part of our own lower form of life. It raises the question of what to do.
With respect to terrorism as tolerably defined, the moral law that is the Principle of Humanity issues explicitly and arguably, for just one example, in a moral right for the Palestinians in what is known as their terrorism against neo-Zionism as distinct from Zionism. It issues of course in such a right as is also unfailingly claimed inexplicitly but in effect exactly by neo-Zionism itself, entirely wrongly, in its terrorism against the Palestinians, in its taking of the last one fifth of the land or liberty of the indigenous people of Palestine. A terrorism arguably different, by the way, from that of Zionism itself in 1948.
The Principle of Humanity also condemns terrorist war, including our war on Iraq, and certainly the war criminals and mass murderers Blair and Bush. It is respectable in not respecting wretched little evasions. In eschewing the pretence of fact, even by courts, the Principle of Humanity condemns the ongoing ethnic cleansing of neo-Zionism and the attack on and invasion of Gaza in 2015 by its army, arguably terrorist war at least more to be condemned than any concerted action of Palestinians at any time.
With respect to Islamic State, in Syria and Iraq, what is necessary for us is not only to act against barbarism and primitivism but to keep in mind our own civilized recent killing of a million or so more people than the barbarians.
Such a proper orientation, rational moral insecurity, denial of self-sanctification, must issue in real negotiation, negotiation that will give up on things -- negotiation mindful of our Sykes-Picot self-interested drawing of lines in the sand after World War 1, and all our subsequent exploitation and toleration of exploitation of peoples, and our ideology and our realpolitik and our terrorist air war in destruction of the society of Libya, and letting refugees/migrants drown in the Mediterranean, children among them, getting only the attention of photographers.
Only an inane political class, notably in England the morally stupid leaders of the party called New Labour, joining into the affective consciousness of Conservatism only minimally cognitive, only those speechifying violators of the tradition of democratic socialism, and in America uneducated and perhaps ineducable and hence unawakened but dreaming members of the Democratic Party -- only these could pretend otherwise, that there is nothing to be said on and for the other side.
The few signal exceptions in politics at this moment (12 February 2016) are of course the English and American Corbyn and Sanders. There is some hope there.
One ancient one still tempting such neuroscientists as Dave Chalmers is Dualism: that your consciousness is something non-physical, different in kind from your physical brain. Abstract Functionalism, owned by such as Ned Block, is all too close to it. That is to the effect that your conscious states and events are causes and effects somehow floating above your brain. All that is good in making consciousness different, which everybody knows, and a disaster in making it non-causal, which everybody also knows it is except Australian epiphenomenalists.
The commonest inclination in neuroscience and the like, I take it, is Physicalism. It is that your being conscious right now is a state or event of your objectively or scientifically physical brain. That is good in making consciousness causal, which we bloody know it is, but a disaster in making it just the same in fundamental nature as the chair under you or your toenails
The third theory is Actualism, which is what you and I believe. It starts uniquely by getting an adequate initial clarification of what we're talking about, consciousness -- before getting to a theory, an analytic account of its nature.
There's a database here, collected from the language of a lot of philosophers and the rest of the world, not just a philosopher's bright idea on Monday morning, or a neuroscientist's thought when she's off work on Sunday.
The database, by way of a descriptive label, is that being conscious is something's being actual. That label is metaphorical or figurative, just like what has issued in a lot or even most science on everything. It results in two questions that a good theory, of course perfectly literal, will answer. What's actual? What's its being actual?
Just as good as starting with a database, there's what we all know, that there's a big difference between consciousness in seeing, consciousness in any kind of perception, and consciousness that is just thinking and consciousness that is just wanting. Perceptual, cognitive, and affective consciousness.
What is actual with your perceptual consciousness in seeing the room you're in right now is a bloody room. Notice I said a, not the. Nothing else. Absolutely no sign, image, representation or anything of the sort. You know the difference between what's a sign o image and what isn't. So do I. A picture that is up on a wall is an image, but a room isn't.
What's actual with you thinking a thought about consciousness, or your wanting to be somewhere else, however, is exactly a representation -- with an attitude attached to it related somehow to truth or to something like what's good.
And what is it for the room or the representation to be actual? It's for it to be physical, but subjectively rather than objectively physical. Physicality in general divides into the two big categories --objecive and subjective.
What is it for the room to be subjectively physical? It's to be out there in space with a lot of other properties, 16 I think, nothing like anything behind your forehead, and for it to be lawfully dependent -- not exactly causally dependent but related to that -- on both the objective room out there and also on your brain.
And an idea or hope of yours, cognitive or affective consciousness, is differently subjectively physical. It is an aboutness as we can say, just as a room is a room, and it is subjectively physical in having a lot of properties related to those of the room, and being dependent on the rest of you -- on you neurally, also known as the personal identity that is you.
It's all written down in a paperback book out more or less today. Get it. Join the future before it gets here. Stuff boring dualism and abstract functionalism. Stuff boring scientific or objective physicalism. If you want to join the future still cheaper, go to the T.H. website.
FREEDOM IN FLAMES
Audience handout that didn't get handed out -- reasonably enough since meeting was a panel discussion with Barry Smith, Susana Martinez-Conde, and the chairman Michael Crick.
A condescended-to story is true. All apatio-temporaral events or happenings or states, as distinct from anything else, say merely logically, conceptally, linguistically, mathematically or theoretically connected items or stages, maybe bits of bloody Quantum Theory, are effects or lawful correlates. Each has a fundamental explanation. I.e. each is such that if or given a particular causal or other lawful circumstance or set of conditions, whatever else were also happening, the event or whatever would still have occurred.
Explanationism, as I myself am now more inclined to call it, in order to avoid the misleading heavy connotations of 'determinism', shared with 'fatalism', is at least a reasonable assumption, in fact the gravamen of naturalism and empiricism. Despite our supposedly revealing personal 'could-have-done-otherwise' experiences of having decided or acted. Also despite wonderful interpretations of the mathematics of Quantum Theory, rightly spoken of as weird etc., about as hopeless as Schodinger's cat, which, according to that thought-experiment, is both alive and dead until it is observed.
Also, in the absence of real chance in roulette wheels or levitating spoons at breakfast or any such wonders etc, it is necessary, if we turn to the brain or whatever, to suppose either that there isn't indeterminism down below in it or around it. Or that if there is, it doesn't translate upward to where it would count.
The two big historical doctrines, that explanationism is compatible with freedom and that it is not, are up the spout. This is the case simply since in our conceiving, as distinct from fact, there is both incompatible freedom (origination, free will, lawless and unexplainable control and responsibility) and also compatible freedom (voluntariness -- choice and action according to desire, embraced desires, etc, and thus quite unfated). There is not one idea --which of course would have to be either inconsistent or not with something else.
There is a related but alternative true-enough story called Attitudinism.
The real problem of determinism has been that of accomodating ourselves to the frustration of certain attitudes -- at bottom certain desires, stuff of Affective Consciousness. We run up against a conviction owed to reflecting on our own past lives. That conviction is that an attitude akin to the one tied to Indeterminism, that way of holding yourself lawlessly morally responsible, has some or other basis despite the truth of determinism. More particularly, such astute students as Bob Kane of free will or origination or inexplicable responsibility have in fact allowed that in wanting it, we are in fact wanting something you can say is real, a certain human standing. We are wanting to be above nature or at least above the rest of nature.
We won't get this elevation, according to me, in more cogitation about funny powers, new randomness, God's gift, neuroscience showing the mind is after the brain then turning out to show it's before it, or what is to me the absurd argument that for determinism there is no sense in which we are in control when we decide to cross the street because we aren't in control of a train of past causes. See Wikipedia. We need something that will have to be very different.
The Actualism theory of consciousness provides this uniquely, as well as truth to our irrepressible conviction of subjectivity -- as follows.
Each of us has the stages of a subjective physical world out there -- not a damned image -- dependent on us as well as dependent on the objective physical world. To be rhetorical, each of us is a god, however petty. Still more seriously, really and absolutely seriously, each of us is lawful unity of perceptual, cognitive and affective consciousness that is also an individuality and a personal identity. That reality known to you, you could say lived in, and no inner entity, no such self, no spook, is the referent of your 'I', your use of the first-person pronoun. Surely a case of a little concentrated thought about one's self doing the trick of giving us some human standing
There's more on the website with my name on it. And How Free Are You? is the precis-book of A Theory of Determinism: The Mind, Neuroscience, and Life Hopes.
HAY-ON-WYE 2015 FESTIVAL RECOLLECTION OF AN EVENT:
Humanity, Conservatism, David Aaronovitch, Edwina Currie.Ted Honderich
Wrongly not deferential to fellow panellists? No, about right.
PHILOSOPHERS OF OUR TIMES
An introductory lecture prompted by the book of that title below to the Edinburgh Book Festival, by Ted Honderich. Not as worthwhile as the lectures by others in the book of that title. Accessible though.
A NEW BOOK
Oxford University Press
From the jacket of the paperback edition:
‘I admire Honderich’s insightful self-reflective re-examination of the facts of consciousness
as he perceives them. That Honderich’s discussion of actual consciousness opens so many
avenues for philosophical exploration is the measure of its success and likely long-lasting
contribution to the study and understanding of consciousness. The book is highly
recommended for its topic, approach and new perspectives on the challenging problem
of adequately understanding consciousness in a scientific philosophy of mind. For those
with minimal objection to countenancing as many actualities as there are perceiving minds,
then the subjective actuality of consciousness may have found an ideal situation in
Honderich’s theory of actual consciousness.’
Dale Jacquette, Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews
‘Honderich’s thought in Actual Consciousness is as always entirely accessible . . . For its genre
this is an unusual book, not least, though engagingly, for the virtually “actual” presence of
its author on every page. Honderich’s checklists and their interrelations should provide
themes for many seminars to come.’ Alastair Hannay, Philosophy
‘This audacious venture should certainly be praised . . . good philosophy presses readers to
think for themselves, and Actual Consciousness gives us much food for thought.’
Roberta Locatelli, Times Higher Education
‘Oddly engaging . . . a good start for a theory of consciousness, and his approach makes
sense of what most people assume when they take the reality of their experience
for granted.’ Janna Thompson, Australian Book Review
‘Meticulously researched and extensively cited.’ The Guardian
Ted Honderich is Grote Professor Emeritus of the Philosophy of Mind and Logic at
University College London and visiting professor at Yale and the CUNY Graduate Centre.
He has lived in London for most of his life, and lectured in much of Europe and the East.
Cover image: The Woman in Blue, 1874, by Jean Baptiste Camille Corot.
Louvre, Paris, France/Giraudon/The Bridgeman Art Library
Author's sketch / very brief recollection of Actual Consciousness:
To understand what it is to be
conscious, don’t start with any of five leading philosophical ideas --
what it’s like to be something, traditional subjectivity,
intentionality, phenomenality, or
any bundle of them. Start with a large figurative database. It leads to
consciousness in the primary or core sense being initially adequately
kind of clarification is essential to inquiry and real agreement and
disagreement. This consciousness, speaking as figuratively, is something's
The resulting wholly literal and explicit theory of consciousness, Actualism, first is that with consciousness in perceiving, what is actual is a spatio-temporal piece or stage out there of a physical world, usually a room, certainly not a room in a head. Not sense data, any other representations, a self, functional or cognitive-science relations, some constitution or structure of consciousness, or whatever else from the histories of philosophy and science. No matter what roles such things or related ones play in the associated unconscious mentality.
With thinking and with wanting as against perceiving, what is actual, to be briefer than brief, is only representations-with-attitudes.
Being actual, in all cases, is being subjectively physical, differently so with perceptual consciousness as against each of cognitive and affective consciousness. No representationism by itself, and not the representationism in Actualism, is a sufficient account of cognitive and affective consciousness. Representations being actual have to be in a sufficient account.
The subjectively physical as a whole, its parts being open to full and explicit characterization, no gesturing, is one great category of all physicality, the other being objective physicality.
Actualism, right or wrong, is therefore a wholly different physicalism from predecessors. It is different too in being partly an externalism and partly an internalism or cranialism.
It deals exclusively with the prime subject with respect to the philosophy and science of mind, the necessary subject. It is argued to satisfy assembled criteria better than any competing theory. It denies absolutely any really unique mystery about mind. It claims to explain the fact of subjectivity fully, which is essential to any theory of consciousness, only partly by having a real physical world dependent not only on the objective physical world but also on you neurally.
Despite being persistently worked out, is it also a programme? It may be philosophically as well as scientifically fertile. Certainly it is wholly consistent with, and respects, and registers the past progress of the science of consciousness. It is a full partner to science, as science is to it.
Author's comments on 2006 papers by others on his earlier stuff that issued in Actual Consciousness --- papers by Harold Brown, Tim Crane, James Garvey, Stephen Law, E.J. Lowe, Derek Matravers, Paul Noordhof, Ingmar Persson, Stephen Priest, Barry Smith, Paul Snowdon. In Radical Externalism: Honderich's Theory of Consciousness Discussed, edited by Anthony Freeman, and also Journal of Consciousness Studies, 2006.A SECOND NEW BOOK
PHILOSOPHERS OF OUR TIMES
Royal Institute of Philosophy Annual Lectures
Oxford University Press
The 17 lectures in this volume are in five groups, as listed just below, about (i) the philosophy of mind, (ii) value, (iii) the mixed bag of free will, personal identity and religion, (iv) political and social philosophy, and (v) philosophy itself. They are preceded by brief introductory summaries by the chairman of all the lectures, Prof. Honderich.
Turn if you wish to the general introduction to the volume. Turn too if you wish to the introductory summaries of the lectures listed below.
Thomas Nagel, Conceiving the Impossible and the Mind-Body Problem
Ted Honderich introductory summary
Peter Strawson, Perception and Its Objects
Tyler Burge, Perception: Where Mind Begins?
Jerry Fodor, The Revenge of the Given: Mental Representation Without Conceptualization
Ned Block, Attention and Mental Paint
John McDowell, Intention in Action
Christine Korsgaard, On Having a Good
Tim Scanlon, Reasons Fundamentalism
Simon Blackburn, The Sovereignty of Reason
Mary Warnock, What Is Natural and Should We Care About It?
John Searle, Freedom of the Will as a Problem in Neurobiology
Derek Parfit, We Are Not Human Beings
Anthony Kenny, Knowledge, Belief and Faith: Is Religion Really the Root of All Evil?
Noam Chomsky, Simple Truths, Hard
Choices: Some Thoughts on Terror, Justice, and Self-Defence
Alasdair MacIntyre, Social Structures and Their Threats to Moral Agency
Jurgen Habermas, Religious Tolerance: The Pacemaker for Cultural Rights
Bernard Williams, Philosophy as a Humanist Discipline
David Chalmers, On the Limits of Philosophical Progress
First newspaper review of Philosophers of Our Times: http://tinyurl.com/q4zmmqw
FOR EVERYTHING ON THIS WEBSITE, DO HAVE A LOOK THROUGH THE FULL INDEX. BUT HERE IS ANOTHER SURVEY of the larger and smaller categories of papers, chapters, lectures, reviews, a speech or two, some television and other media and so on on.
1. Consciousness, its sides, the mind, functionalism and cognitive science, Davidson's Anomalous Monism, mental causation, mind-brain dualism, traditional physicalism, Roland Penrose's inner tubes, David Papineau's physicalism, that left-behind Union Theory of consciousness and brain now succeeded by Actualism.
2. Politics and hence right and wrong, consequentialism about rightness, equality and its obvious problem, the Principle of Humanity, maybe its holiness, conservatism and liberalism, hierarchic democracy, civil disobedience, Marx and Mill, Anti-Semitism and also Semitic Inhumanity, a respectable instance of neo-Zionist philosophy, terrorisms, the moral right of the Palestinians to their terrorism, war and the terrorist-war criminal Blair.
3. Determinism's truth and its relation to freedom and responsibility, the absurdity of both the ideas that determinism is compatible and that determinism is incompatible with freedom, philosophical autobiography, philosophical attacks and defences and rows, and more.
4 General and miscellaneous. Russell's great Theory of Descriptions and Strawson's objection, two views of the Logical Positivist A. J. Ayer, against the idea of effects as merely high probabilities, interviews and broadcasts, several fusses.
And here, from each of these four categories, a few quick selections.
1. Consciousness and mind
John Searle and Property Dualism
Actual Consciousness, the 1st review, Times Higher Education
Actual Consciousness: Why it makes consciousness a subject for still more science
Actual Consciousness: An author's oversight already, the tyranny of the present, grandiosity
Descartes, dualism, objective physicalism, the true physicalism -- another summary of a book of 213,000 words
Hay-on-Wye videos -- consciousness lecture
Davidson's Anomalous Monism and the Champion of Mauve
Roger Penrose and Ted Honderich on consciousness
Excerpts from 11 papers by others and from Honderich's replies in a book on his now outlived thinking about consciousness and radical externalism
From that past book, seeing things & intentionality in seeing
2. politics and right and wrong
Thoughts after the book After The Terror on our culpable omissions in a loss of 20 million years of living time in Africa
Jurgen Habermas on After the Terror
A book interview with Ted Honderich on American state terrorism
Occupy London talks to the occupiers at St. Paul's Cathedral
A tv interview & transcript about Palestine
Full lectures (Chomsky, Honderich etc) in a series on terror
Hay-on-Wye videos -- debate on terrorism -- & the talk Terrorisms, Wars, The New Teletubbies
The Neo-Zionist libel of anti-semitism and the fall and rise of a book in Germany
On Understanding, Endorsing or Inciting Terrorism
A Greek interview -- Mass Civil Disobedience Today
Chomsky on simple truths about terrorism etc
Postscript to the German book-banning having to do with purported anti-semitism: The Absent Prof. Brumlik
Our air war on Libya
Reviews by the politicians Michael Foot and Enoch Powell of After the Terror
3. determinism, freedom, responsibility
Dan Dennett, a review of Honderich A Theory of Determinism: The Mind, Neuroscience, and Life Hopes
A. J. Ayer review of Honderich determinism book above
A recent and different idea on determinism and our human standing owed to thinking about consciousness
Doyle on Honderich on determinism and freedom
On the curious idea that effects are only high probabilities
Galen Strawson on free will
Ch.1 of the book How Free Are You? in French
The general paper Effects, Determinism, Neither Compatibilism Nor Incompatibilism, Consciousness
Maybe true if traditional articles on determinism & freedom by McCall & McCann
More on determinism and freedom by Manuel Vargas & Ted Honderich
4. general, miscellaneous
Thinking about the nature of time -- the relations of (a) before and after as against (b) past and present
A letter to the editor against a distinguished scientist about philosophy as dead, time, etc.
A tiff in a Moral Maze on the BBC, and what would have been said if....
On Bernard Williams on moral luck, and other philosophers on other items, thoughts on them
Terrorist-war criminals such as Blair
Danish interview, gratifying to the subject
English interview at the Garrick Club
Is the mind ahead of the brain or behind it? Superior thoughts on the neuroscientist Libet.
You gotta read it -- a review of Searle on mind, language and society
Honderich, McGinn, Strohminger -- academic rows and insults about two reviewed books, one being Honderich's On Consciousness
One Oxford Union speech, this one about money and politics etc
Catherine Wilson review of Honderich, Philosopher: A Kind of Life
T.H. LECTURES, TALKS
9 February, talks in Macmillan Hall, Senate House, University of London, to do with Ted Honderich's work on consciousness, determinism and freedom, right and wrong, by Noam Chomsky (by Skype), Gregg Caruso, CUNY, Tim Crane, Cambridge, Paul Gilbert, Hull, and Paul Snowdon, University College London. Responses by T.H. Details from Royal Institute of Philosophy.
9 March, 5 pm, lecture. 'Your Consciousness Is What? Where?' Institute of Philosophy, School of Advanced Study, Senate House, University of London.
9 May, Oxford, Wycliffe Hall
28 May, 12 noon, Hay-on-Wye, How the Light Gets In, consciousness lecture
2015 Kings College London, 24 Jan
Royal Institute of Philosophy, 28 Feb
St. Andrews, Apr 1
Hay on Wye, lecture on consciousness, 27 May
Hay on Wye, panel discussion with Thomas Pogge on world poverty, also 27 May
New York University, consciousness, Sept 29
Graduate Centre, CUNY, consciousness, Oct 1
Muswell Hill Bookshop, Oct 17
Magdeburg, Germany, Nov 25
Berlin School of Brain and Mind, Humboldt University, Nov 27, 2015
University College London, Philosophy Dept, Feb 12
Oxford Brookes, Feb 16
Birkbeck College, Mar 27
Oxford, Rewley House, May 16-17, 2015
Hay on Wye, May 25, talk on consciousness, panel with David Abramovitch, Edwina Currie
Edinburgh Book Festival, August
University of Bern, Nov 26
Invitation to an open philosophical website: Submissions are welcome on consciousness and mind, determinism, free will, political moralities, Palestine, Zionism, neo-Zionism, other related subjects, maybe general and miscellaneous.