at the Towards a Science of Consciousness conference 2005 in Copenhagen

A 2-hour session at this annual conference on the philosophy and science of consciousness, August 2005, was devoted to certain proposals for escaping the malaise of the current philosophy of mind, so widely perceived outside a circle of committed practitioners. What follows here is a general statement of what unites these proposals, and then abstracts of three talks -- by Ted Honderich, Riccardo Manzotti, and Francois Tonneau. For a paper behind Honderich's talk, go to Consciousness as Existence, Devout Physicalism, Spiritualism. For the paper that issued in Manzotti's talk, go to Consciousness and Existence as a Process. For Tonneau's paper, go to Consciousness Outside the Head, in the journal Behaviour and Philosophy, 2004. For the full growth of Honderich's thinking, ignore all else and go to the 2014 OUP book Actual Consciousness.

Contemporary philosophy and science of consciousness, despite variation, divides into hard physicalism and soft physicalism. Hard physicalism, however elaborated, takes consciousness to consist in only neural or like states and processes. Soft physicalism, including functionalism and philosophical cognitive science, takes some step towards accomodating the conviction that consciousness is subjective. Both hard and soft physicalisms, and also the dualistic spiritualism implied by much philosophical resistance to the physicalisms, are or can be argued to reduce to cranialisms: they locate consciousness in the head. But no one is happy with the proposition that their consciousness is literally in their head. That is one motivation for something new, although with an historical antecedent. This is Radical Externalism. It also explains subjectivity, promises an escape from current dissatisfaction in the philosophy and science of consciousness, and is consistent with neuroscience and the science of consciousness. In whole or in part it locates states of consciousness outside of heads. This physicalism or near-physicalism asserts more than a dependency-relation of consciousness to the physical world, as in the externalism of Burge and perhaps Putnam. Forms of Radical Externalism are advanced by Honderich, Manzotti and Tonneau.

by Ted Honderich
Grote Professor Emeritus of the Philosophy of Mind and Logic, University College London

The history of the philosophy of mind and psychology, and current research and speculation in the science of consciousness, support the idea that conciousness has three parts, sides or elements: perceptual, reflective and affective. Their distinctive natures and their relationships remain mysterious. It is not easy to frame questions about them. The theory of Conscious as Existence, a limited form of Radical Externalism, gives different accounts of seeing, thinking and wanting -- fundamentally different if in part recursive. To be perceptually aware is for an extra-cranial and spatio-temporal state of affairs to exist in a specified way. To reflect on the past and to want a future thing are given related but different analyses, partly having to do with internal as against external representations. The present paper considers objections to this differentiation in consciousness, and the possibility that it is a necessity.

by Riccardo Manzotti
Research Fellow in Psychology
IULM University of Milan

I present an alternative view of direct conscious perception which supposes the occurrence of a unity between neural activity in the brain and external world events. This unity is a physical process which I refer to as the “onphene”. I use the perception of the rainbow as first example. Eventually the same rationale is extended to the perception of colours, objects and movements. According to this hypothesis, the conscious experience of the world is not an internally generated domain, but it is that part of the environment (extended in time and space) which is causally active thanks to the relevant sensory-motor-neural structures of the conscious subject. The same rationale is used to explain dreams, illusions, memory, non veridical perception, and phosphenes. The view presented here is related to neo-realism and externalism and it can be seen as a form of radical externalism.


by Dr. Francois Tonneau
Centro de Estudios e Investigaciones en Comportamiento
Universidad de Guadalajara

The empirical evidence for brain-centered theories of consciousness boils down to the existence of discrepancies between the physical environment and perceptual contents, and to the fact that changes of perceptual contents covary with changes in brain states. However, both facts are also compatible with a view that locates all of consciousness in the environment instead of the brain. This view assumes that human bodies are extended in time, and that what seems to be a non-veridical perception in the short term is actually a part of the environment over a more extended time period. Dreams, illusions, and hallucinations are identified with scattered environmental features that are only loosely correlated with one another and relate to the human body through a temporally extended mechanism of cross-section. This view does not lock each of us inside our skull, and restores direct realism to a place that no one can afford losing.


For a paper on Honderich's theory and discussions of it by other philosophers, go to Radical Externalism: Honderich's Theory of Consciousness Discussed.

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