The hard problem

Why can’t the world’s greatest minds solve the mystery of consciousness? First-rate review of competing ideas about what makes human beings more than complex robots. “It would be poetic – albeit deeply frustrating – were it ultimately to prove that the one thing the human mind is incapable of comprehending is itself. An answer must be out there somewhere. And finding it matters: indeed, one could argue that nothing else could ever matter more – since anything at all that matters, in life, only does so as a consequence of its impact on conscious brains. Yet there’s no reason to assume that our brains will be adequate vessels for the voyage towards that answer. Nor that, were we to stumble on a solution to the Hard Problem, on some distant shore where neuroscience meets philosophy, we would even recognise that we’d found it.” Highly recommended. Clear, thorough.

McGinn controversies

Colin McGinn (the mind-body problem and mysterianism) has been controversial in different ways. Consider McGinn’s review of Ted Honderich’s On Consciousness: “This book runs the full gamut from the mediocre to the ludicrous to the merely bad. It is painful to read, poorly thought out, and uninformed. It is also radically inconsistent.”

Then take a look at Kerry McKenzie’s review of McGinn’s Basic Structures of Reality: “For all the epistemic faux-modesty that this book purports to defend, the image that persists while grinding through its pages is of an individual ludicrously fancying themselves as uniquely positioned to solve the big questions for us, from scratch and unassisted, as if none of the rest of us working in the field have had anything worth a damn to contribute. It will however be clear by now that I take the reality to be substantially different.”

But a current controversy is different: A Star Philosopher Falls, and a Debate Over Sexism Is Set Off.