I’m currently reading (very slowly!) Daniel Dennett‘s Consciousness Explained. Given that he’s one of the Four Horsemen I have, naturally, listened to Dennett speak on a number of occasions, largely on the subject of atheism. Until now, however, I’d never actually picked up one of his books, and I’m kind of glad that I didn’t — because now I have all that wonderful stuff ahead of me.
Understanding consciousness is something I previously would only have attempted back in my drinking days. Contemplating such apparent unfathomables is something I wouldn’t have dared attempt without a large whiskey or three inside me. With Dennett holding my hand like the philosophical Father Christmas that he is, however, I now feel that I can ponder the non-dualistic, materialistic explanations with admirable sobriety!
It’s a tough subject nevertheless. What is consciousness? What is the “mind”? What differentiates it from “the brain”? If it’s merely the product of cellular processes, does that mean that my consciousness is the same as your consciousness? These — and many others — are the questions that we’ve all asked ourselves, I’m sure, in one form or another at some time in our lives. And they go to the very heart of who we are and, more to the point, perhaps, what we are. Yet, it is a subject that so many people feel we can never understand or, even worse, are afraid of even attempting to understand it. If we understand consciousness, will it somehow change us? And will any changes be for the better or for the worse?
Dennett bravely tackles these questions and thus far Consciousness Explained is proving stimulating, demanding and utterly fascinating. I’d recommend it.
For those interested in such questions, the Dennett lecture below should provide a reasonable and entertaining introduction.
Enjoy! (And, incidentally, how does enjoyment actually work?!)