Interviewer: What, then, is the role of philosophers in your quest for a scientific theory of consciousness?
Christof: Historically, philosophy does not have an impressive track record of answering questions about the natural world in a decisive manner, whether it’s the origin and evolution of the cosmos, the origin of life, the nature of the mind, or the nature-versus-nurture debate. This failure is rarely talked about in polite, academic company. Philosophers, however, excel as asking conceptual questions from a point of view that scientists don’t usually consider. Notions of the Hard versus the Easy Problem of consciousness, phenomenal versus access consciousness, the content of consciousness versus consciousness as such, the unity of consciousness, the causal conditions for consciousness to occur, and so on, are fascinating issues that scientists should ponder more often. So, listen to the questions posed by philosophers but don’t be distracted by their answers. A case in point is the philosopher’s zombie.
Wednesday, December 28, 2011
"Listen to the questions posed by philosophers but don’t be distracted by their answers"
--- Christof Koch, from Chapter 20, "An Interview" (fictitious) in The quest for consciousness: a neurobiological approach, Roberts & Company, 2004, p. 316-17 (hardback)