Our common-sense conception of psychological phenomena constitutes a radically false theory, a theory so fundamentally defective that both the principles and the ontology of that theory will eventually be displaced, rather than smoothly reduced, by completed neuroscience
Churchland 1981, 67
According to some researchers, like Paul Churchland, what we experience as our own consciousness, is actually just a kind of illusion. It just seems to us that we experience things and are self-aware, but what is actually going on is something completely different. The idea that we would be conscious subjects with all kinds of thoughts is just a misconception: we take illusions to be the real thing. We made up words for these phantoms (“anger”, “fear”, “love”, “hate”, etc.), but now that we have developed a much more accurate and detailed neuroscience, we can finally get rid of these superstitions, of this “folk-psychology”.
To quote Churchland, who advocates this type of eliminative materialism:
“The red surface of an apple does not look like a matrix of molecules reflecting photons at certain critical wavelengths, but that is what it is. The sound of a flute does not sound like a sinusoidal compression wave train in the atmosphere, but that is what it is. The warmth of the summer air does not feel like the mean kinetic energy of millions of tiny molecules, but that is what it is. If one’s pains and hopes and beliefs do not introspectively seem like electrochemical states in a neural network, that may be only because our faculty of introspection, like our other senses, is not sufficiently penetrating to reveal such hidden details.”>/em>
However, there is nothing in the wavelengths between 380 and 750 nanometers that makes them somehow intrinsically “red” or “blue”. Only a brain can apparently turn this wavelength into a subjective experience of a color.
Isn’t this precisely what neuro-psychology should explain instead of eliminate? Why we have a mental life at all?
How the physical processes in our brain cause us to feel or believe something?
Saying that something is an illusion, doesn’t make the illusion go away, nor does it explain why it occurs in the first place or how it is brought about.
What is the clever trick that our brains use to make us believe that we are actually more than just brains?
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