Archive | April, 2015

A New Approach to Consciousness

16 Apr

I have talked a lot about the ‘Russell-Eddington’ solution to the mind-body problem, proposed by Russell and Eddington independently in 1927, but quickly forgotten about because it didn’t fit the physicalist zeitgeist of the mid to late 20th century. The view is currently enjoying a revival, and is in my view one of the most promising ways forward on consciousness. A volume of essays on the topic has just come out with Oxford University Press, entitled ‘Consciousness in the Physical World.’

The book is aimed at academic philosophers, and so probably won’t be all that accessible to those without this kind of background. I intend at some point to write something on the topic aimed at a more general audience. This is crucial as the Russell-Eddington view, or ‘Russellian monism’ as it has become known, is not a completed theory but a research programme. We’re going to need philosophers, physicists, and neuroscientists working together if we’re going to make progress on it.

We’ve wasted enough time backing our head against a brick wall trying to make sense of consciousness within a physicalist framework. Inevitably this approach ends up changing the subject, talking about behavioural functioning rather than subjective experience. It’s high time we tried an alternative. Let’s get on with it!