Velmans, M. (2009). Understanding consciousness (2nd Edition). Routledge. Understanding_Consciousness_(2nd_ed__Routledge__2009).pdf
Understanding Consciousness, 2nd Edition provides a unique survey and evaluation of consciousness studies, along with an original analysis of consciousness that combines scientific findings, philosophy and common sense. Building on the widely praised first edition, this new edition adds fresh research, and deepens the original analysis in a way that reflects some of the fundamental changes in the understanding of consciousness that have taken place over the last 10 years. The book is divided into three parts; Part one surveys current theories of consciousness, evaluating their strengths and weaknesses. Part two reconstructs an understanding of consciousness from first principles, starting with its phenomenology, and leading to a closer examination of how conscious experience relates to the world described by physics and information processing in the brain. Finally, Part three deals with some of the fundamental issues such as what consciousness is and does, and how it fits into to the evolving universe. As the structure of the book moves from a basic overview of the field to a successively deeper analysis, it can be used both for those new to the subject and for more established researchers. Understanding Consciousness tells a story with a beginning, middle and end in a way that integrates the philosophy of consciousness with the science. Overall, the book provides a unique perspective on how to address the problems of consciousness and as such, will be of great interest to psychologists, philosophers, neuroscientists and other professionals concerned with mind/body relationships, and all who are interested in this subject.
Citing Place (1956) in context (citations start with an asterisk *):
Part I Mind–body theories and their problems
Chapter 3 Are mind and matter the same thing?
Section How could conscious experiences be brain states?
* Given the apparent differences between the ‘qualia’ of conscious experiences and brain states it is by no means obvious that they are one and the same. Physicalists such as Ullin Place (1956) and J.J.C. Smart (1962) accepted that these apparent differences exist. They also accepted that descriptions of mental states and descriptions of their corresponding brain states are not identical in meaning. However, they claimed that with the advance of neurophysiology these descriptions will be discovered to be statements about one and the same thing. That is, a contingent rather than a logical identity will be established between consciousness, mind and brain.
Section Common reductionist arguments and fallacies
* Reductionists commonly argue that if one could find the neural causes or correlates of consciousness in the brain, then this would establish consciousness itself to be a brain state (see, for example, Place, 1956; Crick, 1994). Let us call these the ‘causation argument’ and the ‘correlation argument’. I suggest that such arguments are based on a fairly obvious fallacy: for consciousness to be nothing more than a brain state, it must be ontologically identical to a brain state. However, correlation and causation do not establish ontological identity.
Section False analogies
* Ullin Place (1956) focuses on causation rather than correlation. As he notes, we now understand lightning to be nothing more than the motion of electrical charges through the atmosphere. But mere correlations of lightning with electrical discharges do not suffice to justify this reduction. Rather, he argues, the reduction is justified once we know that the motion of electrical charges through the atmosphere causes what we experience as lightning. Similarly, a conscious experience may be said to be a given state of the brain once we know that brain state to have caused the conscious experience.
I have dealt with the fallacy of the ‘causation argument’ above. [...]
In sum, the fact that motions of electrical charges cause the experience of lightning does not warrant the conclusion that the phenomenology of the experience is nothing more than the motion of electrical charges. Nor would finding the neurophysiological causes of conscious experiences warrant the reduction of the phenomenology of those experiences to states of the brain.
Faced with this problem, some reductionist philosophers claim that psychologists are just not interested in phenomenology [...]. Hardcastle (1991) for example makes this (false) suggestion – and goes on to offer similar reductionist arguments to those above [...]. As does Place (1956), Hardcastle erroneously assumes that if cause C is shown to produce effect E, then E reduces to C. A sensation of redness might be caused by certain electromagnetic wavelengths interacting with the colour coding mechanisms of the visual system, but this does not establish the resulting sensation to be nothing more than ‘electromagnetic radiation’. For the purposes of physics it may be useful to redescribe visual stimuli in the world as electromagnetic radiation. But the ability of the visual system to translate electromagnetic frequencies into colour sensations is what is of interest to psychology – and to redescribe the sensations as electromagnetic radiation does not make sense!