Philosophy of Mind: In case you wondered whether you are conscious and reading this ...
This preprint is an academic argument (I think) for the actual existence of consciousness (as opposed to the materialist view that consciousness is merely an illusion) that you do not want to try at a party this Saturday night:
Is Consciousness primary?
Six arguments against the view that conscious experience derives from a material basis are reviewed. These arguments arise from epistemology, phenomenology, neuropsychology, and philosophy of quantum mechanics. It turns out that any attempt at proving that conscious experience is ontologically secondary to material objects both fails and brings out its methodological and existential primacy. No alternative metaphysical view is espoused (not even a variety of Spinoza's attractive double-aspect theory). Instead, an alternative stance, inspired from F. Varela's neurophenomenology is advocated. This unfamiliar stance involves (i) a complete redefinition of the boundary between unquestioned assumptions and relevant questions ; (ii) a descent towards the common ground of the statements of phenomenology and objective natural science : a practice motivated by the quest of an expanding circle of intersubjective agreement. (By Michel Bitbol (2008))
Actually, there is hardly a materialist explanation for consciousness that is even worth discussing, as Mario and I point out in The Spiritual Brain, because the phenomenon is non-material in principle.
For instance, as John Searle, among others, has said,
“The most striking feature is how much of mainstream [materialistic] philosophy of mind is obviously false….[I]n the philosophy of mind, obvious facts about the mental, such as that we all really do have subjective conscious mental states…are routinely denied by many…of the advanced thinkers in the subject.”
-- John Searle, The Rediscovery of Mind (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1992), 3.
Well, those who cannot account for something deny it.
Some recent Mindful Hack stories on consciousness:
Mind vs. meat vs. computers: The differences
Consciousness: Recent public squabble between philosophers of mind rates better than most sitcoms
Interview with Spiritual Brain authors Mario and Denyse at campus Web site
Books: New physics takes on the human mind
Is consciousness a trick to ensure survival?
The Spiritual Brain reviewed in Jesuit thinkmag America