Perplexities of Consciousness
MIT Press 2011
How much do we know about our stream of conscious experience? Not much, if Eric Schwitzgebel is right. In his new book Perplexities of Consciousness (MIT Press, 2011), Schwitzgebel argues for skepticism regarding our knowledge of the phenomenology of conscious experience. We don’t know if we dream in color or black and white, we don’t know whether tilted coins look elliptical or round, and we don’t know whether conscious experience is confined to what we are paying attention to or more abundant. Schwitzgebel’s position is based on close examination of historical philosophical texts and current psychological experiments that show radical variability in reports of experience that seem unlikely to reflect radical differences in the experiences themselves. In this wide-ranging interview, Schwitzgebel considers whether psychologist Edward Titchener was on to something with his training of expert introspectors, why current theories of the neural correlates of consciousness are question-begging, and how reports of conscious experiences may be grounded in analogies to familiar media.