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In Search of the Holy Quale:
Much Ado about Consciousness

Recently the philosophy of mind and cognitive science have witnessed an upsurge of interest in -- and an avalanche of books about -- consciousness; even more or less open flirtation with frankly dualistic views. To hear those heartened by these developments tell it, after decades of pernicious neglect, the study of the mind is finally reclaiming its rightful subject matter; private subjective experiences or qualia. These are the very thoughts themselves, which behaviorism (and its offshoots) had left out. As one of the first, foremost, and most systematic of practitioners of this neodualistic line of thought, John Searle, puts it, "the mind consists of qualia . . . right down to the ground" (1992, p. 20); mental phenomena "are conscious experiences" (p. 63); each "a concrete conscious event" (p. 225). Though Searle himself protests that he is no dualist, he protests too much. Identification of thought with qualia is dualistic on its face and, more importantly, on close consideration qualia suffer from all the ills that immaterial souls -- invoked by traditional Cartesian or substance dualists -- were heir to. First, how are subjective phenomena (modifications of consciousness) and objective phenomena (modifications of physical matter/energy) related or how do they interact? The mind-body problem. Second -- if modes of consciousness are what mental phemonena essentially are, and no one can directly experience anyone else's consciousness -- how can we know anything of the mental properties of others or even that others have mental properties? The other minds problem. Third -- if modes of consciousness are what thoughts really are, and each of us has direct privileged access to our own consciousness -- why isn't psychology easy? The introspection problem. Searle (1992) claims to solve all these problems; but his "solutions" fail. Searlean as-if dualism (as I call it) and similar theories of property dualism advocated (and more forthrightly so called) by others, if they are new, are unimproved. Qualiaphiles's vaunted "rediscovery of the mind", consequently, is not promising; certainly not scientifically promising: rather, it threatens (or marks!) the degeneration of the cognitivist research program into so much blather -- seductive though it may be -- about "consciousness".
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