Some scientists and philosophers think that consciousness is an illusion or hallucination of our brain, that consciousness does not exist. What does it mean? If consciousness does not exist, then what do we experience every day? How can something that does not exist constantly change over time, be fueled by experiences, turning them into memories, create, and so on?

  • +1 Great question!
    – How why e
    Commented Apr 7 at 10:20
  • @ArmanArmenpress Did you already study some original quotes from the scientists and philosophers you mention in the beginning of your question? How do they argue?
    – Jo Wehler
    Commented Apr 7 at 10:32
  • see this answer: philosophy.stackexchange.com/a/86967/29339
    – Dcleve
    Commented Apr 7 at 17:29

1 Answer 1


@David Gudeman's link gives a great answer to your question. To summarize and add my own thoughts.

Discussing consciousness is challenging because its very easy to talk past one another. What are we referring to by "consciousness"?

To me there are broadly two categories of "consciousness" study:

  1. Mechanistic: What makes it into "consciousness" and why? How does the brain construct coherent "snapshots" of the world. Dennet's "multiple drafts model" or Edleman's reentrant loop theory are examples of looking for the functional and physical correlates of what our consciousness appears to do. It is a generally third-person-perspective endeavor. Holy grail here would be a way to decide what is conscious vs just appearing so.
  2. Phenomenological: This is related to "why do they appear as they do" not "why are we conscious of X vs Y". Why do sight-data manifest differently than sound-data vs touch-data etc.

However, undergirding both of these is the fact that there is even something to talk about -- What Thomas Nagel termed "What it is like to be..." (famously, "a bat"). What Chalmers's has called the Hard Problem of Consciousness. Some deny this is a well formed problem, but his Zombie thought experiment shows that (at a minimum) our current views of mind and consciousness are incomplete since we lack a compelling reason for experience/subjectivity to be a part of our world, if things can plug along fine without having any "what it is like-ness" associated with them.

So, I think Dennet is getting at "illusion" in the sense that it "really happens in the way it appears to us" (which I find very plausbile). Not that "you experiencing an image of seeing a red square" is somehow mistaken. Even a false memory is an experience, and that is what the hard problem says is hard to explain right now.

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