Ray Brassier, a British Philosopher in this interview says:

My claim is not that science has succeeded in explaining consciousness, but only that considerable progress has been made, and that the burden of proof lies with those who insist on denying such progress and who presume to dismiss the attempt as impossible in principle.

What is this progress?


Here's a summary experiment where a computer can predict a subject's decisions seconds before the subject is conscious of the decision. This experiment seems to make observations on the relationship between physical biological processes and the ultimate subjective, conscious, perception of "having made a decision".

Usually, these experiments are done using real-time f-MRI measurements to detect brain state, and then associating different MRI data patterns with different mental states.

To me, the main issue with these is in identifying the time of "conscious decision" making, to address this different labs have tried to set up different protocols to tease out the exact time of "conscious" decision making, e.g. M. Matsuhashi and M. Hallett "The timing of the conscious intention to move", European Journal of Neuroscience 2008 used the idea of when a subject was able to respond to an external stimulus to veto an action.

Obligatory Wikipedia article

I think that, in net, these experiments do represent progress towards understanding the relationship between brain states and mental states, and have significant philosophical implications.

Note: the first linked article is a popularization, but includes a reference to the qualified scientific research.

  • This doesn't explain consciousness per se. Novelists do a good job of understanding the psychology of a character - but this doesn't explain consciousness either. Here they're doing something similar. Its an interesting experiment. Sometimes I procastinate all day about doing something - then I do it. was my decision to do it in the morning when I was procastinating, or in the evening when I did do it? Jun 11 '14 at 23:38
  • @MoziburUllah define consciousness
    – sanmai
    Jun 12 '14 at 1:48
  • @sanmai: Why? Whats makes you think that it is even possible - other than the broad terms by which we recognise it like the word 'consciousness' itself, or 'thought or the 'mental'; If you think its possible - you try to define it. Whats your definition? Jun 12 '14 at 2:05
  • @MoziburUllah if you can't define consciousness, then there probably no consciousness
    – sanmai
    Jun 12 '14 at 2:06
  • @sanmai: thats a simple positivist attitude. Mathematics deals with quantified elements, yet here is Terry Tao, who is a Fields Medal winner (the equivalent of the Nobel Prize) - who asks is it even possible to define what is good quality mathematics. Besides, if there is no consciousness then murder is not murder - is that a line you can justify? Jun 12 '14 at 2:11

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