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Consciousness goes under the microscope (UPDATED)

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Roth (right), Goldman (center), and a colleague at MSU crowd around The Experience Machine.

The nature of conscious experience has been one of philosophy’s most hotly debated questions in recent decades.  While discussions of intentionality, phenomenology, and first-person access have produced a voluminous literature, there’s been frustratingly little consensus.  Jamie Roth hopes to change that.

“I want to start a conversation about conscious experience that doesn’t just turn into another opportunity for Ned Block to talk about how impressive his orgasms are.”  She wants, that is, to break away from relying on diverging intuitions about cases.  “Representationalists and qualia freaks, physicalists and property dualists — each camp trots out its favored examples and no one ever changes their mind.”

In an effort to break the impasse, Roth is partnering with Francis Goldman, a microscopist at Michigan State University.  The two claim to have developed a technique for extracting and imaging subjects’ conscious experiences.  “Getting the experiences was easy,” says Roth.  “By the end of freshman year the average student is brimming with experiences they wish they didn’t have and is more than willing to donate a few.”

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Written by fauxphilnews

April 6, 2012 at 12:02 am