Discussion Questions for Alva Noe

According to Noe, consciousness is not constructed by our brains and thus happens inside our heads or skins, which is an ungrounded assumption that has been taken for granted by most scientists nowadays (including Damasio) addressing the problem of consciousness. Rather, consciousness is a dynamic pattern of interaction among brain, body and world, which means our conscious experience requires the joint operation of brain, body and world and is in this sense something beyond our brain and something we do in the world.

One interesting thing I noticed is that Noe seems to think that scientists approach the problem of consciousness wrong not only because they are taking the unargued assumption, but also (more fundamentally) because they are adopting the “detached perspective” of science. Consciousness is something we would properly approach in the more “engaged and intimate perspective”, or using Noe’ preferred phrase, in the “biological perspective”. So my first question is:

  1. What is the relationship between the “detached perspective” and the “engaged perspective”? In what sense can we say that the “engaged perspective” is superior to the “detached perspective” in approaching the problem of consciousness?

On the other hand, Noe in many places draws on a bunch of psychological phenomena and scientific experiments (e.g. Sur’s ferrets, tactile-visual substitution, phantom limb, rubber-hand) to provide evidence for his main thesis. Then my second question is:

  1. How do you think of Noe’s interpretations of those phenomena and experiments? Is it not true that now and in the future neuroscientists can, presumably, give plausible accounts of those phenomena and experiments based on the traditional working assumption that conscious happens in the brain?

My last methodology question is very related to the foregoing question:

  1. (Methodology Question) How do you compare the use of evidence by Noe and Damasio? (As I feel Noe’s use of evidence is more “artistic”, and Damasio more “scientific”)


This entry was posted in Discussion Questions. Bookmark the permalink.