Paper: Consciousness, a biologist’s perspective

by Massimo Pigliucci

[Part of an occasional series presenting academic papers I have published but that may be of general interest. Full list with links here.]

“Philosophy is dead’, proclaimed the great Stephen Hawking. The ‘scientists have become the bearers of the torch of discovery in our quest for knowledge’. This judgement will resonate with a lot of people. Philosophy is often seen as the science of the past, the abstract speculation we engaged in before we knew what we were doing. If you’re privileged enough to study philosophy, that’s great, but don’t be confused: it doesn’t make progress.

Our guide for this chapter is the philosopher and scientist Massimo Pigliucci, one of the most prolific, insightful and accessible thinkers of the modern day. According to Pigliucci, philosophy isn’t dead. The art of living, the forging of life’s purpose and the study of good reasoning are just as important as they’ve always been. Moreover, Massimo points out that science itself is rooted in the progress of philosophy. Psychology, chemistry, physics, biology – these disciplines are proof of the progress philosophy can make. However, there is a certain type of philosophy that is dead: armchair metaphysics.

In this essay, Pigliucci unleashes a sweeping attack on three of the biggest ideas in philosophy of mind: Mary the neuroscientist, philosophical zombies and panpsychism. Massimo cuts through to the heart of the debate. Speculative philosophy of mind, he says, is never going to solve the problem of consciousness. If we want to solve the mystery, science must lead the way. ….

[From: Philosophers on Consciousness – Talking About the Mind, edited by Jack Symes, Bloomsbury, 2022. You can ask for a free reprint by using this Contact Form.]

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