This week, I had the pleasure of speaking with Dr. Keith Frankish, a European philosopher and writer. I was first introduced to Dr. Frankish’s theory by David Chalmers’ keynote speech at The Science of Consciousness. The theory is Illusionism. Do we have consciousness or does it SEEM as if we have consciousness? Dr. Frankish is an Honorary Reader at the University of Sheffield, a Visiting Research Fellow with The Open University, and an Adjunct Professor with the Brain and Mind Programme at the University of Crete. His focus is primarily in philosophy of mind, but he has interests in many areas of philosophy.
Please enjoy this conversation on Illusionism with Dr. Keith Frankish. Oh, and there’s a bonus ‘far out’ question at the end on illusionism’s potential role in the brain as a portal to a greater consciousness. I came away from that conversation with a new perspective. Again, please enjoy this edition of The Consciousness Podcast with Dr. Keith Frankish.
- When did you come into Illusionism and how did you get there?
- In layman’s terms, what is ‘illusionism’?
- What about the ‘illusion problem.’ What is the ‘illusion problem’?
- So, you’re not a zombie?
- You mention that phenomenal properties (qualia) are illusory, that we have a subset of (distorted) information required to really understand the phenomenal experience, that we ‘misrepresent’ those experiences. Can you expand on that notion?
- We don’t have phenomenal experiences, we ‘seem’ to have them. Where or how does the ‘seeming’ happen? [that’s the illusion problem?]
- It seems that phenomenal experiences are tied to our own interpretation and introspection (what it is like) of our sensory states, which would rule out dualism, no?
- Is illusionism mutually exclusive from dualism? That feels like an odd question. We’re talking about consciousness, that it’s an illusion…but, even if it’s an illusion, is it separate from the brain/body?
- Is ‘consciousness’ the illusory experience? Chalmers said that: ‘If this is an illusion, then the illusion is consciousness.’ It starts to feel like a contradiction to me. Am I getting part of this wrong?
- There is not a line between ‘seeming to have’ (illusionism) and ‘what it is like to have’ (realism). If I understand, those are one and the same experience. Do you see any way for that line to be drawn or discovered? What could be the discovery that causes illusionism to break down?
- What about the ego? How does that fit into Illusionism? As you state, Humphrey proposes that consciousness enriches life, adding interests and goals. Is that where/how ego/self emerges?
- You state that, “Evolution couldn’t set it up so that brain states really have qualia.” Why not?
- Evolution has created qualia that seem to be real, even though they are not (Pain?). What is the mechanism behind this? Can you shed some light on the emergence of these illusory qualia? Where do they come from? [again, illusion problem here?]
- How tightly tied to sensory states is the illusion? Is there illusion outside of these state? For example, can there be multiple layers of illusion, illusory qualia derived from other (even multiple) illusory qualia?
- What are your plans, with illusionism or new theories, for the future?
Far Out Question:
- It’s almost like these illusions (qualia) are simple representations of extremely complex functions presented to us (introspection) as a way to help us understand (Dennett’s computer icons, Rey’s cartoon, etc.). Others have proposed that the brain is a portal, filter to a larger consciousness. I can see a common concept here: that the brain (or something?) is filtering reality or a greater consciousness in order to enrich, or even make possible, our experiences, or lives.
- Could these illusions be a middleman between the dual mind and brain, that the mind is actually another level above what we have been describing as consciousness (the illusion)?
- Will these illusions continue to evolve in passing the torch gradually over to the ‘full consciousness’?
- Maybe some have been born without this illusion generator, without the filter, and have gone insane or become geniuses (cosmic consciousness) given access to this larger consciousness or flow of information and experience?
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