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In Reply [Reply to Commentaries on "How to Solve the Mind-Body Problem"]

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  • Cognitive Psychology
  • Philosophy Of Mind
  • Perceptual Cognitive Psychology
  • Evolutionary Psychology
  • Philosophy Of Science
  • Biology
  • Design
  • Literature
  • Philosophy


1 Journal of Consciousness Studies, 7 (4), 98-112, 2000. IN REPLY Nicholas Humphrey It is very difficult, now that everybody is so accustomed to everything, to give an idea of the kind of uneasiness felt when one first looked at all these pictures on these walls. . . Now I was confused and I looked and I looked and I was confused. Gertrude Stein, on her reaction to first seeing Cubist paintings. The Autobiography of Alice B Toklas. I heard Daniel Dennett, last year, winding up his Royal Institute of Philosophy Millennial Lecture with the prediction: “I anticipate a day when philosophers and scientists and laypeople will chuckle over the fossil traces of our earlier bafflement about consciousness” (Dennett, in press). And I thought at the time: that’s not quite right. Future philosophers won’t chuckle over the difficulties we now have with understanding consciousness - any more than we, today, chuckle over the difficulties people had two centuries ago with understanding the evolution of life. We chuckle when something is comical. But the spectacle of earnest seekers after truth trying their very best to make sense of something that is presently beyond their capacity is, I’d say, more chastening than comical. In the case of evolution, when we look back on the efforts of pre-Darwinian thinkers to understand the origins of biological design (including even such giants of their time as David Hume), their struggles seem both heroic and tragic. It’s like watching the earliest at tempts of climbers to climb Mount Everest without the help of oxygen. Of course, ever since Darwin we have had access to the BIG IDEA - the idea of natural selection - which today allows every schoolchild to understand biological design, and which makes those earlier efforts look so footling and incompetent. Nonetheless we should be clear about what is hidden in that phrase “ever since Darwin”. Even though the idea of natural selection can now be summarised and explained in a few sentences, it did not in fact s

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