RE: On the subjective experience of consciousness

From: Ben Goertzel (
Date: Tue Mar 30 2004 - 18:30:01 MST


I don't accept the idea that empirical science and the "third-person
perspective" provides a simpler and more accurate explanation of
everyday human mental life, than folk psychology with its assumption of
"experience" and "consciousness." Science provides interesting
explanations for various features of my mental life, but folk psychology
tells much far more about experiences like getting hurt, dying, having
children, falling in and out of love, etc.

Now, you might respond, "Sure, explanations involving experience and
consciousness may be USEFUL in some contexts, even though the phenomena
of "experience" and "consciousness" don't "exist" in a fundamental

Or, you could adopt a Nietzschean criterion of truth, in which "true" is
defined as "useful to a given organism in achieving its goals." In this
case, experience and consciousness are definitely part of human truth.

Personally, I view the relationship between "human understanding" -- of
which folk psychology is a part -- and empirical science as one of
interdependency. Science enhances and modifies our mutual human
understanding. But human understanding underlies our belief in science,
by providing a prior distribution based on "human judgments of
simplicity", which we use to ground the comparison of various scientific

This feedback between science and human understanding has, as a special
case, the feedback between the scientific and experiential
(human-understanding-based) views of the mind.

Among other things the Singularity may result in the resolution of this
dialectic between scientific and human understanding, via the creation
of minds for which there is no dichotomy between scientific and innate
cultural/psychological understanding. I suspect that the "theory of
mind" possessed by such posthuman minds will incorporate -- and discard
-- aspects of our current first-person AND third-person theories, and
incorporate new aspects as well.

-- Ben

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