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January 04, 2023


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Strawson's comments re consciousness arising from the brain sounds pretty reasonable. I'm also of the opinion that there is no mystery about consciousness being as it is an observable, common property of everyone. I see no reason to relegate consciousness to some mysterious external entity or for it to be a property of the universe – any advanced organism has the necessary neurological structure to be conscious.

Strawson makes the point regarding science that: “. . . because it is precisely science that makes the key point shine most brightly: the point that there is a fundamental respect in which the ultimate intrinsic nature of the stuff of the universe is unknown to us - except insofar as it is consciousness.” Maybe reading that one might assume he means that the universe is conscious instead of that physical matter is (ultimately) capable of being conscious.

Although, agreeing with Strawson on consciousness, he does have a belief that we have a self. It is not much of a leap to imagine that his idea of a self could be a conscious self. Jay Garfield takes him to task on this point in (Garfield's) his book 'Loosing Ourselves'. “Strawson defends the reflexivity of awareness in order to argue that this reflexivity is grounded in the reality of a self that is self-aware.” Garfield demolishes this idea.

Reflexivity is the process of self-consciousness where an individual subject or group becomes the object of its own scrutiny. For Strawson then, awareness is a property of a subject of awareness. He introduces a subject that has awareness (very akin to consciousness). So although Strawson states that; “Human conscious experience is wholly a matter of physical goings-on in the body and particularly the brain”, he is dangerously close to introducing a conscious self.

He seems to be leaving the door ajar for allowing a self that is aware, to morph into a self that is conscious. It pays perhaps to be suspicious of philosophers and test their theories against repeatable science and (heaven forbid) one's own honest common sense! 

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