Re: Am I a ghost in a machine?
This first essay opens the intriguing problem of the nature of consciousness. What is it that animates our material body?
My view is that the salient problem here is actually the nature of life, or perhaps the nature of animal life. It seems that all animals have capacity to make choices, even when these choices are heavily programmed by genetic instinct. This choice capacity is consciousness.
The way Blackburn approaches this problem of consciousness is to me unsatisfactory because of some axiomatic commitments I hold. For example, he asks hypothetically if we can help to understand consciousness by imagining that I am the only conscious being in the universe, or that other people see colours differently, or that other people's perceptions of light or hearing are vastly different. I see these hypotheses as unhelpful and useless games that put philosophy into disrepute. The axiom that the world exists in conformity with abundant corroboration simply eliminates such mental exercises from the realms of possibility. Nihilism and solipsism are ethically repugnant, and any hypothesis that entertains them is equally obnoxious.
But we are still left with the reductive problem of how our ideas differ from their material substrate, how our dream of a favourite place differs from the neurons in our brain. This all comes down to what Blackburn indirectly refers to as the mystery of animation, or soul. Our minds give our perceptions a coherence, and we simply could not survive if we did not process our perceptions in this automatic way. Aristotle spoke about four causes, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Four_causes
material, formal, efficient and final. Our minds, in normal activity, deal mostly with purpose and intent - the final cause. The other causes come in as we analyse reductively to understand the thing as matter in motion.