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The Problem of Consciousness
A Talk with Alva Noë
The problem of consciousness is in understanding how this world is there for us. It hows up in our senses. It shows up in our thoughts. Our feelings and interests and concerns are directed to and embrace this world around us. We think, we feel, the world shows up for us. To me that's the problem of consciousness. That is a real problem that needs to be studied, and it's a special problem.
A useful analogy is life. What is life? We can point to all sorts of chemical processes, metabolic processes, reproductive processes that are present where there is life. But we ask, where is the life? You don't say life is a thing inside the organism. The life is this process that the organism is participating in, a process that involves an environmental niche and dynamic selectivity. If you want to find the life, look to the dynamic of the animal's engagement with its world. The life is there. The life is not inside the animal. The life is the way the animal is in the world.
ALVA NOË is Professor of Philosophy at the University of California, Berkeley. He works principally on the philosophy of mind and cognitive science, with special interest in the theory of perception, and is also interested in the philosophy of art, the history of analytic philosophy, Phenomenology, and Wittgenstein.