Hi all - I posed this question in a thread about Daniel Dennett but did not get an answer so will try it again here.
Hey Jeeprs, I saw your Q before, but you directed it at the OP so I don't reply... sorry!
I don't have an in-depth understanding of Consciousness Explained so let me know if the following observation is valid.
I understand that Prof Dennett believes that it is possible to provide an objective account of the nature of consciousness that is complete and leaves nothing out.
I haven't read Dennett at all, but I agree with this POV.
An objection has been made on the basis that the subjective nature of conscious experience is not explicable in objective terms. You cannot describe what it is like to experience something. This is the 'hard problem' which I understand Prof Dennett does not recognise as a valid problem.
It seems to me that Prof. Dennett's argument is undermined by one simple fact, however, and that is the apodictic nature of physical pain. ('Apodictic' means incontestable. You cannot deny the reality of pain - it is undeniably real.)
It would seem to me that it is completely impossible to provide an objective account of pain. You can describe it, or provide an account of the physiology behind it. But unless you can feel it, it is not actually pain. Pain is in its very nature a subjective phenomenon.
Hence my observation: pain is apodictic and it is subjective. Therefore it is impossible to provide a complete account of consciousness in objective terms because at least one primary quality of consciousness, the feeling of pain, cannot be understood objectively.
Now it seems to me that this poses a challenge to the main thesis behind Prof Dennett's work. Surely it can't be that simple. Surely I must be misunderstanding something about his position?
OK I think there are some oversights with this argument.
It seems that you have selected pain as the subject for your argument because it has no external correlate; we see a tree, our minds perceive a tree. But sustaining injury is abstracted into a generalised sensation of "feeling something bad" by pain nerves and their interpretation by our minds... is this right so far?
However, it is quite well known that every sense
abstracts the data it detects, so whilst the tree one regards certainly has a reality external to the mind and what the eyes sense, what the mind interprets is nevertheless a subjective representation of what is actually before oneself. (The tree is not cognised in its entirety with every leaf, stem, strip of bark, branch - let alone every nuance of light and shade that the eyes report).
So I would argue that your selection of pain as subjective is too restrictive, and a bit misleading. You say, "pain is apodictic and it is subjective" therefore it "cannot be understood objectively". I think this is a veiled argument against the whole objective position of Dennett.
In fact, and as is obvious from experience, all sensation, pain, sight, hearing, touch, temperature, proprioception, is all subjective. And on this point, I don't think there is much debate to be had. What I would propose, and I guess Dennett's philosophy would be along the same lines, is that the process of the mind is objective, and can be rendered completely algorithmic.
The process is objective, the information is subjective.
To make this clear: The computational process of the mind can be completely described, and a functional understanding of this will allow one to understand how one's mind works. But the information processed by the mind is entirely relative and dependent upon the context in which it is found; thus this information cannot be "read" or described without knowing the entire function and all other information within the mind. This is where the subjectivity you are describing comes from, and why it does not invalidate Dennett's POV.