Edge Summer Postcard 2003

For all the postcards see www.edge.org/documents/postcards03/postcards03_index.html


This summer has been the hottest in England since records began 343 years ago (and that’s a good thing when you live here). So I have spent a lot of time working in my garden.

It’s nearly three years since I gave up my job (tenure, lecturing, students and everything) to write a textbook on consciousness. So now that it’s finished, do I want to go back? Can I stop asking questions about “what it’s like to be”?

 

Of course not.

When I ask “Am I conscious now?” the answer is always “yes”. But why?
Surely this tells us something, but what? What is the difference, in brain terms, between those times when I am asking the question and those when I am not?

Is it possible to answer “No”? In other words, is it possible to look into the darkness? William James described this kind of introspection as like “trying to turn up the gas quickly enough to see how the darkness looks.” How he would have enjoyed electricity – and the modern equivalent of snatching open the fridge door to see whether the light is always on.

And while I’m weeding, I wonder who, or what,  is asking all these questions.

Sue Blackmore  August 2003