Considering Consciousness

By Cynthia Wands

Some of my most profound moments of consciousness have been in the theatre.

Espcially when I’ve been surprised. I love the moment after I’ve been changed by a surprise and I’m conscious of the “before I knew” and the “after I knew”.

John Searle studies consciousness. Consciousness is a subject that makes scientists huffy (they see it as something subjective) and that makes philosophers uncomfortable (since it speaks to the mind and body being of different realms).

In this TED talk, Searle lays out a simple way to understand this complex phenomenon: as a condition of our biology. As he puts it, all states of consciousness are the result of neurobiological processes in the brain. “Consciousness is a biological phenomenon like photosynthesis, digestion or mitosis,” he says. “Once you accept that, most though not all of the hard problems about consciousness evaporate.”

Searle debunks some commonly held ideas about consciousness — like that it is an illusion, that it is a computer program running in the brain, that you can’t make objective claims about something that is subjective.

There were a couple of surprises in his talk.