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IntroSisyphusBoulder - Sisyphuss Boulder Consciousness and...

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Sisyphus’s Boulder Consciousness and the limits of the knowable Eric Dietrich Binghamton University Valerie Gray Hardcastle Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University John Benjamins Publishing Company Amsterdam/Philadelphia
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Introduction The problem of consciousness is completely intractable. We will never under- stand consciousness in the deeply satisfying way we’ve come to expect from our sciences. This is due to a logical property of consciousness itself. The in- tractability of consciousness deFnes a boundary to knowledge; it limits what we can know about consciousness. Because it is a barrier, it does not entail dual- ism or idealism, nor is it a threat to materialism. At the same time, this property does explain both the resurgent plausibility of dualism as well as the fact that very little scientiFc progress to date has been made on reductively explaining consciousness. We came to these conclusions when we sat down one afternoon several years ago to discuss the problem of intractability and the argument from it to consciousness’s explanatory dead-end. Dietrich argued from the dead-end to the conclusion that there would not be a science of consciousness worthy of the name. Hardcastle argued from the fact that there already is a science of consciousness and the near-certainty that it will grow in robustness to the con- clusion that there will somehow be an explanation of consciousness, of some sort. Neither one of us appreciated the value of the others’ viewpoint, to say the least. Yet both of us remained convinced of the correctness of the intractability, so we continued talking. A key moment came when we realized that sciences don’t have to explain
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