Thursday, October 06, 2005

Consciousness Explained by Daniel Dennet (Excerpt)

There is a species of primate in South America, more gregarious than most other mammals, with a curious behaviour. The members of this species often gather in groups, large and small, and in the course of their mutual chattering, under a wide variety of circumstances, they are induced to engage in bouts of involuntary, convulsive respiration -- a sort of loud, helpless, mutually reinforcing group panting that is sometimes so severe as to incapacitate them. Far from being aversive, however, these attacks seem to be sought out by most members of the species, some whom appear to be addicted to them.

We might be tempted to think that if only we knew what it was like to be them, from the inside, we'd understand this curious addiction of theirs. If we could see it "from their point of view", we would know what it was for.

But in this case, we can be quite sure that such insight as we might gain would still leave matters mysterious.

For we already have the access we seek; the species is Homo Sapiens (which does indeed inhabit South America, among other places), and the behaviour is laughter.

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