The Ockham Society (Friday - Week 4, MT21)

Ockham Society

After a particular type of brain injury, humans with ‘blindsight’ testify a total lack of vision, but when compelled to guess a shape in their field of view, or made to dodge an obstacle, perform astonishingly successfully, despite all the while insisting that they are blind. Frequently, they express shock and disbelief when informed of their above-chance performances. 

Some theorists allege that blindsighted patients have lost phenomenal visual consciousness, but not the capacity for vision itself. If this is the right interpretation, the phenomenon presents a fascinating explanandum for materialist theories of consciousness.

More interestingly still, the same or an at least similar pathology has been reported in monkeys. But monkeys can’t verbally tell us that they’re blind, so is this conclusion too quick? And if it isn’t, what does it tell us about monkey consciousness?

In this presentation, I adjudicate between two classes of materialist theories of phenomenal consciousness, by considering their respective predictions and implications for the consciousness, behaviour, and alleged blindsight of non-human animals. I’ll also think about methodological issues: How might one design an experiment to test for consciousness in a non-human animal? Is this even possible? Is this even a sensible question to ask?

Ockham Society Convenors: Lara Scheibli and Kimon Sourlas - Kotzamanis | Ockham Society Website