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The New Skeptics

But if the problem of consciousness appears impossible, could it be that we are confused about the very phenomenon of conscious experience? Some philosophers try to show that our ordinary conception of mental life and consciousness is radically flawed. I have chosen to call these philosophers the new skeptics because of their form of skepticism. Skeptics in philosophy of mind have traditionally been skeptical about the existence of the external world, causality, rationality, truth, the unity of the mind, and the existence of other people, but up until recently, they have not been skeptical about conscious experience. Some of these new skeptics are so, however. The motivation for this new skepticism is easy to understand: if the problem of conscious experience is found to be intractable, then perhaps there is something radically wrong with our commonsense understanding of it. The common assumption that materialism must be right has led to particularly disruptive thinking. Some philosophers go beyond reconceptualizing consciousness to explore whether consciousness exists at all.

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