Final blog: summary and reflections

I am very glad that I had this opportunity to conduct research on the topic of consciousness this summer. During the research, as I read through the theories developed by various philosophers and neuroscientists, I was impressed by how amazing the human minds are. It is such a wonder that we could have so many different experiences and the human brain could somehow transfer the physical activity into subjective, mental states (if we assume the two are closely related in some way). The explanatory gap raised by David Chalmers is indeed brilliant, and till now I personally don’t think any theoretical models gives out a satisfactory answer.

Besides, it’s interesting to see that scientists and philosophers take up distinct approaches respectively. Scientists usually start from either a physicalist perspective, or a reductivist perspective, while philosophers concern more about consciousness being a fundamental property or being a fundamental substance.

In my research, I read mainly about HOT theory through an Actualist approach and a dispositional approach, and also other theories like integrated information theory and global workspace theory, which are quite intriguing as well. Some theoretical model seems quite crazy in the beginning, such as the quantum consciousness theory, but might be promising as quantum mechanics evolve. I was a physicalist before I conducted this research, but now I am a bit swayed.

When doing research, I have been having some doubts about the method of doing philosophy. A lot of time we take intuition into consideration, and consider it as a crucial evidence (e.g. intuitively we think we are conscious, or in ethics, we look into the nature of morality by categorizing which of the events we intuitively consider moral and what we don’t. However, it seems that sometimes intuition is not that important as well. If an argument is sound, it seems that we would accept the conclusion even if it goes against our intuition. In the case of consciousness, for example, if we reach the conclusion that a certain version of HOT theory is true, which entails that animals and infants are unconscious all the time, then should we accept the conclusion that goes against our intuition, or does it mean that something goes wrong in the argument?

Anyway, this summer research inspires me a lot, and provides me a solid foundation for my honor thesis. I am grateful that I could have this opportunity.


  1. This research seems really interesting, especially the cross between what philosophers and neuroscientists have said about the mind. I wish you good luck on your honors thesis!