episode #109 creatures of consciousness

a spider plant shadow in a light reflection


Despite millennia of analyses, definitions, explanations and debates by philosophers and scientists, consciousness remains puzzling and controversial, being “at once the most familiar and [also the] most mysterious aspect of our lives,” said Susan Schneider.

Perhaps the only widely agreed notion about the topic is the intuition that consciousness exists. [John Searle] Opinions differ about what exactly needs to be studied and explained as consciousness. Sometimes, it is synonymous with the mind, and at other times, an aspect of mind. In the past, it was one’s “inner life”, the world of introspection, of private thought, imagination and volition.[Julian Jaynes] Today, it often includes any kind of cognition, experience, feeling or perception. It may be awareness, awareness of awareness, or self-awareness either continuously changing or not.

The origin of the modern concept of consciousness is often attributed to Locke’s Essay Concerning Human Understanding, published in 1690. Locke defined consciousness as “the perception of what passes in a man’s own mind”. His essay influenced the 18th-century view of consciousness, and his definition appeared in Samuel Johnson’s celebrated Dictionary (1755).

Since the dawn of Newtonian science with its vision of simple mechanical principles governing the entire universe, some philosophers have been tempted by the idea that consciousness could be explained in purely physical terms. The most influential modern physical theories seek to explain consciousness in terms of neural events occurring within the brain.

The cognitive scientist Daniel Dennett believes our brains are machines, made of billions of tiny “robots” – our neurons, or brain cells. Human consciousness is the same, says Dennett in an interview with BBC Radio 4’s The Life Scientific. “”We’re robots, made of robots, made of robots. It’s the brain’s ‘user illusion’ of itself,” he says. It feels real and important to us but it just isn’t a very big deal. “The brain doesn’t have to understand how the brain works” and continues: “”Intuition is simply knowing something without knowing how you got there”.  From an evolutionary perspective, our ability to think is no different from our ability to digest, says Dennett.

Spoken Word

David Sergeant: A Language of Change (read by Tamsin Greig)


Prince of Tennis: Ache of Mind

Freak Power: Trip Through Your Mind

Hocus Pocus: J’reste humble

Gorillaz (feat. De La Soul): Momentz 

Alice Russel: Humankind

France Ferdinand: Lucid Dreams

Justus Köhncke: Old Man

Cigarettes After Sex: Dreaming of You

Koop: Words of Tranquility

Francis Lai: Le courage d’aimer: My human kind

A community radio midnight show Through the Bohemian Looking Glass is aired Sunday, Tuesday and Friday night at midnight (GMT), that means you stay late on Saturday, Monday and Thursday. A new episode is aired every Sunday midnight (the night between Saturday and Sunday) on Wirral Wave radio or AirTime. Later on SoundCloud for some time.