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Global workspace or pandemonium?

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Surprisingly, Dennett and Baars have no real quarrel with each other, despite the fact that Dennett wants to escape from the Theatre of Consciousness and Baars is happy to stay there. Both believe that consciousness has structures that can be analysed, and is not just ‘the mysterious glow that no one but me can see’ described by Chalmers and Searle. Both acknowledge that their theories of consciousness are only metaphors, and there is no conflict in saying that Consciousness is both like a theatre and like a series of multiple drafts. And both Dennett and Baars would agree that Consciousness seems to be like a theatre. Their main disagreement is how deep the similarity goes, and whether the similarity is more misleading than useful. There are other scientific controversies that could probably be dissolved by such an ecumenical attitude: there is no paradox in saying that an electron is both like a wave and like a particle, or that thought is both like a language in the head and like a connectionist network. But a non-aggression pact of this sort does not absolve us from enumerating the ways in which each of these metaphors does and does not map onto its object. And as this enumeration continues, it is likely to make one of these metaphors seem more plausible than the other.
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Keywords: Baars; Dennett; awareness; center of narrative gravity; global workspace; mental phenomena; multiple drafts; neuropsychology; self-consciousness

Document Type: Review Article

Affiliations: 2419A Tenth Street, Berkeley, CA 94710, USA.

Publication date: 1997-04-01

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