Prediction and the Explanation of Conscious Experience
Strange inversions occur when things work in ways that turn received wisdom upside down. Hume offered a strangely inverted story about causation, and Darwin, about apparent design. Dennett suggests that a strange inversion also occurs when we project our own reactive complexes outward, painting our world with elusive properties like cuteness, sweetness, blueness, sexiness, funniness, and more. Such properties strike us as experiential causes, but they are (Dennett argues) really effects—a kind of shorthand for whole sets of reactive dispositions rooted in the nuts and bolts of human information processing. Understanding the nature and origins of that strange inversion, Dennett believes, is thus key to understanding the nature and origins of human experience itself. This paper examines this claim, paying special attention to recent formulations that link that strange inversion to the emerging vision of the brain as a Bayesian estimator, constantly seeking to predict the unfolding sensory barrage.
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