I think of philosophical investigation of consciousness and personal identity as a potent source of existential re-orientation. Confusions and conflicting intuitions in these areas run deep, and the issues seem harder to dismiss as silly or merely semantic than comparable issues in other areas of metaphysics (e.g., "Does blah result in my death" seems a more substantive question than "Is this the same ship it used to be before various parts got replaced"; "Is blah conscious?" seems a more substantive question than "Is blah alive?" or "Is blah a corporation?"). What's more, I find that when I reflect on these topics, I often feel like I'm confronting ways that importantly structural features of how I natively conceptualize the world are somehow misguided or incomplete, and I end up groping not just for some conceptual alternative, but for more visceral access to a genuinely different and more clarified way of perceiving the world. Some of my essays on the topic document efforts in this vein.
- In "Grokking illusionism," I try to understand better what it would be like to think that consciousness is an illusion.
- In "Thoughts on personal identity," I examine and inhabit the reductionist notions of personal identity associated with Derek Parfit.
- In "How core is confusion about consciousness?", I wonder about whether confusions about consciousness are liable to leave us confused about other topics as well.
Trying to see through the eyes of people who think consciousness is an illusion.
On living in a glass tunnel, and on open air.
If we’re confused about consciousness, what else are we confused about?