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  • 1 Tufts University Please ask the editor of the journal.
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Is the view supported that consciousness is a mysterious phenomenon and cannot succumb, even with much effort, to the standard methods of cognitive science? The lecture, using the analogy of the magician's praxis, attempts to highlight a strong but little supported intuition that is one of the strongest supporters of this view. The analogy can be highly illuminating, as the following account by Lee Siegel on the reception of her work on magic can illustrate it: “I'm writing a book on magic”, I explain, and I'm asked, “Real magic?” By real magic people mean miracles, thaumaturgical acts, and supernatural powers. “No”, I answer: “Conjuring tricks, not real magic”. Real magic, in other words, refers to the magic that is not real, while the magic that is real, that can actually be done, is not real magic. I suggest that many, e.g., David Chalmers has (unintentionally) perpetrated the same feat of conceptual sleight-of-hand in declaring to the world that he has discovered “The Hard Problem” of consciousness. It is, however, possible that what appears to be the Hard Problem is simply the large bag of tricks that constitute what Chalmers calls the Easy Problems of Consciousness. These all have mundane explanations, requiring no revolutions in physics, no emergent novelties. I cannot prove that there is no Hard Problem, and Chalmers cannot prove that there is. He can appeal to your intuitions, but this is not a sound basis on which to found a science of consciousness. The “magic” (i.e., the supposed unexplainability) of consciousness, like stage magic, defies explanation only so long as we take it at face value. Once we appreciate all the non-mysterious (i.e., explainable) ways in which the brain can create benign “user-illusions”, we can begin to imagine how the brain creates consciousness.

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