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Leibniz Campus Lecture :: Mill, Mind and Monad: Leibniz and the Problem of Consciousness

by Donald D. Hoffman, University of California, Irvine/USA on Monday, April 24th, 2017 6 p.m.

If I have a visual experience that I describe as a red tomato a meter away, then I am inclined to believe that there is, in fact, a red tomato a meter away, even if I close my eyes. I believe that my perceptions of spacetime and objects are, in the normal case, veridical-that they accurately depict aspects of the real world. But is my belief supported by our best science? In particular: Does evolution by natural selection favor veridical perceptions? Many scientists and philosophers claim that it does. But this claim, though plausible, has not been properly tested. In this talk I present a new theorem: Veridical perceptions are never more fit than non-veridical perceptions which are simply tuned to the relevant fitness functions. This entails that perception is not a window on reality; it is more like a desktop interface on your laptop. I discuss this interface theory of perception and its implications for one of the most puzzling unsolved problems in science: the relationship between brain activity and conscious experiences. Leibniz anticipated this work by two centuries, with his famous gap, mill and monadology.

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