Is Consciousness an Illusion? Sharon Dirckx vs. Daniel Dennett

I’ve been reading Am I Just My Brain by Sharon Dirckx.

Dr. Sharon Dirckx holds a Ph.D. in brain imaging from the University of Cambridge and has held a research position at Oxford.

She’s an expert on the brain and yet, she doesn’t believe religion is something that can be explained away by neuroscience.

Something that would surely seem impossible to someone like Sam Harris and other New Atheists who insist it is all in our heads and that if we only understood that the brain can explain it all, we would stop believing.

Well, you cannot accuse Dr. Dirckx of being ignorant.

I am enjoying the book and I find it a breath of fresh air every time I hear from, or read a scientist that is also Christian.

The two are not in conflict, but fit nicely together. I’d love to have her on the podcast!

In the chapter I just read, she addresses the idea that “consciousness is just an illusion” as put forward by philosopher Daniel Dennett.

Dr. Dirckx points out the obvious when she asks, “Is it true that our brains are fooling us into believing a false reality? If that is so, how do we know it isn’t true of every thought that we have, including the very notion that consciousness is illusory?”

It is hard to see how Dennett’s explanation does not reduce to solipsism. It sounds like a Cartesian nightmare.

Not to mention, who is the brain fooling? If “we” are being fooled by “our” brains, who is the “we” and “our” in that equation, if not our conscious selves?

This explanation was supposed to explain away consciousness, but apparently does not even achieve that.

Indeed, Dennett’s explanation that “consciousness is an illusion” seems absurd and untenable even on its face.

In fact, it undermines itself. For, if the brain is simply fooling us, Dennett cannot possibly justify his belief that his brain is fooling him, for his brain may very well be fooling him to believe that it is fooling him.

You may have to read that again. It is a vicious regression.

I hope that I will be able to write more about this book. I do look forward to what else she has to say about consciousness.

Until then, what are your thoughts on this topic?


Published by Haden Clark

Haden lives in North Texas with his wife, daughter, and three dogs.

3 thoughts on “Is Consciousness an Illusion? Sharon Dirckx vs. Daniel Dennett

  1. My first thought was . Now this sounds interesting. But then I read:

    I am enjoying the book and I find it a breath of fresh air every time I hear from, or read a scientist that is also Christian.

    … and I sighed.
    Oh, well ….

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I think conciousness is not an illusion though with some people they may break from reality and experience another one unique in the fact that others may not be who they once were to them and objects and the things they hear may be more intertwined or more synchronized. It’s like a dream except lived conciousless although some people are lucid in there dreams and also remember them. We can use logic and reasoning living in this life to affirm things repeateadly until one day it may change as there is climate change definitely going on at a rate that is drastically affecting the ecosystem. We can imagine and turn our dreams into reality but yet some things turn out greater than we imagined because of a higher force, God.

    Liked by 1 person

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