Podcast 104 – “Consciousness Isn’t What It Seems To Be”


Guest speaker: Susan Blackmore


Susan Blackmore(Minutes : Seconds into program)

03:30 Jon Hanna introduces Susan Blackmore

08:04 “A lot of people kind of think that scientists like myself are kind of pushing the problem [of what is consciousness] away, some are, but there’s a huge excitement about what we do with this mystery, and it’s a very strange mystery indeed.”

09:22 “That’s what we mean by consciousness, in contemporary science, what it’s like for you.”

09:38 Susan talks about ‘the great chasm’ between mind and brain, sometimes called the ‘fathomless abyss’ . . . “It’s the chasm between subjective, how it is to me, and objective, how we believe it must be in the real physical world. Don’t underestimate this problem.”

11:48 “So that’s the sense in which I mean consciousness might be an illusion: not what it seems to be.”

18:48 Susan begins her discussion about free will.

24:34 “You can see the readiness potential building up in someone’s brain a long time, a long time in brain terms, before they know they are spontaneously and freely act.”

26:56 “We can believe that free will is an illusion. That’s my preferred solution. I don’t want to press it on you, but it seems this way: When you look at these results, and many other results too, consciousness just doesn’t seem to be the thing that starts things off.”

51:07 “I suggest, that when you’re walking around in your ordinary life, just realize how much you are not seeing, but you are not seeing it all.”


PCs – Right click, select option
Macs – Ctrl-Click, select option

Books discussed in this podcast

The Meme Machine ConsciousnessIntroduction ConversationsOnConsciousness ConsciousnessExplained





The Meme Machine by Susan Blackmore

Consciousness: An Introduction by Susan Blackmore

Conversations on Consciousness: What the Best Minds Think about the Brain, Free Will, and What It Means to Be Human by Susan Blackmore

Consciousness Explained by Daniel C. Dennett

Susan Blackmore’s books on Amazon.com

Posted in Consciousness, Susan Blackmore and tagged , .

One Comment

  1. Comments from original blog page: http://www.matrixmasters.net/blogs/?p=213

    Part of me likes that she questions some of our most beloved assumptions, the other part feels (knows?) that I’ve personally experienced some things she might ‘roll her eyes at’. I wonder what happens to her when (if?) she experiences things like synchronicites, precognitive dreams, etc. Those things, in my life anyway, are greatly valued. I admit I’ve never read her books, so forgive me if I’m just being ignorant 😉

    Thanks for this great podcast, which (along with many of your guests) I’ve just discovered about a month ago. I’d never heard Terrence McKenna before! My life can never be quite the same, and I think many of you know what I mean.



    I have to agree with you , Ryan. I can remember that when I heard this talk live, the story Jon Hanna told in the beginning (about Susan brushing off his father/brother story about the common dream they had) I completely tuned her out for the first part of her talk. . . . I guess I was composing come-backs to her in my mind during the time. . . . But as you say, I like having my basic assumptions about these things challenged from time to time, because it forces me to more closely re-examine my current (and ever-changing) beliefs about what’s really going on.

    Thanks for the kind words, and, for sure, I know what you mean about Terence. I can still remember hearing him for the first time myself . . . like you say, my life was never quite the same again . . . and in the BEST of ways, I might add :-).



    Here are some of the really cool experiments used in this talk:

    Change blindness:

    (click on the picture to make it active, then right-click and use controls to slow down/speed up or change the picture. When you give up trying to see what’s changed, click on “no gap”)

    inattentional blindness:

    http://viscog.beckman.uiuc.edu/grafs/demos/15.htm… (video – takes a while to load)


    Hey Just like to say, love this podcast for ages now and I too hadn’t heard of half these people people especially Terrence, it has made me feel that there are others ut there and I am so glad I found it! Now what I really wanted to post about was this talk which stirred up some interestin thoughts in me and spurred me on to dig out my old philosophy of the mind books and tune up my dormant mind, wherever that may be ! One of the things that interested me was that deja vu was merely an “inapropriate sense of familiarity” I find this instinctively wrong as I know that my sense of deja vu increases when I am meditating and dreaming more. I am intrgued that it may be completely fictional event and if so why does it occur? Is it just a fault in the wiring? So much to say on this I don’t know where to start! Thanks for the podcast though it is invaluable!


    I met and spoke with Susan at the Cheltenham Science Festival 2007 (I lived right next door to it!) – she mentioned she was writing a book about the nondual ‘event’ (for want of a better word) so common in zen experiences. Attention certainly has something to do with it!

    I have some reservations about a couple of Susan’s ideas, but she’s a great one to stir debate and she doesn’t beat about the bush. Check out her website for more interesting reads, plus read Paul Hogan’s book ‘Rational Mysticism’ for an intriguing interview with Doc Blackmore.

    Lorenzo, you are more appreciated than you will ever know 🙂

    All the best




    Thanks, Tim. I really appreciate you being a part of the salon . . . I’ll see you in cyberdelic space!



    The BBC has used the basketball player example in a public service announcement about paying attention to bicyclists.


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