I recently had a colonoscopy under an anesthetic that caused complete amnesia. An observer could see I was in extreme pain during the procedure yet I have no recollection. How does a philosopher think about the pain I experienced but do not recall?

In my view, experienced pain still counts as pain, even if it is not later remembered. The key here is that the pain was actually at one time experienced . Some kinds of anesthetics block pain experience altogether -- for example, when pregnant women have c-sections, they typically do not experience the pain while the procedure is going on and the anesthetic is in effect. (After the anesthetic wears off, well, that's another story altogether...) In contrast, you describe a different kind of anesthetic, one that does not stop the pain from being experienced, but just stops it from being later remembered. And I would say that unremembered pain is still clearly pain. Here's one way to think about it. Suppose that right now, while fully conscious, you were offered a deal: If you agree right now to be tortured, you will get $10,000. You will be in extreme agony for an hour, but afterward, the torturer will give you a drug to make you forget the torture entirely (and you will get your $10K). ...

Is consciousness a byproduct or “add-on” of our evolution or is it something that is intrinsic and inseparable from the skills we humans have? I know this question sounds strange but it's something that has bugged me for quite some time.

I don't think your question is strange at all. In fact, many philosophers of mind have been pre-occupied with just this very question for quite some time. Then again, perhaps that just makes us strange! It might help to start by being clear about what exactly you mean by consciousness. Sometimes we talk of being conscious in the sense of being awake as opposed to being asleep, or as opposed to being passed out after an overindulgence of some sort. Sometimes we talk about being conscious in the sense of being aware , so we might sometimes be conscious of the ticking of the clock and sometimes not. Philosophers often talk about consciousness in a third sense to refer to the subjective aspects of our experience. To use a phrase brought into play by Thomas Nagel, there is "something it is like" to smell coffee brewing, or to see the vivid colors of a sunset, or to have a sharp pain in your toe. This is often referred to as phenomenal consciousness, and trying to find some way to...

Is John Searle's Chinese Room parable a fundamental proof that computers do not have consciousness?

Searle is actually primarily concerned with intentionality , not with c onsciousness - that is, he takes up the question of whether the computer fundamentally understands the meanings of the outputs that it is producing. By way of the Chinese Room thought experiment, he takes himself to have shown that computers (or at least computers that proceed by way of symbol manipulation) do not have intentionality.

I´m a Computer Scientist with a new found interest in philosophy. In particular I'm interested in the philosophy of mind. I have two questions: 1) What is the big fuss about Frank Jackson's knowledge argument? I read the paper and found it quite silly - how could we ever imagine what it would be like to have all physical knowledge? How is it possible that this argument has generated so much debate? 2) Is it really that hard to imagine that we at some point will be able to build a computer that has a consciousness? I mean, apparently there is already such a machine - our brain! von Neumann said something cool once: "Tell me exactly what it is [consciousness] and I will build it". I believe him. In other words, how can there be so much controversy on this matter, when there is still no clear definition of what consciousness is? Thanks.

There are certainly philosophers who share your intuition about Jackson's thought experiment -- Daniel Dennett, for example, in Consciousness Explained claims that the problem with the argument is precisely the one you've pointed to: Jackson misimagines what it would be like to have all the physical information that there is. On the other hand, I think many people do agree with Jackson that when Mary the color scientist leaves her black and white room and sees red for the first time, she will have an "Aha" moment -- "Aha, so that's what red looks like." As an interesting side note: Jackson has recently recanted and he no longer thinks that this argument proves that physicalism is false. (Although his reasons for thinking that the argument does not succeed are different from yours.)

I am a psychologist, and have to introduce my Introductory Psychology students to consciousness. Is there an acceptable, concise definition of "consciousness"? Most psychology textbooks seem to fall woefully short. For example, David Myers defines consciousness as "our awareness of ourselves and our environment." ACK! Thanks for any feedback you might provide for me and my students.

That's a good question. There is one description that philosophers typically use that might be helpful to you. Philosophers often talk about being conscious in terms of "what-it's-like" (going back to Tom Nagel's article, "What it's like to be a bat?") There seems to be something that it is like to be a bat, but not to be a rock -- and this seems to capture our sense that the bat, but not the rock, is conscious. This focuses on what philosophers call phenomenal consciousness. There are other senses of consciousness in play (for example, sometimes "conscious" is just used as a synonym for "awake"), but when philosophers are worried about the problem of consciousness, they are typically worried about phenomenal consciousness.