What is it like to be a rock?

For some reason this is the only paper of mine relating to consciousness referenced in David Chalmer's list here http://consc.net/people.html which he references under the heading of 'Philosophy of Artificial Intelligence'.

The semi-serious paper referenced here 'What is it like to be a rock?' was written in 1996 (I think) as an annoyed reaction to wide-spread use of the unanalysed notion of 'what it is to be like something', in many philosophical discussions, inspired originally by Tom Nagel's well known paper 'What is it like to be a bat' (which is more careful than most). A variant of this is the rhetorical and usually equally empty use of Harnad's phrase 'Is there anybody home?' as if any old metaphor that resonates with philosophically untrained people is suitable for specification of a topic for serious philosophical or scientific discussion.

My 'Rock' paper is available in these formats:


There are also many other things I've written about consciousness and related topics, most of them more important than this one.

Most of them are accessible from the papers directory of the Birmingham Cognition and Affect Project

There is also a collection of online slide presentations on a variety of related topics, including, for example, my invited talk at the 7th Conference of ASSC, the Association for the Scientific Study of Consciousness in Memphis in 2003.

An informal retrospective overview of things I have written on this and other topics can be found in my doings.


Maintained by Aaron Sloman
School of Computer Science
The University of Birmingham
31 Jan 2006