Bernie Baars' appeal to our everyday conscious experience (and without a single reference to "folk psychology"!) was a welcome breath of fresh air, and an indication of the need for a multi-disciplinary approach to philosophical conundrums. I was reminded of David Hodgson's Tucson presentation when he challenged "philosophical elites" to address directly some of the practical consequences of their abstract theory making. But there are a number of points that I would like to address.
The piece was written for the JCS "hard problem" special, but I'm not sure whether the emphasis on psychological problems like "empathy" (in the context of Nagel's What it is like to be a bat?) is a fair description of Dave Chalmers' position. It seems to me that the "hard problem" has (strangely enough) nothing to do with psychology and everything to do with physics or metaphysics (how does experience [of any kind] arise in a physical universe?)
But it does seem to me quite right for a psychologist to point out that the dichotemy between the hard and easy problems of cognition doesn't really fit with the data (this point has also been made by Jonathan Lowe and David Hodgson in their HP commentaries). I also found Baars' equation of subjectivity with the notion of the "observing self" to be in line with our everyday experience (which, unlike most commentators, I would not wish to deny). But does Baars' concept of the self work?
He points out that there are a number of "self systems", such as the sensorimotor homunculus, the emotional self, the motivational self, the social self-system, the appetitive self [etc.], and concludes that the self-system is a "framework", or a "stable context" or a "pattern recognizer":
Many brain systems "observe" the output of another, and we now know a great deal about pattern recognizers in the brain. There seems to be plentiful brain and psychological evidence regarding self-systems.
So the emphasis is very much on a plurality of self-systems. Now all this makes good analytic sense, but our experience is (almost always) of a single self -- "me", not "we" -- albeit with different (social, motivational, emotional etc.) aspects. So we are back with Schroedinger's problem of the one and the many.
I'm also unclear as to how the sort of multiple self-systems that Baars proposes gets round Ryle's "infinite regress" argument. Just who, ultimately, is doing the observing? I don't think Ryle's ghost has been quite laid to rest yet (in fact he seemed pretty much alive and kicking at Tucson in the reincarnate shape of the Policeman of Woodstock).
And finally, a la Chalmers, why should any of these pattern recognizers and other homunculi give rise to conscious experience?