chapter  2
What is it like to be…?
Pages 14

What is it like to be a bat? This is one of the most famous questions ever asked in the history of consciousness studies. First posed in 1950 it was made famous in a 1974 paper of that name by American philosopher Thomas Nagel. He argued that understanding how mental states can be neurons fi ring inside the brain is a problem quite unlike understanding how water can be H2O, or how genes can be DNA. ‘Consciousness is what makes the mind-body problem really intractable,’ he said (Nagel, 1974, p 435; 1979, p 165), and by consciousness he meant subjectivity. To make this clear he asked, ‘What is it like to be a bat?’.