Dan Dennett, who is not Santa Claus, has many clips on youtube, both as “new atheist” and as someone who wants to “deflate consciousness,” i.e. show to us through optical illusions and things that we don’t know as much of what’s going on in our minds as we think.
Here he discusses the “Cartesian theater,” his starting point for argument in his big book Consciousness Explained:
A primary illusion of consciousness, he thinks, is that it is a unified stream, but it’s hard to see how processing in various parts of the brain “comes together” to give rise to consciousness. On the contrary, he thinks that mental processing is distributed over lots of dumb, unconscious little robots, and that there’s no point where our unified representation of the world comes together.
Does any professional philosopher of mind actually believe in the Cartesian theater? Wes claims, at least, that this is just a straw man argument. It doesn’t directly contradict (and I think it isn’t supposed to) the claim that our experience of consciousness is real. What it’s supposed to do is cast doubt on our introspective assertions, i.e. anything substantial we might say about our conscious states, which he thinks are the source of our thinking that there’s a mind-body problem (i.e. I have access to a private, non-spacial, unified inner realm; how could this be equivalent to or hook up with the material world?). Dennett’s article Quining Qualia argues that we can’t analyze our introspective experience, because we can’t conceptualize things that only we have access to (for you experienced philosophy readers, this is a species of Wittgenstein’s private language argument). Even the simple act of calling these experiences “qualia” conceptualizes them: it implies that there are more than one of them and that they can be groups into types (e.g. “my experience of red”) that we can compare over time, and he sees methodological problems with our doing this.
I think Dennett may see his role as a philosopher as primarily political. Most people who vigorously defend the reality and irreducibility of consciousness or who argue that science and philosophy have no place in trying to explain it are really just supporting, covertly or overtly, some kind of traditional anti-materialist theism, which sees the mind as a soul that couldn’t possibly be reduced to something material. He’s arguing against what he perceives as the pre-philosophical preconceptions of the public. Note his discussion of freedom near the end of this clip; he’s trying to make this materialist pill psychologically easier to swallow. Like any good pragmatist, Dennett thinks that much of the fight in convincing someone of your position is dislodging people’s gut reactions against it (making materialism a “live option” in William James’s terminology). The downside of this strategy is that his listeners may feel like he’s trying to manipulate them.