In his seminal 1991 book Consciousness Explained, Daniel Dennett famously criticizes what he calls the "Cartesian Theater" view of the mind. I find the criticism odd.
The central "Cartesian" claim Dennett targets is that there is a specific location in the brain "arrival at which is the necessary and sufficient condition for conscious experience" (p. 106). His argument consists mainly in denying that there's always a fact of the matter about when, exactly, an experience occurs, if one considers events at very small time scales (on the order of tenths of a second). He appears to draw from this argument what seems to be the fairly radical anti-"Cartesian" conclusion that there are, in general, no definitive facts of the matter about the flow of conscious experiences independent of the changing "narratives" we construct about them. (Elsewhere in the book, however, Dennett writes as though there are such facts. I criticize his apparent inconsistency about such matters here.)
The argument is odd in two ways:
First: Dennett does not want to deny the intuitive idea that there are "afferent" (inbound) brain processes that are not in themselves conscious, such as early visual processes in the retina and early visual cortex. Nor does he want to deny that there may be similarly non-conscious "efferent" neural processes, going out from the brain -- for example, motor impulses travelling from the supplementary motor area down the spinal cord (p. 108-109). So evidently there is a center in the brain where everything comes together, on his view. The only question is how large that center is. But how could that question of size be theoretically deep enough to drive the general conclusions Dennett wants and his characterization of the issue as one on which most previous philosophers have gone radically wrong?
Second: Ordinary external events may also be temporally indeterminate, if one looks at narrow enough time slices (even independently of issues of Einsteinian relativity). Consider an example from a real theater: An elephant and an acrobat charge onto stage right and stage left respectively, at about the same time. The elephant's trunk comes in at t + 0 milliseconds but his tail doesn't come in until t + 600 milliseconds. The acrobat's leading foot comes in at t + 200 milliseconds but his trailing foot doesn't come in until t + 350 milliseconds. Did the elephant or the acrobat enter first? Obviously, many variations of this scenario are possible. But does this support any radical, general conclusion about the temporal order of events? Does it show that the best way to think of the processing of events is in terms of multiple scripts and that there are no facts independent of our narratives? Of course not! In real theaters as in Cartesian theaters, there is blurriness at the edges. That's how the world works in general (except maybe at the quantum level). Nothing radical follows.