"Understanders" should replace the notion of "viewers". The head and its optical system, and other specialized tissues the body sports, are already serving as the so-called passive receivers (observers) of environmental energies and these metaphoric "screens". Repeating that first step once again inside the brain is endless Russian-doll country. The next step or agency which is different / less passive is instead the understanding of the acquired sensory data. Which requires breaking it down for study and recruiting stored conceptions to identify the pieces, etc.
I guess 'understands' still has the problem of requiring an 'understander'. Dennett gets around the problem of an infinite regress in terms of the Cartesian theatre by saying the information received via the senses is distributed throughout the the brain. So it's not so much a infinite regress, but an organizational and distributive ability of the brain when it comes to information. From Dennett's materialist perspective it is not a 'breaking down' for study explanation for consciousness because this would still require 'something' inside the brain to do the understanding.
Overall, I think Dennet's materialist explanation for consciousness fails because when taken to its logical conclusion, his materialist explanation is not reductionist, rather it is an eliminationist theory. In other words, consciousness is just an illusion. If this is true then Dennett's materialist explanation is not a realist theory it is actually anti-realist.
Such distributed routines are potentially a better or even necessary explanation for understanding, but not experience in either the introspective [personal] or extrospective [public] divisions. [Cannot be explained by via processes alone, because they lack such qualitative capacities in the world at large so as to avoid the consequence of panexperientialism].
Perception always has the same problem at a sensory level as far the materialist is concerned. On the other hand, if it is possible to explain how different levels of perception can produce the world from a particular point of view then we can avoid the problem of panexperientialism.
Neither some central set of procedures in the brain, nor a scattered one of competing activities that dissect information / associate it to memory and re-integrate it, offers a sufficient [or non-brute, nonmagical-like] explanation of experience arising. The brain is composed of common elements that engage in their common interactions [is non-special and non-unique in that respect], and their being organized as this larger functional form that regulates microscopic or electrochemical activity doesn't grant that governing structure conjuring powers that exceed the characteristics and limitations of the substrate that physically instantiates it. [Note that this is, again, crouched in adhering to a dogmatic outlook given attention below.]
I would say, 'reintegration' is the key element here. As per my above comment.
IOW, even a system or sub-system of processes serving as an Understander is just another material object faced with the problem of how its manipulations of existing entities and their motions and accepted properties could yield visual, aural, tactile, olfactory, gustatory, etc manifestations. When the situation is shackled to any underlying materialist philosophy which forbids matter having intrinsic states (as opposed to the extrinsic ones it gives blessing to). Or put another way: Forbids qualitative events being universally correlated to matter events and arrangements. Or experience having primitive precursors (i.e., classifiable as panexperientialism, protopanexperientialism, etc) for accounting for the emergence of the brain's complex brand of experience. Accordingly, those committed to a dogmatic view of materialism which pre-conditionally excludes such or dislikes such may eventually resort to asserting something along the line of the following: That what even illusions themselves are dependent upon, in order to be "shown", is perversely itself an illusion; the very presence or exhibition itself of both non-illusions and illusions becomes ludicrously deemed to not be the case, in order to protect their traditional conceptions of matter.
This is why I am suggesting that a physicalist explanation for consciousness is a better alternative.
Once upon a time, not so long ago, no one thought that there was a mind-body problem. No one thought consciousness was a special mystery and they were right. The sense of difficulty arose only about 400 years ago and for a very specific reason: people began to think they knew what matter was. They thought (very briefly) that matter consisted entirely of grainy particles with various shapes bumping into one another. This was classical contact mechanics, "the corpuscularian philosophy", and it gave rise to a conundrum. If this is all that matter is, how can it be the basis of or give rise to mind or consciousness? It seemed clear, as Shakespeare observed, that "when the brains were out, the man would die". But how could the wholly material brain be the seat of consciousness?
Leibniz put it well in 1686, in his famous image of the mill: consciousness, he said, "cannot be explained on mechanical principles, ie by shapes and movements…. imagine that there is a machine [eg a brain] whose structure makes it think, sense and have perception. Then we can conceive it enlarged, so that we can go inside it, as into a mill. Suppose that we do: then if we inspect the interior we shall find there nothing but parts which push one another, and never anything which could explain a conscious experience."
Conclusion: consciousness [experience] can't be physical . . . Hobbes wasn't bothered, though, in 1651. He didn't see why consciousness couldn't be entirely physical. And that, presumably, is because he didn't make the Great Mistake: he didn't think that the corpuscularian philosophy told us the whole truth about the nature of matter. And he was right. Matter is "much odder than we thought", as Auden said in 1939, and it's got even odder since.
. . . "Yes, yes," say the proponents of magic [or that it would have to be magic or brute emergence, etc], "but there's still a mystery: how can all this vivid conscious experience be physical, merely and wholly physical?" (I'm assuming, with them, that we're wholly physical beings.) This, though, is the 400-year-old mistake. In speaking of the "magical mystery show", [Nicholas] Humphrey and many others [Dennett, etc] make a colossal and crucial assumption: the assumption that we know something about the intrinsic nature of matter that gives us reason to think that it's surprising that it involves consciousness [manifestations, qualitative events]. We don't. Nor is this news. Locke knew it in 1689, as did Hume in 1739. Philosopher-chemist Joseph Priestley was extremely clear about it in the 1770s. So were Eddington, Russell [advocating neutral monism] and Whitehead [advocating panexperientialism] in the 1920s.
. . . Humphrey also talks in Dennettian style of "the consciousness illusion" . . . It seems to me, then, that Humphrey's central contentions are hopeless. One doesn't solve the problem of consciousness (such as it is) by saying that consciousness is really a kind of illusion. [Soul Dust by Nicholas Humphrey – The Guardian and Observer books session, Saturday 8 January 2011]
David Chalmers wrote:If any problem qualifies as the problem of consciousness, it is this one. . . . Sometimes terms such as "phenomenal consciousness" and "qualia" are also used here, but I find it more natural to speak of "conscious experience" or simply "experience". Another useful way to avoid confusion (used by e.g. Newell 1990, Chalmers 1996) is to reserve the term "consciousness" for the phenomena of experience, using the less loaded term "awareness" for the more straightforward phenomena described earlier. If such a convention were widely adopted, communication would be much easier; as things stand, those who talk about "consciousness" are frequently talking past each other.
Yes, dualism is still very much alive and well in modern consciousness studies. Perhaps more so than ever. If you are suggesting a type of panpsychism in relation to consciousness then you probably have something in common with David Chalmers.