The Essential Tension in Phenomenal Consciousness

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    The contemporary standard view of phenomenal consciousness (PC)—shared by reductionists and non-reductionists alike—takes it to be a simple, ‘low-level’, ‘pre-reflective’ feature of mental states, yet at the same time attributes to it both a qualitative and a subjective character (or a phenomenal content and an aspect of subjective awareness). I argue that these two allegedly constitutive elements of PC do not go together as harmoniously as is usually assumed. The standard view introduces a complexity into the notion of PC which gives rise to problems of the sort traditionally associated with higher-order views (i.e., regress and redundancy problems). Finding the tension more or less inescapable, and rejecting a simplistic view like Dainton’s, which dispenses altogether with subjective awareness—and arguing that there is a special problem with accounting for the particularity of conscious states—I explore some speculative suggestions as to how subjective awareness could be understood as a distinctive factor that cannot be assimilated to phenomenal content, while maintaining that the two elements are intimately related.
    Original languageEnglish
    JournalPhilosophical Papers
    Issue number1
    Pages (from-to)159-190
    Publication statusPublished - 2020


    • Phenomenal consciousness
    • Phenomenal self
    • Pre-reflective consciousness


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