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Summary The phrase "what it is like" is often used to invoke phenomenal consciousness.  For example, one can ask what it is like to be a bat, or what it is like to see red, in effect asking about the associated conscious states.  "Knowing what it is like" is often used to invoke knowledge of conscious states.  Some have argued that no amount of physical knowledge suffices to know what it is like to be in these states.
Key works The locus classicus here is Nagel 1974, though predecessors using the phrase include Farrell 1950 and Maxwell 1966.  Analyses of the phrase are given by Lormand 2004 and Hellie 2007.  Critics of this usage include Hacker 2002 and Mellor 1993.  A positive discussion of what it is like to be a bat is given by Akins 1993.
Introductions Nagel 1974.
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  1. Kathleen Akins (1993). A Bat Without Qualities? In Martin Davies & Glyn W. Humphreys (eds.), Consciousness: Psychological and Philosophical Essays. Blackwell. 345--358.
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  2. Kathleen Akins (1993). What is It Like to Be Boring and Myopic? In B. Dahlbom (ed.), Dennett and His Critics. Blackwell.
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  3. Torin Alter (2002). Nagel on Imagination and Physicalism. Journal of Philosophical Research 27:143-58.
    In "What is it Like to be a Bat?" Thomas Nagel argues that we cannot imagine what it is like to be a bat or presently understand how physicalism might be true. Both arguments have been seriously misunderstood. I defend them against various objections, point out a problem with the argument against physicalism, and show how the problem can be solved.
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  4. David Beisecker (2005). Phenomenal Consciousness, Sense Impressions, and the Logic of 'What It's Like. In Ralph D. Ellis & Natika Newton (eds.), Consciousness & Emotion: Agency, Conscious Choice, and Selective Perception. John Benjamins.
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  5. Susan J. Blackmore (2003). What is It Like to Be...? In Consciousness: An Introduction. Oxford University Press.
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  6. Laurence BonJour (2013). What is It Like to Be Human. American Philosophical Quarterly 50 (4):373-386.
    My purpose in this paper is to discuss and defend an objection to physicalist or materialist accounts of the mind.
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  7. Marc Champagne (2009). Explaining the Qualitative Dimension of Consciousness: Prescission Instead of Reification. Dialogue 48 (01):145-183.
    ABSTRACT: This paper suggests that it is largely a want of notional distinctions which fosters the “explanatory gap” that has beset the study of consciousness since T. Nagel’s revival of the topic. Modifying Ned Block’s controversial claim that we should countenance a “phenomenal-consciousness” which exists in its own right, we argue that there is a way to recuperate the intuitions he appeals to without engaging in an onerous reification of the facet in question. By renewing with the full type/token/tone trichotomy (...)
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  8. Jason Costanzo (2014). Shadows of Consciousness: The Problem of Phenomenal Properties. Phenomenology and the Cognitive Sciences:1-15.
    The aim of this essay is to show that phenomenal properties are contentless modes of appearances of representational properties. The essay initiates with examination of the first-person perspective of the conscious observer according to which a “reference to I” with respect to the observation of experience is determined. A distinction is then drawn between the conscious observer and experience as observed, according to which, three distinct modifications of experience are delineated. These modifications are then analyzed with respect to the content (...)
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  9. Jason Costanzo & Rodrigo González, Hard Problems.
    Within this paper we examine the so-called ‘hard’ problem of consciousness. In general, contemporary materialists claim that either phenomenally conscious states are inexistent or that the question of mind is meaningless. Against this background, we argue that human type experience cannot be elucidated by any science that omits the first-person perspective of consciousness itself. We further provide a model for the phenomenal character of our experience. Following, we criticizing the relationist account while offering an alternative basis for the phenomenon of (...)
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  10. Brian D. Earp (2012). I Can't Get No (Epistemic) Satisfaction: Why the Hard Problem of Consciousness Entails a Hard Problem of Explanation. Dialogues in Philosophy, Mental and Neuro Sciences 5 (1):14-20.
    Daniel Dennett (1996) has disputed David Chalmers' (1995) assertion that there is a "hard problem of consciousness" worth solving in the philosophy of mind. In this paper I defend Chalmers against Dennett on this point: I argue that there is a hard problem of consciousness, that it is distinct in kind from the so-called easy problems, and that it is vital for the sake of honest and productive research in the cognitive sciences to be clear about the difference. But I (...)
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  11. Andreas Elpidorou (forthcoming). Actual Consciousness by Ted Honderich. [REVIEW] Analysis.
  12. Andreas Elpidorou (2013). Having It Both Ways: Consciousness, Unique Not Otherworldly. Philosophia 41 (4):1181-1203.
    I respond to Chalmers’ (2006, 2010) objection to the Phenomenal Concept Strategy (PCS) by showing that his objection is faced with a dilemma that ultimately undercuts its force. Chalmers argues that no version of PCS can posit psychological features that are both physically explicable and capable of explaining our epistemic situation. In response, I show that what Chalmers calls ‘our epistemic situation’ admits either of a phenomenal or of a topic-neutral characterization, neither of which supports Chalmers’ objection. On the one (...)
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  13. Simon J. Evnine (2008). Kinds and Conscious Experience: Is There Anything That It is Like to Be Something? Metaphilosophy 39 (2):185–202.
    In this article I distinguish the notion of there being something it is like to be a certain kind of creature from that of there being something it is like to have a certain kind of experience. Work on consciousness has typically dealt with the latter while employing the language of the former. I propose several ways of analyzing what it is like to be a certain kind of creature and find problems with them all. The upshot is that even (...)
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  14. B. A. Farrell (1950). Experience. Mind 59 (April):170-98.
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  15. Owen J. Flanagan (1985). Consciousness, Naturalism and Nagel. Journal of Mind and Behavior 6 (3):373-90.
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  16. Jeffrey E. Foss (1989). On the Logic of What It is Like to Be a Conscious Subject. Australasian Journal of Philosophy 67 (June):305-320.
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  17. P. M. S. Hacker (2002). Is There Anything It is Like to Be a Bat? Philosophy 77 (300):157-174.
    The concept of consciousness has been the source of much philosophical, cognitive scientific and neuroscientific discussion for the past two decades. Many scientists, as well as philosophers, argue that at the moment we are almost completely in the dark about the nature of consciousness. Stuart Sutherland, in a much quoted remark, wrote that.
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  18. Patricia Hanna (1992). If You Can't Talk About It, You Can't Talk About It: A Response to H.O. Mounce. Philosophical Investigations 15 (2):185-190.
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  19. Patricia Hanna (1990). Must Thinking Bats Be Conscious? Philosophical Investigations 13 (October):350-55.
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  20. Benj Hellie (2007). There's Something It's Like' and the Structure of Consciousness. Philosophical Review 116 (3):441--63.
    I discuss the meaning of 'There's something e is like', in the context of a reply to Eric Lormand's 'The explanatory stopgap'. I argue that Lormand is wrong to think it has a specially perceptual meaning. Rather, it has one of at least four candidate meanings: e is some way as regards its subject; e is some way and e's being that way is in the possession of its subject; e is some way in the awareness of its subject; e's (...)
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  21. Christopher S. Hill (1977). Of Bats, Brains, and Minds. Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 38 (September):100-106.
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  22. William Hirstein (2012). Mindmelding: Consciousness, Neuroscience, and the Mind's Privacy. Oup Oxford.
    In this important and controversial new book, William Hirstein argues that it is possible for one person to directly experience the conscious states of another, by way of what he calls mindmelding. Drawing on a range of research from neuroscience, psychology, and philosophy, he presents a highly original new account of consciousness.
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  23. Claus Janew (2014). Dialogue on Alternating Consciousness: From Perception to Infinities and Back to Free Will. Journal of Consciousness Exploration and Research 5 (4):351-391.
    Can we trace back consciousness, reality, awareness, and free will to a single basic structure without giving up any of them? Can the universe exist in both real and individual ways without being composed of both? This dialogue founds consciousness and freedom of choice on the basis of a new reality concept that also includes the infinite as far as we understand it. Just the simplest distinction contains consciousness. It is not static, but a constant alternation of perspectives. From its (...)
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  24. Greg Janzen (2011). In Defense of the What-It-is-Likeness of Experience. Southern Journal of Philosophy 49 (3):271-293.
    It is common parlance among philosophers who inquire into the nature of consciousness to speak of there being something it is like for the subject of a mental state to be in it. The popularity of the ‘what-it-is-like’ phrase stems, in part, from the assumption that it enables us to distinguish, in an intuitive and illuminating way, between conscious and unconscious mental states: conscious mental states, unlike unconscious mental states, are such that there is something it is like for their (...)
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  25. Greg Janzen (2007). Review of Dan Zahavi's Subjectivity and Selfhood. [REVIEW] Psyche 13 (1).
    In Subjectivity and Selfhood Dan Zahavi presents the fruits of his thinking on a nexus of issues regarding the experiential structure of consciousness and its relation to selfhood. The central theme of the book is that the “notion of self is crucial for a proper understanding of consciousness, and consequently it is indispensable to a variety of disciplines such as philosophy of mind, social philosophy, psychiatry, developmental psychology, and cognitive neuroscience” . Proceeding, as in his previously published work , on (...)
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  26. Stan Klein (forthcoming). The Feeling of Personal Ownership of One’s Mental States: A Conceptual Argument and Empirical Evidence for an Essential, but Underappreciated, Mechanism of Mind. Psychology of Consciousness: Research, Practice, and Theory.
    I argue that the feeling that one is the owner of his or her mental states is not an intrinsic property of those states. Rather, it consists in a contingent relation between consciousness and its intentional objects. As such, there are (a variety of) circumstances, varying in their interpretive clarity, in which this relation can come undone. When this happens, the content of consciousness still is apprehended, but the feeling that the content “belongs to me” no longer is secured. I (...)
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  27. John Kulvicki (2007). What is What It's Like? Introducing Perceptual Modes of Presentation. Synthese 156 (2):205-229.
    The central claim of this paper is that what it is like to see green or any other perceptible property is just the perceptual mode of presentation of that property. Perceptual modes of presentation are important because they help resolve a tension in current work on consciousness. Philosophers are pulled by three mutually inconsistent theses: representational externalism, representationalism, and phenomenal internalism. I throw my hat in with defenders of the first two: the externalist representationalists. We are faced with the problem (...)
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  28. David Lewis (1983). Postscript to "Mad Pain and Martian Pain. Philosophical Papers 12:122-133.
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  29. Eric Lormand (2004). The Explanatory Stopgap. Philosophical Review 113 (3):303-57.
    Is there an explanatory gap between raw feels and raw material? Some philosophers argue, and many other people believe, that scientific explanations of conscious experience cannot be as satisfying as typical scientific explanations elsewhere, even in our wildest dreams. The underlying philosophical claims are.
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  30. Dylan Ludwig, Intentionality, Information and Consciousness: A Naturalistic Perspective.
    In this thesis, I offer a new interpretation of the principles of Naturalistic philosophy that are relevant to the philosophy of mind. In doing so, I attempt to accomplish the broader task of showing how we can make significant progress in our thinking about consciousness by first offering new conceptual foundations that can ground our theorizing, and then applying these new ideas to specific problems in the field. The thesis first articulates the advantages of Naturalism, properly understood, as a valuable (...)
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  31. Luca Malatesti (2004). Knowing What It is Like and Knowing How. In Alberto Peruzzi (ed.), Mind and Causality. John Benjamins. 55--119.
    Physicalism in philosophy of mind is the doctrine that mental states and processes, if they are something, are physical states and processes. Notoriously, Frank Jackson has attacked physicalism with the knowledge argument. This paper does not consider whether the knowledge argument is successful. Instead, the author argues that the ability reply to the knowledge argument fails. The central assumption of this objection is that Mary, by having colour experiences, acquires a set of abilities rather than new beliefs as required by (...)
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  32. J. Christopher Maloney (1986). About Being a Bat. Australasian Journal of Philosophy 64 (March):26-49.
  33. Gregory McCulloch (1988). What It is Like. Philosophical Quarterly 38 (January):1-19.
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  34. C. McMullen (1985). Knowing What It's Like' and the Essential Indexical. Philosophical Studies 48 (September):211-33.
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  35. Jeffrey A. Medina (2002). What It's Like and Why: Subjective Qualia Explained as Objective Phenomena. [Journal (on-Line/Unpaginated)] 12:12.
    Notably spurred into the philosophical forefront by Thomas Nagel's 'What Is It Like To Be a Bat?' decades ago, and since maintained by a number of advocates of dualism since that critical publication, is the assertion that our inability to know 'what it's like' to be someone or something else is inexplicable given physicalism. Contrary to this well-known and central objection, I find that a consistent and exhaustive physicalism is readily conceivable. I develop one such theory and demonstrate that not (...)
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  36. D. H. Mellor (1993). Nothing Like Experience. Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society 63:1-16.
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  37. Gaylen Moore (2010). From Chaos to Qualia: An Analysis of Phenomenal Character in Light of Process Philosophy and Self-Organizing Systems. Dissertation, Kent State University
    Recent advances in our understanding of complex dynamical systems may be of interest to philosophers seeking the best metaphysical grounds for understanding the qualitative character of subjective experience (qualia). In this thesis I will propose that qualia are not specifically brain processes, but are instead best thought of as world processes that can be characterized as distributed self-organizing networks of Whiteheadian actual entities. On this Whiteheadian model, different aspects of a quale that a subject experiences as a specific shade of (...)
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  38. Yujin Nagasawa (2003). Thomas Versus Thomas: A New Approach to Nagel's Bat Argument. Inquiry 46 (3):377-395.
    i l l ustrat es t he di ffi cul t y of providing a purely physical characterisation of phenomenal experi ence wi t ha vi vi d exampl e about a bat ’ s sensory apparatus. Whi l e a number of obj ect i ons have al ready been made to Nagel.
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  39. Norton Nelkin (1987). What is It Like to Be a Person? Mind and Language 2 (3):220-41.
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  40. Laurence Nemirow (1990). Physicalism and the Cognitive Role of Acquaintance. In William G. Lycan (ed.), Mind and Cognition. Blackwell.
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  41. Laurence Nemirow (1980). Review of Nagel's Mortal Questions. [REVIEW] Philosophical Review 89:473-7.
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  42. David R. Pugmire (1989). Bat or Batman. Philosophy 64 (April):207-17.
    Thomas Nagel claimed that subjectivity is what distinguishes those states known in the vernacular as conscious or as experiences. And he argued that subjectivity eludes reductivist theories of mind, which are obliged to ignore it and hence to fail. I shall be concerned here primarily with the formulation of the concept of subjectivity. Nagel tried to delineate subjectivity in a well known phrase: ‘an organism has conscious mental states if and only if there is something it is like to be (...)
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  43. Erich Rast (2012). De Se Puzzles, the Knowledge Argument, and the Formation of Internal Knowledge. Analysis and Metaphysics 11 (December):106-132.
    ABSTRACT. Thought experiments about de se attitudes and Jackson’s original Knowledge Argument are compared with each other and discussed from the perspective of a computational theory of mind. It is argued that internal knowledge, i.e. knowledge formed on the basis of signals that encode aspects of their own processing rather than being intentionally directed towards external objects, suffices for explaining the seminal puzzles without resorting to acquaintance or phenomenal character as primitive notions. Since computationalism is ontologically neutral, the account also (...)
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  44. David Roden (2013). NATURE's DARK DOMAIN: AN ARGUMENT FOR A NATURALIZED PHENOMENOLOGY. Royal Institute of Philosophy Supplement 72 (1):169-88.
    Phenomenology is based on a doctrine of evidence that accords a crucial role to the human capacity to conceptualise or ‘intuit’ features of their experience. However, there are grounds for holding that some experiential entities to which phenomenologists are committed must be intuition-transcendent or ‘dark’. Examples of dark phenomenology include the very fine-grained perceptual discriminations which Thomas Metzinger calls ‘Raffman Qualia’ and, crucially, the structure of temporal awareness. It can be argued, on this basis, that phenomenology is in much the (...)
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  45. Anthony J. Rudd (1999). What It's Like and What's Really Wrong with Physicalism: A Wittgensteinian Perspective. Journal of Consciousness Studies 5 (4):454-63.
    It is often argued that the existence of qualia -- private mental objects -- shows that physicalism is false. In this paper, I argue that to think in terms of qualia is a misleading way to develop what is in itself a valid intuition about the inability of physicalism to do justice to our conscious experience. I consider arguments by Dennett and Wittgenstein which indicate what is wrong with the notion of qualia, but which by so doing, help us to (...)
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  46. L. Russow (1982). It's Not Like That to Be a Bat. Behaviorism 10:55-63.
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  47. Nathaniel Sharadin (forthcoming). How You Can Reasonably Form Expectations When You're Expecting. Res Philosophica.
    L.A. Paul has argued that an ordinary, natural way of making a decision -- by reflecting on the phenomenal character of the experiences one will have as a result of that decision -- cannot yield rational decision in certain cases. Paul's argument turns on the (in principle) epistemically inaccessible phenomenal character of certain experiences. In this paper I argue that, even granting Paul a range of assumptions, her argument doesn't work to establish its conclusion. This is because, as I argue, (...)
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  48. Henry Simoni-Wastila (2000). Particularity and Consciousness: Wittgenstein and Nagel on Privacy, Beetles and Bats. Philosophy Today 44 (4):415-425.
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  49. Simonvanrysewyk, An Approach to Understanding Fetal Pain and Consciousness.
  50. Basil Smith (2012). A Dialogue on Consciousness, by Torin Alter and Robert Howell. [REVIEW] Journal of Consciousness Studies 19 (9-10):247-252.
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