Self-consciousness and the unity of consciousness

The Monist 87 (2):219-236 (2004)
Abstract
Consciousness has a number of puzzling features. One such feature is its unity: the experiences and other conscious states that one has at a particular time seem to occur together in a certain way. I am currently enjoying visual experiences of my computer screen, auditory experiences of bird-song, olfactory experiences of coffee, and tactile experiences of feeling the ground beneath my feet. Conjoined with these perceptual experiences are proprioceptive experiences, experiences of agency, affective and emotional experiences, and conscious thoughts of various kinds. These experiences are unified in a variety of ways, but the kind of unity that I’m interested in here concerns their phenomenal character. Take just two of these experiences: the sound of bird-song and the smell of coffee. There is something it is like to have the auditory experience, there is something it is like to have the olfactory experience, and there is something it is like to have both the auditory and olfactory experiences together. These two experiences occur as parts or components or aspects of a larger, more complex experience. And what holds of these two experiences seems to hold – at least in normal contexts – of all of one’s simultaneous experiences: they seem to be subsumed by a single, maximal experience.2 We could think of this maximal experience as an experiential perspective on the world. What it is like to be me right now is (or involves) an extremely complex conscious state that subsumes the various simpler experiences that I outlined above (seeing my computer screen, hearing bird-song, smelling coffee, and so on). I will follow recent literature in using the term “co-consciousness” for the relation that a set of conscious states bear to each other when they have a complex phenomenology (Bayne and Chalmers 2003; Dainton 2000; Hurley 1998; Lockwood 1989)
Keywords Consciousness  Ecology  Metaphysics  Self-consciousness  Unity
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Thomas Crowther (2010). The Agential Profile of Perceptual Experience. Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society 110 (2pt2):219-242.
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