Consciousness and its discontents

Communication and Cognition 30 (3-4):273-284 (1997)
Abstract
Our heads are full of representations, according to cognitive science. It might seem inevitable that conscious states are a type of brain-based representation, but in this paper I argue that representation and consciousness each form conceptually distinct domains. Representational content depends on context, usually causal, as shown by familiar cases in which context varies while brain states do not -- twin earth cases and brains-in-vats, for example. But these same cases show that conscious content does not depend on context. The vatted brain, for example, enjoys the same experiences as its in vivo counterpart. The structure of experience -- its parts and their distinctive characters -- is the dynamic structure of the brain, viewed "from within." I call this position methodological phenomenalism (MP), and consider its prospects as a foundation for a science of consciousness. I close with a consideration of MP on the subjective "character" of conscious states. Turning away from representation dissolves the perplexity of subjectivity, leaving hopeful prospects for the scientific study of consciousness
Keywords Brain  Cognitive Science  Consciousness  Content  Metaphysics
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