Why “consciousness” means what it does

Metaphilosophy 42 (1-2):98-117 (2011)
Abstract: “Consciousness” seems to be a polysemic, ambiguous, term. Because of this, theorists have sought to distinguish the different kinds of phenomena that “consciousness” denotes, leading to a proliferation of terms for different kinds of consciousness. However, some philosophers—univocalists about consciousness—argue that “consciousness” is not polysemic or ambiguous. By drawing upon the history of philosophy and psychology, and some resources from semantic theory, univocalism about consciousness is shown to be implausible. This finding is important, for if we accept the univocalist account then we are less likely to subject our thought and talk about the mind to the kind of critical analysis that it needs. The exploration of the semantics of “consciousness” offered here, by way of contrast, clarifies and fine-tunes our thought and talk about consciousness and conscious mentality and explains why “consciousness” means what it does, and why it means a number of different, but related, things
Keywords unconscious mind  concept of consciousness  state consciousness  history of psychology  consciousness  theories of consciousness
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DOI 10.1111/j.1467-9973.2010.01681.x
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