David Bourget (Western Ontario)
David Chalmers (ANU, NYU)
Rafael De Clercq
Jack Alan Reynolds
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Consciousness and Cognition 2 (1):28-47 (1993)
"Consciousness", it is widely agreed, does not name any single cognitive phenomenon. But nor is the gathering of distinct phenomena under that single label an accident. What seems to unify the range of cognitive goods in this "variety store" is the central yet elusive notion of the availability of some content or feeling in subjective experience. The paper begins by building a rough taxonomy of the various ways different approaches have tried to give an account of this central target. Among these approaches there are two to which special attention is paid. According to the first, our very cognitive constitution makes the issue of subjective experience scientifically intractable . According to the second , the philosophical worries about the subjectivity of experience are solved once consciousness is analyzed as the result of a long process of evolution that turns the flexible architecture of the brain into a virtual sequential machine. It is my contention that noconceptual argument of the first kind can establish the impossibility of one day achieving a scientific understanding of the property of being conscious. It is also my contention that a better understanding of the underlying neurophysiological and computational mechanisms is needed if Dennett′s theory is to resolve, rather than side-step, those problems related to the subjective phenomenology of consciousness. In short, I aim to show that there is no cause to regard a scientific theory of subjective experience to be in principle unobtainable. But that, contra Dennett, the form of such a scientific understanding is not yet clear
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