About this topic
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 1965.  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.
Related categories

84 found
1 — 50 / 84
  1. A Bat Without Qualities?Kathleen Akins - 1993 - In Martin Davies & Glyn W. Humphreys (eds.), Consciousness: Psychological and Philosophical Essays. Blackwell. pp. 345--358.
  2. What is It Like to Be Boring and Myopic?Kathleen Akins - 1993 - In B. Dahlbom (ed.), Dennett and His Critics. Blackwell.
  3. So THAT'S What It's Like!Sean Allen-Hermanson - forthcoming - In Companion to the Philosophy of Animal Minds. Routledge.
    Many philosophers have held that we cannot say what it is like to be a bat as they present a fundamentally alien form of life. Another view held by some philosophers, bat scientists, and even many laypersons is that echolocation is, somehow, at least in part, a kind of visual experience. Either way, bat echolocation is taken to be something very mysterious and exotic. I utilize empirical and intuitive considerations to support an alternative view making a much more mundane contention (...)
  4. Nagel on Imagination and Physicalism.Torin Alter - 2002 - 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.
  5. Science and Consciousness: Models and Challenges.Dimitrov Assen (ed.) - 2016 - V. Turnovo, Bulgaria: "Faber".
    The first part of the book offers a hypothetical answer the following questions: What are the mental states? How do they occur? How do we give rise to our actions by means of our thoughts? Despite the immense diversity of disciplines, topics and issues relating to the structure and the dynamics of the nervous system, of human consciousness, of intelligence in a synchronous and evolutionary perspective, two main philosophical and theoretical ideologemes stand out in the neurosciences of today: the computational (...)
  6. Phenomenal Consciousness, Sense Impressions, and the Logic of 'What It's Like.David Beisecker - 2005 - In Ralph D. Ellis & Natika Newton (eds.), Consciousness & Emotion: Agency, Conscious Choice, and Selective Perception. John Benjamins.
  7. What is It Like to Be...?Susan J. Blackmore - 2003 - In Consciousness: An Introduction. Oxford University Press.
  8. What is It Like to Be Human.Laurence BonJour - 2013 - 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.
  9. Can Science Explain Consciousness? Toward a Solution to the 'Hard Problem'.Dan J. Bruiger - manuscript
    For diverse reasons, the problem of phenomenal consciousness is persistently challenging. Mental terms are characteristically ambiguous, researchers have philosophical biases, secondary qualities are excluded from objective description, and philosophers love to argue. Adhering to a regime of efficient causes and third-person descriptions, science as it has been defined has no place for subjectivity or teleology. A solution to the “hard problem” of consciousness will require a radical approach: to take the point of view of the cognitive system itself. To facilitate (...)
  10. Explaining the Qualitative Dimension of Consciousness: Prescission Instead of Reification.Marc Champagne - 2009 - Dialogue 48 (1):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 (...)
  11. Shadows of Consciousness: The Problem of Phenomenal Properties.Jason Costanzo - 2014 - Phenomenology and the Cognitive Sciences (4):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 (...)
  12. Human Cognitive Closure and Mysterianism: Reply to Kriegel.Erhan Demircioglu - 2017 - Acta Analytica 32 (1):125-132.
    In this paper, I respond to Kriegel’s criticism of McGinn’s mysterianism. Kriegel objects to a particular argument for the possibility of human cognitive closure and also gives a direct argument against mysterianism. I intend to show that neither the objection nor the argument is convincing.
  13. Against McGinn's Mysterianism.Erhan Demircioglu - 2016 - Cilicia Journal of Philosophy 3 (1):1-10.
    There are two claims that are central to McGinn’s mysterianism: (1) there is a naturalist and constructive solution of the mind-body problem, and (2) we human beings are incapable in principle of solving the mind-body problem. I believe (1) and (2) are compatible: the truth of one does not entail the falsity of the other. However, I will argue that the reasons McGinn presents for thinking that (2) is true are incompatible with the truth of (1), at least on a (...)
  14. On an Argument From Analogy for the Possibility of Human Cognitive Closure.Erhan Demircioglu - 2016 - Minds and Machines 26 (3):227-241.
    In this paper, I aim to show that McGinn’s argument from analogy for the possibility of human cognitive closure survives the critique raised on separate occasions by Dennett and Kriegel. I will distinguish between linguistic and non-linguistic cognitive closure and argue that the analogy argument from animal non-linguistic cognitive closure goes untouched by the objection Dennett and Kriegel raises.
  15. Recognitional Identification and the Knowledge Argument.Erhan Demircioglu - 2015 - Croatian Journal of Philosophy 15 (3):325-340.
    Frank Jackson’s famous Knowledge Argument moves from the premise that complete physical knowledge about experiences is not complete knowledge about experiences to the falsity of physicalism. Some physicalists (e.g., John Perry) have countered by arguing that what Jackson’s Mary, the perfect scientist who acquires all physical knowledge about experiencing red while being locked in a monochromatic room, lacks before experiencing red is merely a piece of recognitional knowledge of an identity, and that since lacking a piece of recognitional knowledge of (...)
  16. The Puzzle of Consciousness.Erhan Demircioglu - 2015 - Cilicia Journal of Philosophy 2 (2):76-85.
    In this article, I aim to present some of the reasons why consciousness is viewed as an intractable problem by many philosophers. Furthermore, I will argue that if these reasons are properly appreciated, then McGinn's mysterianism may not sound as far-fetched as it would otherwise sound.
  17. The Philosophy of Phenomenal Consciousness.Zoe Drayson - 2015 - In The Constitution of Phenomenal Consciousness. Amsterdam: pp. 273-292.
    A primer on the philosophical issues relating to phenomenal consciousness, part of a collection of new papers by scientists and philosophers on the constitution of consciousness.
  18. Alternatives to Physicalism: Memoirs of a Friend.Peter E. Ells - 2018 - In Time, Science and the Critique of Technological Reason: Essays, in Honour of Hermínio Martins, Palgrave Macmillan. pp. 69-74.
    This memoir recalls friendly discussions with Hermínio Martins regarding the essential character of the furniture of the universe. Physicalism, despite the successes of the natural sciences, fails to account for experiences such as pain. As will be shown, Martins and the writer preferred alternative metaphysical systems that avoid such pitfalls.
  19. I Can't Get No (Epistemic) Satisfaction: Why the Hard Problem of Consciousness Entails a Hard Problem of Explanation.Brian D. Earp - 2012 - 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 (...)
  20. Actual Consciousness By Ted Honderich. [REVIEW]Andreas Elpidorou - 2015 - Analysis 75 (4):682-684.
  21. Having It Both Ways: Consciousness, Unique Not Otherworldly.Andreas Elpidorou - 2013 - 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 (...)
  22. Kinds and Conscious Experience: Is There Anything That It is Like to Be Something?Simon J. Evnine - 2008 - 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 (...)
  23. Experience.B. A. Farrell - 1950 - Mind 59 (April):170-98.
  24. ‘What It is Like’ Talk is Not Technical Talk.Jonathan Farrell - 2016 - Journal of Consciousness Studies 23 (9-10):50-65.
    ‘What it is like’ talk (‘WIL-talk’) — the use of phrases such as ‘what it is like’ — is ubiquitous in discussions of phenomenal consciousness. It is used to define, make claims about, and to offer arguments concerning consciousness. But what this talk means is unclear, as is how it means what it does: how, by putting these words in this order, we communicate something about consciousness. Without a good account of WIL-talk, we cannot be sure this talk sheds light, (...)
  25. Consciousness, Naturalism and Nagel.Owen J. Flanagan - 1985 - Journal of Mind and Behavior 6 (3):373-90.
  26. On the Logic of What It is Like to Be a Conscious Subject.Jeffrey E. Foss - 1989 - Australasian Journal of Philosophy 67 (2):305-320.
  27. Contribution à la Théorie de la Conscience, Conçue comme Activite du Cerveau.Gilberto Gomes - 1998 - Dissertation, Université Paris 7
    This thesis explores the possibility of theoretically conceiving consciousness as an activity of the brain. Objections, based on the concept of qualia, to the identification of consciousness with a brain activity are refuted. Phenomenal consciousness is identified with access-consciousness. Consciousness is conceived as a higher order processing of informational states of the brain. The state of consciousness represents an integration of prior nonconscious states. Libet’s research on the timing of conscious experience is reviewed and analyzed. His hypothesis of backward referral (...)
  28. Verbal Disputes in the Theory of Consciousness.Joseph Gottlieb - 2018 - Ergo: An Open Access Journal of Philosophy 5.
    The primary aim of a theory of consciousness is to articulate existence conditions for conscious states, i.e. the conditions under which a mental state is conscious rather than unconscious. There are two main broad approaches: The Higher-Order approach and the First-Order approach. Higher-Order theories claim that a mental state is conscious only if it is the object of a suitable state of higher-order awareness. First-Order theories reject this necessary condition. However, both sides make the following claim: for any mental state (...)
  29. Is There Anything It is Like to Be a Bat?P. M. S. Hacker - 2002 - 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.
  30. If You Can't Talk About It, You Can't Talk About It: A Response to H.O. Mounce.Patricia Hanna - 1992 - Philosophical Investigations 15 (2):185-190.
  31. Must Thinking Bats Be Conscious?Patricia Hanna - 1990 - Philosophical Investigations 13 (October):350-55.
  32. 'There's Something It's Like' and the Structure of Consciousness.Benj Hellie - 2007 - 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 (...)
  33. Of Bats, Brains, and Minds.Christopher S. Hill - 1977 - Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 38 (September):100-106.
  34. Mindmelding: Consciousness, Neuroscience, and the Mind's Privacy.William Hirstein - 2012 - Oxford University Press.
  35. Dialogue on Alternating Consciousness: From Perception to Infinities and Back to Free Will.Claus Janew - 2014 - 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 (...)
  36. In Defense of the What-It-is-Likeness of Experience.Greg Janzen - 2011 - 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 (...)
  37. Review of Dan Zahavi's Subjectivity and Selfhood. [REVIEW]Greg Janzen - 2007 - PSYCHE: An Interdisciplinary Journal of Research On Consciousness 13.
    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 (...)
  38. Consciousness: Individuated Information in Action.J. Jonkisz - 2015 - Frontiers in Psychology 6.
    Within theoretical and empirical enquiries, many different meanings associated with consciousness have appeared, leaving the term itself quite vague. This makes formulating an abstract and unifying version of the concept of consciousness – the main aim of this article –into an urgent theoretical imperative. It is argued that consciousness, characterized as dually accessible (cognized from the inside and the outside), hierarchically referential (semantically ordered), bodily determined (embedded in the working structures of an organism or conscious system), and useful in action (...)
  39. The Feeling of Personal Ownership of One’s Mental States: A Conceptual Argument and Empirical Evidence for an Essential, but Underappreciated, Mechanism of Mind.Stan Klein - 2015 - Psychology of Consciousness: Research, Practice, and Theory 2 (4):355-376.
    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 (...)
  40. The Explanatory Gap Account and Intelligibility of Explanation.Daniel Kostic - 2011 - Theoria: Beograd 54 (3):27-42.
  41. What is What It's Like? Introducing Perceptual Modes of Presentation.John Kulvicki - 2007 - 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 (...)
  42. Postscript to "Mad Pain and Martian Pain".David Lewis - 1983 - Philosophical Papers 12:122-133.
  43. The Explanatory Stopgap.Eric Lormand - 2004 - 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.
  44. Intentionality, Information and Consciousness: A Naturalistic Perspective.Dylan Ludwig - manuscript
    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 (...)
  45. Knowing What It is Like and Knowing How.Luca Malatesti - 2004 - In Alberto Peruzzi (ed.), Mind and Causality. John Benjamins. pp. 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 (...)
  46. About Being a Bat.J. Christopher Maloney - 1986 - Australasian Journal of Philosophy 64 (1):26-49.
  47. What It is Like.Gregory McCulloch - 1988 - Philosophical Quarterly 38 (January):1-19.
  48. ?Knowing What It's Like? And the Essential Indexical.Carolyn McMullen - 1985 - Philosophical Studies 48 (September):211-33.
  49. What It's Like and Why: Subjective Qualia Explained as Objective Phenomena.Jeffrey A. Medina - 2002 - [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 (...)
  50. Nothing Like Experience.D. H. Mellor - 1993 - Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society 63:1-16.
1 — 50 / 84