Consciousness, Accessibility, and the Mesh between Psychology and Neuroscience

Behavioral and Brain Sciences 30 (5):481--548 (2007)
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Abstract

How can we disentangle the neural basis of phenomenal consciousness from the neural machinery of the cognitive access that underlies reports of phenomenal consciousness? We can see the problem in stark form if we ask how we could tell whether representations inside a Fodorian module are phenomenally conscious. The methodology would seem straightforward: find the neural natural kinds that are the basis of phenomenal consciousness in clear cases when subjects are completely confident and we have no reason to doubt their authority, and look to see whether those neural natural kinds exist within Fodorian modules. But a puzzle arises: do we include the machinery underlying reportability within the neural natural kinds of the clear cases? If the answer is ‘Yes’, then there can be no phenomenally conscious representations in Fodorian modules. But how can we know if the answer is ‘Yes’? The suggested methodology requires an answer to the question it was supposed to answer! The paper argues for an abstract solution to the problem and exhibits a source of empirical data that is relevant, data that show that in a certain sense phenomenal consciousness overflows cognitive accessibility. The paper argues that we can find a neural realizer of this overflow if assume that the neural basis of phenomenal consciousness does not include the neural basis of cognitive accessibility and that this assumption is justified by the explanations it allows

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Ned Block
New York University

Citations of this work

Idealism and the Mind-Body Problem.David Chalmers - 2019 - In William Seager (ed.), The Routledge Handbook of Panpsychism. Routledge. pp. 353-373.
Perceptual consciousness overflows cognitive access.Ned Block - 2011 - Trends in Cognitive Sciences 15 (12):567-575.
Materialism and the Moral Status of Animals.Jonathan Birch - 2022 - Philosophical Quarterly 72 (4):795-815.

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References found in this work

The Varieties of Reference.Gareth Evans - 1982 - Oxford: Oxford University Press. Edited by John Henry McDowell.
Ontological relativity and other essays.Willard Van Orman Quine (ed.) - 1969 - New York: Columbia University Press.
Action in Perception.Alva Noë - 2004 - MIT Press.

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