On a confusion about a function of consciousness

Brain and Behavioral Sciences 18 (2):227-–247 (1995)
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Abstract

Consciousness is a mongrel concept: there are a number of very different "consciousnesses." Phenomenal consciousness is experience; the phenomenally conscious aspect of a state is what it is like to be in that state. The mark of access-consciousness, by contrast, is availability for use in reasoning and rationally guiding speech and action. These concepts are often partly or totally conflated, with bad results. This target article uses as an example a form of reasoning about a function of "consciousness" based on the phenomenon of blindsight. Some information about stimuli in the blind field is represented in the brains of blindsight patients, as shown by their correct "guesses," but they cannot harness this information in the service of action, and this is said to show that a function of phenomenal consciousness is somehow to enable information represented in the brain to guide action. But stimuli in the blind field are BOTH access-unconscious and phenomenally unconscious. The fallacy is: an obvious function of the machinery of access-consciousness is illicitly transferred to phenomenal consciousness.

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Ned Block
New York University

Citations of this work

Facing up to the problem of consciousness.David Chalmers - 1995 - Journal of Consciousness Studies 2 (3):200-19.
What is Conceptual Engineering and What Should it Be?David Chalmers - 2020 - Inquiry: An Interdisciplinary Journal of Philosophy 63.
Animal Sentience.Heather Browning & Jonathan Birch - 2022 - Philosophy Compass 17 (5):e12822.
What is the unity of consciousness?Timothy J. Bayne & David J. Chalmers - 2003 - In Axel Cleeremans (ed.), The Unity of Consciousness. Oxford University Press.

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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.
Intentionality: An Essay in the Philosophy of Mind.John R. Searle - 1983 - New York: Cambridge University Press.
The Principles of Psychology.William James - 1890 - London, England: Dover Publications.

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