The Measurement Problem of Consciousness

Philosophical Topics 48 (1):85-108 (2020)
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Abstract

This paper addresses what we consider to be the most pressing challenge for the emerging science of consciousness: the measurement problem of consciousness. That is, by what methods can we determine the presence of and properties of consciousness? Most methods are currently developed through evaluation of the presence of consciousness in humans and here we argue that there are particular problems in application of these methods to nonhuman cases—what we call the indicator validity problem and the extrapolation problem. The first is a problem with the application of indicators developed using the differences between conscious and unconscious processing in humans to the identification of other conscious vs. nonconscious organisms or systems. The second is a problem in extrapolating any indicators developed in humans or other organisms to artificial systems. However, while pressing ethical concerns add urgency to the attribution of consciousness and its attendant moral status to nonhuman animals and intelligent machines, we cannot wait for certainty and we advocate the use of a precautionary principle to avoid causing unintentional harm. We also intend that the considerations and limitations discussed in this paper can be used to further analyze and refine the methods of consciousness science with the hope that one day we may be able to solve the measurement problem of consciousness.

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Author Profiles

Heather Browning
University of Southampton
Walter Veit
University of Reading

Citations of this work

The sentience shift in animal research.Heather Browning & Walter Veit - 2022 - The New Bioethics 28 (4):299-314.
Towards a Comparative Study of Animal Consciousness.Walter Veit - 2022 - Biological Theory 17 (4):292-303.
Animal Sentience.Heather Browning & Jonathan Birch - 2022 - Philosophy Compass 17 (5):e12822.
Consciousness, complexity, and evolution.Walter Veit - 2022 - Behavioral and Brain Sciences 45.

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References found in this work

Model Pluralism.Walter Veit - 2019 - Philosophy of the Social Sciences 50 (2):91-114.
Welcoming Robots into the Moral Circle: A Defence of Ethical Behaviourism.John Danaher - 2020 - Science and Engineering Ethics 26 (4):2023-2049.
Perspectival pluralism for animal welfare.Walter Veit & Heather Browning - 2021 - European Journal for Philosophy of Science 11 (1):1-14.

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