Confabulation or Experience? Implications of Out-of-Body Experiences for Theories of Consciousness

Theory and Psychology 28 (1):122-140 (2018)
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Abstract

Difficulties in distinguishing veridical reports of experience from confabulations have implications for theories of consciousness. I develop some of these implications through a consideration of out-of-body experiences (OBEs). Do these variations indicate individual variation in experience or are they post-hoc confabulations, stories told by subjects to themselves in an attempt to make sense of the core phenomenology? I argue that no existent or possible evidence would be sufficient to favour one hypothesis over the other. How such evidence is interpreted depends on prior commitments to one or other of these hypotheses or to a theory of consciousness that is not neutral as to these hypotheses. One of these types of theory, namely vehicle theories, has difficulty accommodating the existence of confabulations and so allows for only the elaborate phenomenology hypothesis. Because we cannot know that reports are not confabulations, vehicle theories are insufficient to explain OBEs.

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Glenn Carruthers
Macquarie University (PhD)

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