Sensory States, Consciousness, and the Cartesian Assumption

In Nathan Smith and Jason Taylor (ed.), Descartes and Cartesianism. Cambridge Scholars Press (2005)

Gregg D. Caruso
Corning Community College
One of the central assumptions made in much of contemporary philosophy of mind is that there is no appearance-reality distinction when it comes to sensory states. On this assumption, sensory states simply are as they seem: consciousness is an intrinsic property of sensory states—that is, all sensory states are conscious—and the consciousness of one’s own sensory states is never inaccurate. For a sensation to be felt as pain, for example, is for it to be pain. This assumption, which I call the Cartesian assumption, can be seen everywhere from the standard arguments against physicalism—such as those advanced by Kripke, Nagel, and Levine—to current theorizing about consciousness. I here argue that this assumption is false and that it goes wrong in two ways. I further argue that the appeal of the Cartesian assumption is due to a commitment many still have to a poorly motivated and misguided Cartesian model of consciousness and its relation to mental states. As an alternative to this Cartesian concept of mind, I argue for a theory of consciousness which claims that the “phenomenal character” of a sensation or perception—the “what it’s like” to have that sensation—is determined by the content of a higher-order thought one has of that sensory state.
Keywords No keywords specified (fix it)
Categories (categorize this paper)
Edit this record
Mark as duplicate
Export citation
Find it on Scholar
Request removal from index
Revision history

Download options

Our Archive

Upload a copy of this paper     Check publisher's policy     Papers currently archived: 49,066
External links

Setup an account with your affiliations in order to access resources via your University's proxy server
Configure custom proxy (use this if your affiliation does not provide a proxy)
Through your library

References found in this work BETA

No references found.

Add more references

Citations of this work BETA

No citations found.

Add more citations

Similar books and articles

Two Concepts of Consciousness.David M. Rosenthal - 1986 - Philosophical Studies 49 (May):329-59.
Color, Qualia, and Attention : A Non-Standard Interpretation.Austen Clark - 2010 - In Jonathan D. Cohen & Mohan Matthen (eds.), Color Ontology and Color Science. MIT Press. pp. 203.
A Theory of Consciousness.David M. Rosenthal - 1997 - In Ned Block, Owen J. Flanagan & Guven Guzeldere (eds.), The Nature of Consciousness. MIT Press.
Consciousness and the First Person.Itay Shani - 2007 - Journal of Consciousness Studies 14 (12):57-91.
The Passivity Assumption of the Sensation—Perception Distinction.Aaron Ben-Zeev - 1984 - British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 35 (December):327-343.
Consciousness as Sensory Quality and as Implicit Self-Awareness.Uriah Kriegel - 2003 - Phenomenology and the Cognitive Sciences 2 (1):1-26.


Added to PP index

Total views
73 ( #124,261 of 2,311,321 )

Recent downloads (6 months)
2 ( #517,715 of 2,311,321 )

How can I increase my downloads?


My notes

Sign in to use this feature