How You Know You’re Conscious: Illusionism and Knowledge of Things

Review of Philosophy and Psychology 14 (1):185-205 (2023)
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Abstract

Most people believe that consciousness is real. But illusionists say it isn’t—they say consciousness is an illusion. One common illusionist strategy for defending their view involves a debunking argument. They explain why people _believe_ that consciousness exists in a way that doesn’t imply that it _does_ exist; and, in so doing, they aim to show that that belief is unjustified. In this paper I argue that we can know consciousness exists even if these debunking arguments are sound. To do this, I draw on the claim that some knowledge is constituted, not by beliefs in propositions, but by awareness of properties and objects. Then I argue that accepting this claim allows us to evade illusionists’ debunking arguments by allowing us to hold that our knowledge of consciousness does not depend solely on potentially debunked _beliefs_ in consciousness. Finally, while considering potential illusionist responses, I suggest that my strategy also yields a plausible account of our most basic knowledge of consciousness and an explanation for why so few people accept illusionism even when they have (or had) no decisive reply to illusionists’ arguments.

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Matt Duncan
Rhode Island College

Citations of this work

Reasoning with knowledge of things.Matt Duncan - 2023 - Philosophical Psychology 36 (2):270-291.

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References found in this work

What is it like to be a bat?Thomas Nagel - 1974 - Philosophical Review 83 (October):435-50.
On a confusion about a function of consciousness.Ned Block - 1995 - Brain and Behavioral Sciences 18 (2):227-–247.
Naming and Necessity.Saul Kripke - 1980 - Philosophy 56 (217):431-433.
The content and epistemology of phenomenal belief.David Chalmers - 2003 - In Quentin Smith & Aleksandar Jokic (eds.), Consciousness: New Philosophical Perspectives. Oxford University Press. pp. 220--72.
The Problems of Philosophy.Bertrand Russell - 1912 - Mind 21 (84):556-564.

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