Illusionism as a Theory of Consciousness

Journal of Consciousness Studies 23 (11-12):11-39 (2016)

Abstract

This article presents the case for an approach to consciousness that I call illusionism. This is the view that phenomenal consciousness, as usually conceived, is illusory. According to illusionists, our sense that it is like something to undergo conscious experiences is due to the fact that we systematically misrepresent them as having phenomenal properties. Thus, the task for a theory of consciousness is to explain our illusory representations of phenomenality, not phenomenality itself, and the hard problem is replaced by the illusion problem. Although it has had powerful defenders, illusionism remains a minority position, and it is often dismissed as failing to take consciousness seriously. This article seeks to rebut this accusation. It defines the illusionist programme, outlines its attractions, and defends it against some common objections. It concludes that illusionism is a coherent and attractive approach, which deserves serious consideration.

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