Consciousness and Cognition 74:102779 (2019)

Jussi Jylkkä
University of Turku
The typical empirical approach to studying consciousness holds that we can only observe the neural correlates of experiences, not the experiences themselves. In this paper we argue, in contrast, that experiences are concrete physical phenomena that can causally interact with other phenomena, including observers. Hence, experiences can be observed and scientifically modelled. We propose that the epistemic gap between an experience and a scientific model of its neural mechanisms stems from the fact that the model is merely a theoretical construct based on observations, and distinct from the concrete phenomenon it models, namely the experience itself. In this sense, there is a gap between any natural phenomenon and its scientific model. On this approach, a neuroscientific theory of the constitutive mechanisms of an experience is literally a model of the subjective experience itself. We argue that this metatheoretical framework provides a solid basis for the empirical study of consciousness.
Keywords Constitutive mechanisms of consciousness  Neural correlates of consciousness  Epistemic gap  Hard problem of consciousness  Empirical observation  Scientific models  Model-dependent realism  Russellian Monism  Philosophy of science
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DOI 10.1016/j.concog.2019.102779
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