The Light & the Room


To be conscious—according to a common metaphor—is for the “lights to be on inside.” Is this a good metaphor? I argue that the metaphor elicits useful intuitions while staying neutral on controversial philosophical questions. But I also argue that there are two ways of interpreting the metaphor. Is consciousness the inner light itself? Or is consciousness the illuminated room? Call the first sense subjectivity (where ‘consciousness’ =def what makes an entity feel some way at all), and the second sense phenomenal character (where ‘consciousness’ =def what it feels like to be an entity). I use this distinction—as well as the metaphor of the inner light—to clarify some philosophical questions about whether consciousness comes in degrees, whether consciousness is multidimensional, and whether there are borderline cases of consciousness.



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Andrew Y. Lee
University of Toronto at Scarborough

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References found in this work

Subjective Consciousness: A Self-Representational Theory.Uriah Kriegel - 2009 - Oxford, GB: Oxford University Press UK.
Degrees of Consciousness.Andrew Y. Lee - 2023 - Noûs 57 (3):553-575.
What is it like to be a bat?Thomas Nagel - 1974 - In Josh Weisberg (ed.), Consciousness. Polity.
The Rediscovery of Light.Paul M. Churchland - 1996 - Journal of Philosophy 93 (5):211.

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