Review of John Campbell's "Reference and Consciousness" [Book Review]

Philosophical Review 113 (3):427-431 (2004)

Susanna Siegel
Harvard University
What is the role of conscious experience in action and cognition? John Campbell’s answer in Reference and Consciousness begins from ideas he thinks are part of common sense: When our actions are directed toward particular things—as when we grab our keys, or lift forks from plates—these actions are guided by visual experience. We see where to reach for keys or fork, and only then are able to do it. Similarly for the case of cognition: in cases where experience is limited, such as blindsight, cognition suffers as well. Consider a blindsighter who can reliably point to the person a normally sighted speaker is talking about whenever she uses the expression ‘that woman’. Even if the blindsighter points correctly all the time, she does not understand the speaker’s use of ‘that woman’. Common sense thus finds a distinctive role for conscious experience in action and cognition, in opposition to the view that everything essential to action and cognition could proceed perfectly well without any conscious experience at all. In this way, common sense opposes epiphenomenalism about experience—the view that experience has no causal role to play with respect to cognition or action.
Keywords Analytic Philosophy  Contemporary Philosophy  General Interest
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ISBN(s) 0031-8108
DOI 10.1215/00318108-113-3-427
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