Seeing colours unconsciously

Synthese 200 (3):1-36 (2022)


According to unconscious perception hypothesis (UP), mental states of the same fundamental kind as ordinary conscious seeing can occur unconsciously. The proponents of UP often support it with empirical evidence for a more specific hypothesis, according to which colours can be seen unconsciously (UPC). However, UPC is a general claim that admits of many interpretations. The main aim of this paper is to determine which of them is the most plausible. To this end, I investigate how adopting various conceptions of colour and perceptual phenomenal character affects UPC’s resilience to objections. This brings me to the conclusion that the most plausible reading of UPC is the one according to which the phenomenal character of colour perception (i) is constituted by colours qua primitive mind-independent qualities of the environment and (ii) is not essentially tied to consciousness. My conclusion not only identifies the most plausible interpretation of UPC, but also highlights and supports an unorthodox version of the relational theory of perception, which is a perfectly viable yet so far overlooked stance in the debate about unconscious perception.


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Author's Profile

Paweł J. Zięba
Jagiellonian University

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On a Confusion About a Function of Consciousness.Ned Block - 1995 - Brain and Behavioral Sciences 18 (2):227-–247.
The Meta-Problem of Consciousness.David Chalmers - 2018 - Journal of Consciousness Studies 25 (9-10):6-61.

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