Phenomenal character as implicit self-awareness

Journal of Consciousness Studies 13 (12):44-73 (2006)
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Abstract

One of the more refractory problems in contemporary discussions of consciousness is the problem of determining what a mental state's being conscious consists in. This paper defends the thesis that a mental state is conscious if and only if it has a certain reflexive character, i.e., if and only if it has a structure that includes an awareness of itself. Since this thesis finds one of its clearest expressions in the work of Brentano, it is his treatment of the thesis on which I initially focus, though I subsequently bring in Sartre where he addresses himself to an important point not considered by Brentano. As part of this investigation, the paper also, more specifically, aims to exhibit as perspicuously as possible the relationship between self-awareness and the phenomenal, or 'what-it- is-like', dimension of conscious experience. I attempt to show, in particular, that the phenomenal character of at least perceptual consciousness can be fully explained in terms of self-awareness, i.e., in terms of a low-level or 'implicit' self-awareness that is built into every conscious perceptual state.

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Greg Janzen
University of Calgary

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