Towards an Analytic phenomenology: the concepts of

Abstract

In this paper, we present an account of phenomenal consciousness. Phenomenal consciousness is experience, and the problem of phenomenal consciousness is to explain how physical processes?behavioral, neural, computational?can produce experience. Numerous thinkers have argued that phenomenal consciousness cannot be explained in functional, neural or information-processing terms (e.g. Block 1990, 1994; Chalmers 1996). Different arguments have been put forward. For example, it has been argued that two individuals could be exactly alike in functional/computational/behavioral measures, but differ in the character of their experience. Though such persons would behave in the same way, they would differ in how things felt to them (for example, red things might give rise to the experience in one that green things give rise to in the other). Similarly, it has been held that two individuals could be functionally/computationally/behaviorally alike although one of them, but not the other, is a mere zombie, that is, a robot-like creature who acts as if it has experience but is in fact phenomenally unconsciousness. For any being, it has been suggested, the question whether it has experience (is phenomenally conscious) cannot be answered by determining that it is an information-processor of this or that sort. The question is properly equivalent to the question whether there is anything it is like to be that individual (Nagel 1974). Attempts to explain consciousness in physical or information-processing terms sputter: we cannot get any explanatory purchase on experience when we try to explain it in terms of neural or computational processes. Once a particular process has been proposed as an explanation, we can then always reasonably wonder, it seems, what it is about that particular process that make it give rise to experience. Physical and computational mechanisms, it seems, require some further ingredient if they are to explain experience. This explanatory shortfall has aptly been referred to as "the explanatory gap" (Levine 1983)..

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Erik Myin
University of Antwerp

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