Colour and Consciousness: Untying the Metaphysical Knot

Philosophical Studies 136 (2):123 - 165 (2007)
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Colours and consciousness both present us with metaphysical problems. But what exactly are the problems? According to standard accounts, they are roughly the following. On the one hand, we have reason to believe, about both colour and consciousness, that they are identical with some familiar natural phenomena. But on the other hand, it is hard to see how these identities could obtain. I argue that this is an adequate characterisation of our metaphysical problem of colour, but a mischaracterisation of the problem of consciousness. It mischaracterises the problem by presenting consciousness as more 'colour-like' than we have reason to take it to be. The real problem of consciousness is, I suggest, that almost nothing theoretically useful is known about this phenomenon at present. I also explore some implications of this perspective on the problem of consciousness. Given the shape of the problem, I argue that we can't rule out all forms of eliminativism about consciousness. Nor can we rule out that future research will close the ' explanatory gap' that consciousness gives rise to.

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