The Case for Nonphenomenal Consciousness

Project: Dissertation

Project Details

Layman's description

Traditionally it has been assumed that everything in the stream of consciousness is, at least on principle, non-indirectly accessible to introspection. Recently, however, this has been challenged by a handful of philosophers who have argued for the existence of nonphenomenal consciousness, i.e., consciousness not so accessible. In my thesis I will assess, strengthen and add to their arguments.

In philosophy and psychology the traditional assumption has been that everything that is currently residing in the stream of consciousness of a subject is at least on principle non-indirectly accessible to the introspective faculty of that subject. Arguably, this view is also central to our pre-theoretical intuitions about what consciousness is and that is, plausibly, why it has held tradition in such a grip.

Recently, however, the traditional view has been challenged by a handful of philosophers - the most notable example being Colin McGinn - who have argued that we have convincing reasons to go against this pre-theoretical intuition and credit consciousness with a hidden or nonphenomenal structure in much the same way as we, in many of the other sciences, take inference to the best explanation to justify our crediting of other natural phenomena (e.g., matter, space and mind) with a deep structure that transcends our observational capacities.

In my thesis I will argue: (a) that this challenge to the received view is warranted; (b) that current arguments pro are nevertheless unsatisfactory as they stand; but (c) that they can be suitably amended and supplemented; and (d) that recognising this is imperative since it - by appropriating inference to the best explanation in consciousness science - will not only advance our understanding of consciousness but also defuse the epistemological worries which led to the breakdown of classical introspective psychology.
Effective start/end date2011/09/012019/12/31