Phenomenal Consciousness, Defined and Defended as Innocently as I Can Manage

Eric Schwitzgebel

Journal of Consciousness Studies, 23, 11-12, 224-235 (This is a commentary on Keith Frankish's "Illusionism as a Theory of Consciousness".)

Abstract: Phenomenal consciousness can be conceptualized innocently enough that its existence should be accepted even by philosophers who wish to avoid dubious epistemic and metaphysical commitments such as dualism, infallibilism, privacy, inexplicability, or intrinsic simplicity. Definition by example allows us this innocence. Positive examples include sensory experiences, imagery experiences, vivid emotions, and dreams. Negative examples include growth hormone release, dispositional knowledge, standing intentions, and sensory reactivity to masked visual displays. Phenomenal consciousness is the most folk psychologically obvious thing or feature that the positive examples possess and that the negative examples lack, and which preserves our ability to wonder, at least temporarily, about antecedently unclear issues such as consciousness without attention and consciousness in simpler animals. As long as this concept is not empty, or broken, or a hodgepodge, we can be phenomenal realists without committing to dubious philosophical positions.

Official published version from Ingenta.

Frankish's target article and reply to commentators.

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