False measures in the science and philosophy of consciousnessJames Stazicker (King's College London)
- Institute of Philosophy
Abstract: According to a widespread contemporary view of the mind, consciousness plays less of a role than was traditionally assumed: much of perception, decision and action occur independently of our conscious experiences. I will criticise one central line of scientific support for this view, which measures consciousness by a subject’s capacity to identify and discriminate their experiences and actions. This style of measurement underestimates consciousness, and is not justified even if we grant that, necessarily, subjects are aware of their own conscious experiences. In search of a better measure, I look to philosophical accounts of the first-order, demonstrative thoughts most immediately related to conscious perception and action. But here we find the same problem: our best philosophical account individuates these thoughts by subjects’ capacity to discriminate their experiences. I trace the problem to broadly Fregean criteria for individuating thoughts, propose a related solution, and discuss implications for the science of consciousness.