Philosophy Research Papers on Consciousness

Eric Lormand, University of Michigan

I develop and defend an "inner-perception" theory of "phenomenal" consciousness--of what it is like to have mental states. This kind of view has gone far out of favor in contemporary philosophy of mind, although it is perhaps the dominant view of consciousness in traditional philosophy of mind (Locke, Leibniz, Kant, Brentano) and in (contemporary Western) commonsense.

Just below the list of papers is advice about which to read for which purposes.

List of consciousness papers on this site


Description Date/Status
Steps toward a Science of Consciousness? Intro for people with little or no philosophy background.  (49K) Michigan Philosophy News
Consciousness Advanced intro for people with some philosophy background but little exposure to philosophy of mind.  (98K) Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy
Qualia! (Now Showing at a Theater near You) Response to Daniel Dennett's "Quining Qualia" and Consciousness Explained.  (101K) Philosophical Topics 1994
Nonphenomenal Consciousness Argues that attitudes and moods are not phenomenally conscious even when introspectively conscious, uses this to criticize rival theories of phenomenality.   (67K) Nous June 1996
Shoemaker and "Inner Sense" Defends inner perception against Shoemaker's criticisms in "Self-Knowledge and 'Inner Sense'" Philosophical Topics 2001
The Explanatory Stopgap Attempts to show how to deduce phenomenal consciousness from wholly nonphenomenal, physical facts.  (177K) Philosophical Review (2005?)
Appendix to "The Explanatory Stopgap" Argues against the claim that such deducibility is needed for satisfactory scientific explanation.  (20K) draft
Phenomenal Impressions (formerly titled Phenomenal Illusions) Argues that all phenomenal experiences embody either an "image impression" of subjective objects with objective properties (an illusion, in our case), or the "transparency impression" of objective objects with subjective properties (also an illusion, in our case).  Uses inner perception to explain why the (illusory) impresions exist.  (148K) Gendler & Hawthorne (eds), Perceptual Experience (2005?)
Inner Sense until Proven Guilty Responds to 22 philosophical and scientific objections against inner perception.  (175K) notes

If you're completely new to philosophy, you might start with Steps.

If you have some philosophy background but are new to philosophy of mind or to the consciousness issue, try Consciousness.

For a quick introduction to the inner-perception theory for those with relevant background, try the first part of Inner Sense.

The other material includes four main styles of argument for the inner-perception theory:

(1) Conceptual analysis--Contrary to Nagel, Levine, Jackson, Searle, Chalmers, etc., from wholly nonphenomenal premises about inner perception we can deduce, as a matter of conceptual necessity, that there is something it is like to have mental states (see Stopgap).

(2) Explanation of troublesome features of qualia--Inner perception provides a plausible defense of claims that qualia are intrinsic to experience, directly and reliably (perhaps even infallibly and completely) introspectible, unanalyzable, ineffable, and private. It does so while preserving insights from philosophical frameworks that have often been thought incompatible with these claims (functionalism, representationalism, eliminativism, etc.). (See the first two-thirds of Qualia! and section 7 of Stopgap.) I am also working on extending the view to inverted qualia, and indirectly to self-knowledge and introspection of nonphenomenal states (see also section 3 of Nonphenomenal).

(3) Explanation of (illusory) impressions--Inner perception provides the best available explanation of a widespread pair of illusions built into phenomenal experience (see part 2 of Impressions). The "image illusion" is an appearance of phenomenal objects subjectively having normal environmental properties (shape, degrees of loudness, etc.). The "transparency illusion" is an appearance of normal environmental objects objectively having phenomenal properties (varying and modality-specific shape-looks, shape-feels, loudness-sounds, etc.).

(4) Explanation of correlations--The illusions are present in all clear cases of phenomenal consciousness, despite the otherwise wild heterogeneity of these cases (see parts 1 and 3 of Impressions). Phenomenality is absent for attitudes and moods--even when they are conscious in some sense--but the illusions and inner perception are also absent for attitudes and moods (see Nonphenomenal and part 3 of Impressions). Also, in imaginary cases of "superblindsight" almost everything philosophers have taken to be relevant to phenomenality is present, except inner perception, the illusions ... and phenomenality itself (see section 5 of Stopgap).

In addition there are several lines of defense against objections (see Inner Sense, Shoemaker, and the final third of Qualia!), and some criticism of rival theories (see Consciousness and section 2 of Nonphenomenal). I have more extensive criticisms in materials not on the site yet, but I have thought it more important to develop a positive account than to develop these criticisms into standalone articles. My immediate aim is to tend to the publication of the unpublished papers on this site, and to launch into a book-length treatment of these issues.


Relations to meaning papers

Reference and semantic structure are important issues for understanding consciousness, since on my account specific qualia are determined by the specific contents of inner perceptions, and content is at least a matter of reference and semantic structure. Also, many of the strategies I use to argue that there is a dearth of conceptual necessities (see sections 3-4 of "Holist") can be used to argue against the "explanatory gap" claim that fully satisfying scientific explanations typically provide links of conceptual (rather than merely empirical) necessitation.


Relations to cognitive architecture papers

The distinction (if any) between perception and cognition is important for distinguishing inner perception from inner-directed thought (see section 6 of "Stopgap").


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