Vol. 17, No.3-4, March-April 2010

Philosophers Facing Phenomenal Consciousness
(edited by Richard Brown)

Richard Brown   full text
Editorial Introduction
Clare Batty   abstract
What the Nose Doesn’t Know: Non-Veridicality and Olfactory Experience
Dave Beiseker   abstract
Zombies, Phenomenal Concepts, and the Paradox of Phenomenal Judgment
Richard Brown   abstract
Deprioritizing the A Priori Arguments Against Physicalism
Barbara Montero    abstract
A Russellian Response to the Structural Argument Against Physicalism
Gualtiero Piccinini   abstract
How to Improve on Heterophenomenology: The Self-Measurement Methodology of First-Person Data
Justin Sytsma   abstract
Dennett’s Theory of the Folk Theory of Consciousness

Regular Issue: Refereed Papers

Raúl Arrabales, Agapito Ledezma & Araceli Sanchis   abstract
ConsScale: A Pragmatic Scale for Measuring the Level of Consciousness in Artificial Agents
Wolfgang Baer   abstract
The Physics of Consciousness
Barak Morgan   abstract
Getting Scientific with Religion: A Darwinian Solution … Or Not?
Sean Enda Power   abstract
Complex Experience, Relativity and Abandoning Simultaneity


Clare Batty

What the Nose Doesn’t Know: Non-Veridicality and Olfactory Experience

Abstract: We can learn much about perceptual experience by thinking about how it can mislead us. In this paper, I explore whether, and how, olfactory experience can mislead. I argue that, in the case of olfactory experience, the traditional distinction between illusion and hallucination does not apply. Integral to the traditional distinction is a notion of ‘object-failure’ — the failure of an experience to present objects accurately. I argue that there are no such presented objects in olfactory experience. As a result, olfactory experience can only mislead by means of a kind of property hallucination. The implications of my arguments are twofold. First, we see that accounts of representational content cannot always be based on the visual model. And, secondly, we see that we must recast the notion of non-veridicality, allowing for a notion of non-veridical experience that is disengaged from any particular object.

Correspondence: Clare Batty, Department of Philosophy, University of Kentucky, 1415 Patterson Office Tower, Lexington, KY 40506-0027, USA. Email:

Dave Beisecker

Zombies, Phenomenal Concepts, and the Paradox of Phenomenal Judgment

Abstract: This paper explores the viability of rejecting a largely unchallenged third premise of the conceivability argument against materialism. Fittingly labeled ‘type-Z’ (for zombie), this reply essentially grants to the zombie lover, not just the possibility of zombies, but also their actuality. We turn out to be the very creatures Chalmers has taken such great pains to conceive and more conventional materialists have tried to wipe off the face of the planet. So consciousness (at least for us) is a wholly material affair. What is conceivable but non-actual are not zombies, but rather ‘angelic’ beings possessing an acquaintance with supermaterial phenomenal states. After showing how Chalmers’ recent discussion of the phenomenal concepts strategy should incline those pursuing such a strategy toward a type-Z response, this paper relates type-Z materialism to similar replies that Chalmers has found ‘hard to classify’ and closes with a brief remark about how a type-Z materialist might reply to the knowledge argument.

Correspondence: D. Beisecker, Department of Philosophy, University of  Nevada – Las Vegas, 4505 Maryland Pkwy., Box 455028, Las Vegas, NV 89154, USA.Email:

Richard Brown

Deprioritizing the A Priori Arguments Against Physicalism

Abstract: In this paper I argue that a priori arguments fail to present any real problem for physicalism. They beg the question against physicalism in the sense that the argument will only seem compelling if one is already assuming that qualitative properties are nonphysical. To show this I will present the reverse-zombie and reverse-knowledge arguments. The only evidence against physicalism is a priori arguments, but there are also a priori arguments against dualism of exactly the same variety. Each of these parity arguments has premises that are just as intuitively plausible, and it cannot be the case that both the traditional scenarios and the reverse-scenarios are all ideally conceivable. Given this one set must be merely prima facie conceivable and only empirical methods will tell us which is which. So, by the time a priori methodology will be of any use it will be too late.

Correspondence: Richard Brown, LaGuardia Community College, 31-10 Thomson Avenue, Long Island City, NY 11101, USA. 
Email: onemorebrown @

Barbara Montero

A Russellian Response to the Structural Argument Against Physicalism

Abstract: According to David Chalmers (2002), ‘we have good reason to suppose that consciousness has a fundamental place in nature’ (p. 135). This, he thinks is because the world as revealed to us by fundamental physics is entirely structural — it is a world not of things, but of relations — yet relations can only account for more relations, and consciousness is not merely a relation (pp. 120–21). Call this the ‘structural argument against physicalism.’ I shall argue that there is a view about the relationship between mind and body, what I call, ‘Russellian physicalism’ that is consistent with the premises of the structural argument yet does not imply that consciousness is fundamental.

Correspondence: Barbara Montero, Philosophy Program, The Graduate Center, CUNY, 365 Fifth Ave., New York, NY 10016, USA.

Gualtiero Piccinini

How to Improve on Heterophenomenology: The Self-Measurement Methodology of First-Person Data

Abstract: Heterophenomenology is a third-person methodology proposed by Daniel Dennett for using first-person reports as scientific evidence. I argue that heterophenomenology can be improved by making six changes: (i) setting aside consciousness, (ii) including other sources of first-person data besides first-person reports, (iii) abandoning agnosticism as to the truth value of the reports in favor of the most plausible assumptions we can make about what can be learned from the data, (iv) interpreting first-person reports (and other first-person behaviours) directly in terms of target mental states rather than in terms of beliefs about them, (v) dropping any residual commitment to incorrigibility of first-person reports, and (vi) recognizing that third-person methodology does have positive effects on scientific practices. When these changes are made, heterophenomenology turns into the self-measurement methodology of first- person data that I have defended in previous papers.

Correspondence: Gualtiero Piccinini, Philosophy Department, University of Missouri, 599 Lucas Hall (MC 73), 1 University Blvd., St. Louis, MO 63121-4400, USA. Email:

Justin Sytsma

Dennett’s Theory of the Folk Theory of Consciousness

Abstract: It is not uncommon to find assumptions being made about folk psychology in the discussions of phenomenal consciousness in philosophy of mind. In this article I consider one example, focusing on what Dan Dennett says about the ‘folk theory of consciousness’. I show that he holds that the folk believe that qualities like colours that we are acquainted with in ordinary perception are phenomenal qualities. Nonetheless, the shape of the folk theory is an empirical matter and in the absence of empirical investigation there is ample room for doubt. Fortunately, experimental evidence on the topic is now being produced by experimental philosophers and psychologists. This article contributes to this growing literature, presenting the results of six new studies on the folk view of colours and pains. I argue that the results indicate against Dennett’s theory of the folk theory of consciousness.

Correspondence: Justin Sytsma, Department of History and Philosophy of Science, 1017 Cathedral of Learning, University of Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh, PA 15260, USA. Email:

Raúl Arrabales, Agapito Ledezma, and Araceli Sanchis

ConsScale: A Pragmatic Scale for Measuring the Level of Consciousness in Artificial Agents

Abstract: One of the key problems the field of Machine Consciousness (MC) is currently facing is the need to accurately assess the potential level of consciousness that an artificial agent might develop. This paper presents a novel artificial consciousness scale designed to provide a pragmatic and intuitive reference in the evaluation of MC implementations. The version of ConsScale described in this work provides a comprehensive evaluation mechanism which enables the estimation of the potential degree of consciousness of most of the existing artificial implementations. This scale offers both well defined levels of artificial consciousness (that can be used for qualitative classification of agents) and a method to calculate an orientative numerical score (which provides a quantitative grade for comparing agents in terms of consciousness). A set of architectural and cognitive criteria is considered for each level of the scale. This permits the definition of a cognitive framework in which MC implementations can be ranked according to their potential capability to reproduce functional synergies associated with consciousness. The probability of the implementations having any phenomenal states related to the assessed functional synergy is not specifically addressed in this paper; nevertheless, it could be thoughtfully discussed elsewhere.

Correspondence: Raúl Arrabales. Universidad Carlos III de Madrid. Avda. Universidad, 30. 28911 Leganés. Madrid. Spain.

Wolfgang Baer

Introduction to the Physics of Consciousness

Abstract: The ‘Hard Problem’ of consciousness and its ‘Explanatory Gap’ can only be explained if we develop a physical theory which recognizes the Universe as a cognitive being and is based upon a fundamental process that transforms mind into body and back again. The physical requirements needed to realize such a transformation cycle are investigated and an explicit implementation of the consciousness process is presented. This implementation consists of an integrated mind-body activity that explains mental experiences with a model of the activity itself. Such a self-referential loop is shown to be both a fundamental physical process and a container of primitive self- awareness from which complex experiences can be built.

Explaining consciousness requires an expansion of current physical theories. To develop this expansion I will first associate the components of the consciousness process with individual operations occurring in the architecture of quantum theory. This will provide explicit mathematical equations required to describe conscious phenomena and show their limits. Because quantum equations apply to the content of space, but not to the sensation of space itself, they can only represent an approximate description of the consciousness process and are hence incomplete. I will, therefore, go on to discuss the approximations which limit quantum theory from providing a complete explanation of consciousness and suggest the metaphysical underpinnings required to expand quantum physics into a more complete description of reality.

Lastly, I will discuss the implications of a reality model in which all parts of the universe, including the reader, are fundamentally self- measurement processes and the sensation of space is not that of an a priori container, but rather a ‘what it feels like’ to be a time-stable event.

Correspondence: Wolfgang Baer, Naval Postgraduate School, Monterey, California 93924, USA.Email:

Barak Morgan

Getting Scientific with Religion: A Darwinian Solution… Or Not?

Abstract: Introducing non-Darwinian mind as a nonaptation (raw materials of evolution) I argue that Darwinian mind evolved from non-Darwinian mind through the evolution of desire and aversion. The subject position within Darwinian mind is Darwinian self and is inherently selfish. However the cathexis whereby the subject prioritises motivations of desire and aversion is not an inherent property of mind. Instead it is proposed to be an adaptation, a predisposition to respond to pleasant/unpleasant sensations with desire/aversion. This explains why self-sacrifice and disengagement from desire/aversion are the sine qua non of serious commitment to the spiritual path, i.e. Darwinian self and desire/aversion are two sides of the same coin and erosion of one is erosion of the other. Thus, through self-renunciation and suspension of desire/aversion the seeker passes from adaptive selfish Darwinian mind towards nonaptive selfless non-Darwinian mind. But Darwinian mind automatically resists this transcendence by intensifying motivations of desire/aversion thereby explaining the extreme difficulties of the spiritual path. A theoretical distinction is made between evolved Darwinian ‘morality’ (self-serving ‘unselfishness’), ‘Darwinian’ morality (genuine unselfishness) and amoral non-Darwinian kenosis (selflessness). These distinctions make it easy to disentangle scientific and religious jurisdictions on morality with important implications for both religious ethics and science’s view of spirituality. All in all, the nonaptive theory of spiritual mind offers a unified solution to age-old problems which have been uncomfortably shifting this way and that in the interstices between biology, psychology, theology and philosophy.

Correspondence: Barak Morgan, UCT/MRC Medical Imaging Research Unit, Dept of Human Biology, University of Cape Town, Private Bag X3, Observatory 7935, South Africa. Email:

Sean Enda Power

Complex Experience, Relativity and Abandoning Simultaneity

Abstract: Starting from the special theory of relativity it is argued that the structure of an experience is extended over time, making experience dynamic rather than static. The paper describes and explains what is meant by phenomenal parts  and outlines opposing positions on the experience of time. Time according to he special theory of relativity is defined and the possibility of static experience shown to be implausible, leading to the conclusion that experience is dynamic. Some implications of this for the relationship of phenomenology to the physical world are considered.

Correspondence: Sean Enda Power, Dept. of Philosophy, University of Leeds, Woodhouse Lane, Leeds, LS2 9JT, UK. 

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