Comparing the Major Theories of Consciousness

Document Type: 
Article
Article Type: 
Review
Disciplines: 
Philosophy
Topics: 
Animal Cognition
Deposited by: 
Ned Block
Contact email: 
ned.block@nyu.edu
Date of Issue: 
2009
Authors: 
Ned Block
Editors: 
Gazzaniga
Title of Book: 
The Cognitive Neurosciences IV,
Series Name: 
The Cognitive Neurosciences
Volume: 
IV
Number of Pages: 
11
Publisher: 
MIT Press
Place of Publication: 
Cambridge MA
Official URL: 
http://www.nyu.edu/gsas/dept/philo/faculty/block/papers/Theories_of_Consciousness.pdf
Alternative URL: 
http://www.nyu.edu/gsas/dept/philo/faculty/block/papers/Theories_of_Consciousness.pdf
Publish status: 
Published
Abstract: 
This article compares the three frameworks for theories of consciousness that are taken most seriously by neuroscientists: the view that consciousness is a biological state of the brain, the global workspace perspective, and an account in terms of higher order states. The comparison features the “explanatory gap” (Nagel, 1974; Levine, 1983), the fact that we have no idea why the neural basis of an experience is the neural basis of that experience rather than another experience or no experience at all. It is argued that the biological framework handles the explanatory gap better than do the global workspace or higher order views. The article does not discuss quantum theories or “panpsychist” accounts according to which consciousness is a feature of the smallest particles of inor- ganic matter (Chalmers, 1996; Rosenberg, 2004). Nor does it discuss the “representationist” proposals (Tye, 2000; Byrne, 2001a) that are popular among philosophers but not neuroscientists
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