Consciousness, Accessibility and the Mesh between Psychology and Neuroscience

Document Type: 
Article
Article Type: 
Theoretical
Disciplines: 
Philosophy
Topics: 
Theory of Consciousness
Deposited by: 
Ned Block
Contact email: 
ned.block@nyu.edu
Date of Issue: 
2007
Authors: 
Ned Block
Journal/Publication Title: 
Behavioral and Brain Sciences
Volume: 
30
Page Range: 
481-499
Number of Pages: 
19
Publisher: 
Cambridge University Press
Place of Publication: 
Cambridge
Alternative URL: 
http://www.nyu.edu/gsas/dept/philo/faculty/block/papers/Block_BBS.pdf
Publish status: 
Published
Abstract: 
How can we disentangle the neural basis of phenomenal consciousness from the neural machinery of the cognitive access that underlies reports of phenomenal consciousness? We can see the problem in stark form if we ask how we could tell whether representations inside a Fodorian module are phenomenally conscious. The methodology would seem straightforward: find the neural natural kinds that are the basis of phenomenal consciousness in clear cases when subjects are completely confident and we have no reason to doubt their authority, and look to see whether those neural natural kinds exist within Fodorian modules. But a puzzle arises: do we include the machinery underlying reportability within the neural natural kinds of the clear cases? If the answer is ‘Yes’, then there can be no phenomenally conscious representations in Fodorian modules. But how can we know the answer? The suggested methodology requires an answer to the question it was supposed to answer! The paper argues for an abstract solution to the problem and exhibits a source of empirical data that is relevant, data that show that in a certain sense phenomenal consciousness overflows cognitive accessibility. The paper argues that we can find a neural realizer of this overflow if assume that the neural basis of phenomenal consciousness does not include the neural basis of cognitive accessibility and that this assumption is justified (other things equal) by the explanations it allows.
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