Forthcoming in Current Controversies in Philosophy of Mind (Routledge)

Abstract

This chapter begins by explaining what is meant by ‘phenomenally conscious’ in a way that unites and develops three ideas commonly used to introduce the notion of a phenomenally conscious state: that such states are none other than experiences; that there is something it’s like for one to be in them; and that in the case of vision they stand out by contrast with their absence in blindsight. On the basis of the resulting conception of consciousness, a case for its importance is made along the following lines. Conscious experience gives us warrant for judgments both about the things it reveals and about experience itself. Moreover, consciousness underlies our grasp of language, and is arguably essential to our having minds at all. Finally, it has enormous ethical significance, since it lies at the heart of our concern for ourselves and for others.