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Akins, Kathleen, , . A bat without qualities?
1993, In Martin Davies & Glyn W. Humphreys (eds.), Consciousness: Psychological and Philosophical Essays. Blackwell. pp. 345–358.
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Added by: Clotilde Torregrossa, Contributed by: Simon Fokt

Abstract: Discusses the alleged elusiveness of phenomenal consciousness / argues . . . that there is no way of telling ahead of time just what science will reveal to us / if we start from the thought that science can shed some light upon an alien point of view, we may well find ourselves with the intuition, nevertheless, that there is something that science must leave out / perhaps science can reveal the shape or structure of experience, but it leaves out the tone or shading / perhaps science can make plain to us the representational properties of experience, but it is silent about the phenomenal feel argues that this intuition . . . is to be resisted because it rests upon the flawed idea that we can separate the qualitative from the representational aspects of experience: the idea that it makes sense to try to imagine an experience that is qualitatively just like the visual experience that I am having now, but represents quite different objects and properties in the world

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Akins, Kathleen, , . What is it Like to Be Boring and Myopic?
1993, in Dennett and His Critics: Demystifying Mind, ed. B Dahlbom, Blackwell, 124-160.
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Summary: A response to Thomas Nagel’s famous paper “What is it Like to be a Bat?”. Akins uses neuroscientific data to argue that we can find out that bats may not actually have a point of view, and that, contrary to Nagel, this kind of objective study can bring us closer to understanding individuals’ subjective experiences, not further away.

Comment: As “What is it Like to be a Bat?” is frequently taught, this paper serves as an interesting counterpoint response to it, providing an alternative perspective. A bit technical and heavy on hard neuroscience, but full understanding of that part is not essential to grasping the basic argument.

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Balog, Katalin, , . Conceivability, possibility, and the mind-body problem
1999, Philosophical Review 108 (4):497-528.
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Abstract: This paper was chosen by The Philosopher’s Annual as one of the ten best articles appearing in print in 2000. Reprinted in Volume XXIII of The Philosopher’s Annual. In his very influential book David Chalmers argues that if physicalism is true then every positive truth is a priori entailed by the full physical description – this is called ‘the a priori entailment thesis – but ascriptions of phenomenal consciousness are not so entailed and he concludes that Physicalism is false. As he puts it, ‘zombies’ are metaphysically possible. I attempt to show that this argument is refuted by considering an analogous argument in the mouth of a zombie. The conclusion of this argument is false so one of the premises is false. I argue at length that this shows that the original conceivability argument also has a false premise and so is invalid.

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Blackmore, Susan Jane, , . What is it like to be…?
2003, In Consciousness: An Introduction. Oxford University Press.
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Abstract: What is it like to be a bat? This is one of the most famous questions ever asked in the history of consciousness studies. First posed in 1950 it was made famous in a 1974 paper of that name by American philosopher Thomas Nagel. Nagel argued that understanding how mental states can be neurons firing inside the brain is a problem quite unlike understanding how water canbe H2O, or how genes can be DNA. ‘Consciousness is what makes the mind-body problem really intractable,’ he said (Nagel, 1974: 435; 1979:165), and by consciousness he meant subjectivity. To make this clear he asked ‘What is it like to be a bat?’. Do you think that your cat is conscious? Or the birds outside in the street? Perhaps you believe that horses are conscious but not worms, or living creatures but not stones. We shall return to these questions (Chapter 12) but here let’s consider what it means to say that another creature is conscious. If you say that the stone is not conscious you probably mean that it has no inner life and no point of view; that there is nothing it is like to be the stone. If you believe that the neighbour’s vicious bloodhound, or the beggar you passed inthe subway, is conscious, then you probably mean that they do have a point of view; there is something it is like to be them. As Nagel put it, when we say that another organism is conscious we mean that ‘there is something it is like to be that organism . . . something it is like for the organism’ (1974: 436); ‘the essence of the belief that bats have experience is that there is something that it is like to be a bat’ (ibid.: 438). This is probably the closest we can come to a definition of consciousness – that consciousness is subjectivity, or ‘what it is like to be . . .’. Here we must be careful with the phrase ‘what it is like . . .’. Unfortunately there are at least two meanings in English. We might say ‘this ice cream tastes like rubber’ or ‘lying on a beach in the sun is like heaven’. In this case we are comparing things, making analogies, or saying what they resemble. This is not what Nagel meant. The other meaning is found in such questions as: What is it like to work at McDonald’s? What is it like to be able to improvise fugues at the keyboard?…to be someone inconceivably more intelligent than yourself?…to be a molecule, a microbe, a mosquito, an ant, or an ant colony? (Hofstadter and Dennett, (1981: 404-5), pose many more such provocative questions.) In other words, what is it like from the inside? Now, imagine being a bat. A bat’s experience must be very different from that of a human. For a start the bat’s sensory systems are quite different, which is why Nagel chose the bat for his famous question. Bats’ brains, lives and sensesare well understood (Akins, 1993; Dawkins, 1986). Most use either sound or ultrasound for echolocation. That is, they detect objects by emitting rapid high-pitched clicks that bounce off any objects in the vicinity and then measuring the time taken for the echo to return. Natural selection has found ingenious solutions to the many interesting problems posed by echolocation. Some bats cruise around emitting clicks quite slowly so as not to waste energy, but then when they are homing in on prey or approaching a potential danger, they speed up. Many have mechanisms that protect their ears from the loud blastof each click and then open them to receive the faint echo. Some use the Doppler shift to work out their speed relative to prey or other objects. Others sort out the mixed-up echoes from different objects by emitting downward-swooping sounds. The echoes from distant objects take longer to come back and therefore sound higher than the echoes from nearer objects. In this way we can imagine that a whole bat world is built up in which higher sounds mean distant objects and lower sounds mean nearer objects. What would this be like? According to Oxford biologist Richard Dawkins (1986; see Profile, Chapter 10), it might be like seeing is for us. We humans do not know, or care, that colour is related to wavelength or that motion detection is carried out in the visual cortex. We just see the objects out there in depth and colour. Similarly the bat would just perceive the objects out there in depth, and perhaps even in some batty, sonar, version of colour. Living in this constructed world would be what it is like to be the bat. But can we ever know what it would really be like for the bat? As Nagel pointed out, the question is not answered by trying to imagine that you are a bat. This will not do. It is no good hanging upside down in a darkened room, making little clicks with your tongue and flapping your arms like wings. Perhaps if you could magically be transformed into a bat you would know. But even this won’t do. For if you were a bat, the bat in question would notbe an ordinary bat – what with having your memories and your interest inconsciousness. But if you became an ordinary bat then this bat would have no understanding of English, no ability to ask questions about consciousness, and could not tell us what it was like. So we cannot know what it is like to be a bat even if we believe that there is something it is like to be a bat. Nagel’s question clarifies the central meaning of the term ‘consciousness’. It is what the American philosopher Ned Block (1995) calls ‘phenomenal consciousness’ or phenomenality. He explains that ‘Phenomenal consciousness isexperience; what makes a state phenomenally conscious is that there is something ‘it is like’ to be in that state.’ He distinguishes this from ‘access consciousness’, which is ‘availability for use in reasoning and rationally guiding speech and action’ (Block, 1995: 227). We will return to this distinction (Chapter 18), and consider issues to do with availability, but ‘phenomenal consciousness’ is what this book is all about. So what is it like to be you now? Everything I have said so far implies that there is, uncontroversially, something it is like to be you now – that the problems only begin when you start asking about what it is like to be someone orsomething else. But is this right? A thoroughly sceptical approach would meanquestioning even this. I urge you to do this chapter’s ‘Practice’ and become a little more familiar with what it is like to be you.

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Brogaard, Berit, , . The Status of Consciousness in Nature
2015, In Steven Miller (ed.), The Constitution of Phenomenal Consciousness: Toward a science and theory. John Benjamins Publishing Company.
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Abstract: The most central metaphysical question about phenomenal consciousness is that of what constitutes phenomenal consciousness, whereas the most central epistemic question about consciousness is that of whether science can eventually provide an explanation of the phenomenon. Many philosophers have argued that science doesn’t have the means to answer the question of what consciousness is (the explanatory gap) but that consciousness nonetheless is fully determined by the physical facts underlying it (no ontological gap). Others have argued that the explanatory gap in the sciences entails an ontological gap. This position is also known as ‘property dualism’. Here I examine a fourth position, according to which there an ontological gap but no explanatory gap.

 

Comment: In this paper, the author addresses the so-called “explanatory gap”. In a nutshell, the “explanatory gap” refers to the existing difficulty of explaining consciousness in physical terms. The author considers Chalmers’s argument which aims to show that there is a metaphysical gap. She argues that the existence of a metaphysical gap does not entail the existence of an explanatory gap, thereby failing to prevent scientists from discovering the nature of consciousness. Good as background reading on the topic of consciousness, its nature, and on whether we can explain in physicalist terms. The first half of the paper is particularly useful, as the author provides a survey of different theories regarding the link between consciousness and the neurological system.

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Drayson, Zoe, , . The Philosophy of Phenomenal Consciousness
2015, In The Constitution of Phenomenal Consciousness. Amsterdam: pp. 273-292.
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Abstract: A primer on the philosophical issues relating to phenomenal consciousness, part of a collection of new papers by scientists and philosophers on the constitution of consciousness.

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Hurley, Susan, , . Consciousness in Action
1998, Harvard University Press.
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Publisher’s Note: In this important book, Susan Hurley sheds new light on consciousness by examining its relationships to action from various angles. She assesses the role of agency in the unity of a conscious perspective, and argues that perception and action are more deeply interdependent than we usually assume. A standard view conceives perception as input from world to mind and action as output from mind to world, with the serious business of thought in between. Hurley criticizes this picture, and considers how the interdependence of perceptual experience and agency at the personal level (of mental contents and norms) may emerge from the subpersonal level (of underlying causal processes and complex dynamic feedback systems). Her two-level view has wide implications, for topics that include self-consciousness, the modularity of mind, and the relations of mind to world. The self no longer lurks hidden somewhere between perceptual input and behavioral output, but reappears out in the open, embodied and embedded in its environment.

Hurley traces these themes from Kantian and Wittgensteinian arguments through to intriguing recent work in neuropsychology and in dynamic systems approaches to the mind, providing a bridge from mainstream philosophy to work in other disciplines. Consciousness in Action is unique in the range of philosophical and scientific work it draws on, and in the deep criticism it offers of centuries-old habits of thought.

Comment: This book provides an interesting challenge to some standard assumptions about consciousness, action, and perception. The chapters are relatively self-contained, and can be read separately. The appendix of argument outlines is helpful as an aid to comprehension, and could serve as a valuable teaching tool in its own right.

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Irvine, Elizabeth, , . Explaining What?
2014, Topoi 36 (1):95-106.
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Abstract: The Hard Problem is surrounded by a vast literature, to which it is increasingly hard to contribute to in any meaningful way. Accordingly, the strategy here is not to offer any new metaphysical or ‘in principle’ arguments in favour of the success of materialism, but to assume a Type Q approach and look to contemporary consciousness science to see how the concept of consciousness fares there, and what kind of explanations we can hope to offer of it. It is suggested that while they will be materialist explanations, they will not be of the form that many scientists and philosophers would have us believe, but instead prompt a very different set of expectations and research projects.

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Jorati, Julia, , . Gottfried Leibniz: Philosophy of Mind
2014, Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy
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Added by: Simon Fokt, Contributed by: Julia Jorati

Abstract: Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz (1646-1716) was a true polymath: he made substantial contributions to a host of different fields such as mathematics, law, physics, theology, and most subfields of philosophy. Within the philosophy of mind, his chief innovations include his rejection of the Cartesian doctrines that all mental states are conscious and that non-human animals lack souls as well as sensation. Leibniz’s belief that non-rational animals have souls and feelings prompted him to reflect much more thoroughly than many of his predecessors on the mental capacities that distinguish human beings from lower animals. Relatedly, the acknowledgment of unconscious mental representations and motivations enabled Leibniz to provide a far more sophisticated account of human psychology. It also led Leibniz to hold that perception—rather than consciousness, as Cartesians assume—is the distinguishing mark of mentality.

Comment: Overview over Leibniz’s philosophy of mind; can be used for a survey course on early modern philosophy or for a more specialized course on the history of the philosophy of mind.

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Kim, Jaegwon, , . Philosophy of Mind (Third Edition)
2010, Boulder: Westview Press.
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Publisher’s Note: The philosophy of mind has long been part of the core philosophy curriculum, and this book is the classic, comprehensive survey of the subject. Designed as an introduction to the field for upper-level undergraduates and graduate students, Philosophy of Mind focuses on the mind-body problem and related issues, some touching on the status of psychology and cognitive science. The third edition has been thoroughly updated throughout to reflect developments of the past decade, and it is the only text of its kind that provides a serious and respectful treatment of substance dualism. This edition also includes two new chapters on the nature of consciousness and the status of consciousness. Improved readability and clarity has been one important aim of the new edition. Throughout the text, author Jaegwon Kim allows readers to come to their own terms with the central problems of the mind. At the same time, Kim’s own emerging views are on display and serve to move the discussion forward. Comprehensive, clear, and fair, Philosophy of Mind is a model of philosophical exposition and a significant contribution to the field.

Comment: An excellent textbook for an undergraduate introductory course on philosophy of mind, it offers a good overview of issues such as the mind/body problem, consciousness, and dualism.

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Kim, Jaegwon, , . Physicalism, or Something Near Enough
2005, Princeton University Press.
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Publisher’s Note: Contemporary discussions in philosophy of mind have largely been shaped by physicalism, the doctrine that all phenomena are ultimately physical. Here, Jaegwon Kim presents the most comprehensive and systematic presentation yet of his influential ideas on the mind-body problem. He seeks to determine, after half a century of debate: What kind of (or “how much”) physicalism can we lay claim to? He begins by laying out mental causation and consciousness as the two principal challenges to contemporary physicalism. How can minds exercise their causal powers in a physical world? Is a physicalist account of consciousness possible? The book’s starting point is the “supervenience” argument (sometimes called the “exclusion” argument), which Kim reformulates in an extended defense. This argument shows that the contemporary physicalist faces a stark choice between reductionism (the idea that mental phenomena are physically reducible) and epiphenomenalism (the view that mental phenomena are causally impotent). Along the way, Kim presents a novel argument showing that Cartesian substance dualism offers no help with mental causation. Mind-body reduction, therefore, is required to save mental causation. But are minds physically reducible? Kim argues that all but one type of mental phenomena are reducible, including intentional mental phenomena, such as beliefs and desires. The apparent exceptions are the intrinsic, felt qualities of conscious experiences (“qualia”). Kim argues, however, that certain relational properties of qualia, in particular their similarities and differences, are behaviorally manifest and hence in principle reducible, and that it is these relational properties of qualia that are central to their cognitive roles. The causal efficacy of qualia, therefore, is not entirely lost. According to Kim, then, while physicalism is not the whole truth, it is the truth near enough.

Comment: A great book on the mind-body problem. In addition to presenting Kim’s own view, it does an excellent job explaining the problem, as well as presenting some of the opposing viewpoints clearly and strongly, before providing good objections. Many sections would be useful as part of an examination of the mind-body problem in general.

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Kind, Amy, , . Chalmers’ zombie argument
2011, In Michael Bruce & Steven Barbone (eds.), Just the Arguments: 100 of the Most Important Arguments in Western Philosophy. Wiley-Blackwell.
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Introduction: In the late twentieth century, zombies began to play an important role in philosophical discussions about consciousness. But unlike the zombies of Hollywood, philosophical zombies are very much alive – or at least, they would be were they to exist. As philosophers use the term, a zombie is a creature that is microphysically identical to a human being – and thus produces behavior that is indistinguishable from that of a normal human being – but lacks any sort of consciousness in the phenomenal sense. Zombies behave as if they are in pain when you stick them with a pin, and they will report that they are in pain, but they don ‘ t experience any painful sensations.

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Kind, Amy, , . Nagel’s “what is it like to be a bat” argument against physicalism
2011, In Michael Bruce & Steven Barbone (eds.), Just the Arguments: 100 of the Most Important Arguments in Western Philosophy. Wiley-Blackwell.
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Introduction: Physicalism – the claim that everything is physical – has been the dominant position in philosophy of mind since at least the middle of the twentieth century. Nonetheless, physicalism has long been accused of being unable to account satisfactorily for the qualitative or subjective aspect of experience, for example, the reddishness of one ‘ s visual experience of a ripe tomato or the painfulness of one ‘ s tactile experience of a sharp object. Many have charged that it is dif? cult to see how these aspects of experience could be accounted for in solely physical terms. Focusing speci? cally on the experi- ence that a bat has when using its sonar, Thomas Nagel formulated this charge in a particularly powerful way. His argument is designed to show that subjective facts about experience, which are essential to it, cannot be captured in the objective language of physicalism. Although most philoso- phers assume that the argument, if successful, would show that physicalism is false, Nagel himself is careful to claim only that we currently lack the conceptual resources to see how physicalism could be true.

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Kind, Amy, , . Pessimism About Russellian Monism
2015, Torin Alter & Yujin Nagasawa (eds.), Consciousness in the Physical World: Perspectives on Russellian Monism: 401-421
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Abstract: From the perspective of many philosophers of mind in these early years of the 21st Century, the debate between dualism and physicalism has seemed to have stalled, if not to have come to a complete standstill. There seems to be no way to settle the basic clash of intuitions that underlies it. Recently however, a growing number of proponents of Russellian monism have suggested that their view promises to show us a new way forward. Insofar as Russellian monism might allow us to break out of the current gridlock, it’s no wonder that it’s become ‘hot stuff.’ To my mind, however, the excitement about Russellian monism is misplaced. Though some version of Russellian monism might well be true, I do not believe that it enables us to break free of the dualism/physicalism divide. As I will argue, once we properly understand what’s required to flesh out an adequate monistic story, we will see that we are in an important way right back where we started.

Comment: This text is a criticism of the view known as Russellian Monism. The text highlights that the physicalism/dualism dichotomy remains even in this ‘alternative’ view. The text is intermediate because it requires students to understand the complexity of the debate leading up to this paper. The paper itself is very accessible.

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Kitcher, Patricia, , . Kant’s Thinker
2011, Oxford University Press.
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Abstract: The book presents Kant’s theory of the cognitive subject. It begins by setting the stage for his discussions of the unity and power of ‘apperception’ by presenting the attempts of his predecessors to explain the nature of the self and of self-consciousness, and the relation between self-consciousness and object cognition. The central chapters lay out the structure of the transcendental deduction, the argument from cognition to the necessary unity of apperception, and the relations among his theories of the unity and power of apperception, the ‘psychological ideal,’ and the ‘noumenal’ self. Later chapters draw on this material to offer a more precise account of his criticism that the Rational Psychologists failed to understand the unique character of the representation ‘I-think’ and to defend Kant against the charges that his theory of cognition and apperception is inconsistent or psychologistic. The concluding chapters present Kantian alternatives to recent theories of the activities of the self in cognition and moral action, the self-ascription of belief, knowledge of other minds, the appropriate explananda for theories of consciousness, and the efficacy of ‘transcendental’ arguments.

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