References and Further Reading 1. Various Concepts of Consciousness The concept of consciousness is notoriously ambiguous. It is important first to make several distinctions and to define related terms. We sometimes speak of an individual mental state, such as a pain or perception, as conscious.
However, some kind of state consciousness is often implied by creature consciousness, that is, the organism is having conscious mental states. Most contemporary theories of consciousness are aimed at explaining state consciousness; that is, explaining what makes a mental state a conscious mental state.
More common is the belief that we can be aware of external objects in some unconscious sense, for example, during cases of subliminal perception.
Finally, it is not clear that consciousness ought to be restricted to attention. An organism, such as a bat, is conscious if it is able to experience the outer world through its echo-locatory senses. There is also something it is like to be a conscious creature whereas there is nothing it is like to be, for example, a table or tree.
For example, philosophers sometimes refer to conscious states as phenomenal or qualitative states. There is significant disagreement over the nature, and even the existence, of qualia, but they are perhaps most frequently understood as the felt properties or qualities of conscious states.
The former is very much in line with the Nagelian notion described above. Access consciousness is therefore more of a functional notion; that is, concerned with what such states do.
Block himself argues that neither sense of consciousness implies the other, while others urge that there is a more intimate connection between the two.
Some History on the Topic Interest in the nature of conscious experience has no doubt been around for as long as there have been reflective humans.
It would be impossible here to survey the entire history, but a few highlights are in order. In the history of Western philosophy, which is the focus of this entry, important writings on human nature and the soul and mind go back to ancient philosophers, such as Plato.
As we shall see, Descartes argued that the mind is a non-physical substance distinct from the body. He also did not believe in the existence of unconscious mental states, a view certainly not widely held today.
Our mental states are, according to Descartes, infallibly transparent to introspection.
Perhaps the most important philosopher of the period explicitly to endorse the existence of unconscious mental states was G. He also importantly distinguished between perception and apperception, roughly the difference between outer-directed consciousness and self-consciousness see Gennaro for some discussion.
The most important detailed theory of mind in the early modern period was developed by Immanuel Kant. Although he owes a great debt to his immediate predecessors, Kant is arguably the most important philosopher since Plato and Aristotle and is highly relevant today.
Kant basically thought that an adequate account of phenomenal consciousness involved far more than any of his predecessors had considered. Over the past one hundred years or so, however, research on consciousness has taken off in many important directions. In psychology, with the notable exception of the virtual banishment of consciousness by behaviorist psychologists e.
The writings of such figures as Wilhelm WundtWilliam James and Alfred Titchener are good examples of this approach. The work of Sigmund Freud was very important, at minimum, in bringing about the near universal acceptance of the existence of unconscious mental states and processes.Consciousness.
Explaining the nature of consciousness is one of the most important and perplexing areas of philosophy, but the concept is notoriously ambiguous.
People with online papers in philosophy Compiled by David Chalmers This page is no longer updated. Its function has been taken over by the list of personal pages tracked at PhilPapers.. This is a list of individuals who have made available online papers in philosophy and related areas.