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WHERE EXPERIENCES ARE: DUALIST, PHYSICALIST, ENACTIVE AND REFLEXIVE ACCOUNTS OF PHENOMENAL CONSCIOUSNESS

By Prof Max Velmans

Abstract

Dualists believe that experiences have neither location nor extension, while reductive and ‘non-reductive’ physicalists (biological naturalists) believe that experiences are really in the brain, producing an apparent impasse in current theories of mind. Enactive and reflexive models of perception try to resolve this impasse with a form of “externalism” that challenges the assumption that experiences must either be nowhere or in the brain. However, they are externalist in very different ways. Insofar as they locate experiences anywhere, enactive models locate conscious phenomenology in the dynamic interaction of organisms with the external world, and in some versions, they reduce conscious phenomenology to such interactions, in the hope that this will resolve the hard problem of consciousness. The reflexive model accepts that experiences of the world result from dynamic organism-environment interactions, but argues that such interactions are preconscious. While the resulting phenomenal world is a consequence of such interactions, it cannot be reduced to them. The reflexive model is externalist in its claim that this external phenomenal world, which we normally think of as the “physical world,” is literally outside the brain. Furthermore, there are no added conscious experiences of the external world inside the brain. In the present paper I present the case for the enactive and reflexive alternatives to more classical views and evaluate their consequences. I argue that, in closing the gap between the phenomenal world and what we normally think of as the physical world, the reflexive model resolves one facet of the hard problem of consciousness. Conversely, while enactive models have useful things to say about percept formation and representation, they fail to address the hard problem of consciousness

Topics: Cognitive Psychology, Philosophy of Mind, Perceptual Cognitive Psychology
Year: 2006
OAI identifier: oai:cogprints.org:4742
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