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The Functional Role of Phenomenal Consciousness

La Manna, Damiano (2017) The Functional Role of Phenomenal Consciousness. PhD thesis, University of Sheffield.

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This thesis explores what I call the functional question: what is the functional role of phenomenal consciousness (p-consciousness)? Over the last thirty years or so, philosophers (and non-philosophers) have been occupied with trying to provide an account of p-consciousness in scientifically acceptable terms. One question that has not received as much attention, however, is the question of what p-consciousness contributes to the functioning of the mind. This question is important, for we tend to think that p-consciousness must contribute something to our mental economy. How might we attempt to address it? The strategy that I adopt in this thesis is to look at some important accounts of the functional role of p-consciousness, and see whether they offer a promising answer to the functional question. The accounts that I consider in this thesis satisfy an important requirement: they both endorse Ned Block’s distinction between p-consciousness and access consciousness (a-consciousness). Even though we still lack a satisfactory account of the former, the distinction has allowed us to make significant progress in explaining the latter. Today, several researchers from different fields agree that the Global Workspace Model provides an empirically-grounded, and theoretically-satisfying picture of a-consciousness. So, which are the accounts of the functional role of p-consciousness that I have in mind? Uriah Kriegel’s, and Block’s very own. According to both accounts, p-consciousness figures, somehow, in the causal explanation of a-consciousness. Unfortunately, as I will argue, both accounts fail to provide a tenable answer to the functional question. While Kriegel’s account is incompatible with certain empirical results, Block’s ends up providing the functional role of a property other than p-consciousness. In fact, Block’s account may even rest on a misunderstanding of the functional question. I conclude that Kriegel’s and Block’s are not the accounts that we should look at for a promising answer to the functional question.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Academic Units: The University of Sheffield > Faculty of Arts and Humanities (Sheffield) > Philosophy (Sheffield)
Identification Number/EthosID: uk.bl.ethos.731551
Depositing User: Dr Damiano La Manna
Date Deposited: 22 Jan 2018 09:31
Last Modified: 12 Oct 2018 09:50
URI: http://etheses.whiterose.ac.uk/id/eprint/19187

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