Is ‘consciousness’ ambiguous?

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It is widely assumed that ‘consciousness’ (and its cognates) is multiply ambiguous within the consciousness literature. Some alleged senses of the term are access consciousness, phenomenal consciousness, state consciousness, creature consciousness, introspective consciousness, self consciousness, to name a few. In the paper I argue for two points. First, there are few if any good reasons for thinking that such alleged senses are genuine: ‘consciousness’ is best viewed as univocal within the literature. The second point is that researchers would do best to avoid the semantics of ‘consciousness', since resorting to ‘semantic ascent’ typically serves no clear purpose in the case of consciousness, and confuses matters more than anything else.

Keywords: Consciousness; ambiguity; meaning; modulation; phenomenal consciousness; semantic ascent; semantics; sense; univocality

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Department of Philosophy, University of Haifa, Haifa 31905, Israel.

Publication date: January 1, 2001

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