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Workspace and Sensorimotor Theories: Complementary Approaches to Experience

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A serious difficulty for theories of consciousness is to go beyond mere correlation between physical processes and experience. Currently, neural workspace and sensorimotor contingency theories are two of the most promising approaches to make any headway here. This paper explores the relation between these two sets of theories. Workspace theories build on large-scale activity within the brain. Sensorimotor theories include external processes in their explanations, stressing the sensorimotor contingencies that arise from our interaction with the environment. Despite the basic differences, we argue that workspace- and sensorimotor theories are complementary rather than competitive. By combining these theories, a number of problems that hamper them individually may be overcome and their strengths combined: Workspace theories have more to offer for explaining how there can be consciousness in the first place, while sensorimotor theories are strong in making sense of the specific phenomenal character of experiences.

Keywords: absolute gap; comparative gap; consciousness; experience; externalism; internalism; sensorimotor theory; workspace theory

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: Faculty of Philosophy, University of Groningen, Oude Boteringestraat 52, 9717 GL Groningen, The Netherlands., Email: 2: Email:

Publication date: 2009-01-01

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