State consciousness and creature consciousness: a real distinction

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It is widely held that there is an important distinction between the notion of consciousness as it is applied to creatures and, on the other hand, the notion of consciousness as it applies to mental states. McBride has recently argued in this journal that whilst there may be a grammatical distinction between state consciousness and creature consciousness, there is no parallel ontological distinction. It is argued here that whilst state consciousness and creature consciousness are indeed related, they are distinct properties. Conscious creatures can have, at one time, both conscious and unconscious mental states. This raises the question of what distinguishes the conscious from unconscious mental states of a subject: a question about what state consciousness consists in. Whilst the state/creature distinction may not be of use in explaining every aspect of a subject's consciousness, it does provide a key part of the explanandum for theories of consciousness and mind. The state/creature consciousness distinction is a real one and should not be dropped from our psychological taxonomy.

Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: September 1, 2000

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