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How the Sensorimotor Approach to Consciousness Bridges Both Comparative and Absolute Explanatory Gaps: And Some Refinements of the Theory

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The problem of understanding how physical processes in the brain could give rise to consciousness has been identified with the 'comparative explanatory gap', the problem of explaining why different experiences have the differing qualities they do, and the 'absolute explanatory gap', the problem of explaining why anything can be conscious at all. The main innovation of the sensorimotor theory is that it provides a very appealing way of closing the comparative gap by postulating that the quality of experiences corresponds to objective sensorimotor laws that characterize one's bodily interaction with the environment. Here I expound in greater detail how the approach deals with the absolute gap. I refine my previous efforts at understanding what we mean by 'being conscious of something' by abandoning my previous hierarchical approach; by introducing the concept of 'mental manipulation'; and by relying more on a notion of self than I have done previously. I end up with a more variegated notion of consciousness than in previous work, that includes the idea of a complex interwoven patchwork of consciousness with no simple conscious/nonconscious distinction across different species or agents. The approach suggests we need to review the links between consciousness and ethics.
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Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Laboratoire Psychologie de la Perception -- CNRS, Universit√© Paris Descartes, Paris, France, Email: [email protected]

Publication date: 01 January 2016

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