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The Neo-Russellian Ignorance Hypothesis A Hybrid Account of Phenomenal Consciousness

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We have reason to believe that phenomenal properties are nothing over and above certain physical properties. However, doubt is cast on this by the apparent epistemic gap that arises for attempts to account for phenomenal properties in physical terms. I argue that the epistemic gap should be divided into two more fundamental conceptual gaps. The first of these pertains to the distinctive subjectivity of phenomenal states, and the second pertains to the intrinsicality of phenomenal qualities. Stoljar's ignorance hypothesis (IH) attempts to undermine the epistemic gap by arguing that the apparent inexplicability of the phenomenal is merely a symptom of our limited conception of the non-experiential world. I establish some obstacles to IH, and argue that the correct analysis of the epistemic gap means these obstacles can only partially be overcome. I propose, nonetheless, that IH can still be put to good use as half of a hybrid account of phenomenal consciousness. The proposal combines a self-representationalist account of the subjectivity of phenomenal states with a Russellian version of IH that accommodates the qualitative character of those states. This neo-Russellian ignorance hypothesis (NRIH) credibly undermines the appearance of an epistemic gap between the physical and the phenomenal.

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Email: [email protected]

Publication date: January 1, 2013

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