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Locating Consciousness: Why Experience Can't Be Objectified

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The world appears to conscious creatures in terms of experienced sensory qualities, but science doesn't find sensory experience in that world, only physical objects and properties. I argue that the failure to locate consciousness in the world is a function of our necessarily representational relation to reality as knowers: we won't discover the terms in which reality is represented by us in the world as it appears in those terms. Qualia -- arguably a type of representational content -- will therefore not be found in the physical world as characterized in experience or science. Instead, consciousness constitutes a subjective, representational reality for cognitive systems such as ourselves, and the physical world is a represented objective reality. I suggest that naturalistic approaches to explaining consciousness should acknowledge the non-objectivity of experience, and be constrained by evidence that consciousness accompanies certain sorts of behaviour-controlling representational functions carried out by complex, physically instantiated mind-systems. I evaluate a variety of current hypotheses about consciousness, and suggest that a mature science of representation may help explain why, perhaps as matter of representational necessity, experience arises as a natural but not objectively discoverable phenomenon.
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Keywords: content; objectivity; phenomenal experience; physicalism; qualia; representation; subjectivity

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: January 1, 2019

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