Consciousness: How its Subjectivity is Compatible with Physicalism
MetadataShow full item record
Though our everyday life is made up of contacts with the world through conscious experiences, our understanding of this basic fact is limited. Consciousness and the “hard problem” have been one of the most controversial subjects in contemporary philosophy of mind. This thesis argues for a physicalist approach to conscious experience, accepting the idea, widely accepted in contemporary philosophy of mind, that phenomenal consciousness and its qualitative aspects resist functionalization. They are not explainable and knowable merely through functional explanation, giving rise to an explanatory and epistemic gap between phenomenal and scientific knowledge. While affirming the existence of an epistemic gap, this thesis attempts to explain it and to deny its presumed ontological implications. I discuss here two major physicalist theories (the Phenomenal Concept Strategy and Higher-Order Theories), as well as two main anti-physicalists arguments (Jackson’s knowledge argument and Chalmers’ zombie argument). I argue that the consciousness property, being an emergent as opposed to a supervenient property, is an ontologically physical property. I also argue that the unique feature of consciousness, i.e. its subjectivity, is an epistemological relation between a subject, as an experiencer, and her own physical phenomenal properties. I show how the subjectivity of consciousness is compatible with physicalism.