, Volume 11, Issue 3, pp 309-334
Date: 12 Apr 2012

Phenomenal consciousness, attention and accessibility

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Abstract

This article re-examines Ned Block‘s (1997, 2007) conceptual distinction between phenomenal consciousness and access consciousness. His argument that we can have phenomenally conscious representations without being able to cognitively access them is criticized as not being supported by evidence. Instead, an alternative interpretation of the relevant empirical data is offered which leaves the link between phenomenology and accessibility intact. Moreover, it is shown that Block’s claim that phenomenology and accessibility have different neural substrates is highly problematic in light of empirical evidence. Finally, his claim that there can be phenomenology without cognitive accessibility is at odds with his endorsement of the 'same-order-theory' of consciousness.

The material in this paper has been presented at various occasions and I would like to thank the audiences for the feedback that I received. I am especially grateful for Ned Block’s comments at the meeting of the Association for the Scientific Study of Consciousness in Taipei, 2008 where I first presented this paper. For valuable discussions I also thank Anne-Sophie Brüggen, Max Coltheart, Santiago Arango-Muñoz, and again Ned Block. Finally, I would like to thank an anonymous reviewer for valuable suggestions regarding an earlier version of this paper.