Phenomenology and the Cognitive Sciences

, Volume 15, Issue 2, pp 247–264 | Cite as

The cognitive foundations of visual consciousness: Why should we favour a processing approach?

  • Francesco MarchiEmail author
  • Albert Newen


How can we investigate the foundations of consciousness? In addressing this question, we will focus on the two main strategies that authors have adopted so far. On the one hand, there is research aimed at characterizing a specific content, which should account for conscious states. We may call this the content approach. On the other hand, one finds the processing approach, which proposes to look for a particular way of processing to account for consciousness. . Our aim, in this paper, is to develop arguments for the latter approach. We focus on a criticism of Jesse Prinz’s AIR theory of consciousness. We have chosen Prinz’s theory because it incorporates features of both the content and processing approaches, and discussing it will therefore allow us to compare the advantages and downsides of both. Our argument will focus in particular on the notion of intermediate-level. We will discuss how Prinz characterizes the intermediate-level according to a content approach, and argue that such a characterization is inadequate. Finally, we will argue in favor of processing approach to the problem of consciousness, which also accounts for the massive interaction of top-down and bottom-up processes in the brain. Even though consciousness remains an unsolved riddle, we claim that this is the best path towards a solution.


Consciousness Visual consciousness Intermediate-level Cognitive penetration 



We would like to thank Peter Brössel and Tobias Schlicht for many very helpful discussions.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Institut für Philosophie IIRuhr-Universität BochumBochumGermany

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