, Volume 191, Issue 2, pp 263–285

Dreams: an empirical way to settle the discussion between cognitive and non-cognitive theories of consciousness


DOI: 10.1007/s11229-013-0385-y

Cite this article as:
Sebastián, M.Á. Synthese (2014) 191: 263. doi:10.1007/s11229-013-0385-y


Cognitive theories claim, whereas non-cognitive theories deny, that cognitive access is constitutive of phenomenology. Evidence in favor of non-cognitive theories has recently been collected by Block and is based on the high capacity of participants in partial-report experiments compared to the capacity of the working memory. In reply, defenders of cognitive theories have searched for alternative interpretations of such results that make visual awareness compatible with the capacity of the working memory; and so the conclusions of such experiments remain controversial. Instead of entering the debate between alternative interpretations of partial-report experiments, this paper offers an alternative line of research that could settle the discussion between cognitive and non-cognitive theories of consciousness. Here I relate the neural correlates of cognitive access to empirical research into the neurophysiology of dreams; cognitive access seems to depend on the activity of the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex. However, that area is strongly deactivated during sleep; a period when we entertain conscious experiences: dreams. This approach also avoids the classic objection that consciousness should be inextricably tied to reportability or it would fall outside the realm of science.


Consciousness Cognitive access Dorsolateral prefrontal cortex Dreams Phenomenology Working memory 

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Programa de Maestría y Doctorado en FilosofíaUniversidad Nacional Autónoma de México (UNAM)Mexico CityMexico
  2. 2.Instituto de Investigaciones Filosóficas, UNAMMexico CityMexico

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