By David Rosenthal

ISBN-10: 0198236964

ISBN-13: 9780198236962

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But the Cartesian view holds not only that all mental states are conscious, but also that consciousness is an intrinsic property of mental states. And if it is, an explanation in terms of higher-order thoughts is impossible, and all the problems about giving an informative explanation of consciousness will arise. So even if not all mental states are conscious, it is important to see whether consciousness is intrinsic to those which are. We can, however, explain our tendency to associate consciousness and sensory qualities without having to suppose that consciousness is intrinsic to sensory states, or even that all sensory states are conscious.

1 Although it seems effectively to preclude our giving any informative explanation of consciousness, the view that consciousness is essential to all mental states does have apparent advantages. For one thing, that view, which has strong affinities with the Cartesian view of mind, fits well with many of our commonsense intuitions about the mental. And perhaps that view even does greater justice to those intuitions than a view of the mind on which not all mental states are conscious. These two competing pictures of mind and consciousness seem to present us, therefore, with a difficult choice.

Page references to Nagel will be to Mortal Questions and, unless otherwise indicated, to that article. Two Concepts of Consciousness 23 nature could exist that would utterly and permanently resist all attempts to explain it. For these reasons, some more recent writers have chosen, instead, simply to abandon commonsense intuitions about mind when they conflict with our explanatory goals. Physics does not aspire to reconstruct all our presystematic intuitions about the things around us. 2 But we should, wherever possible, seek to explain our commonsense intuitions rather than just explain them away.

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Consciousness and Mind by David Rosenthal


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