Tobias Schlicht: "Phenomenal Consciousness, Attention, and Accessibility"

Abstract: Phenomenology, Attention, and Accessibility

In this talk, the popular conceptual distinction between phenomenal and access consciousness as introduced and defended by Block (1995, 2008) is criticized. In particular, I take issue with Block's claims that phenomenology and accessibility can come apart and that, consequently, there can be (a) a non-phenomenal form of consciousness and (b) a phenomenology that the subject cannot know about. While it is not clear why mere accessibility should be regarded as a form of consciousness at all, the experimental data (Sperling 1960) in support of (b) are compatible with a weaker interpretation that leaves the link between phenomenology and accessibility intact. Moreover, it is shown that Block's view raises a methodological problem for the scientific investigation of consciousness and is ultimately incompatible with his adherence to the ‘same-order-theory' of consciousness. Finally, in order to partly capture the intuition motivating Block's an alternative, an alternative view is put forward which borrows ideas from the views defended by Kant and Husserl.