Against the Necessity of Functional Roles for Conscious Experience: Reviving and Revising a Neglected Argument

Journal of Consciousness Studies 21 (1-2):33-53 (2014)
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While the claim that certain functional states are sufficient for conscious experience has received substantial critical attention, the claim that functional states are necessary is rarely addressed. Yet the latter claim is perhaps now more common than the former. I aim to revive and revise a neglected argument against the necessity claim, by Michael Antony. The argument involves manipulating a conscious subject's brain so as to cancel a disposition which is supposedly crucial to the realization of an experience that the subject is having at the time. The key step in the argument is to show that, contrary to what the functional necessity claim implies, the experience can survive such a manipulation. I defend that key step in a new way, by arguing that since the manipulation cannot influence the subject's thoughts, emotions, or behavior, there is no reason to suppose that it alters his conscious experience.

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Gary Bartlett
Central Washington University


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