Consciousness and the Fallacy of Misplaced Objectivity

Neuroscience of Consciousness 7 (2):1-12 (2021)
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Objective correlates—behavioral, functional, and neural—provide essential tools for the scientific study of consciousness. But reliance on these correlates should not lead to the ‘fallacy of misplaced objectivity’: the assumption that only objective properties should and can be accounted for objectively through science. Instead, what needs to be explained scientifically is what experience is intrinsically— its subjective properties—not just what we can do with it extrinsically. And it must be explained; otherwise the way experience feels would turn out to be magical rather than physical. We argue that it is possible to account for subjective properties objectively once we move beyond cognitive functions and realize what experience is and how it is structured. Drawing on integrated information theory, we show how an objective science of the subjective can account, in strictly physical terms, for both the essential properties of every experience and the specific properties that make particular experiences feel the way they do.

Author Profiles

Jonathan Lang
University of Wisconsin, Madison
Giulio Tononi
University of Wisconsin, Madison
Francesco Ellia
University of Bologna
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