Representationalism, peripheral awareness, and the transparency of experience

Philosophical Studies 139 (1):39-56 (2008)
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Abstract
It is often said that some kind of peripheral (or inattentional) conscious awareness accompanies our focal (attentional) consciousness. I agree that this is often the case, but clarity is needed on several fronts. In this paper, I lay out four distinct theses on peripheral awareness and show that three of them are true. However, I then argue that a fourth thesis, commonly associated with the so-called "self-representational approach to consciousness," is false. The claim here is that we have outer focal consciousness accompanied often (or even always) by inner peripheral (self-)awareness. My criticisms stem from both methodological and phenomenological considerations. In doing so, I offer a diagnosis as to why the fourth thesis has seemed true to so many and also show how the so-called "transparency of experience," frequently invoked by representationalists, is importantly relevant to my diagnosis. Finally, I respond to several objections and to further attempts to show that thesis four is true. What emerges is that if one wishes to hold that some form of self-awareness accompanies all outer-directed conscious states, one is better off holding that such self-awareness is itself unconscious, as is held for example by standard higher-order theories of consciousness.
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Archival date: 2015-08-14
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