Inner Acquaintance Theories of Consciousness

Oxford Studies in Philosophy of Mind 4 (forthcoming)
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Abstract

Most recent philosophical theories of consciousness account for it in terms of representation, the bulk of the debate revolving around whether (suitably) representing something is sufficient for consciousness (as per first-order representationalism) or some further (meta-)representation is needed (as per higher-order representationalism and self-representationalism). In this paper, I explore an alternative theory of consciousness, one that aims to explain consciousness not in terms of representation but in terms of the epistemically and metaphysically direct relation of acquaintance. I call this the Inner Acquaintance Theory of consciousness (IAT). Roughly, on IAT, what makes a mental state conscious is its subject being acquainted with it. Though not wholly unprecedented, IAT is still at the fringe of consciousness debates and remains largely underexplored. The main goal of this paper is to take some steps toward developing the details of IAT, illustrate its potential explanatory power, and put it forward as a plausible alternative to representational theories, with the hope that this will contribute to shifting IAT closer to the center of the debate. Here is how I proceed. In §2 I introduce a notion—inner awareness—that is crucial both to contextualize and to understand IAT. In §3 I provide some preliminary motivation for exploring IAT. In §4 I explain the notion of acquaintance and illustrate some of the features that are typically attributed to it in the literature. The details of IAT are then shaped through four main decision points. I address them in §§5-8, where I suggest a particular choice at each decision point, thereby progressively building up a view that I consider particularly promising.

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Anna Giustina
Universitat de Valencia

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