Can you believe it? Illusionism and the illusion meta-problem

Philosophical Psychology 31 (1):44-67 (2018)
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Illusionism about consciousness is the thesis that phenomenal consciousness does not exist, but merely seems to exist. Embracing illusionism presents the theoretical advantage that one does not need to explain how consciousness arises from purely physical brains anymore, but only to explain why consciousness seems to exist while it does not. As Keith Frankish puts it, illusionism replaces the “hard problem of consciousness” with the “illusion problem.” However, a satisfying version of illusionism has to explain not only why the illusion of consciousness arises, but also why it arises with its particular strength: Notably, why we are so deeply reluctant to recognize the illusory nature of consciousness. Explaining our strong intuitive resistance to illusionism means solving what I call the “illusion meta-problem,” which I think is a part of the illusion problem. In this paper, I argue that current versions of illusionism are unable to solve the illusion meta-problem. I focus on two of the most promising recent illusionist theories of consciousness, and I show why they fail to explain the peculiar reluctance we encounter whenever we try to accept that consciousness is an illusion.
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