Equal Rights for Zombies?: Phenomenal Consciousness and Responsible Agency

Journal of Consciousness Studies 26 (5-6):117-40 (2019)
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Intuitively, moral responsibility requires conscious awareness of what one is doing, and why one is doing it, but what kind of awareness is at issue? Neil Levy argues that phenomenal consciousness—the qualitative feel of conscious sensations—is entirely unnecessary for moral responsibility. He claims that only access consciousness—the state in which information (e.g., from perception or memory) is available to an array of mental systems (e.g., such that an agent can deliberate and act upon that information)—is relevant to moral responsibility. I argue that numerous ethical, epistemic, and neuroscientific considerations entail that the capacity for phenomenal consciousness is necessary for moral responsibility. I focus in particular on considerations inspired by P. F. Strawson, who puts a range of qualitative moral emotions—the reactive attitudes—front and center in the analysis of moral responsibility.

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Alex Madva
California State Polytechnic University, Pomona


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