Illusionism and the Epistemological Problems Facing Phenomenal Realism

Journal of Consciousness Studies 23 (11-12):215-223 (2016)
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Illusionism about phenomenal properties has the potential to leave us with all the benefit of taking consciousness seriously and far fewer problems than those accompanying phenomenal realism. The particular problem I explore here is an epistemological puzzle that leaves the phenomenal realist with a dilemma but causes no trouble for the illusionist: how can we account for false beliefs about our own phenomenal properties? If realism is true, facts about our phenomenal properties must hold independent of our beliefs about those properties, so mistaken phenomenal beliefs must always remain an open possibility. But there is no way to identify the phenomenal facts that make these beliefs false other than by mere stipulation. If illusionism is true, then the state of affairs regarding what a subject's experience seems like is just the illusion itself; there are no further facts of the matter about which the subject might have mistaken beliefs, so the problem does not arise.
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