Downgraded phenomenology: how conscious overflow lost its richness

Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B 373 (2018)
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Our in-the-moment experience of the world can feel vivid and rich, even when we cannot describe our experience due to limitations of attention, memory or other cognitive processes. But the nature of visual awareness is quite sparse, as suggested by the phenomena of failures of awareness, such as change blindness and inattentional blindness. I will argue that once failures of memory or failures of comparison are ruled out as explanations for these phenomena, they present strong evidence against rich awareness. To accommodate and explain these massive failures of awareness, any theory of phenomenal consciousness must downgrade phenomenology to a degree where it is functionless or, ironically, does not reflect what we experience.

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Emily Ward
University of Wisconsin, Madison


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