Degrees of Consciousness

Noûs 57 (3):553-575 (2023)
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Is a human more conscious than an octopus? In the science of consciousness, it’s oftentimes assumed that some creatures (or mental states) are more conscious than others. But in recent years, a number of philosophers have argued that the notion of degrees of consciousness is conceptually confused. This paper (1) argues that the most prominent objections to degrees of consciousness are unsustainable, (2) examines the semantics of ‘more conscious than’ expressions, (3) develops an analysis of what it is for a degreed property to count as degrees of consciousness, and (4) applies the analysis to various theories of consciousness. I argue that whether consciousness comes in degrees ultimately depends on which theory of consciousness turns out to be correct. But I also argue that most theories of consciousness entail that consciousness comes in degrees.

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Andrew Y. Lee
University of Toronto at Scarborough


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