Journal Article

What Reaching Teaches: Consciousness, Control, and the Inner Zombie

Andy Clark

in The British Journal for the Philosophy of Science

Published on behalf of British Society for the Philosophy of Science

Volume 58, issue 3, pages 563-594
Published in print September 2007 | ISSN: 0007-0882
Published online January 2007 | e-ISSN: 1464-3537 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/bjps/axm030
What Reaching Teaches: Consciousness, Control, and the Inner Zombie

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What is the role of conscious visual experience in the control and guidance of human behaviour? According to some recent treatments, the role is surprisingly indirect. Conscious visual experience, on these accounts, serves the formation of plans and the selection of action types and targets, while the control of ‘online’ visually guided action proceeds via a quasi-independent non-conscious route. In response to such claims, critics such as (Wallhagen [2007], pp. 539–61) have suggested that the notions of control and guidance invoked are unacceptably vague, and that that the image of ‘zombie systems’ guiding action fails to take account of the possibility that there is genuine but unconceptualized, unnoticed, and/or unreportable experience taking place and guiding or controlling the actions. I address both sets of concerns. I try to show that refining and clarifying the key notions of control and guidance leaves the original argument intact, as does the appeal to unconceptualized, unnoticed, or unreportable experiences. The exercise serves, however, to highlight an important complex of considerations concerning the relations between control, agency, and experience. Better understanding these relations is, I suggest, an important source of insights concerning the nature of phenomenal experience.

Journal Article.  13985 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Philosophy of Science ; Science and Mathematics

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