Volume 26, 2001
A. Minh Nguyen
A Critique of Dretske’s Conception of State Consciousness
In his recent work, Dretske offers a new account of what it is for a mental state, in particular, a sensory experience, to be conscious. According to Dretske’s
proposal, subject S’s experience of object O is conscious if and only if it makes S aware of O. This proposal is argued to be open to only two serious interpretations. The first takes it to mean that S’s experience of O is conscious if and only if it constitutes S’s awareness of O, whereas the second takes it to mean that S’s experience of O is conscious if and only if it causes S’s awareness of O. It is argued that neither is a plausible way to understand the nature of state consciousness, because the constitutive interpretation implausibly denies the existence of unconscious veridical experiences, whereas the causal interpretation implausibly casts S’s veridical experience of O, rather than O or a certain external event involving O, as the relevant cause of S’s awareness of O.