What exactly is consciousness? There are a number of senses of the word in ordinary speech, but there is one that is most important for philosophy and science: consciousness consists of qualitative, subjective states of feeling or sentience or awareness. These typically begin when we awake from a dreamless sleep and they go on until we fall asleep again or otherwise become unconscious. Dreams are a form of consciousness. Consciousness, in short, is a matter of the qualitative experiences that we have. To understand qualitativeness, think of the difference between drinking beer, listening to music, and thinking about your income tax. Each experience has a distinct quality.
This article is available to subscribers only.
Please choose from one of the options below to access this article:
Purchase a print subscription (20 issues per year) and also receive online access to all articles published within the last five years.
The Mystery of Consciousness, Con’t. September 29, 2011