Robert Alan and Kathryn Dunlevie Hayes Professor of Humanities and Professor of Philosophy at Rice University

Consciousness and value

[Numbers in brackets are linked to entries in "Publications."]

In [1] Chapter 9, I argue that phenomenality has for us a powerful intrinsic value.

We can discover this, if we consider that we would still regard it as better to have (some varieties of) it rather than not, even if in its absence we could get everything separable from it we valued. That we accord it a great deal of this kind of value is evident, if we find that we would have little preference between a phenomenally destitute, “zombified” future and our own destruction, if we could preserve all that is merely contingently and instrumentally valuable about our own continued conscious existence on either account. For, by contrast, we are still likely to care very much whether our existence with a conscious future is extinguished, even if we suppose equally efficacious unconscious agents (“zombies”) would do our work.

That we reasonably affirm such values can become clearer, once we liberate ourselves from the notion that phenomenality is confined to so-called sensory “qualia,” and instead see consciousness  as that through which the world becomes significant for us. And affirming these values, we can see why it is especially important to get consciousness right.

 Such thoughts are no more than a start on the topic of consciousness and value, which needs a much more searching exploration of issues about which I have as yet had relatively little to say, issues such as: the unity of consciousness and the integrity of persons; how consciousness is manifest in desire and decision; the connection between first-person reflection and personal responsibility; and the nature of subjective imagination, its role in empathy and the understanding of art—topics to which I would like to extend my research.

© 2020 Charles Siewert. All Rights Reserved.