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

Embodied Consciousness and the Explanatory Gap

Symposium on Evan Thompson’s Mind in Life, Journal of Consciousness Studies, 18, No. 5–6, 2011.

ABSTRACT: Thompson’s Mind in Life aims to provide new resources for
addressing the explanatory gap by recognizing a category of “comportment” or
embodied consciousness that falls outside the usual schemes for conceptualizing
consciousness and its place in nature. I consider how this distinguishes
Thompson’s view from more familiar approaches to the problem of the gap. I
then raise a challenge for his approach, and his “phenomenological critique of
zombies.” I suggest a response to this challenge, by arguing that there are basic
phenomenological concepts of experiential movement that cannot be factored
into purely phenomenal and purely behavioral components—such as the concept
of looking at something. Finally, I raise a question about how Thompson views
the relationship between two kinds of “inwardness”: the sort he says is a
“precursor” to consciousness and can be found even in fairly primitive organisms,
and the sort of “inwardness” that suffices for actual consciousness, and makes
an entity a suitable focus of empathy.

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