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Blindsight, the Absent Qualia Hypothesis, and the Mystery of Consciousness

  • Michael Tye

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One standard objection to the view that phenomenal experience is functionally determined is based upon what has come to be called ‘The Absent Qualia Hypothesis’, the idea that there could be a person or a machine that was functionally exactly like us but that felt or consciously experienced nothing at all (see Block, 1980; Block and Fodor, 1980; Campbell, 1980; Nagel, 1980). Advocates of this hypothesis typically maintain that we can easily imagine possible systems that meet the appropriate functional specifications but that intuitively lack any phenomenal consciousness. Ned Block (1980), for example, asks us to suppose that a billion Chinese people are each given a two-way radio with which to communicate with one another and with an artificial (brainless) body. The movements of the body are controlled by the radio signals, and the signals themselves are made in accordance with instructions the Chinese people receive from a vast display in the sky which is visible to all of them. The instructions are such that the participating Chinese people together realize whatever programs the functionalist supposes underlie human phenomenal experience.

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Blindsight, the Absent Qualia Hypothesis, and the Mystery of Consciousness

  • Michael Tye

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