The Disunity of Consciousness
O'Brien (Gerard) & Opie (Jon)
Source: Australasian Journal of Philosophy Vol. 76, No 3, pp. 378-395; September 1998
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    It is commonplace for both philosophers and cognitive scientists to express their allegiance to the "unity of consciousness1." This is the claim that a subject's phenomenal consciousness, at any one moment in time, is a single thing. This traditional conception of consciousness has led to the dominance of computational theories of consciousness which contend that our conscious experience is the result of an executive process or system in the brain that privileges certain mental representations over others. This article argues that the orthodox conception of the target phenomenon is quite wrong. Phenomenal consciousness is not a unity; rather, it is manifold and distributed. This in turn suggests that we need a radically different computational conception of consciousness, one that can do justice to its palpable disunity.

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