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Presentation and the Ontology of Consciousness

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The idea that we can understand key aspects of the metaphysics of consciousness by understanding conscious states as having a presentational character plays an essential role in the phenomenological tradition beginning with Brentano and Husserl. In this paper, the author explores some potential consequences of this connection for contemporary discussions of the ontology of consciousness in the world. Drawing on Hintikka’s analysis of epistemic modality, the author argues that the essential presentational character of consciousness can be seen as accounting for the familiar failure of substitutivity of identicals in intensional contexts of conscious presentation and further provides for an ontology of conscious presentation that avoids metaphysically problematic commitments to “special” intentional objects. The author next considers how the irreducibility of intensional contexts, if grounded in the presentational character of consciousness, also may provide for a kind of irreducibility of the “first-person” perspective to third-person or objective description across possible worlds. Finally, drawing on Chalmers’ “two-dimensionalist” semantic framework, the author argues that attention to the presentational aspect of consciousness as thus understood, while it provides significant motivation for the existence of the “hard problem” of the irreducibility of consciousness to physical and structural description, is nevertheless consistent with a globally monist, rather than dualist, ontology.

Affiliations: 1: University of New Mexico,


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