Accounting for Pure Consciousness: An Examination of the Ability of the Representationalist Approach to Phenomenal Consciousness to Account for Pure Consciousness Experiences

  • Author / Creator
    Bachmann, James K.
  • Any successful theory of phenomenal consciousness must be able to account for all types of phenomenally conscious experience. Representationalist theories of phenomenal consciousness take phenomenally conscious experience to be intentional and explain phenomenally conscious experience in terms of the represented properties of the object(s) of experience. Pure consciousness experiences are a type of phenomenally conscious experience that can occur as the result of meditation or psychedelic drug use, and descriptions of pure consciousness experiences can be found in resources that range from ancient texts to contemporary scientific studies. Pure consciousness experiences completely lack any sort of content and because of this lack of content pure consciousness experiences pose a prima facie problem for representationalist theories of phenomenal consciousness. After explaining pure consciousness experiences and providing evidence of their occurrence, I consider whether representationalist theories can overcome this prima facie problem and successfully account for pure consciousness experiences. I consider various ways representationalist theories might do this before arguing that representationalist theories are inadequate and ultimately rejecting a representationalist account of pure consciousness experiences. Given that representationalism can not successfully account for pure consciousness experiences, representationalism is not a sufficient theory of phenomenal consciousness.

  • Subjects / Keywords
  • Graduation date
  • Type of Item
  • Degree
    Doctor of Philosophy
  • DOI
  • License
    This thesis is made available by the University of Alberta Libraries with permission of the copyright owner solely for non-commercial purposes. This thesis, or any portion thereof, may not otherwise be copied or reproduced without the written consent of the copyright owner, except to the extent permitted by Canadian copyright law.
  • Language
  • Institution
    University of Alberta
  • Degree level
  • Department
    • Department of Philosophy
  • Supervisor / co-supervisor and their department(s)
    • Robert A. Wilson (Philosophy)
  • Examining committee members and their departments
    • Neil Dalal (Philosophy)
    • Michael R. W. Dawson (Psychology)
    • Evan Thompson (Philosophy)
    • Chris Westbury (Psychology)