What Is It Like to Be Nonconscious? Close to final draft

The paper I have been working on for the last two semesters is finally nearing completion and I have uploaded the close-to-final draft to academia.edu.


In this paper I will respond to Ned Block’s claim that it is simply “ridiculous” to suppose that consciousness is a cultural construction based on language and learnt in childhood. In so doing, I will argue that a distinction can be made between what-it’s-like to be a nonhuman animal and the “interiorized” consciousness of average, adult humans. In accordance with this distinction, I will argue that Block is wrong to dismiss social constructivist theories of consciousness on account of it being simply “ludicrous” that conscious experience is anything but a basic biological feature of our animal heritage, characterized by sensory experience, having slowly evolved over millions of years. By defending social constructivism in terms of both Julian Jaynes’ externalist behaviorism and J.J. Gibson’s ecological psychology, I will claim that a distinction can be made between the basic biological experience of nonhuman animals coping with a body and the “interiored” consciousness that constitutes the experience of an average linguistically competent human adult. The force of this distinction will allow me to argue that consciousness proper should be seen as an operation learned in development rather than something innate and shared with nonhuman animals. In other words, this paper will attempt to show that consciousness is not necessary for basic perceptual coping. Upon establishing this claim, I will defend the Jaynesian definition of consciousness as a social-linguistic construct learnt in childhood, structured in terms of metaphor and narrative practice. Finally, I will utilize the Jaynesian distinction between cognition and consciousness in order to bridge the explanatory gap and answer the supposed “Hard” problem of consciousness.

Could someone recommend an appropriate journal to submit this too? I am thinking either Behavioral and Brain Sciences, Phenomenology and the Cognitive Sciences, or Psyche. I really like the idea of publishing in BBS but I am intimidated by their review system. If anyone has some advice in this area, it would be most appreciated.



Filed under Philosophy, Random

3 responses to “What Is It Like to Be Nonconscious? Close to final draft

  1. Pingback: Reading James’ Principles of Psychology, vol. 1, Chap. 1 “The Scope of Psychology” | Minds and Brains

  2. I had a couple of reads through the final draft of your paper this morning. I thought the improvements you have made were small but important ones. I also prefer nonconscious to unconscious, although for my own purposes Hegel’s progression of levels of mind is more apropos than Jaynes’.

    One source you could cite that you likely wouldn’t randomly run across is the analysis of Joyce’s work in Hugh Kenner’s ‘The Pound Era”. A relevant quote:

    “… All these stories are one story rotated. The version Joyce chose to write maximizes her ignorance and pathos, and emphasizes his earliest and most constant insight.that people live in stories that structure their worlds.” (Kenner, Pound Era, P39)

    A good part of the book is on google books at the following URL.


  3. Philosophical Psychology.
    Journal of Consciousness studies.

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