The Argument from Consciousness in Eight Quick Points

Saints and Sceptics

1) We cannot directly observe another creature’s consciousness, and we cannot measure or quantify conscious experiences. If we could describe every physical fact about a bat’s brain in every detail, we would still not have a description of what the bat experiences. There are facts about animals that are not physical facts – facts about “what it is like”. It does not matter how much data we gather, what we imagine or what new concepts we learn. We are forever barred from another animal’s rich world of experience.

2) Neuroscience can describe animals as a system of causal inputs, or representations, that produce certain casual outputs. But this description of the physical system with its inputs and outputs does not describe intrinsic, subjective feelings. We can only describe and understand emotions like fear and anger when we experience them ourselves in the first person – “from the inside”, as it were.

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3) Subjects have privileged access to conscious events.  Observers could infer that I was in pain from my behaviour. However, I don’t need to infer that I am in pain by observing my behaviour or brain states; I feel it directly. There is nothing more to this mental event than the way it “appears” to me in subjective experience.  I am not picking out a physical event which causes or accompanies that experience.

4) Brain states and events have a complex physical structure that phenomenal awareness lacks. Conscious experience does not have a complex spatial structure; it cannot be broken down into various parts. We do not have privileged access to physical states and events; physical states and events can have a complex physical structure. So consciousness cannot be identical to anything in the physical world…

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The Argument from Consciousness in Eight Quick Points – Saints and Sceptics


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