Borderline Consciousness, When It's Neither Determinately True nor Determinately False That Experience Is Present

Eric Schwitzgebel

in draft

This article defends the existence of borderline consciousness. In cases of "borderline consciousness", conscious experience is neither determinately present nor determinately absent, but rather somewhere between. The argument in brief is this. In considering what types of Earthly systems are conscious, we face a quadrilemma. Either only human beings are conscious, or everything is conscious, or there's a sharp boundary across the apparent continuum between conscious systems and nonconscious ones, or consciousness is a vague property admitting indeterminate cases. We ought to reject the first three options, which forces us to the fourth, vagueness. Standard objections to the existence of borderline consciousness turn on the inconceivability or unimaginability of borderline cases. However, borderline cases are only inconceivable by an inappropriately demanding standard of conceivability. I conclude with some plausible cases and applications.

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