Argumenta – Journal of Analytic Philosophy

Several philosophers claim that a mental state is phenomenally conscious only if it exhibits so-called for-me-ness, or subjective character, i.e., the fact that there is something it is like to be in a conscious state not just for everyone but only for the subject who undergoes it. Consequently, they stress, a proper explanation of consciousness requires to address the question of what the nature of for-me-ness is. This question forms what I call the problem of for-me-ness. Although the debate on the problem of for-me-ness has assumed a centre stage within philosophy of consciousness, relatively scant attention has been paid to systematize it. In this paper, I propose to fill this gap by developing a taxonomy of the existing responses to the problem at stake. I start by claiming that for-me-ness—the phenomenon to be explained—is best thought of as a minimal form of self-consciousness. Answering the problem of for-me-ness, hence, means to provide an account of the metaphysical structure of such a phenomenon. Next, I claim that the nature and the structure of minimal self-consciousness can be established by considering five conceptual distinctions. Based on such distinctions, finally, I classify the existing responses to the problem of for-me-ness into five positions. Scholars interested in the debate at issue should find this taxonomy useful not only to recognise and assess the core theses of the existing answer to the problem of for-me-ness but also to develop their own response.

Consciousness is the property mental states have when, and only when, they exhibit a so-called phenomenal character, namely, the fact that there is something it is like for their subject to be in these mental states (Nagel 1974). Accounting for the nature of this character forms the problem of consciousness—one of the most central issues in contemporary philosophy of mind.

An important first step in approaching such a problem is to pin down the constitutive features of the phenomenon in need of explanation, that is, the phenomenal character of experience. For many years, philosophers of mind have made this step by equating phenomenal character with…


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