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Why things feel the way they do? J. Kevin O’Regan

Why things feel the way they do: the sensorimotor approach to understanding phenomenal consciousness, J. Kevin O’Regan (Laboratoire Psychologie de la Perception, Université Paris Descartes, France)

Why does red not look green? Why does it not sound like a bell? Why does pain hurt rather than just provoking pain behavior and avoidance reactions? These are the questions of “qualia” or “phenomenal consciousness”, which the philosophers consider to be a “hard” problem.

The sensorimotor approach provides a way to make the hard problem easy. It suggests that we have been thinking about phenomenal consciousness the wrong way. Instead of thinking of it as being something that is generated by the brain, we should think about it as being a way of interacting with the world. Taking this stance provides simple explanations of why sensations are the way they are, and why there is “something it’s like” to have a sensation. Taking this stance also makes interesting scientific predictions and opens new experimental paradigms which I shall describe in change blindness, color psychophysics, sensory substitution, the rubber hand illusion and spatial cognition.

The talk is a précis of the book: J.K. O’Regan, “Why red doesn’t sound like a bell: Understanding the feel of consciousness”, OUP, 2011.

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