CONCEPTS OF CONSCIOUSNESS
The term “consciousness” is very often, though not always, interchangeable with the term “awareness,” which is more colloquial to many ears. We say things like “are you aware that …” often. Sometimes we say “have you noticed that … ?” to express similar thoughts, and this indicates a close connection between consciousness (awareness) and attention (noticing), which we will come back to later in this chapter. Ned Block, one of the key figures in this area, provides a useful characterization of what he calls “phenomenal consciousness.” For him, phenomenal consciousness is experience. Experience covers perceptions, e.g., when we see, hear, touch, smell, and taste, we typically have experiences, such as seeing colors and smelling odors. It also covers bodily awareness, e.g., we typically have experiences of our own bodily temperature and positions of limbs. Consciousness is primarily about this experiential aspect of our mental lives.
Philosophers have different ways of picking out various concepts of consciousness, and they tend to strongly disagree with one another. No division is entirely uncontroversial. However, there is one distinction that tends to be the starting point of philosophical discussions about consciousness; even those who disagree with this way of carving out of the territory often start from here. It is the distinction from Block (1995) on phenomenal and access consciousness: