Document Type




Format of Original

28 p.

Publication Date



Taylor & Francis

Source Publication

Philosophical Psychology

Source ISSN


Original Item ID

doi: 10.1080/09515089.2013.793150


Philosophers and psychologists have experimentally explored various aspects of people's understandings of subjective experience based on their responses to questions about whether robots “see red” or “feel frustrated,” but the intelligibility of such questions may well presuppose that people understand robots as experiencers in the first place. Departing from the standard approach, I develop an experimental framework that distinguishes between “phenomenal consciousness” as it is applied to a subject (an experiencer) and to an (experiential) mental state and experimentally test folk understandings of both subjective experience and experiencers. My findings (1) reveal limitations in experimental approaches using “artificial experiencers” like robots, (2) indicate that the standard philosophical conception of subjective experience in terms of qualia is distinct from that of the folk, and (3) show that folk intuitions do support a conception of qualia that departs from the philosophical conception in that it is physical rather than metaphysical. These findings have implications for the “hard problem” of consciousness.


Accepted version. Philosophical Psychology, Vol. 27, No. 6 (2014): 862-889. DOI. © 2014 Taylor & Francis (Routledge). Used with permission.

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