Behavioral and Brain Sciences

Authors' Response
O'Brien & Opie: Connectionism and phenomenal experience

Putting content into a vehicle theory of consciousness

Gerard O'Brien a1 and Jonathan Opie a1
a1 Department of Philosophy, The University of Adelaide, South Australia 5005, Australia


The connectionist vehicle theory of phenomenal experience in the target article identifies consciousness with the brain's explicit representation of information in the form of stable patterns of neural activity. Commentators raise concerns about both the conceptual and empirical adequacy of this proposal. In the former regard, they worry about our reliance on vehicles, representation, stable patterns of activity, and identity. In the latter regard, their concerns range from the general plausibility of a vehicle theory to our specific attempts to deal with the dissociation studies. We address these concerns, and then finish by considering whether the vehicle theory we have defended has a coherent story to tell about the active, unified subject to whom conscious experiences belong.