Can Self-Representationalism Explain Away the Apparent Irreducibility of Consciousness?

Tom Mcclelland, Tom McClelland

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Kriegel’s self-representationalist (SR) theory of phenomenal consciousness pursues two projects. The first is to offer a positive account of how conscious experience arises from physical brain processes. The second is to explain why consciousness misleadingly appears to be irreducible to the physical i.e. to ‘demystify’ consciousness. This paper seeks to determine whether SR succeeds on the second project. Kriegel trades on a distinction between the subjective character and qualitative character of conscious states. Subjective character is the property of being a conscious state at all, while qualitative character determines what it is like to be in that state. Kriegel claims that SR explains why subjective character misleadingly appears irreducible, thereby neutralising the apparent irreducibility of consciousness. I argue that although SR credibly demystifies subjective character, it cannot explain why qualitative character also appears irreducible. I conclude that we should pursue the possibility of a hybrid position that combines SR with an account that does explain the apparent irreducibility of qualitative character.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 4 Jul 2015


  • Consciousness
  • The Hard Problem
  • Self-Representationalism
  • Reduction
  • Qualitative Character
  • Subjectivity
  • Russellian Physicalism


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