Phenomenal Consciousness and the Sensorimotor Approach. A Critical Account


The paper discusses some recent suggestions offered by the so-called sensorimotor (or enactivist) theorists as to the problem of the explanatory gap, that is, the alleged impossibility of accounting for phenomenal consciousness in any scientific theory. We argue in the paper that, although some enactivist theorists’ suggestions appear fresh and eye-opening, the claim that the explanatory gap is (dis)solved is much overstated.

Share and Cite:

Dell’Anna, A. & Paternoster, A. (2013). Phenomenal Consciousness and the Sensorimotor Approach. A Critical Account. Open Journal of Philosophy, 3, 435-442. doi: 10.4236/ojpp.2013.34064.

Conflicts of Interest

The authors declare no conflicts of interest.


[1] Bach-y-Rita, P. (1972). Brain mechanisms in sensory substitution. New York: Academic Press.
[2] Ballard D. H. (1996). On the function of visual representation. In K. Akins (Ed.), Perception (pp. 111-131). Oxford: Oxford University Press.
[3] Ballard, D. H. (1991). Animate vision. Artificial Intelligence, 48, 57-86.
[4] Block, N. (1997). On a confusion about a function of consciousness. In N. Block, O. Flanagan, & G. Güzeldere (Eds.), The nature of consciousness (pp. 375-416). Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.
[5] Botvinick, M., & Cohen, J. D. (1998). Rubber hand “feels” what eyes see. Nature, 391, 756.
[6] Brooks, R. (1991). Intelligence without representation. Artificial Intelligence, 47, 139-159.
[7] Brooks, R. (1999). Cambrian intelligence. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.
[8] Chalmers, D. (1996). The conscious mind. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
[9] Churchland, P. S., & Ramachandran, V. S. (1996). Filling in: Why Dennett is wrong. In K. Akins (Ed.), Perception (pp. 132-157). Oxford: Oxford University Press.
[10] Clark, A. (1997). Being there. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.
[11] Clark, A. (1999). Visual awareness and visuomotor action. Journal of Consciousness Studies, 6, 1-18.
[12] Clark, A. (2008). Supersizing the mind: Embodiment, action, and cognitive extension. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
[13] Clark, A. (2009). Spreading the joy? Why the machinery of consciousness is (probably) still in the head. Mind, 118, 963-993.
[14] Clark, A., & Chalmers, D. (1998). The extended mind. Analysis, 58, 10-23.
[15] Dennett, D. C. (1969). Content and consciousness. London: Routledge & Kegan Paul.
[16] Dennett, D. C. (1991). Consciousness explained. Boston: Little Brown & C.
[17] Dennett, D. C. (1994). Get real. Philosophical Topics, 22, 505-568.
[18] Dennett, D. C. (2005). Sweet dreams: Philosophical obstacles to a science of consciousness. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.
[19] Dennett, D. C. (2007). Heterophenomenology reconsidered. Phenomenology and the Cognitive Sciences, 6, 247-270.
[20] Dretske, F. (1994). Differences that make no difference. Philosophical Topics, 22, 41-58.
[21] Fodor, J. A. (1980). Methodological Solipsism considered as a research strategy in cognitive science. Behavioral and Brain Sciences, 3, 63109.
[22] Gibson, J. J. (1979). The ecological approach to visual perception. Boston: Houghton Mifflin.
[23] Hurley, S. (1998). Consciousness in action. Cambridge: Harvard University Press.
[24] Hurley, S. (2001). Perception and action: Alternative views. Synthese, 129, 3-40.
[25] Hurley, S., & Noe, A. (2003). Neural plasticity and consciousness. Biology and Philosophy, 18, 131-168.
[26] Kanizsa, G. (1979). Organization in vision. New York: Praeger.
[27] Kelso, S. A. (1995). Dynamic patterns. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.
[28] Levine (1983). Materialism and qualia: The explanatory gap. Pacific Philosophical Quarterly, 64, 354-361.
[29] Lycan, W. (1987). Consciousness. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.
[30] Maturana, H., & Varela, F. (1987). The tree of knowledge. Boston: Shambhala.
[31] McGinn, C. (1989). Mental content. Oxford: Blackwell.
[32] Metzinger, T. (2003). Being no one. The self-model theory of subjectivity. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.
[33] Myin, E., & O’Regan, K. (2008). Situated perception and sensation in vision and other modalities. In P. Robbins, & M. Aydede (Eds.), Cambridge Handbook of Situated Cognition (pp. 185-200). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
[34] Noe, A. (2004). Action in Perception, Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.
[35] Noe, A. (2006). Experience without the head. In T. S. Gendler, & J. Hawthorne (Eds.), Perceptual experience (pp. 411-434). Oxford: Oxford University Press.
[36] Noe, A., & Thompson, E. (2004). Are there neural correlates of consciousness? Journal of Consciousness Studies, 11, 3-28.
[37] O’Regan, K., Myin, E., & No?, A. (2005). Sensory consciousness explained (better) in terms of “corporality” and “alerting capacity”. Phenomenology and the Cognitive Sciences, 4, 369-387.
[38] O'Regan, K., & No?, A. (2001). A sensorimotor account of vision and visual consciousness. Behavioral and Brain Sciences, 24, 939-1011.
[39] Ramachandran, V., & Blakeslee, S. (1998). Phantoms in the brain. New York: William Morrow.
[40] Thelen, E., & Smith, L. (1994). A dynamical systems approach to the development of cognition and action. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.
[41] Thompson, E. (2005). Sensorimotor subjectivity and the enactive approach to experience. Phenomenology and the Cognitive Sciences, 4, 407-427.
[42] Thompson, E. (2007). Mind in life. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.
[43] Thompson, E., & Varela, F. (2001). Radical embodiment: Neural dynamics and consciousness. Trends in Cognitive Sciences, 5, 418-425.
[44] Thompson, E., No?, A., & Pessoa, L. (1999). Perceptual completion. In J. Petitot et al. (Eds.), Naturalizing phenomenology. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press.
[45] Thompson, E., Palacios, A., & Varela, F. (1992). Ways of coloring: Comparative color vision as a case study for cognitive science. Behavioral and Brain Sciences, 15, 1-74.
[46] Varela, F., Thompson, E., & Rosch, E. (1991). The embodied mind: Cognitive science and human experience. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.
[47] Wilson, R. A. (2004). Boundaries of the mind. The individual in the fragile sciences: Cognition. Cambridge, MA: Cambridge University Press.

Copyright © 2023 by authors and Scientific Research Publishing Inc.

Creative Commons License

This work and the related PDF file are licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.