You are here

Perceptual vs. Action Consciousness

18 November, 2015 - 17:33
Available under Creative Commons-ShareAlike 4.0 International License. Download for free at

Perceptual consciousness suggests that consciousness arises from our perceptions - this would include things like imagination and vision. Action consciousness suggests that consciousness arises from awareness of bodily actions - and thoughts can fall under that species of consciousness - or are our thoughts perceptions?

Two chapters on that debate are in the book "Contemporary Debates in Philosophy of Mind" Mclaughlin, B and Cohen, J (Eds). Blackwell Publishing, 2007. One chapter is by Jesse Prinz - "All consciousness is perceptual" and the other chapter is by Christopher Peacocke "Mental Action and Self Awareness".

Peacocke writes about action-awareness with schizophrenics:

  • What the schizophrenic subject lacks in the area of conscious thought is action-awareness of the thoughts that occur to him. To enjoy action-awareness of a particular event of thinking is to be aware non-perceptually of that thinking as something one is doing oneself.

Peacocke postulates an idea about intentions:

  • Is a thinker's knowledge of what he is doing really explained by his knowledge of his intentions in acting?

Prinz mentions that "there are conscious feelings associated with action". He talks about if Peacocke's view that action-awareness is different from perceptual awareness, and he talks about what Peacocke means by 'action'.

I would say that the debate is just a matter of defining the terms. The debate cannot really be solved empirically either. It is subjective to decide if something is a perception or is an action. I would say that there is a type of physical awareness of ones body and a type of mental awareness - awareness of ones own thoughts and emotions.

So that is it - there is the physical world and there is a mental world, and awareness or consciousness of both I would say is almost equally divided. That makes sense if you consider that if the physical overwhelmed the mental, physical feelings would dominate and vice versa.

People with left brain damage might have their emotions dominate (since the right brain is theorized to be more emotional). And similarly, emotional and intellectual; physical and mental are constantly in or out of balance.