It seems obvious that phenomenally conscious experience is something of great value, and that this value maps onto a range of important ethical issues. For example, claims about the value of life for those in Permanent Vegetative State (PVS); debates about treatment and study of disorders of consciousness; controversies about end-of-life care for those with advanced dementia; and arguments about the moral status of embryos, fetuses, and non-human animals arguably turn on the moral significance of various facts about consciousness. However, though work has been done on the moral significance of elements of consciousness, such as pain and pleasure, little explicit attention has been devoted to the ethical significance of consciousness.
In this book Joshua Shepherd presents a systematic account of the value present within conscious experience. This account emphasizes not only the nature of consciousness, but also the importance of items within experience such as affect, valence, and the complex overall shape of particular valuable experiences. Shepherd also relates this account to difficult cases involving non-humans and humans with disorders of consciousness, arguing that the value of consciousness influences and partially explains the degree of moral status a being possesses, without fully determining it. The upshot is a deeper understanding of both the moral importance of phenomenal consciousness and its relations to moral status.
This book will be of great interest to philosophers and students of ethics, bioethics, philosophy of psychology, philosophy of mind, and cognitive science.
Joshua Shepherd is Assistant Professor in the Philosophy Department at Carleton University, Canada, and Research Professor at the University of Barcelona, Spain.
Part 1: Preliminaries
2. Preliminaries: Consciousness
3. Preliminaries: Value
4. Preliminaries: Moral Status
Part 2: An Account of Phenomenal Value
5. What it is like and beyond
6. Evaluative phenomenal properties
7. The importance of phenomenal character
8. Contra Moore on an Important Point
9. Hedonism about the Value within Consciousness
10. The Bearers of Phenomenal Value
11. Thick Experiences
12. Meta-evaluative Properties
13. Evaluative Spaces, Part 1
14. Evaluative Spaces, Part 2
15. How Far We Have Come
Part 3: Moral Status and Difficult Cases
16. Moral Status: Machines and Post-Persons
17. Moral Status: The Other Animals
18. Moral Status: Human Cases.