What reaching teaches: Consciousness, control, and the inner zombie

Andy Clark*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

44 Citations (Scopus)


What is the role of conscious visual experience in the control and guidance of human behaviour? According to some recent treatments, the role is surprisingly indirect. Conscious visual experience, on these accounts, serves the formation of plans and the selection of action types and targets, while the control of 'online' visually guided action proceeds via a quasi-independent non-conscious route. In response to such claims, critics such as (Wallhagen [2007], pp. 539-61) have suggested that the notions of control and guidance invoked are unacceptably vague, and that that the image of 'zombie systems' guiding action fails to take account of the possibility that there is genuine but unconceptualized, unnoticed, and/or unreportable experience taking place and guiding or controlling the actions. I address both sets of concerns. I try to show that refining and clarifying the key notions of control and guidance leaves the original argument intact, as does the appeal to unconceptualized, unnoticed, or unreportable experiences. The exercise serves, however, to highlight an important complex of considerations concerning the relations between control, agency, and experience. Better understanding these relations is, I suggest, an important source of insights concerning the nature of phenomenal experience.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)563-594
Number of pages32
JournalBritish Journal for the Philosophy of Science
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Sept 2007
Externally publishedYes


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