Two Kinds of Consciousness

While self-awareness may be unique to humans, we share a different kind of consciousness—phenomenal consciousness—with many animals, says philosophy professor Ned Block.

One kind of consciousness emphasizes wakefulness, self-awareness, reflection and rationality—what one might call self-consciousness. But there is also a different kind, as anyone who knows what it is like to have a headache, taste chocolate or see red can attest. Self-consciousness is a sophisticated and perhaps uniquely human cognitive achievement. Phenomenal consciousness by contrast—what it is like to experience—is something we share with many animals. A person who is drunk or delirious or dreaming can be excruciatingly conscious without being wakeful, self-aware or aware of his surroundings.