When I go and get really very drunk, I sometimes forget what happened the following morning. Was I conscious during the periods that are blacked out, or do I forget them because I wasn't conscious? Similarly, when I dream and forget it the next morning, am I conscious? I guess most people would answer No, but it doesn't seem so obvious to me. What's the deal with consciousness? Are clever scientists researching it or do people think it's not understandable? Any chance you know how I can read some research or learn some more about it (without doing a psychology degree)?

You could have had lots of conscious experiences yesterday that you forget today. What makes an experience conscious is its character at the time, not the traces it leaves in memory.

This raises the tantalising question of how you know that you haven’t had all kinds of wild experiences in the past that that you have forgotten. This is an interesting inversion of more familiar sceptical arguments, which tend to assume that we do know about our experiences but question how we can know what caused them.It seems clear that I do have reason to believe that I have had some experiences I now forget. After all, I have reason to believe that my memory is very imperfect. For example, I have reason to believe that I had many more experiences as a child than I can now recall. At the same time, there are lots of crazy possible experiences that I have reason to believe I never had. In many cases, the fact that I don’t remember having an experience makes it pretty likely that I didn’t have it.

There are a number of good articles on consciousness in the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (to which there is a link at the right of this page).

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