Many people immediately dismiss the following claim: Either something lacks subjective experience, or it does not. Of course, I am talking about consciousness--but I am specifically referring to Nagel's wording, "something it is like to be." Intelligent zombies may not apply. Being such an unpopular claim, it should not be difficult to cite literature refuting it. What are the first two articles and the first two books I should look to in hopes of finding the refutation? Could you begin to refute the claim here? What literature might I read in defense of this claim?

I'm a bit confused. The claim you say "people immediately dismiss" looks like an instance of the law of excluded middle: Either P or not-P. People are often tempted to deny excluded middle in cases of vagueness, but I don't recall a lot of people saying that it can be vague whether a creature is conscious. Anyway, I suspect that either I'm misunderstanding something, or else there's a bad typo, or something. Feel free to write me and we can try to clarify.

I am a psychologist, and have to introduce my Introductory Psychology students to consciousness. Is there an acceptable, concise definition of "consciousness"? Most psychology textbooks seem to fall woefully short. For example, David Myers defines consciousness as "our awareness of ourselves and our environment." ACK! Thanks for any feedback you might provide for me and my students.

My favorite remark on this question is due to Ned Block . He quotes (I believe) Duke Ellington as having said that, if you have to ask what jazz is, y'ain't never gonna know. Block says that something similar is true of (phenomenal) consciousness. It's what makes pain hurt and ice cream yummy , and if you don't know what I'm talking about, you never will. Block is also the best source for the distinctions among kinds of consciousness that Amy already noted. See, for example, his "Some Concepts of Consciousness" . It is, of course, the distinctions he draws are controversial, like just about everything in this area.