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The integrated information theory (IIT) is a theory of consciousness that was originally formulated, and is standardly still expressed, in terms of controversial interpretations of its own ontological and epistemological basis. These form the orthodox interpretation of IIT. The orthodox epistemological interpretation is the axiomatic method, whereby IIT is ultimately derived from, justified by, and beholden to, a set of phenomenological axioms. The orthodox ontological interpretation is panpsychism, according to which consciousness is fundamental, intrinsic, and pervasive. In this paper it is argued that both components of the orthodox interpretation should be rejected. But IIT should not be rejected since an interpretation-neutral formulation is available. After explaining the neutral formulation, more plausible non-axiomatic epistemologies are defended. The neutral formulation is then shown to be consistent with various contemporary physicalist ontologies of consciousness, including the phenomenal concepts strategy, representationalism, and even illusionism. Along the way, instructive connections between interpretations of IIT and interpretations of quantum mechanics, are noted.


This is a pre-copy-editing, author-produced PDF of an article accepted for publication in Journal of Consciousness Studies, volume 26, issue 1-2, in 2019 following peer review. The definitive publisher-authenticated version is available online at

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Available for download on Friday, January 01, 2021