One of the most exciting developments in experimental philosophy these days is the explosion of new work on intuitions about consciousness. How do people determine whether an entity is capable of having phenomenal states like feeling pain or experiencing happiness? And how do the criteria for these phenomenal states differ from those for other states like belief and desire?
It seems to me that the results from these studies are gradually converging on a view according to which people's intuitions about whether an agent has conscious states are especially influenced by facts about that agent's body. We can see this pattern coming out if we look at a number of different kinds of agents that don't seem to have the right sorts of bodies.
First, take 'group agents' (corporations, teams, governments, etc.). People are perfectly willing to describe group agents using sentences that involve mental states like 'Microsoft intends to release a new product,' but they refuse to describe group agents using sentences that involve phenomenally conscious states like 'Microsoft is feeling a little depressed.' Perhaps this is because group agents don't have bodies of the right sort. (For discussion, see Arico; Huebner, Bruno & Sarkissian; Knobe & Prinz; Sytsma & Machery.)
Turning to intuitions about robots, we find exactly the same sort of pattern: a willingness to ascribe beliefs but an unwillingness to ascribe, e.g., feelings of pain. The lack of an appropriate sort of body strikes again. (Huebner; Sytsma & Machery)
And now suppose we look to the ultimate disembodied agent: God. There, we find the very same pattern recurring, with a willingness to ascribe belief, planning, etc. but a reluctance to ascribe occurent feelings and emotions (Gray, Gray & Wegner).
Overall, it definitely is beginning to look like there is some sort of connection between people's willingness to say that an agent has phenomenal consciousness and their beliefs about that agent's body. But now a new question arises. Why exactly is all of this happening?
[For an incredibly brief review of these studies, see the paper here.]