Representationalism, symmetrical supervenience and identity

Philosophia 37 (1):31-46 (2009)
According to some representationalists (M. Tye, Ten problems of consciousness, MIT Press, Massachusetts, USA, 1995; W.G. Lycan, Consciousness and experience, MIT Press, Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA, 1996; F. Dretske, Naturalising the mind, MIT Press, Massachusetts, USA 1995), qualia are identical to external environmental states or features. When one perceives a red rose for instance, one is visually representing the actual redness of the rose. The represented redness of the rose is the actual redness of the rose itself. Thus redness is not a property of one’s experience but an externally constituted property of the perceived physical object. In this sense, qualia are out there, in the external world. Here, I argue that the main representationalist arguments to this effect, if successful, establish no more than a symmetrical supervenience relation between representational content and qualia, and that a supervenience relation alone (albeit symmetrical) doesn’t suffice for identity. This supervenience thesis between qualia and representational content leaves open the question as to the essential nature of qualia.
Keywords Representationalism  Qualia  Experience  Symmetrical supervenience  Identity  Argument from transparency
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DOI 10.1007/s11406-008-9121-0
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John Searle (1983). Intentionality. Oxford University Press.
Thomas Nagel (1974). What is It Like to Be a Bat? Philosophical Review 83 (October):435-50.

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