Some have claimed that people with very different beliefs literally see the world differently. Thus Thomas Kuhn: ‘what a man sees depends both upon what he looks at and also upon what his previous visual—conceptual experience has taught him to see’ (Kuhn 1970, p. ll3). This view — call it ‘Perceptual Relativism’ — entails that a scientist and a child may look at a cathode ray tube and, in a sense, the first will see it while the second won’t. (...) The claim is not, of course, that the child’s experience is ‘empty’; but that, unlike the scientist, it does not see the tube as a cathode ray tube. One way of supporting this claim is to say that one cannot see something as an F unless one has the concept F. Since the child plainly lacks the concept of a cathode ray tube, it cannot see it as a cathode ray tube. Although Perceptual Relativism is hard to believe, this supporting suggestion is not so implausible. After all, when we see (and more generally, perceive) the world, the world is presented to us in a particular way; so how can we see it as being that way unless we have some idea or conception of the way it is presented? We need not be committed to a representative theory of perception to think that perceptions in some sense represent the world. We can express this by saying that perceptions have content. Now it is a commonplace that the contents of beliefs and the other propositional attitudes involve concepts. The belief that this thing is a cathode ray tube involves, in some sense, the concept cathode ray tube. So the line of thought behind Perceptual Relativism may be expressed thus: seeing an F as an F is a state with content. (shrink)
The radical empiricism of William James was first formally presented in his seminal papers of 1904, 'Does Consciousness Exist?' and 'A World of Pure Experience'. In James's view, pure experience was to serve as the source for psychology's primary data and radical empiricism was to launch an effective critique of experimentalism in psychology, a critique from which the problem of experimentalism within science could be addressed more broadly. This collection of papers presents James's formal statements on radical empiricism (...) and a representative sample of contemporary responses from psychologists and philosophers. With only a few exceptions, these responses indicate just how badly James was misread - psychologists ignoring the heart of James's message and philosophers transforming James's metaphysics into something quite unintelligible to the emerging generation of experimental psychologists. (shrink)
Which objects and properties are represented in perceptual experience, and how are we able to determine this? The papers in this collection address these questions together with other fundamental questions about the nature of perceptual content. -/- The book draws together papers by leading international philosophers of mind, including Alex Byrne (MIT), Alva Noë (University of California, Berkeley), Tim Bayne (St Catherine’s College, Oxford), Michael Tye (University of Texas, Austin), Richard Price (All Souls College, Oxford) and Susanna Siegel (Harvard (...) University) -/- Essays address the central questions surrounding the content of perceptual experience -/- Investigates how are we able to determine the admissible contents of experience -/- Published in association with the journal Philosophical Quarterly. (shrink)
In examining the puzzle of experience, and its possible solutions, Valberg discusses relevant views of Hume, Kant, Heidegger, Wittgenstein, and Strawson, as well as ideas from the recent philosophy of perception. Finally, he describes and analyzes a manifestation of the puzzle outside philosophy, in everyday experience.
Wittgenstein’s thinking on music is intimately linked to core issues in his work on the philosophy of psychology. I argue that inasmuch musical experience exemplifies the kind of grammatical complexity that is indigenous to aspect perception and, in general, to concepts that are based on physiognomy, it is rendered by Wittgenstein as a form of knowledge, namely, knowledge of mankind.
Consciousness and intentionality are perhaps the two central phenomena in the philosophy of mind. Human beings are conscious beings: there is something it is like to be us. Human beings are intentional beings: we represent what is going on in the world.Correspondingly, our specific mental states, such as perceptions and thoughts, very often have a phenomenal character: there is something it is like to be in them. And these mental states very often have intentional content: they serve to represent the (...) world. On the face of it, consciousness and intentionality are intimately connected. Our most important conscious mental states are intentional states: conscious experiences often inform us about the state of the world. And our most important intentional mental states are conscious states: there is often something it is like to represent the external world. It is natural to think that a satisfactory account of consciousness must respect its intentional structure, and that a satisfactory account of intentionality must respect its phenomenological character.With this in mind, it is surprising that in the last few decades, the philosophical study of consciousness and intentionality has often proceeded in two independent streams. This wasnot always the case. In the work of philosophers from Descartes and Locke to Brentano and Husserl, consciousness and intentionality were typically analyzed in a single package. But in the second half of the twentieth century, the dominant tendency was to concentrate on onetopic or the other, and to offer quite separate analyses of the two. On this approach, the connections between consciousness and intentionality receded into the background.In the last few years, this has begun to change. The interface between consciousness and intentionality has received increasing attention on a number of fronts. This attention has focused on such topics as the representational content of perceptual experience, the higherorder representation of conscious states, and the phenomenology of thinking. Two distinct philosophical groups have begun to emerge. One group focuses on ways in which consciousness might be grounded in intentionality. The other group focuses on ways in which intentionality might be grounded in consciousness. (shrink)
I argue that any account of perceptual experience should satisfy the following two desiderata. First, it should account for the particularity of perceptual experience, that is, it should account for the mind-independent object of an experience making a difference to individuating the experience. Second, it should explain the possibility that perceptual relations to distinct environments could yield subjectively indistinguishable experiences. Relational views of perceptual experience can easily satisfy the first but not the second desideratum. Representational (...) views can easily satisfy the second but not the first desideratum. I argue that to satisfy both desiderata perceptual experience is best conceived of as fundamentally both relational and representational. I develop a view of perceptual experience that synthesizes the virtues of relationalism and representationalism, by arguing that perceptual content is constituted by potentially gappy de re modes of presentation. (shrink)
Representationalism is a thesis about the phenomenal character of experiences, about their immediate subjective ‘feel’.1 At a minimum, the thesis is one of supervenience: necessarily, experiences that are alike in their representational contents are alike in their phenomenal character. So understood, the thesis is silent on the nature of phenomenal character. Strong or pure representationalism goes further. It aims to tell us what phenomenal character is. According to the theory developed in Tye 1995, phenomenal character is one and the same (...) as representational content that meets certain further conditions. One very important motivation for this theory is the so-called ? transparency of experience.? The purpose of this paper is to elucidate the appeal to transparency more carefully than has been done hithertofore, to make some remarks about the introspective awareness of experience in light of this appeal, and to consider one problem case for transparency at some length, that of blurry vision. Along the way, I shall also address some of the remarks Stephen Leeds makes in his essay on transparency. (shrink)
A common objection to sense-datum theories of perception is that they cannot give an adequate account of the fact that introspection indicates that our sensory experiences are directed on, or are about, the mind-independent entities in the world around us, that our sense experience is transparent to the world. In this paper I point out that the main force of this claim is to point out an explanatory challenge to sense-datum theories.
I here present some doubts about whether Mandik’s (2010) proposed intermediacy and recurrence constraints are necessary and sufficient for agentive experience. I also argue that in order to vindicate the conclusion that agentive experience is an exclusively perceptual phenomenon (Prinz, 2007), it is not enough to show that the predictions produced by forward models of planned motor actions are conveyed by mock sensory signals. Rather, it must also be shown that the outputs of “comparator” mechanisms that compare these (...) predictions against actual sensory feedback are also coded in a perceptual representational format. (shrink)
Most forms of virtue ethics are characterized by two attractive features. The first is that proponents of virtue ethics acknowledge the need to describe how moral agents acquire or develop the traits and abilities necessary to become morally able agents. The second attractive feature of most forms of virtue ethics is that they are forms of moral realism. The two features come together in the attempt to describe virtue as a personal ability to distinguish morally good reasons for action. It (...) follows from the general picture of virtue ethics presented here that we cannot evaluate ethical judgment independently of the viewpoint of the ideal of a virtuous person. We will examine how this ideal unfolds in the realistic form of virtue ethics advanced by John McDowell. McDowell offers a compelling description of virtue as a natural ability grounded in human nature, while at the same time insisting that we cannot understand the judgment resulting from virtue without drawing on that very perspective. However, McDowell’s focus on the passive taking in of reasons in ethical experience and his idea of the silencing of wrong reasons lead us to three related problems. The first is that he cannot account for certain features of the phenomenology of such experience; the second is that he cannot provide any relevant epistemological criteria for correct moral judgment; and the third is that he gives a morally objectionable characterization of the ideal of being a virtuous person. All of these problems arise because McDowell does not take into account the particular nature of ethical experience. If we try to resolve this problem by dropping McDowell’s idea of silencing, we then have to offer another substantial description of our ideal of a virtuous person that includes active and interpersonal ways of evaluating concrete judgments. Proponents of virtue ethics still have to lift this task and develop a position that does not limit ethical experience to the passive intake of reasons. (shrink)
There you are at the opera house. The soprano has just hit her high note – a glassshattering high C that fills the hall – and she holds it. She holds it. She holds it. She holds it. She holds it. She holds the note for such a long time that after a while a funny thing happens: you no longer seem only to hear it, the note as it is currently sounding, that glass-shattering high C that is loud and (...) high and pure. In addition, you also seem to hear something more. It is difficult to express precisely what this extra feature is. One is tempted to say, however, that the note now sounds like it has been going on for a very long time. Perhaps it even sounds like a note that has been going on for too long. In any event, what you hear no longer seems to be limited to the pitch, timbre, loudness, and other strictly audible qualities of the note. You seem in addition to experience, even to hear, something about its temporal extent. (shrink)
Stream of Consciousness is about the phenomenology of conscious experience. Barry Dainton shows us that stream of consciousness is not a mosaic of discrete fragments of experience, but rather an interconnected flowing whole. Through a deep probing into the nature of awareness, introspection, phenomenal space and time consciousness, Dainton offers a truly original understanding of the nature of consciousness.
I. Introduction “We can and do see the truth about many things: ourselves, others, trees and animals, clouds and rivers—in the immediacy of experience.”1 Absent from Bas van Fraassen’s list of those things we see are paramecia and mitochondria. We do not see such things, van Fraassen has long maintained, because they are unobservable, that is, they are undetectable by means of the unaided senses.2 But notice that these two notions—what we can see in the “immediacy” of experience (...) and what is detectable by means of the unaided senses—are not the same. There is no incoherence in maintaining that the immediacy of experience is capable of disclosing to us truths concerning entities that are not detectable by the naked eye. And so, I claim, it does; science and technology provide us with the means to see things we have never seen before. Some of those things are van Fraassen’s unobservables. That suggestion is nothing new. Grover Maxwell long ago emphasized the continuity between seeing with and without instrumentation.3 Van Fraassen originally provided two responses to Maxwell’s arguments: some things that you can see with instruments you can also see without instruments (and those are the observables); and.. (shrink)
This paper clarifies the nature of moral experience, examines its evidential role in supporting moral judgments, and argues that moral experiences can be among the things having intrinsic value. Moral experience is compared with aesthetic experience and contrasted with its close relative, non-moral experience combined with moral beliefs. The concluding sections explore the case for the organicity of intrinsic value and the kind of role such value can play in grounding moral obligation.
It is argued that Nozick's experience machine thought experiment does not pose a particular difficulty for mental state theories of well-being. While the example shows that we value many things beyond our mental states, this simply reflects the fact that we value more than our own well-being. Nor is a mental state theorist forced to make the dubious claim that we maintain these other values simply as a means to desirable mental states. Valuing more than our mental states is (...) compatible with maintaining that the impact of such values upon our well-being lies in their impact upon our mental lives. (shrink)
Representationalism is the position that the phenomenal character of an experience is either identical with, or supervenes on, the content of that experience. Many representationalists hold that the relevant content of experience is nonconceptual. I propose a counter-example to this form of representationalism that arises from the phenomenon of Gestalt switching, which occurs when viewing ambiguous figures. First, I argue that one does not need to appeal to the conceptual content of experience or to judge- ments (...) to account for Gestalt switching. I then argue that experiences of certain ambiguous figures are problematic because they have different phenomenal characters but that no difference in the nonconceptual content of these experiences can be identified. I consider three solutions to this problem that have been proposed by both philosophers and psychologists and conclude that none can account for all the ambiguous figures that pose the problem. I conclude that the onus is on representationalists to specify the relevant difference in content or to abandon their position. (shrink)
Does all conscious experience essentially involve self-consciousness? In his Subjectivity and Selfhood: Investigating the First-Person, Dan Zahavi answers “yes”. I criticize three core arguments offered in support of this answer—a well-known regress argument, what I call the “interview argument,” and a phenomenological argument. Drawing on Sartre, I introduce a phenomenological contrast between plain experience and self-conscious experience. The contrast challenges the thesis that conscious experience entails self-consciousness.
In this paper I argue that color is a relational feature of the distal objects of perception, a way of appearing. I begin by outlining three constraints any theory of color should satisfy: (i) physicalism about the non-mental world, (ii) consistency with what is known from color science, and (iii) transparency about color experience. Traditional positions on the ontological status of color, such as physicalist reduction of color to spectral re?ectance, subjectivism, dispositional- ism, and primitivism, fail, I claim, to (...) meet all three constraints. By treating color as a relational property, a way of appearing, the three constraints can be met. However, serious problems for this view emerge when considering the relation between illusory color experiences (particularly hallucinations) and veridical color experiences. I do not propose a solution to these problems. (shrink)
We can learn much about perceptual experience by thinking about how it can mislead us. In this paper, I explore whether, and how, olfactory experience can mislead. I argue that, in the case of olfactory experience, the traditional distinction between illusion and hallucination does not apply. Integral to the traditional distinction is a notion of ‘object-failure’—the failure of an experience to present objects accurately. I argue that there are no such presented objects in olfactory experience. (...) As a result, olfactory experience can only mislead by means of a kind of property hallucination. The implications of my arguments are twofold. First, we see that accounts of representational content cannot always be based on the visual model. And, secondly, we see that we must recast the notion of nonveridicality, allowing for a notion of non-veridical experience that is disengaged from any particular object. (shrink)
The question I am interested in is this. What exactly is the role of conscious experience in the acquisition of knowledge on the basis of perception? The problem here, as I see it, is to solve simultaneously for the nature of this experience, and its role in acquiring and sustaining the relevant beliefs, in such a away as to vindicate what I regard as an undeniable datum, that perception is a basic source of knowledge about the mind- independent (...) world, in a sense of basic which is also to be elucidated. I shall sketch the way in which I think that this should be done. In section I, I argue that perceptual experiences must provide reasons for empirical beliefs. In section II, I explain how they do so. My thesis is that a correct account of the sense in which perceptual experiences are experiences of mind-independent things is itself an account of the way in which they provide peculiarly basic reasons for beliefs about the world around the perceiver. (shrink)
This article presents an interview method which enables us to bring a person, who may not even have been trained, to become aware of his or her subjective experience, and describe it with great precision. It is focused on the difficulties of becoming aware of one’s subjective experience and describing it, and on the processes used by this interview technique to overcome each of these difficulties. The article ends with a discussion of the criteria governing the validity of (...) the descriptions obtained, and then with a brief review of the functions of these descriptions. (shrink)
To figure out whether the main empirical question “Is our brain hardwired to believe in and produce God, or is our brain hardwired to perceive and experience God?” is answered, this paper presents systematic critical review of the positions, arguments and controversies of each side of the neuroscientific-theological debate and puts forward an integral view where the human is seen as a psycho-somatic entity consisting of the multiple levels and dimensions of human existence (physical, biological, psychological, and spiritual reality), (...) allowing consciousness/mind/spirit and brain/body/matter to be seen as different sides of the same phenomenon, neither reducible to each other. The emergence of a form of causation distinctive from physics where mental/conscious agency (a) is neither identical with nor reducible to brain processes and (b) does exert “downward” causal influence on brain plasticity and the various levels of brain functioning is discussed. This manuscript also discusses the role of cognitive processes in religious experience and outlines what can neuroscience offer for study of religious experience and what is the significance of this study for neuroscience, clinicians, theology and philosophy. A methodological shift from “explanation” to “description” of religious experience is suggested. This paper contributes to the ongoing discussion between theologians, cognitive psychologists and neuroscientists. (shrink)
Imagine that you and a duplicate of yourself are lying unconscious, next to each other, about to undergo a complete step?by?step exchange of bits of your bodies. It certainly seems that at no stage in this exchange of bits will you have thereby switched places with your duplicate. Yet it also seems that the end?result, with all the bits exchanged, will be essentially that of the two of you having switched places. Where will you awaken? I claim that one and (...) the same person possesses both bodies, occupies both places and will experience both awakenings, just as a person whose brain has been bisected must at once experience both of the unconnected fields of awareness, even though each of these will falsely appear to him as the entirety of his experience. I also claim that the more usual apparent boundaries of persons are as illusory as those in brain bisection; personal identity remains unchanged through any variation or multiplication of body or mind. In all conscious life there is only one person ? I ? whose existence depends merely on the presence of a quality that is inherent in all experience ? its quality of being mine, the simple immediacy of it for whatever is having experience. One powerful argument for this is statistical: on the ordinary view of personhood it is an incredible coincidence for you (though not for others) that out of 200,000,000 sperm cells the very one required on each occasion for your future existence was first to the egg in each of the begettings of yourself and all your ancestors. The only view that does not make your existence incredible, and that is not therefore (from your perspective) an incredible view, is that any conscious being would necessarily have been you anyway. It is a consequence that self?interest should extend to all conscious organisms. (shrink)
This volume collects together chapters that were originally delivered at a conference on the Admissible Contents of Experience that took place at the University of Glasgow in March 2006. The original papers were first published in a special edition of The Philosophy Quarterly (July 2009). -/- Introduction (Fiona Macpherson, University of Glasgow). -- 1. Perception And The Reach Of Phenomenal Content (Tim Bayne, University of Oxford). -- 2. Seeing Causings And Hearing Gestures (Steven Butterfill, University of Warwick). -- 3. (...)Experience And Content (Alex Byrne, Massachusetts Institute of Technology). -- 4. Is Perception A Propositional Attitude? (Tim Crane, University College London). -- 5. Conscious Reference (Alva Noë, University of California, Berkeley). -- 6. What Are The Contents Of Experiences? (Adam Pautz, University of Texas at Austin). -- 7. Aspect-Switching And Visual Phenomenal Character (Richard Price, University of Oxford). -- 8. The Visual Experience Of Causation (Susanna Siegel, Harvard University). -- 9. The Admissible Contents Of Visual Experience (Michael Tye, University of Texas at Austin). -- Index. (shrink)
Much of the philosophical work on perception has focused on vision, with very little discussion of the chemical senses—olfaction and gustation. In this paper, I consider the challenge that olfactory experience presents to upholding a representational view of the sense modalities. Given the phenomenology of olfactory experience, it is difficult to see what a representational view of it would be like. Olfaction, then, presents an important challenge for representational theories to overcome. In this paper, I take on this (...) challenge and argue for a representational account of olfactory experience that honors its phenomenology. (shrink)
It is often said that our moral experience, broadly construed to include our ways of thinking and talking about morality, has a certain objective-seeming character to it, and that this supports a presumption in favor of objectivist theories (according to which morality is a realm of facts or truths) and against anti-objectivist theories like Mackie’s error theory (according to which it is not). In this paper, I argue that our experience of morality does not support objectivist moral theories (...) in this way. I begin by arguing that our moral experience does not have the uniformly objective-seeming character it is typically claimed to have. I go on to argue that even if moral experience were to presuppose or display morality as a realm of fact, we would still need a reason for taking that to support theories according to which it is such a realm. I consider what I take to be the four most promising ways of attempting to supply such a reason: (A) inference to the best explanation, (B) epistemic conservatism, (C) the Principle of Credulity, and (D) the method of wide reflective equilibrium. In each case, I argue, the strategy in question does not support a presumption in favor of objectivist moral theories. (shrink)
I raise a problem for common-factor theories of experience concerning the demonstrative thoughts we form on the basis of experience. Building on an insight of Paul Snowdon 1992, I argue that in order to demonstratively refer to an item via conscious awareness of a distinct intermediary the subject must have some understanding that she is aware of a distinct intermediary. This becomes an issue for common-factor theories insofar as it is also widely accepted that the general, pre-philosophical or (...) ‘naïve’ view of experience does not accept that in normal perceptual cases one is consciously aware of non-environmental (inner, mental) features. I argue then that the standard common-factor view of experience should be committed to attributing quite widespread referential errors or failures amongst the general, nonphilosophical populace – which seems an unattractively radical commitment. After clarifying the various assumptions I am making about experience and demonstrative thoughts, I consider a number of possible responses on behalf of the common-factor theorist. I finish by arguing that my argument should apply to any common-factor theory, not just avowedly ‘indirect' theories. (shrink)
We discuss in some length evidence from the cognitive science suggesting that the representations of objects based on spatiotemporal information and featural information retrieved bottomup from a visual scene precede representations of objects that include conceptual information. We argue that a distinction can be drawn between representations with conceptual and nonconceptual content. The distinction is based on perceptual mechanisms that retrieve information in conceptually unmediated ways. The representational contents of the states induced by these mechanisms that are available to a (...) type of awareness called phenomenal awareness constitute the phenomenal content of experience. The phenomenal content of perception contains the existence of objects as separate things that persist in time and time, spatiotemporal information, and information regarding relative spatial relations, motion, surface properties, shape, size, orientation, color, and their functional properties. (shrink)
I open my eyes and see that the lemon before me is yellow. States like this—states of seeing that $p$ —appear to be visual perceptual states, in some sense. They also appear to be propositional attitudes (and so states with propositional representational contents). It might seem, then, like a view of perceptual experience on which experiences have propositional representational contents—a Propositional View—has to be the correct sort of view for states of seeing that $p$ . And thus we can’t (...) sustain fully general non-Propositional but Representational, or Relational Views of experience. But despite what we might initially be inclined to think when reflecting upon the apparent features of states of seeing that $p$ , a non-propositional view of seeing that $p$ is, I argue, perfectly intelligible. (shrink)
Reflection on cases involving the occurrence of various types of perceptual activity suggests that the phenomenal character of perceptual experience can be partly determined by agential factors. I discuss the significance of these kinds of case for the dispute about phenomenal character that is at the core of recent philosophy of perception. I then go on to sketch an account of how active and passive elements of phenomenal character are related to one another in activities like watching and looking (...) at things. (shrink)
Can indistinguishable objects differ aesthetically? Manifestationism answers ‘no’ on the grounds that (i) aesthetically significant features of an object must show up in our experience of it; and (ii) a feature—aesthetic or not—figures in our experience only if we can discriminate its presence. Goodman’s response to Manifestationism has been much discussed, but little understood. I explain and reject it. I then explore an alternative. Doubles can differ aesthetically provided, first, it is possible to experience them differently; and, (...) second, those experiences reflect differences in the objects’ themselves. A range of objections to this position is considered, but all are found wanting. (shrink)
In the first part of the paper I try to explain why the disjunctive theory of perception can seem so counterintuitive by focusing on two of the standard arguments against the view-the argument from subjective indiscriminability and the causal argument. I suggest that by focusing on these arguments, and in particular the intuitions that lie behind them, we gain a clearer view of what the disjunctive theory is committed to and why. In light of this understanding, I then present an (...) argument for the disjunctive theory based on the claim that the content of experience is particular and not general. (shrink)
In this innovative study of the relationship between persons and their bodies, E. J. Lowe demonstrates the inadequacy of physicalism, even in its mildest, non-reductionist guises, as a basis for a scientifically and philosophically acceptable account of human beings as subjects of experience, thought and action. He defends a substantival theory of the self as an enduring and irreducible entity - a theory which is unashamedly committed to a distinctly non-Cartesian dualism of self and body. Taking up the physicalist (...) challenge to any robust form of psychophysical interactionism, he shows how an attribution of independent causal powers to the mental states of human subjects is perfectly consistent with a thoroughly naturalistic world view. He concludes his study by examining in detail the role which conscious mental states play in the human subject's exercise of its most central capacities for perception, action, thought and self-knowledge. (shrink)
Metaphysical theories are often counter-intuitive. But they also often are strongly supported and motivated by intuitions. One way or another, the link between intuitions and metaphysics is a strong and important one, and there is hardly any metaphysical discussion where intuitions do not play a crucial role. In this article, I will be interested in a particular kind of such intuitions, namely those that come, at least partly, from experience. There seems to be a route from experience to (...) metaphysics, and this is the core of my interest here. In order to better understand such ‘arguments from experience’ and the kind of relationship there is between this type of intuitions and metaphysical theories, I shall examine four particular cases where a kind of experience-based intuition seems to motivate or support a metaphysical theory. At the end of the day, I shall argue that this route is a treacherous one, and that in all of the four cases I shall concentrate on, phenomenological considerations are in fact orthogonal to the allegedly ‘corresponding’ metaphysical claims. An anti-realist view of metaphysics will emerge. (shrink)
How should we characterize the functional role of conscious visual experience? In particular, how do the conscious contents of visual experience guide, bear upon, or otherwise inform our ongoing motor activities? According to an intuitive and (I shall argue) philosophically influential conception, the links are often quite direct. The contents of conscious visual experience, according to this conception, are typically active in the control and guidance of our fine-tuned, real-time engagements with the surrounding three-dimensional world. But this (...) idea (which I shall call the Assumption of Experience-Based Control) is hostage to empirical fortune. It is a hostage, moreover, whose safety is in serious doubt. Thus Milner and Goodale (1995) argue for a deep and abiding dissociation between the contents of conscious seeing, on the one hand, and the resources used for the on-line guidance of visuo-motor action, on the other. This ‘dual visual systems’ hypothesis, which finds many echoes in various other bodies of cognitive scientific research, poses a prima facie challenge to the Assumption of Experience-Based Control. More importantly, it provides (I shall argue) fuel for an alternative and philosophically suggestive account of the functional role of conscious visual experience. (shrink)
Some have argued (following Epicurus) that death cannot be a bad thing for an individual who dies. They contend that nothing can be a bad for an individual unless the individual is able to experience it as bad. I argue against this Epicurean view, offering examples of things that an individual cannot experience as bad but are nevertheless bad for the individual. Further, I argue that death is relevantly similar.
I argue against a Disjunctive approach to visual experience. I then critique three 'common-factor' views: Qualia Theory, Intentionalism and Sense-Date Theory. The latter two are combined to form Intentional Trope Theory; and that view is defended.
An evolutionary point of view is proposed to make more appropriate distinctions between experience, awareness and consciousness. Experience can be defined as a characteristic linked closely to specific pattern matching, a characteristic already apparent at the molecular level at least. Awareness can be regarded as the special experience of one or more central, final modules in the animal neuronal brain. Awareness is what experience is to animals.Finally, consciousness could be defined as reflexive awareness. The ability for (...) reflexive awareness is distinctly different from animal and human awareness and depends upon the availability of a separate frame of reference, as provided by symbolic language. As such, words have made reflexive awareness. (shrink)
In this major reinterpretation, Howard Caygill argues that all of Benjamin's work is characterized by its focus on a concept of experience derived from Kant but applied by Benjamin to objects as diverse as urban experience, visual art, literature and philosophy. The book analyzes the development of Benjamin's concept of experience in his early writings showing that it emerges from an engagement with visual experience, and in particular the experience of colour. By representing Benjamin (...) as primarily a thinker of the visual field, Caygill is able to bring forward previously neglected texts on inscription and the visual field and to cast many of his more familiar texts, for instance the Work of Art in an Age of Mechanical Reproduction in a new light. (shrink)
Perceptual experiences inform us about objective properties of things in our environment. But they also have perspectival character in the sense that they differ phenomenally when objects are viewed from different points of view. Contemporary representationalists hold, at a minimum, that phenomenal character supervenes on representational content. Thus, in order to account for perspectival character, they need to indentify a type of representational content that changes in appropriate ways with the perceiver’s point of view. Many representationlists, including Shoemaker and Lycan, (...) argue that such contents are best construed in terms of mind-dependent properties. Other representationalists, including Tye and Dretske, hold that these contents involve only mind-independent properties. Susanna Schellenberg has recently developed an account of perceptual experience that would serve these latter representationalists extremely well. She suggests that we can do justice to the perspectival character of perceptual experience by appeal to representations of a certain type of relational properties, so-called ‘situation-dependent properties.’ In this paper, I critically engage with Schellenberg’s proposal in order to show how mind-independent representationalists can explain perspectival character. I argue that appeal to situation-dependent properties is problematic. I then show that mind-independent representationalists can account for perspectical character by means of scenario contents in Christopher Peacocke’s sense. (shrink)
Do philosophers and ordinary people conceive of subjective experience in the same way? In this article, we argue that they do not and that the philosophical concept of phenomenal consciousness does not coincide with the folk conception. We first offer experimental support for the hypothesis that philosophers and ordinary people conceive of subjective experience in markedly different ways. We then explore experimentally the folk conception, proposing that for the folk, subjective experience is closely linked to valence. We (...) conclude by considering the implications of our findings for a central issue in the philosophy of mind, the hard problem of consciousness. (shrink)
Representationalists hold that the phenomenal character of a perceptual experience is identical with, or supervenes on, an aspect of its representational content. As such, representationalism could be disproved by a counter-example consisting of two experiences that have the same representational content but differ in phenomenal character. In this paper, I discuss two recently proposed counter-examples to representationalism that involve ambiguous or reversible figures. I pursue two goals. My first, and most important, goal is to show that the representationalist can (...) offer plausible responses to both counter-examples. My second goal is to show the implications of these responses for the nature of the spatial representational contents of perceptual experiences. (shrink)
This paper investigates a new species of skeptical reasoning about visual experience that takes its start from developments in perceptual science (especially recent work on change blindness and inattentional blindness). According to this skepticism, the impression of visual awareness of the environment in full detail and high resolution is illusory. I argue that the new skepticism depends on misguided assumptions about the character of perceptual experience, about whether perceptual experiences are 'internal' states, and about how best to understand (...) the relationship between a person's or animal's perceptual capacities and the brain-level or neural processes on which they depend. I propose a conception of perceptual experience as a form of skillful engagement with the environment on the part of the whole person or animal. (shrink)
John Campbell argues that visual attention to objects is the means by which we can refer to objects, and that this is so because conscious visual attention enables us to retrieve information about a location. It is argued here that while Campbell is right to think that we visually attend to objects, he does not give us sufficient ground for thinking that consciousness is involved, and is wrong to assign an intermediary role to location. Campbell’s view on sortals is also (...) queried, as is his espousal of the so-called Referential View of Experience. (shrink)
This essay is divided into two parts, deeply intermingled. Part I examines not only the origin of conscious experience but also how it is possible to ask of our own consciousness how it came to be. Part II examines the origin of experience itself, which soon reveals itself as the ontological question of Being. The chief premise of Part I is that symbolic communion and the categorizations of language have enabled human organisms to distinguish between themselves as actually (...) existing entities and their own immediate experience of themselves and their world. This enables them to reflect upon abstract concepts, including “self,” “experience,” and “world.” Symbolic communication and conceptualization grow out of identification, the act of first observing conscious experiencing and intimating what it is like, mimesis, a gestural protolanguage learned through imitation, and reflection, seeing oneself through the eyes of others. The step into actual intentional speech is made through self-assertion, narrative, and intersubjectivity. These three become the spiral of human cultural development that includes not only the adaptive satisfaction of our biological needs, but also the creativity of thought. With the mental-conceptual separation of subject and object – of self and world – the human ability to witness the universe (and each other) is the ground of our genuinely human quality. Consciousness gives human life its distinctively human reality. It is, therefore, one and the same ability that enables us to shape planet Earth by means of conceptual representations (rather than by means of our hands alone) while also awakening us to the significance of being. -/- Looking beyond human self-consciousness to investigate the origin and nature of awareness itself in Part 2, reductive objective materialism is found to be of little use. Direct experience also falls short in that, in order to be transformed into objective knowledge about itself, it must always be interpreted through and limited by the symbolic contexts of culture and the idiosyncratic conceptualizations of the individual. Awareness-in-itself must thus be considered ultimately unexplainable, but this may more indicate its inexpressible transcendence of all symbolic qualifiers than its nonexistence. It is suggested that awareness is not “self-aware” (as in deity) but is instead unknowing yet identical with the only true universal: the impetus of creative unfolding. Our human knowledge, as an expression of this unfolding, is seen to emerge from our conscious experiencing and, in turn, to have the power – and enormous responsibility – of directing that experience. Our underlying symbolic worldviews are found to be autopoietic: They limit or open our conscious experience, which, in turn, confirms those worldview expectations. As we explore a future of unforeseeable technological breakthroughs on an ailing planet who patiently copes with our “success,” truly vital decisions about the nature, meaning, extent, and future of conscious experience will have to be made. (shrink)