Imagism about Phenomenal Thought is (roughly) the view that there is some concept *Q* (for some sensory quality Q) that we can employ only while we experience the quality Q. I believe this view is theoretically significant, is or can be made intuitively appealing, and is explicitly or implicitly accepted by many contemporary philosophers However, there is no good reason to accept it. Or so I argue.
It's a common idea in philosophy that we possess a peculiar kind of "phenomenal concept" by which we can think about our conscious states in "inner" and "direct" ways, as for example, when I attend to the way a current pain feels and think about this feeling as such. Such phenomenal ways of thinking figure in a variety of theoretical contexts. The bulk of this article discusses their use in a certain strategy – the phenomenal concept strategy – for defending (...) the physicalist view that conscious states are reducible to brain states. It also considers, more briefly, how phenomenal concepts have been used to defend dualism about consciousness, and how they have been used to explain our special access to our consciousness. It concludes with a discussion about whether, and in what more precise sense of the term, we at all possess "phenomenal concepts" of our conscious states. (shrink)
A number of philosophers have recently argued that (i) consciousness properties are identical with some set of physical or functional properties and that (ii) we can explain away the frequently felt puzzlement about this claim as a delusion or confusion generated by our different ways of apprehending or thinking about consciousness. This paper examines David Papineau’s influential version of this view. According to Papineau, the difference between our “phenomenal” and “material” concepts of consciousness produces an instinctive but erroneous intuition that (...) these concepts can’t co-refer. I claim that this account fails. To begin with, it is arguable that we are mystified about physicalism even when the account predicts that we shouldn’t be. Further, and worse, the account predicts that an “intuition of distinctness” will arise in cases where it clearly does not. In conclusion, I make some remarks on the prospects for, constraints on, and (physicalist) alternatives to, a successful defence of the claim (ii). (shrink)
Colours and consciousness both present us with metaphysical problems. But what exactly are the problems? According to standard accounts, they are roughly the following. On the one hand, we have reason to believe, about both colour and consciousness, that they are identical with some familiar natural phenomena. But on the other hand, it is hard to see how these identities could obtain. I argue that this is an adequate characterisation of our metaphysical problem of colour, but a mischaracterisation of the (...) problem of consciousness. It mischaracterises the problem by presenting consciousness as more 'colour-like' than we have reason to take it to be. The real problem of consciousness is, I suggest, that almost nothing theoretically useful is known about this phenomenon at present. I also explore some implications of this perspective on the problem of consciousness. Given the shape of the problem, I argue that we can't rule out all forms of eliminativism about consciousness. Nor can we rule out that future research will close the ' explanatory gap' that consciousness gives rise to. (shrink)