For a wide range of concepts, a thinker’s understanding of what it is for a thing to fall under the concept plausibly involves knowledge of an identity. It involves knowledge that the thing has to have the same property as is exemplified in instantiation of the concept in some distinguished, basic instance. This paper addresses the question: can we apply this general model of the role of identity in understanding to the case of subjective, conscious states? In particular, can we (...) explain our understanding of what it is for someone else to be in a particular conscious state in terms of our knowledge of the relation of identity which that state bears to some of our own states? This is a large issue, with many ramifications both within and beyond the philosophy of mind; so let me give a map for the route I aim to take. We first need to consider the features of explanations of concepts in terms of identity in domains outside the mental. There are substantial constraints on legitimate explanation of concepts in terms of identity. There are also reasons that it is harder to meet these constraints in the case of concepts of conscious states than it is in other cases. I will go on to suggest a way in which we can overcome the special difficulties of the conscious case, and to try to elaborate the nature both of our understanding of first person applications of concepts of conscious states, and of our grasp of an identity relation applied to these states. A positive account of understanding in this area, as in any other, has to dovetail with a credible epistemology of conscious states in oneself and in others. I will offer something under that head, and say how the resulting position steers a middle way distinct from each of the two classic rival positions on conscious states of the later Wittgenstein on the one hand, and of Frege on the other. (shrink)
The existence and nature of the a priori are defining issues for philosophy. A philosopher’s attitude to the a priori is a touchstone for his whole approach to the subject. Sometimes, as in Kant’s critical philosophy, or in Quine’s epistemology, a major new position emerges from reﬂection on questions that explicitly involve the notions of the a priori or the empirical. But even when no explicit use is made of the notion of the a priori in the questions addressed, a (...) philosopher’s methodology, the range of considerations to which the philosopher is open, his conception of the goals of the subject, his idea of what is involved in justiﬁcation—all of these cannot fail to involve commitments about the nature and the existence of the a priori. So understanding the a priori is not only of interest in itself. It is also essential for self-understanding, if we are to understand ourselves as philosophers. (shrink)
Drawing upon a conception of the metaphysics of conscious states and of first-person content, we can argue that Descartes's transition ‘Cogito ergo sum’ is both sound and one he is entitled to make. We can nevertheless formulate a version of Lichtenberg's objection that can still be raised after Bernard Williams's discussion. I argue that this form of Lichtenberg's revenge can also be undermined. In doing so it helps to compare the metaphysics of subjects, worlds and times. The arguments also apply (...) to Descartes's ‘second Cogito’, that it is one and the same subject that thinks, wills, imagines. (shrink)
where F is a contradiction (I use his numbering). Tim says about these equivalences: (1) “modulo the implicit recognition of this equivalence, the epistemology of metaphysically modal thinking is a special case of the epistemology of counterfactual thinking. Whoever has what it takes to understand the counterfactual conditional and the elementary logical auxiliaries ~ and F has what it takes to understand possibility and necessity operators.” (158) (2) The idea that we evaluate metaphysically modal claims “by some quite different means (...) [from those we use to evaluate counterfactuals – CP] is highly fanciful, since it indicates a bizarre lack of cognitive economy and has no plausible explanation of where the alternative cognitive resources might come from” (162) (3) “the capacity to handle metaphysical modality is an “accidental” byproduct of the cognitive mechanisms that provide our capacity to handle counterfactual conditionals” (162). The biconditional corresponding to a proposed definition of a concept C may be necessary and a priori. But that leaves open these questions: (1) Does the definition contribute to an explanation of why what are in fact truths containing C are true? (The Explanation Question) (2) Does the definition contribute to an explanation of our knowledge of certain contents containing C? (Epistemic Question) (3) Does the definition contribute to an explanation of our understanding or grasp of contents containing C? (Understanding Question) I argue that applied to (17) and (18), considered as definitions, the answers to these three.. (shrink)
Judgement, perception, and other mental states and events have a minimal objectivity in this sense: making the judgement or being in the mental state does not in general thereby make the judgement correct or make the perception veridical. I offer an explanation of this minimal objectivity by developing a form of constitutive transcendental argument. The argument appeals to the proper individuation of the content of judgements and perceptions. In the case of the conceptual content of judgements, concepts are individuated by (...) their fundamental reference rules. Properly developed, this resource can be used against various forms of idealism, and to defend a conception of transcendental arguments that presupposes neither verificationism nor transcendental idealism. The article contrasts its approach with other recent transcendental treatments. It also addresses the relation between its argument and Principles of Significance. I close with a discussion of the right way of handling the extreme generality necessarily involved in transcendental reasoning. (shrink)
Anil Gupta's Empiricism and Experience is a stylish and stimulating contribution to our subject. My expectation is that those who disagree with some of its central theses will, like me, learn greatly from thinking through where and why they part company with Gupta's lucidly presented position. For the purposes of a Symposium, I select three points of disagreement. Each point in one way or another concerns the epistemic role of the content of experience.
We can experience music as sad, as exuberant, as sombre. We can experience it as expressing immensity, identification with the rest of humanity, or gratitude. The foundational question of what it is for music to express these or anything else is easily asked; and it has proved extraordinarily difficult to answer satisfactorily. The question of what it is for emotion or other states to be heard in music is not the causal or computational question of how it comes to be (...) heard. It is not the question of the social influences on how we hear music. Nor is it the question of the evolutionary explanation, if such there be, of the existence of such perceptions. It is the constitutive question, the ‘what-is-it?’ question, that is my concern here. It is a question unaddressed by purely syntactic analyses of music. A correct answer to this constitutive question constrains all those other, equally challenging, empirical questions about music. I am going to propose an answer to the constitutive question, drawing on the resources of our current philosophy of perception and cognition within contemporary philosophy of mind. In the very tight space available to me, I will not survey the extant competing proposals, but simply offer my own suggestion straight out, while noting some points of contrast with other approaches. My account is built from three components, or more strictly, from two components together with a certain conception of the way they are related to each other in the perception of music. My plan is to expound these components; to formulate the account built from them; to give some examples of what the account can explain; and to discuss very briefly its bearing on some classical issues about the perception of music. (shrink)
We often know what we are judging, what we are deciding, what problem we are trying to solve. We know not only the contents of our judgements, decidings and tryings; we also know that it is judgement, decision and attempted problem-solving in which we are engaged. How do we know these things?
The subjective properties of an experience are those which specify what having the experience is like for its subject. The sensational properties of an experience are those of its subjective properties that it does not possess in virtue of features of the way the experience represents the world as being (its representational content). Perhaps no topic in the philosophy of mind has been more vigorously debated in the past quarter-century than whether there are any sensational properties, so conceived. The existence (...) or otherwise of sensational properties is pivotal in assessing functionalism, representationalism, and many other conceptions of mental states and the nature of our ability to think about them. Instead of engaging in extended sentence- by-sentence dissection of these many discussions, I hope that the theses I formulate will, taken together, comprise a positive conception of sensational properties that can be drawn upon in assessing those debates. My main aim is to articulate that conception. (shrink)
A theory of understanding -- Truth's role in understanding -- Critique of justificationist and evidential accounts -- Do pragmatist views avoid this critique? -- A realistic account -- How evidence and truth are related -- Three grades of involvement of truth in theories of understanding -- Anchoring -- Next steps -- Reference and reasons -- The main thesis and its location -- Exposition and four argument-types -- Significance and consequences of the main thesis -- The first person as a case (...) study -- Fully self-conscious thought -- Immunity to error through misidentification relative to the first person -- Can a use of the first-person concept fail to refer? -- Some conceptual roles are distinctive but not fundamental -- Implicit conceptions -- Implicit conceptions : motivation and examples -- Deflationary readings rejected -- The phenomenon of new principles -- Explanation by implicit conceptions -- Rationalist aspects -- Consequences : rationality, justification, understanding -- Transitional -- Applications to mental concepts -- Conceiving of conscious states -- Understanding and identity in other cases -- Constraints on legitimate explanations in terms of identity -- Why is the subjective case different? -- Attractions of the interlocking account -- Tacit knowledge, and externalism about the internal -- Is this the myth of the given? -- Knowledge of others' conscious states -- Communicability : between Frege and Wittgenstein -- Conclusions and significance -- 'Another I' : representing perception and action -- The core rule -- Modal status and its significance -- Comparisons -- The possession-condition and some empirical phenomena -- The model generalized -- Wider issues -- Mental action -- The distinctive features of action-awareness -- The nature and range of mental actions -- The principal hypothesis and its grounds -- The principal hypothesis : distinctions and consequences -- How do we know about our own mental actions? -- Concepts of mental actions and their epistemological significance -- Is this account open to the same objections as perceptual models of introspection? -- Characterizing and unifying schizophrenic experience -- The first person in the self-ascription of action -- Rational agency and action-awareness -- Representing thoughts -- The puzzle -- A proposal -- How the solution treats the constraints that generate the puzzle -- Relation to single-level treatments -- An application : reconciling externalism with distinctive self-knowledge. (shrink)
Book description: Contemporary Debates in Philosophy of Mind showcases the leading contributors to the field, debating the major questions in philosophy of mind today. * Comprises 20 newly commissioned essays on hotly debated issues in the philosophy of mind * Written by a cast of leading experts in their fields, essays take opposing views on 10 central contemporary debates * A thorough introduction provides a comprehensive background to the issues explored * Organized into three sections which explore the ontology of (...) the mental, nature of the mental content, and the nature of consciousness. (shrink)
This paper is built around a single, simple idea. It is widely agreed that there is a distinctive kind of awareness each of us has of his own bodily actions. This action-awareness is different from any perceptual awareness a subject may have of his own actions; it can exist in the absence of such perceptual awareness. The single, simple idea around which this paper is built is that the distinctive awareness that subjects have of their own mental actions is a (...) form of action-awareness. Subjects’ awareness of their own mental actions is a species of the same genus that also includes the distinctive awareness of bodily actions. More specifically, I claim. (shrink)
What is it for a thinker to possess the concept of perceptual experience? What is it to be able to think of seeings, hearings and touchings, and to be able to think of experiences that are subjectively like seeings, hearings and touchings?
What is it for a thinker to possess the concept of perceptual experience? What is it to be able to think of seeings, hearings and touchings, and to be able to think of experiences that are subjectively like seeings, hearings and touchings? This question is of philosophical interest for multiple reasons. Here are a few, in order of increasing generality. To understand, explain, and predict the thought and action of others, you must know what they perceive. This requires you to (...) possess the concept of perception, or at least to represent in some form that the other person perceives. Each of us every day rests his life on his correct application of the concept of perception. When you cross the road, or drive, your future depends on your ability to know that someone else sees you. (shrink)
The openness of joint awareness between two or more subjects is a perceptual phenomenon. It involves a certain mutual awareness between the subjects, an awareness that makes reference to that very awareness itself. Properly characterized, such awareness can generate iterated awareness ‘x is aware that y is aware that x is aware...’ to whatever level the subjects can sustain. The openness should not be characterized in terms of Lewis–Schiffer common knowledge, the conditions for which are not met in many basic (...) cases of joint attention. A range of phenomena, including linguistic communication and other interpersonal relations, that have previously been described in terms of common knowledge should rather be seen as involving open joint awareness. An Appendix to this chapter discusses the relations of this approach to Barwise's discussions, and disputes the claim that these mental phenomena require the postulation of self-involving situations. (shrink)
This paper begins by considering Dummett's justificationist treatment of statements about the past in his book Truth and the Past (2004). Contrary to Dummett's position, there is no way of applying the intuitionistic distinction in the arithmetical case between direct and indirect methods of establishing a content to the case of past-tense statements. Attempts to do so either give the wrong truth conditions, or rely on notions not available to a justificationist position. A better, realistic treatment makes ineliminable use of (...) identity of state in its positive account of understanding of the past tense; this account can also be applied to other subject matters besides the past. A theory is developed of how realists should conceive of the relation between meaning and evidence. Points from this discussion are used in criticism of Wright's minimalist conception of truth. Three grades of possible involvement of truth and reference in a substantive theory of intentional content are distinguished, and reasons are given for thinking that a range of contents involve the highest degree of involvement of reference and truth in their substantive individuation. (shrink)
Is there any good reason for thinking that a concept is individuated by the condition for a thinker to possess it? Why is that approach superior to alternative accounts of the individuation of concepts? These are amongst the fundamental questions raised by Wayne Davis.
material that was later incorporated into The Realm of Reason (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2004), and into a paper of the same title in The Challenge of Externalism, ed. R. Schantz (Berlin: de Gruyter, 2004).
The Realm of Reason develops a new, general theory of what it is for a thinker to be entitled to form a given belief. The theory locates entitlement in the nexus of relations between truth, content, and understanding. Peacocke formulates three principles of rationalism that articulate this conception. The principles imply that all entitlement has a component that is justificationally independent of experience. The resulting position is thus a form of rationalism, generalized to all kinds of content. To show how (...) these principles are realized in specific domains, Peacocke applies the theory in detail to several classical problems of philosophy, including the nature of perceptual entitlement, induction, and the status of moral thought. These discussions involve an elaboration of the structure of entitlement in ways that have applications in many other areas of philosophy. He also relates the theory to classical and recent rationalist thought, and to current issues in the theory of meaning, reference and explanation. In the course of these discussions, he proposes a general theory of the a priori. The focus of the work lies in the intersection of epistemology, metaphysics, and the theory of meaning, and will be of interest both to students and researchers in these areas, and to anyone concerned with the idea of rationality. (shrink)
It is just over fifty years since the publication of Quine’s ‘Two Dogmas of Empiricism’ (1951). That paper expresses a broad vision of the system of relations between meaning, experience, and the rational formation of belief. The deepest challenges the paper poses come not from the detailed argument of its first four sections – formidable though that is – but from the visionary material in its last two sections.1 It is this visionary material that is likely to force the (...) reader to revise, to deepen, or to rethink her position on fundamental issues about the relations between meaning, experience, rationality, and, above all, the a priori. Does what is right in Quine’s argument exclude any rationalist view of these relations? How should a rationalist view be formulated? Those are the questions I will be addressing. I start with the critical part of this task, a consideration of the strengths and weaknesses of Quine’s vision. Drawing on the constraints emerging from that critical discussion, I will then turn to the positive task of articulating and defending a rival conception. The rival conception can be described as a Generalized Rationalism. (shrink)
This note aims to clarify which arguments do, and which arguments do not, tell against Conceptualism, the thesis that the representational content of experience is exclusively conceptual. Contrary to Sean Kelly's position, conceptualism has no difficulty accommodating the phenomena of color constancy and of situation-dependence. Acknowledgment of nonconceptual content is also consistent with holding that experiences have nonrepresentational subjective features. The crucial arguments against conceptualism stem from animal perception, and from a distinction, elaborated in the final section of the paper, (...) between content which is objective and content which is also conceived of by its subject as objective. (shrink)
Being Known is a response to a philosophical challenge which arises for every area of thought: to reconcile a plausible account of what is involved in the truth of statements in a given area with a credible account of how we can know those statements. Christopher Peacocke presents a framework for addressing the challenge, a framework which links both the theory of knowledge and the theory of truth with the theory of concept-possession.
What is involved in the consciousness of a conscious, "occurrent" propositional attitude, such as a thought, a sudden conjecture or a conscious decision? And what is the relation of such consciousness to attention? I hope the intrinsic interest of these questions provides sufficient motivation to allow me to start by addressing them. We will not have a full understanding either of consciousness in general, nor of attention in general, until we have answers to these questions. I think there are constitutive (...) features of these states which can be identified by broadly philosophical investigation, and in the early part of this paper I will try to do some of that identification. -/- Beyond the intrinsic interest of the topic, the nature of such conscious attitudes is highly pertinent to a philosophical account of psychological self-knowledge. So I will also say something about the significance of the constitutive features of these conscious attitudes for a philosophical account of how it can be that a thinker has a distinctive kind of knowledge of some of his mental states. The general challenge in this area is to find anything intermediate between the unexceptionable but uninformative, on the one hand, and the absolutely unbelievable on the other. (shrink)
This paper presents an account of the understanding of statements involving metaphysical modality, together with dovetailing theories of their truth conditions and epistemology. The account makes modal truth an objective matter, whilst avoiding both Lewisian modal realism and mind-dependent or expressivist treatments of the truth conditions of modal sentences. The theory proceeds by formulating constraints a world-description must meet if it is to represent a genuine possibility. Modal truth is fixed by the totality of the constraints. To understand modal discourse (...) is to have tacit knowledge of the body of information stated in these constraints. Modal knowledge is attained by evaluating modal statements in accordance with the constraints. The question of the general relations between modal truth and knowability is also addressed. The paper includes a discussion of which modal logic is supported by the presented theory of truth conditions for modal statements. (shrink)