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Profile: Torin Alter (University of Alabama)
  1. Torin Alter, Deviant Phenomenal Knowledge.
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  2. Torin Alter, Access Disunity Without Phenomenal Disunity: Tye on Split-Brain Cases.
    Consider the conscious states of a single subject at a time. Arguably, split-brain cases show that such states need not be jointly accessible. It is less clear that these cases also show that such states need not be jointly experienced. Michael Tye (2004) argues split-brain cases do have that implication, and Timothy Bayne and David Chalmers (2003) argue that they do not. I will develop two objections to Tye’s arguments. First, an analogy to blindsight on which he relies is questionable. (...)
     
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  3. Torin Alter, Comments on John Kulvicki's “What is What It's Like?” (2003 Eastern Div. Apa).
    Kulvicki’s goal is to give a representationalist account of what it’s like to see a property that is “fully externalist about perceptual representation” (p. 1) and yet accommodates a certain “internalist intuition” (p. 4), which he describes as follows: “something about what it is like to see a property is internally determined, dependent only on the way one is built from the skin in” (p. 3). He illustrates this intuition with an inverted spectrum case and the manifest-image problem. On his (...)
     
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  4. Torin Alter, Introduction to Phenomenal Concepts and Phenomenal Knowledge: New Essays on Consciousness and Physicalism (Oup, 2007).
    This volume presents thirteen new essays on phenomenal concepts and phenomenal knowledge: twelve by philosophers and one by a scientist. In this introduction, we provide some background and summarize the essays.
     
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  5. Torin Alter, Review of Mark Rowlands' the Nature of Consciousness. [REVIEW]
    In The Nature of Consciousness, Mark Rowlands argues that phenomenal properties, which constitute what it is like to have a conscious experience, are “transcendental”: that they are properties by which we are conscious of the nonphenomenal world, but they are not objects of conscious awareness or even linguistic reference. He uses that conclusion to support a mysterian position on the explanatory-gap problem: that it is impossible to understand how phenomenal consciousness arises from physical systems such as the brain.
     
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  6. Torin Alter, Racist Symbols: Reply to George Schedler.
    A symbol might have racist connotations in the sense that a substantial portion of the relevant population associates it with racist values or institutions. A governmental symbol display might therefore carry racist connotations that the government doesn’t intend, including connotations that haven’t always been attached to the symbol. So I claimed recently in the pages of this journal (Alter 2000b). I also explained how those claims create problems for some of George Schedler’s (1998) main views about governmental displays of the (...)
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  7. Torin Alter, Reply to Sawyer 2005 Central Division Apa.
    Sawyer characterizes the zombie intuition as the claim that zombies are metaphysically possible. That’s not what I mean by the phrase. On my usage, ‘the zombie intuition’ refers to a conceivability claim: the claim that there’s no a priori incoherence in the hypothesis of a minimal physical/functional duplicate of the actual world but without consciousness, i.e., that PT&~Q is conceivable. The claim is the first step of a two-step argument, the second step of which is to infer the corresponding metaphysical (...)
     
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  8. Torin Alter, What Do Split-Brain Cases Show About the Unity of Consciousness?
    The startling empirical data that concern us here are well known. Severing the corpus callosum produces a kind of mental bifurcation (Sperry 1968). In one experiment, a garlic smell is presented to a patient.
     
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  9. Torin Alter (forthcoming). The Hard Problem of Consciousness. In T. Bayne, A. Cleeremans & P. Wilken (eds.), Oxford Companion to Consciousness. Oxford University Press.
    As I type these words, cognitive systems in my brain engage in visual and auditory information processing. This processing is accompanied by subjective states of consciousness, such as the auditory experience of hearing the tap-tap-tap of the keyboard and the visual experience of seeing the letters appear on the screen. How does the brain's activity generate such experiences? Why should it be accompanied by conscious experience in the first place? This is the hard problem of consciousness.
     
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  10. Torin Alter (2013). Social Externalism and the Knowledge Argument. Mind 122 (486):fzt072.
    According to social externalism, it is possible to possess a concept not solely in virtue of one’s intrinsic properties but also in virtue of relations to one’s linguistic community. Derek Ball (2009) argues, in effect, that (i) social externalism extends to our concepts of colour experience and (ii) this fact undermines both the knowledge argument against physicalism and the most popular physicalist response to it, known as the phenomenal concept strategy. I argue that Ball is mistaken about (ii) even granting (...)
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  11. Torin Alter & Yujin Nagasawa (2012). What is Russellian Monism? Journal of Consciousness Studies 19 (9-10):9-10.
    Russellian monism offers a distinctive perspective on the relationship between the physical and the phenomenal. For example, on one version of the view, phenomenal properties are the categorical bases of fundamental physical properties, such as mass and charge, which are dispositional. Russellian monism has prominent supporters, such as Bertrand Russell, Grover Maxwell, Michael Lockwood, and David Chalmers. But its strengths and shortcomings are often misunderstood. In this paper we try to eliminate confusions about the view and defend it from criticisms. (...)
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  12. Torin Alter (2011). Tye's New Take on the Puzzles of Consciousness. [REVIEW] Analysis 71 (4):765-775.
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  13. Torin Andrew Alter (2011). The God Dialogues: A Philosophical Journey. Oxford University Press.
     
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  14. Torin Alter & Robert J. Howell (2011). Consciousness and The Mind-Body Problem: A Reader. OUP USA.
    Over the past three decades, the challenge that conscious experience poses to physicalism--the widely held view that the universe is a completely physical system--has provoked a growing debate in philosophy of mind studies and given rise to a great deal of literature on the subject. Ideal for courses in consciousness and the philosophy of mind, Consciousness and The Mind-Body Problem: A Reader presents thirty-three classic and contemporary readings, organized into five sections that cover the major issues in this debate: the (...)
     
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  15. Torin Alter (2010). A Defense of the Necessary Unity of Phenomenal Consciousness. Pacific Philosophical Quarterly 91 (1):19-37.
    Some argue that split-brain cases undermine the thesis that phenomenal consciousness is necessarily unified. This paper defends the phenomenal unity thesis against Michael Tye's (2003 ) version of that argument. Two problems are identified. First, his argument relies on a questionable analysis of the split-brain data. Second, his analysis leads to the view that in experimental situations split-brain patients are not single subjects – a result that would render the analysis harmless to the phenomenal unity thesis.
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  16. Torin Alter (2009). Does the Ignorance Hypothesis Undermine the Conceivability and Knowledge Arguments? [REVIEW] Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 79 (3):756-765.
  17. Torin Andrew Alter (2009). A Dialogue on Consciousness. Oxford University Press.
    In recent years, the problem of consciousness has developed into one of the most important and hotly contested areas in the philosophy of mind. Many philosophers regard consciousness as an entirely physical phenomenon, yet it seems to elude scientific explanation. On the other hand, viewing consciousness as a nonphysical phenomenon brings up even larger issues. If consciousness is not physical, how can it be explained? Concise, up-to-date, and engaging, A Dialogue on Consciousness explores these issues in depth. It features two (...)
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  18. Torin Alter (2008). 13 Phenomenal Knowledge Without Experience. In Edmond L. Wright (ed.), The Case for Qualia. Mit Press. 247.
  19. Torin Alter (2008). Phenomenal Knowledge Without Experience. In Edmond Wright (ed.), The case for qualia. Mit Press. 247.
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  20. Torin Alter (2007). Imagining Subjective Absence: Marcus on Zombies. Disputatio 2 (22):91-101.
    Many philosophers accept the conceivability of zombies: creatures that lack consciousness but are physically and functionally identical to conscious human beings. Many also believe that the conceivability of zombies supports their metaphysical possibility. And most agree that if zombies are metaphysically possible, then physicalism is false. So, the claim that zombies are conceivable may have considerable significance.1.
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  21. Torin Alter (2007). Knowledge Argument. In Max Velmans & Susan Schneider (eds.), The Blackwell Companion to Consciousness. Blackwell Pub.. 396--405.
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  22. Torin Alter (2007). On the Conditional Analysis of Phenomenal Concepts. Philosophical Studies 134 (2):235 - 253.
    Zombies make trouble for physicalism. Intuitively, they seem conceivable, and many take this to support their metaphysical possibility – a result that, most agree, would refute physicalism. John Hawthorne (2002) [Philosophical Studies 109, 17–52] and David Braddon-Mitchell (2003) [The Journal of Philosophy 100, 111–135] have developed a novel response to this argument: phenomenal concepts have a conditional structure – they refer to non-physical states if such states exist and otherwise to physical states – and this explains the zombie intuition. I (...)
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  23. Torin Alter (2007). The Knowledge Argument. In Max Velmans & Susan Schneider (eds.), The Blackwell Companion to Consciousness. Blackwell.
    The knowledge argument aims to refute physicalism, the doctrine that the world is entirely physical. Physicalism (also known as materialism) is widely accepted in contemporary philosophy. But some doubt that phenomenal consciousness.
     
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  24. Torin Alter (2007). The Nature of Consciousness—Mark Rowlands. International Philosophical Quarterly 47 (3):373-375.
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  25. Torin Alter & Sven Walter (eds.) (2007/2009). Phenomenal Concepts and Phenomenal Knowledge: New Essays on Consciousness and Physicalism. Oxford University Press.
    What is the nature of consciousness? How is consciousness related to brain processes? This volume collects thirteen new papers on these topics: twelve by leading and respected philosophers and one by a leading color-vision scientist. All focus on consciousness in the "phenomenal" sense: on what it's like to have an experience. Consciousness has long been regarded as the biggest stumbling block for physicalism, the view that the mind is physical. The controversy has gained focus over the last few decades, and (...)
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  26. Torin Alter (2006). Does Representationalism Undermine the Knowledge Argument? In Torin Alter & Sven Walter (eds.), Phenomenal Concepts and Phenomenal Knowledge: New Essays on Consciousness and Physicalism. Oxford University Press. 65--76.
    The knowledge argument aims to refute physicalism, the view that the world is entirely physical. The argument first establishes the existence of facts (or truths or information) about consciousness that are not a priori deducible from the complete physical truth, and then infers the falsity of physicalism from this lack of deducibility. Frank Jackson (1982, 1986) gave the argument its classic formulation. But now he rejects the argument (Jackson 1998b, 2003, chapter 3 of this volume). On his view, it relies (...)
     
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  27. Torin Alter (2006). Does Synesthesia Undermine Representationalism? Psyche 12 (5).
    Does synesthesia undermine representationalism? Gregg Rosenberg (2004) argues that it does. On his view, synesthesia illustrates how phenomenal properties can vary independently of representational properties. So, for example, he argues that sound/color synesthetic experiences show that visual experiences do not always represent spatial properties. I will argue that the representationalist can plausibly answer Rosenberg.
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  28. Torin Alter (2006). On the Conditional Analysis of Phenomenal Concepts. Philosophical Studies 131 (3):777-778.
    Zombies make trouble for physicalism. Intuitively, they seem conceivable, and many take this to support their metaphysical possibility – a result that, most agree, would refute physicalism. John Hawthorne (2002) [Philosophical Studies 109, 17–52] and David Braddon-Mitchell (2003) [The Journal of Philosophy 100, 111–135] have developed a novel response to this argument: phenomenal concepts have a conditional structure – they refer to non-physical states if such states exist and otherwise to physical states – and this explains the zombie intuition. I (...)
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  29. Torin Alter, Knowledge Argument Against Physicalism. Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy.
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  30. Torin Alter & Stuart Rachels (2005). Nothing Matters in Survival. Journal of Ethics 9 (3-4):311-330.
    Do I have a special reason to care about my future, as opposed to yours? We reject the common belief that I do. Putting our thesis paradoxically, we say that nothing matters in survival: nothing in our continued existence justifies any special self-concern. Such an "extreme" view is standardly tied to ideas about the metaphysics of persons, but not by us. After rejecting various arguments against our thesis, we conclude that simplicity decides in its favor. Throughout the essay we honor (...)
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  31. Stuart Rachels & Torin Alter (2005). Nothing Matters in Survival. Journal of Ethics 9 (3/4):311 - 330.
    Do I have a special reason to care about my future, as opposed to yours? We reject the common belief that I do. Putting our thesis paradoxically, we say that nothing matters in survival: nothing in our continued existence justifies any special self-concern. Such an "extreme" view is standardly tied to ideas about the metaphysics of persons, but not by us. After rejecting various arguments against our thesis, we conclude that simplicity decides in its favor. Throughout the essay we honor (...)
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  32. Torin Alter & Stuart Rachels (2004). Epistemicism and the Combined Spectrum Argument. Ratio 17 (1).
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  33. Torin Alter & Stuart Rachels (2004). Epistemicism and the Combined Spectrum. Ratio 17 (3):241-255.
    Derek Parfit's combined-spectrum argument seems to conflict with epistemicism, a viable theory of vagueness. While Parfit argues for the indeterminacy of personhood, epistemicism denies indeterminacy. But, we argue, the linguistically based determinacy that epistemicism supports lacks the sort of normative or ontological significance that concerns Parfit. Thus, we reformulate his argument to make it consistent with epistemicism. We also dispute Roy Sorensen's suggestion that Parfit's argument relies on an assumption that fuels resistance to epistemicism, namely, that 'the magnitude of a (...)
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  34. Torin Alter, Garrett on Causal Essentialism and Zombies.
  35. Torin Alter (2003). Qualia. In L. Nadel (ed.), The Encyclopedia of Cognitive Science. Nature Publishing Group.
    Introduction Qualia and causation Do qualia exist? Qualia and cognitive science Qualia and other mental phenomena Knowledge of qualia Are qualia irreducible?
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  36. Torin Alter (2002). Nagel on Imagination and Physicalism. Journal of Philosophical Research 27:143-58.
    In "What is it Like to be a Bat?" Thomas Nagel argues that we cannot imagine what it is like to be a bat or presently understand how physicalism might be true. Both arguments have been seriously misunderstood. I defend them against various objections, point out a problem with the argument against physicalism, and show how the problem can be solved.
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  37. Torin Alter (2002). On Two Alleged Conflicts Between Divine Attributes. Faith and Philosophy 19 (1):47-57.
    Some argue that God’s omnipotence and moral perfection prevent God from being afraid and having evil desires and thus from understanding such states—which contradicts God’s omniscience. But, I argue, God could acquire such understanding indirectly, either by (i) perceiving the mental states of imperfect creatures, (ii) imaginatively combining the components of mental states with which God could be acquainted, or (iii) having false memory traces of such states. (i)–(iii) are consistent with the principal divine attributes.
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  38. Torin Alter (2001). Know-How, Ability, and the Ability Hypothesis. Theoria 67 (3):229-39.
    David Lewis (1983, 1988) and Laurence Nemirow (1980, 1990) claim that knowing what an experience is like is knowing-how, not knowing-that. They identify this know-how with the abilities to remember, imagine, and recognize experiences, and Lewis labels their view ‘the Ability Hypothesis’. The Ability Hypothesis has intrinsic interest. But Lewis and Nemirow devised it specifically to block certain anti-physicalist arguments due to Thomas Nagel (1974, 1986) and Frank Jackson (1982, 1986). Does it?
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  39. Torin Alter (2001). Strongde Re Belief. Philosophia 28 (1-4):223-232.
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  40. Torin Alter (2001). Vague Names and Vague Objects. Dialogue 40 (03):435-.
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  41. Torin Alter & Russell Daw (2001). Free Acts and Robot Cats. Philosophical Studies 102 (3):345-57.
    (H1) ‘Free action’ is subject to the causal theory of reference and thus that (H2) The essential nature of free actions can be discovered only by empirical investigation, not by conceptual analysis. Heller’s proposal, if true, would have significant philosophical implications. Consider the enduring issue we will call the Compatibility Issue (hereafter CI): whether the thesis of determinism is logically compatible with the claim that..
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  42. Russell Daw & Torin Alter (2001). Free Acts and Robot Cats. Philosophical Studies 102 (3):345-57.
    (H1) ‘Free action’ is subject to the causal theory of reference and thus that (H2) The essential nature of free actions can be discovered only by empirical investigation, not by conceptual analysis. Heller’s proposal, if true, would have significant philosophical implications. Consider the enduring issue we will call the Compatibility Issue (hereafter CI): whether the thesis of determinism is logically compatible with the claim that..
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  43. Torin Alter (2000). E.O. Wilson on the Foundations of Ethics. Philosophy Now 27:30-31.
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  44. Torin Alter (2000). On Racist Symbols and Reparations. Social Theory and Practice 26 (1):153-171.
  45. Torin Alter (2000). Symbolic Meaning and the Confederate Battle Flag. Philosophy in the Contemporary World 7 (2/3):1-4.
    The Confederate Battle Flag (CBF) is in the news again. On January 16th, 2000, 46,000 people came to Columbia, South Carolina, to protest its display over the state’s capital dome. On July 1st, the CBF was removed. But on the same day, it was raised in front of the Statehouse steps. The controversy has received a great deal of media coverage and was a factor in the 2000 presidential primaries. CBF displays raise a philosophical question I wish to address: What (...)
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  46. Torin Alter, The Knowledge Argument. A Field Guide to the Philosophy of Mind.
    Frank Jackson first presented the Knowledge Argument (henceforth KA) in "Epiphenomenal Qualia" 1982). The KA is an argument against physicalism, the doctrine that (very roughly put) everything is physical. The general thrust of the KA is that physicalism errs by misconstruing or denying the existence of the subjective features of experience. Physicalists have given numerous responses, and the debate continues about whether the KA ultimately succeeds in refuting any or all forms of physicalism. Jackson himself has recently.
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  47. Torin Alter (1998). A Limited Defense of the Knowledge Argument. Philosophical Studies 90 (1):35-56.
    Mary learns all the physical facts that one can learn by watching lectures on black-on-white television. According to Jackson, Mary learns new facts when she leaves the room and has color experiences, and that this undermines physicalism. Physicalists have responded by denying the new facts thesis; they argue, she acquires abilities, acquaintance knowledge, or new guises. I argue that the NFT is more plausible than any of the proposed alternatives. I also argue that the NFT does not undermine physicalism unless (...)
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  48. Torin Alter (1995). Mary's New Perspective. Australasian Journal of Philosophy 73 (4):585-84.
    I wish to consider an objection to Frank Jackson's knowledge argument recently made by Derk Pereboom.
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  49. Peg Brand, Myles Brand, G. E. M. Anscombe, Donald Davidson, John M. Dolan, Peter T. Geach, Thomas Nagel, Barry R. Gross, Nebojsa Kujundzic, Jon K. Mills, Stephen Lester Thompson, Richard J. McGowan, Jennifer Uleman, John D. Musselman, James S. Stramel, Parker English & Torin Alter (1995). Letters to the Editor. Proceedings and Addresses of the American Philosophical Association 69 (2):119 - 131.
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