Phenomenal consciousness appears to be particularly normatively significant. For this reason, sentience-based conceptions of ethics are widespread. In the field of animal ethics, knowing which animals are sentient appears to be essential to decide the moral status of these animals. I argue that, given that materialism is true of the mind, phenomenal consciousness is probably not particularly normatively significant. We should face up to this probable insignificance of phenomenal consciousness and move towards an ethic without sentience.
Illusionism is the thesis that phenomenal consciousness does not exist, but merely seems to exist. Many opponents to the thesis take it to be obviously false. They think that they can reject illusionism, even if they conceded that it is coherent and supported by strong arguments. David Chalmers has articulated this reaction to illusionism in terms of a “Moorean” argument against illusionism. This argument contends that illusionism is false, because it is obviously true that we have phenomenal experiences. I argue (...) that this argument fails by showing that its defenders cannot maintain that its crucial premise has the kind of support needed for the argument to work, without begging the question against illusionism. (shrink)
Does consciousness exist? In “The Meta-Problem of Consciousness” (MPC) David Chalmers sketches an argument for illusionism, i.e., the view that it does not. The key premise is that it would be a coincidence if our beliefs about consciousness were true, given that the explanation of those beliefs is independent of their truth. In this article, I clarify and assess this argument. I argue that our beliefs about consciousness are peculiarly invulnerable to undermining, whether or not their contents are indubitable or (...) even obvious. However, the reason that they are peculiarly invulnerable to undermining points to a fundamental flaw in modal arguments for dualism. (shrink)
Illusionists about phenomenal consciousness claim that phenomenal consciousness does not exist but merely seems to exist. At the same time, it is quite intuitive for there to be some kind of link between phenomenality and value. For example, some situations seem good or bad in virtue of the conscious experiences they feature. Illusionist views of phenomenal consciousness then face what I call the normative challenge. They have to say where they stand regarding the idea that there is a link between (...) phenomenality and value. If they accept that there is such a link, they might be committed to revisionary normative consequences (and some of them may prove to be uncomfortable). If they deny that there is such link, they might avoid revisionary normative consequences (without being guaranteed against them) but then they have to give reasons to deny that such link obtains, which is not a trivial task. The existence of the normative challenge does not show that illusionism is false, but it shows that illusionism might have important consequences in the normative domain, which have to be clarified. (shrink)
Voir une tache rouge, éprouver une douleur soudaine à l’épaule, sentir l’odeur du café, entendre le son d’une trompette : voilà des exemples typiques de ce qu’on appelle des «expériences conscientes». Ces expériences conscientes intéressent les philosophes de l’esprit depuis longtemps, notamment car elles semblent poser un problème fondamental à la conception matérialiste du monde. Il semble en effet extrêmement difficile de comprendre comment une expérience consciente – un vécu subjectif, qualitatif, éprouvé en première personne – peut provenir du fonctionnement (...) du cerveau – un système certes complexe, mais purement matériel. Les expériences conscientes semblent tout simplement distinctes des processus purement matériels, et mettent donc en péril le matérialisme. Face à cette difficulté, de nombreux philosophes matérialistes optent pour une stratégie épistémique : ils affirment qu’il n’existe rien d’autre que de la matière et que, si le matérialisme concernant l’esprit nous semble faux, nos intuitions antimatérialistes peuvent être elles-mêmes entièrement expliquées dans un cadre purement matérialiste. -/- Cet ouvrage poursuit un triple projet. Premièrement, il entreprend d’exposer le problème de l’expérience consciente pour le matérialisme, tel qu’il se pose dans la philosophie contemporaine depuis une quarantaine d’années. Deuxièmement, il présente et critique diverses tentatives philosophiques récentes pour défendre le matérialisme en poursuivant la stratégie épistémique. Troisièmement, il avance une théorie originale visant à l’explication de nos intuitions antimatérialistes dans un cadre matérialiste, poursuivant ainsi la stratégie épistémique de défense du matérialisme. -/- La conclusion de cet ouvrage est radicale : la manière la plus satisfaisante de défendre le matérialisme, et d’expliquer nos intuitions antimatérialistes dans un cadre matérialiste, conduit à l’illusionnisme concernant la conscience. Dans cette conception, les expériences conscientes, en un certain sens, n’existent pas, mais semblent simplement exister. Nous n’avons jamais d’expériences visuelles de taches rouges, ou d’expériences de douleur soudaine à l’épaule, même s’il nous semble parfois les avoir. La conscience n’est qu’une illusion introspective. Cette illusion de conscience, ainsi que le fait crucial que cette dernière soit si difficile à nous représenter comme telle (de sorte qu’à proprement parler l’idée que la conscience soit illusoire nous frappe inévitablement comme incohérente et «absurde»), sont expliqués dans un cadre purement matérialiste. (shrink)
Many so-called problems in contemporary philosophy of mind depend for their expression on a collection of inter-defined technical terms, a few of which are qualia, phenomenal property, and what-it’s-like-ness. I express my scepticism about Keith Frankish’s illusionism, the view that people are generally subject to a systematic illusion that any properties are phenomenal, and scout the relative merits of two alternatives to Frankish’s illusionism. The first is phenomenal meta-illusionism, the view that illusionists such as Frankish, in holding their view, are (...) themselves thereby under an illusion. The second is qualia quietism, the view that nothing worth saying is said by employing any of the aforementioned inter-defined technical terms. (shrink)
Este artigo pretende caracterizar de forma geral os posicionamentos fisicalistas na filosofia da mente e indicar como a questão do livre-arbítrio surge e pode ser crucial para tal corrente de pensamento. Primeiramente pretende mostrar a diferença entre a posição reducionista e a não-reducionista e depois salientar suas potencialidades e dificuldades na abordagem da questão do livre-arbítrio. Enfim, mesmo que a questão ainda fique em aberto, verificar-se-á que o livre-arbítrio parece não encontrar espaço no cenário apresentado pelas correntes fisicalistas.
This paper develops a proposal about phenomenal consciousness that is (somewhat) eliminativist in two respects. First, regarded in the light of some common ways of conceiving of consciousness, the proposal is "deflationary". Second, it opens up space for a development in which what we now naturally think about as consciousness turns out to be many different things.
One of the most influential philosophical voices in the consciousness studies community is that of Daniel Dennett. Outside of consciousness studies, Dennett is well-known for his work on numerous topics, such as intentionality, artificial intelligence, free will, evolutionary theory, and the basis of religious experience. (Dennett, 1984, 1987, 1995c, 2005) In 1991, just as researchers and philosophers were beginning to turn more attention to the nature of consciousness, Dennett authored his Consciousness Explained. Consciousness Explained aimed to develop both a theory (...) of consciousness and a powerful critique of the then mainstream view of the nature of consciousness, which Dennett called,. (shrink)
Following an on-line dialogue with Dennett (Velmans, 2001) this paper examines the similarities and differences between heterophenomenology (HP) and critical phenomenology (CP), two competing accounts of the way that conscious phenomenology should be, and normally is incorporated into psychology and related sciences. Dennett’s heterophenomenology includes subjective reports of conscious experiences, but according to Dennett, first person conscious phenomena in the form of “qualia” such as hardness, redness, itchiness etc. have no real existence. Consequently, subjective reports about such qualia should be (...) understood as prescientific attempts to make sense of brain functioning that can be entirely understood in third person terms. I trace the history of this position in behaviourism (Watson, Skinner and Ryle) and early forms of physicalism and functionalism (Armstrong), and summarise some of the difficulties of this view. Critical phenomenology also includes a conventional, third person, scientific investigation of brain and behaviour that includes subjects’ reports of what they experience. CP is also cautious about the accuracy or completeness of subjective reports. However, unlike HP, CP does not assume that subjects are necessarily deluded about their experiences or doubt that these experiences can have real qualities that can, in principle, be described. Such experienced qualities cannot be exhaustively reduced to third-person accounts of brain and behaviour. CP is also reflexive, in it assumes experimenters to have first-person experiences that they can describe much as their subjects do. And crucially, experimenter’s third-person reports of others are based, in the first instance, on their own first-person experiences. CP is commonplace in psychological science, and given that it conforms both to scientific practice and common sense, I argue that there is little to recommend HP other than an attempt to shore up a counterintuitive, reductive philosophy of mind. (shrink)
Epiphenomenalism is the view that mental events are caused by physical events in the brain, but have no effects upon any physical events. Behavior is caused by muscles that contract upon receiving neural impulses, and neural impulses are generated by input from other neurons or from sense organs. On the epiphenomenalist view, mental events play no causal role in this process. Huxley (1874), who held the view, compared mental events to a steam whistle that contributes nothing to the work of (...) a locomotive. James (1879), who rejected the view, characterized epiphenomenalists' mental events as not affecting the brain activity that produces them "any more than a shadow reacts upon the steps of the traveller whom it accompanies". (shrink)
One of Daniel Dennett's most sophisticated arguments for his eliminativism about phenomenological properties centers around the color phi phenomenon. He attempts to show that there is no phenomenological fact of the matter concerning the phenomenon of apparent motion because it is impossible to decide between two competing explanations. I argue that the two explanations considered by Dennett are both based on the assumption that a realist account of the phenomenon must include a neat mapping between phenomenological time and objective time. (...) Since this assumption is false, Dennett's argument is unsuccessful. Like most eliminativist arguments, Dennett's arguments may indicate that the subjective character of experience is different from how it is often described, but this leaves plenty of room for alternative models of consciousness. (shrink)
The paper argues that Daniel Dennett’s reductive account of consciousness in Consciousness Explained goes against theoretical commitments driving much of his previous work. I focus on considerations for the plurality of distinctive explanation of ourselves, as they have been articulated in Dennett's earlier work, and argue that Dennett's reductive framework is not adequately supported in the face of these considerations. The paper details tensions in Dennett’s work and shows how Consciousness Explained departs from the diagnoses of the mind/body problem offered (...) by Ryle, Wittgenstein and Sellars with which Dennett casts it as continuous. (shrink)
The paper discusses the utility of the notion of consciousness for the behavioural and brain sciences. It describes four distinctively different senses of 'conscious', and argues that to cope with the heterogeneous phenomena loosely indicated thereby, these sciences not only do not but should not discuss them in terms of 'consciousness'. It is thus suggested that 'the problem' allegedly posed to scientists by consciousness is unreal; one need neither adopt a realist stance with respect to it, nor include the term (...) and its cognates in the sciences' conceptual apparatus. The paper briefly examines Nagel's  article, since this presents the strongest counter to the thesis proposed. (shrink)
The definitive principle of actualism is that the world is composed wholly of actual or factual entities, including concreta like a horse and abstracta like his neigh, and the sums and the sets thereof, all on the one plane of particular and definite existents. There are no substrata of potency or prime matter, no forces or virtues, no blur of indefiniteness or press of tendency; no superstructure of unexampled essences or disembodied possibilities or transcendental acts of Be-ing. Our actual entities, (...) I specify further, are all either simple qualia, or relations belonging to one of three primitive categories, or some compound of these. The relational categories which I think sufficient and necessary are the whole-part or "merological" relations, resemblances or "comparisons," and locative distances and directions, not necessarily the physical geometry of space-time, but at least some analogous modes of deployment. "Factualism" here is a rhyming synonym of "actualism" and does not connote the very dubious doctrine of the young Wittgenstein that the world is the sum of "facts" in the sense of Sachverhalten. Nor does "actualism" connote the doctrine, so popular in New York and environs, that things must be active, though quite likely most of them are. (shrink)