2013-01-11
point of view, agency, and representationalism

First, thank you to the authors for providing their paper online!

            The problem with most forms of representationalism is that they do not actually close the explanatory gap. “Tracking representationalism” does not seem to be an exception. Beside the various possible objections explored in the paper, there remains the further objection that tracking representationalism, like its cousins, simply does not do what it aims to. It does not explain phenomenal consciousness, or why there is anything it is like to be in a mental state. The reason for this is that “what it is like” is a first-person experience, whereas talk of mental states, intentionality, tracking, etc., are third-person descriptions of events in the world, not of the phenomenal experience to which they correspond. What is missing is some strategy that can bridge the gap from third to first-person accounts—some way to “walk in the shoes of the brain”. To explain the correspondence between brain states and experience one must find some terms in which it is meaningful to retrace the steps through which the organism itself makes that correspondence.

            Perhaps this is the intent behind “intentionality” as a “step” in the process; however, another way to put this objection is that the problem is to explain intentionality itself. It is not adequate to consider it a mental process, implicitly from the observer’s objectifying point of view. Rather, the key might be to consider the organism’s intentions and how representing serves its purposes. Reflecting the organism’s need to represent to itself, phenomenal experience is a consequence of the organism’s own agency. As an agent, it has a point of view, and there is something that the world is like from that point of view.

            However perplexing the hard problem may be as an intellectual puzzle, as conscious human beings we know that our own brains, at least, do normally bridge the gap in daily experience!

—Dan Bruiger 

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