The myth of the myth of the given

Manuscrito 27 (2):321-60 (2004)
Qualia have historically been thought to stand in a very different epistemological relation to the knower than does the external furniture of the world. The ‘raw feels’ of thought were often said to be ‘given’, while what we might call the content of that thought – for example, claims about the external world – was thought only more or less doubtfully true; and this was often said to be because we are ‘directly’ or ‘non-inferentially’ confronted by qualia or experiences, whereas all other properties or objects are only mediately ‘connected’ to the perceiver. The modern turn in philosophy – spearheaded by Wittgen-stein, Sellars, Quine, Ryle and others – away from classical empiricism to today’s ‘post-postivistic’ philosophy, has apparently involved the rejection of this once familiar assumption. I argue a) that the rejection of a certain kind of epistemological foundationalism does not entail the rejection of phenomenal individuals tout court; and b) that qualia are in fact, in some epistemologically significant ways, given
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