Phenomenal concepts as bare recognitional concepts: harder to debunk than you thought, …but still possible

Philosophical Studies 164 (3):807-827 (2013)
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A popular defense of physicalist theories of consciousness against anti-physicalist arguments invokes the existence of ‘phenomenal concepts’. These are concepts that designate conscious experiences from a first person perspective, and hence differ from physicalistic concepts; but not in a way that precludes co-referentiality with them. On one version of this strategy phenomenal concepts are seen as (1) type demonstratives that have (2) no mode of presentation. However, 2 is possible without 1-call this the ‘bare recognitional concept’ view-and I will argue that this avoids certain recent criticisms while retaining the virtue of finessing the ‘mode of presentation’ problem for phenomenal concepts. But construing phenomenal concepts this way seems to not do justice to the phenomenology of conscious experience. In this paper I examine whether or not this impression can be borne out by a good argument. As it turns out, it is harder to do so than one might think. It can be done, but it involves somewhat more convoluted reasoning than one might have supposed necessary. Having shown that, I will end with a few brief remarks on what my argument means for attempts to preserve a physicalist account of consciousness



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Citations of this work

Functionalism.Janet Levin - 2008 - Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy.
Phenomenal concepts: Neither circular nor opaque. E. Diaz-Leon - 2016 - Philosophical Psychology 29 (8):1186-1199.

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