Phenomenal Qualities as Neurofunctional States

Dissertation, University of Southern California (1996)
My goal is to provide a friendly account of how phenomenal qualities fit with a realist, physicalist world view. I argue that neurofunctionalism is both the most intuitive, and the most respectable position available. Functionalists and type-materialists have been arguing across purposes, and the best motivation for either of these views is the manifest implausibility of the other. Neurofunctionalism, however, avoids the alleged chauvinism of materialism--as well its serious epistemological shortcomings--while at the same time avoiding the notorious qualia-based objections to functionalism. Phenomenal concepts are indeed functional--they claim to pick out some functional kind--but the functional essence of the corresponding states can only be discovered through empirical neuroscience. ;The first two chapters try to further the discussion of some traditional qualia-based objections to analytic functionalism. Chapter 1 addresses the inverted spectrum problem, and concedes that the possibility of qualia inversions flouts strong intuitions about the 'fit' between a quale and psychological role. However, the functionalist cannot do justice to such intuitions, and new counterexamples emerge. Chapter 2 discusses the possibility of absent qualia, and Shoemaker's argument that such cases are impossible. I recast the argument as a incompatibility between the absent qualia hypothesis and a plausible form of weak incorrigibility. I argue that there are enough epistemic asymmetries between the cases that I can enjoy weak incorrigibility even if my functional twin does not. Chapter 3 argues for the conceptual possibility of multiple realizations. Even if mental concepts are demonstrative in nature, they can be analyzed to reveal the impossibility of ersatz pain. Hence type-materialism is false. Neurofunctionalism is introduced as superior to the alternatives. Chapter 4 addresses Goldman's problem of providing a plausible functionalist account of self-ascription. Typical versions of functionalism inevitably make the phenomenal essence of the state epiphenomenal to introspection, which is absurd. Neurofunctionalism plausibly avoids this problem. Chapter 5 turns to a number of puzzling issues internal to the intuitive notion a qualia, and assesses Dennett's case for eliminativism. Finally, the appendix to chapter 5 offers a solution to the problem of phi-motion
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