Self-Representationalism and the Neo-Russellian Ignorance Hypothesis: A Hybrid Account of Phenomenal Consciousness

Dissertation, Sussex (2012)
Tom McClelland
University of Warwick
This thesis introduces the Problem of Consciousness as an antinomy between Physicalism and Primitivism about the phenomenal. I argue that Primitivism is implausible, but is supported by two conceptual gaps. The ‘–tivity gap’ holds that physical states are objective and phenomenal states are subjective, and that there is no entailment from the objective to the subjective. The ‘–trinsicality gap’ holds that physical properties are extrinsic and phenomenal qualities are intrinsic, and that there is no entailment from the extrinsic to the intrinsic. Stoljar’s Epistemic View (EV) suggests that we have a limited conception of the physical world, and that the apparent inexplicability of consciousness is merely a symptom of our ignorance. I argue that EV must satisfy two conditions which require it to specify the content of our ignorance. EV’s best hope is a Russellian appeal to our ignorance of intrinsic physical properties. After arguing in favour of this ignorance claim, I show how it undermines the –trinsicality gap. However, I suggest that the –tivity gap cannot be dealt with by the Russellian ignorance hypothesis, nor by any other version of EV. However, I then argue that the Russellian ignorance hypothesis can still be deployed as half of a hybrid account of the phenomenal. Representationalist theories of consciousness have difficulty with the –trinsicality gap, but show promise with the –tivity gap. Specifically, Kriegel’s Self-Representationalism indicates that there can indeed be an entailment from objective physical states to subjective phenomenal states. This paves the way for my hybrid account of consciousness: the subjectivity of a phenomenal state is the product of its self-representational structure, and the qualitative character of a phenomenal state is the product of the epistemically inaccessible intrinsic physical properties involved in its implementation.
Keywords Consciousness  Physicalism  Russellian Monism  Self-Representationalism
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