Magic realism and the limits of intelligibility: What makes us conscious

Philosophical Perspectives 21 (1):457–474 (2007)
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In the “Notes for Lectures on “Private Experience‘ and “Sense Data‘", Wittgenstein endorsed one kind of inverted spectrum hypothesis and rejected another. This paper argues that the kind of inverted spectrum hypothesis that Wittgenstein endorsed is the thin end of the wedge that precludes a Wittgensteinian critique of the kind of inverted spectrum hypothesis he rejected. I will attempt to explicate the difference between the innocuous and dangerous scenarios, to give arguments in favor of the coherence of the dangerous scenario, and to show that the standard arguments to the effect that the dangerous scenario is impossible are flawed or ineffective against the version of the dangerous scenario whose coherence I will be advocating. I will also agree with what I think is Wittgenstein’s position that the kind of inverted spectrum hypothesis he rejected lets qualia in the door, where qualia are qualities of experiential states whose phenomenal character cannot be expressed in natural language. Further, I will argue that acknowledging the coherence of the innocuous inverted spectrum commits Wittgenstein to the coherence of the dangerous inverted spectrum, thereby undermining Wittgenstein’s deepest views about the mind. In other work, I have used the inverted spectrum hypothesis as an argument against functionalism and representationism, but here the focus is on its role in arguing for the possibility of qualia.



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Alva Noë
University of California, Berkeley

References found in this work

Action in Perception.Alva Noë - 2004 - MIT Press.
Individualism and the mental.Tyler Burge - 1979 - Midwest Studies in Philosophy 4 (1):73-122.
Consciousness in Action.Susan L. Hurley - 1998 - Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press.
A sensorimotor account of vision and visual consciousness.J. Kevin O’Regan & Alva Noë - 2001 - Behavioral and Brain Sciences 24 (5):883-917.

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