Phenomenal Concepts Are Not Demonstrative

Abstract

In this paper I want to explore the nature of phenomenal concepts by comparing them with perceptual concepts. Phenomenal concepts have been drawn to the attention of philosophers by recent debates in the philosophy of mind. Most obviously, their existence is demonstrated by Frank Jackson’s thought-experiment about Mary, the expert on the science of colour vision who has never had any colour experiences herself. It is widely agreed that, when Mary does first see something red, she acquires a new concept of red experiences, distinct from any of her previous scientific concepts of such experiences. This new mode of reference is an example of a phenomenal concept. Recent interest in phenomenal concepts is independent of views about the ontological significance of Jackson’s Mary argument. Thus phenomenal concepts are acknowledged both (a) by ontological dualists who take the Mary argument to demonstrate the non-physicality of conscious phenomena and (b) by physicalist monists who insist that Mary’s new concept refers to nothing but a material state that she could always refer to using her old scientific concepts. How then do phenomenal concepts work? Here there is far less consensus. Among those who trade in phenomenal concepts, some take them to be sui generis (Tye, 2003, Chalmers, 2003), while others have variously likened them to recognitional concepts (Loar, 1990), to demonstratives (Horgan 1984, Papineau 1993, Perry 2001), or to quotational terms (Papineau 2002, Balog forthcoming). In my Thinking about Consciousness (2002), I developed a ‘quotational-indexical’ of phenomenal concepts account on roughly the following lines. To have a phenomenal concept of some experience, you must be able introspectively to focus on it when you have it, and to....

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Author's Profile

David Papineau
King's College London

Citations of this work

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