Experiencers and the Ambiguity Objection

Justin Sytsma
Victoria University of Wellington
It is often asserted that we should believe that phenomenal consciousness exists because it is pretheoretically obvious. If this is the case, then we should expect lay people to categorize mental states in roughly the way that philosophers do, treating prototypical examples of phenomenally conscious mental states similarly. Sytsma and Machery present preliminary evidence that this is not the case. They found that participants happily ascribed seeing red to a simple robot but denied that the robot felt pain. The most prominent response to this work has been the ambiguity objection, which charges that participants were interpreting ascriptions of seeing red in a purely informational way, such that their attributions of “seeing red” to the robot do not speak to the question of whether they recognize the phenomenality of this state. Peressini pushes an especially interesting version of the objection, presenting new empirical evidence and suggesting that lay people do in fact have a concept of phenomenality. In this paper, I respond to Peressini’s objections, and the ambiguity objection more generally, arguing that the new data does not undermine Sytsma and Machery’s conclusion.
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References found in this work BETA

Facing Up to the Problem of Consciousness.David J. Chalmers - 1995 - Journal of Consciousness Studies 2 (3):200-19.
What is It Like to Be a Bat.Thomas Nagel - 1974 - E-Journal Philosophie der Psychologie 5.
The Meta-Problem of Consciousness.D. J. Chalmers - 2018 - Journal of Consciousness Studies 25 (9-10):6-61.

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