The cognitive significance of phenomenal knowledge

Philosophical Studies 172 (11):2955-2974 (2015)
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Knowledge of what it’s like to have perceptual experiences, e.g. of what it’s like to see red or taste Turkish coffee, is phenomenal knowledge; and it is knowledge the substantial or significant nature of which is widely assumed to pose a challenge for physicalism. Call this the New Challenge to physicalism. The goal of this paper is to take a closer look at the New Challenge. I show, first, that it is surprisingly difficult to spell out clearly and neutrally what the New Challenge is in fact urging the physicalist to explain. What initially look like plausible or promising ways of making sense of it turn out to be either question begging or insufficient to generate a challenge to physicalism at all. I go on to suggest that what the New Challenge may be asking the physicalist to explain may be the fact that we come to token certain higher-order judgments about the significance of phenomenal knowledge. I end with a discussion of the implications of this interpretation of the New Challenge—which turns out to be as much a challenge for the anti-physicalist as it is for the physicalist.



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Benedicte Veillet
University of Michigan - Flint

Citations of this work

Real acquaintance and physicalism.Philip Goff - 2015 - In Paul Coates & Sam Coleman (eds.), Phenomenal Qualities: Sense, Perception and Consciousness. Oxford University Press.
Acquaintance, Parsimony, and Epiphenomenalism.Brie Gertler - 2019 - In Sam Coleman (ed.), The Knowledge Argument. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. pp. 62-86.
Phenomenal concepts: Neither circular nor opaque. E. Diaz-Leon - 2016 - Philosophical Psychology 29 (8):1186-1199.

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References found in this work

The Varieties of Reference.Gareth Evans - 1982 - Oxford: Oxford University Press. Edited by John Henry McDowell.
Epiphenomenal qualia.Frank Jackson - 1982 - Philosophical Quarterly 32 (April):127-136.
Purple Haze: The Puzzle of Consciousness.Joseph Levine - 2001 - New York, US: Oxford University Press USA.

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