How does the modern scientific conception of time constrain the project of assigning the mind its proper place in nature? On the scientific conception, it makes no sense to speak of the duration of a pain, or the simultaneity of sensations occurring in different parts of the brain. Such considerations led Henri Poincaré, one of the founders of the modern conception, to conclude that consciousness does not exist in spacetime, but serves as the basic material out of which we must (...) create the physical world. The central claim of Sensorama is that Poincaré was substantially correct. The best way to reconcile the scientific conception of time with the evidence of introspection is through a phenomenalist metaphysic according to which consciousness exists in neither time nor space, but serves as a basis for the logical construction of spacetime and its contents. (shrink)
According to phenomenalism, physical things are a certain kind of possibility for experience. This paper clarifies the phenomenalist position and addresses some main objections to it, with the aim of showing that phenomenalism is a live option that merits a place alongside dualism and materialism in contemporary metaphysical debate.
J.S. Mill famously equated physical things with "permanent possibilities of sensation." This view, known as phenomenalism, holds that a rock is a tendency for experiences to occur as they do when people perceive a rock, and similarly for all other physical things. In _Phenomenalism_, Michael Pelczar develops Mill's theory in detail, defends it against the objections responsible for its current unpopularity, and uses it to shed light on important questions in metaphysics, the philosophy of science, and the philosophy of mind. (...) Identifying physical things with possibilities of sensation establishes a transparent connection between the world of physics and the world of sense, provides an attractive alternative to currently fashionable structuralist and panpsychist metaphysics, offers a fresh perspective on the problem of consciousness, and yields a satisfying theory of perception, all by taking two things notoriously resistant to reduction, chance and experience, and constructing everything else out of them. (shrink)
We review existing strategies for bringing modal intuitions to bear against materialist theories of consciousness, and then propose a new strategy. Unlike existing strategies, which assume that imagination (suitably constrained) is a good guide to modal truth, the strategy proposed here makes no assumptions about the probative value of imagination. However, unlike traditional modal arguments, the argument developed here delivers only the conclusion that we should not believe that materialism is true, not that we should believe that it is false.
It is argued that a subject who has an experience as of succession can have this experience at a time, or over a period of time, during which there occurs in him no succession of conscious mental states at all. Various metaphysical implications of this conclusion are explored. One premise of the main argument is that every experience is an experience as of succession. This implies that we cannot understand phenomenal temporality as a relation among experiences, but only as a (...) primitive feature of experience, or else as something analyzable into wholly non-phenomenal terms. (shrink)
According to panpsychists, physical phenomena are, at bottom, nothing but experiential phenomena. One argument for this view proceeds from an alleged need for physical phenomena to have features beyond what physics attributes to them; another starts by arguing that consciousness is ubiquitous, and proposes an identification of physical and experiential phenomena as the best explanation of this alleged fact. The first argument assumes that physical phenomena have categorical natures, and the second that the world’s experience-causing powers or potentials underdetermine its (...) physical features. I argue that panpsychists are not entitled to these assumptions. (shrink)
Wittgenstein emphasizes two points concerning his notion of family resemblance. One is that the use of a family resemblance expression resists characterization by certain kinds of rules; the other is that due to the prevalence of family resemblance in the philosophical lexicon, philosophical inquiry must in many cases proceed differently from how it traditionally has. This paper develops an interpretation of family resemblance that seeks to do justice to these claims. I argue that what is characteristic about family resemblance expressions (...) is not that they exhibit a basic semantic feature unique to themselves, but that they combine a number of semantic properties that happen not to be coinstantiated elsewhere. These features include (1) content variability (also a property of ambiguous expressions, polysemes, and standard indexicals), (2) a feature I call "topicality" (which is also a characteristic of polysemes), and (3) "semantic openness" (a feature of many ordinary indexicals). The notions of topicality and semantic openness are explained, and certain terms of natural language are shown to be family resemblance expressions. I conclude by indicating some of the potential philosophical ramifications of these results. (shrink)
It is generally assumed that if it is possible to believe that p without believing that q, then there is some difference between the object of the thought that p and the object of the thought that q. This assumption is challenged in the present paper, opening the way to an account of epistemic opacity that improves on existing accounts, not least because it casts doubt on various arguments that attempt to derive startling ontological conclusions from seemingly innocent epistemic premises.
Normally, when we notice a change taking place, our conscious experience has a corresponding quality of phenomenal change. Here it is argued that one's experience can have this quality at or during a time when there is no change in which phenomenal properties one instantiates. This undermines a number of otherwise forceful arguments against leading metaphysical theories of change, but also requires these theories to construe change as a secondary quality, akin to color.
Someone who knew everything about the world’s physical nature could, apparently, suffer from ignorance about various aspects of conscious experience. Someone who knew everything about the world’s physical and mental nature could, apparently, suffer from moral ignorance. Does it follow that there are ways the world is, over and above the way it is physically or psychophysically? This paper defends a negative answer, based on a distinction between knowing the fact that p and knowing that p. This distinction is made (...) intelligible by reference to criterial connections between the possession of moral or phenomenal knowledge, and the satisfaction of cognitively neutral conditions of desire and experiential history. The existence of such connections in the moral case makes for an efficient dissolution of the so-called moral problem. (shrink)
The principle of functional invariance states that it is a natural law that conscious beings with the same functional organization have the same quality of conscious experience. A group of arguments in support of this principle are rejected, on the grounds that they establish at most only the weaker intra-subjective principle that any two stages in the life of a single conscious being that duplicate one another in terms of functional organization also duplicate one another in terms of quality of (...) phenomenal experience. (shrink)
This paper develops a response to the knowledge argument against physicalism. The response is both austere, in that it does not concede the existence of non-physical information , and natural, in that it acknowledges the alethic character of phenomenal knowledge and learning. I argue that such a response has all the advantages and none of the disadvantages of existing objections to the knowledge argument. Throughout, the goal is to develop a response that is polemically effective in addition to theoretically sound.
After drawing a distinction between two kinds of dualism—numerical dualism (defined in terms of identity) and modal dualism (defined in terms of supervenience)—we argue that Descartes is a numerical dualist, but not a modal dualist. Since most contemporary dualists advocate modal dualism, the relation of Descartes' views to the contemporary philosophy of mind are more complex than is commonly assumed.
Properly understood, content internalism is the thesis that any difference between the representational contents of two individuals' mental states reduces to a difference in those individuals' intrinsic properties. Some of the strongest arguments against internalism turn on the possibility for two "doppelgangers" –- perfect physical and phenomenal duplicates -– to differ with respect to the contents of those of their mental states that they can express using terms such as "I," "here," and "now." In this paper, I grant the stated (...) possibility, but deny that it poses any threat to internalism. Despite their similarities, doppelgangers differ in some of their intrinsic properties, and it is to such intrinsic differences that differences of indexical content reduce. (shrink)
I offer a theory of propositional attitudeascriptions that reconciles a number of independently plausiblesemantic principles. At the heart of the theory lies the claim thatpsychological verbs (such as ``to believe'' and ``to doubt'') vary incontent indexically. After defending this claim and explaining how itrenders the aforementioned principles mutually compatible, I arguethat my account is superior to currently popular hidden indexicaltheories of attitude ascription. To conclude I indicate a number oframifications that the proposed theory has for issues in epistemology,philosophy of mind, (...) and formal semantics. (shrink)