In 1995, in my book, Ten Problems of Consciousness, I proposed a version of the theory of phenomenal consciousness now known as representationalism. The present book, in part, consists of a further development of that theory along with replies to common objections. It is also concerned with two prominent challenges for any reductive theory of consciousness: the explanatory gap and the knowledge argument. In addition, it connects representationalism with two more general issues: the nature of color and the location of (...) the phylogenetic dividing line between those creatures that are phenomenally conscious and those that are not. (shrink)
We are material beings in a material world, but we are also beings who have experiences and feelings. How can these subjective states be just a matter of matter? To defend materialism, philosophical materialists have formulated what is sometimes called "the phenomenal-concept strategy," which holds that we possess a range of special concepts for classifying the subjective aspects of our experiences. In Consciousness Revisited, the philosopher Michael Tye, until now a proponent of the the phenomenal-concept strategy, argues that the strategy (...) is mistaken. A rejection of phenomenal concepts leaves the materialist with the task of finding some other strategy for defending materialism. Tye points to four major puzzles of consciousness that arise: How is it possible for Mary, in the famous thought experiment, to make a discovery when she leaves her black-and-white room? In what does the explanatory gap consist and how can it be bridged? How can the hard problem of consciousness be solved? How are zombies possible? Tye presents solutions to these puzzles -- solutions that relieve the pressure on the materialist created by the failure of the phenomenal-concept strategy. In doing so, he discusses and makes new proposals on a wide range of issues, including the nature of perceptual content, the conditions necessary for consciousness of a given object, the proper understanding of change blindness, the nature of phenomenal character and our awareness of it, whether we have privileged access to our own experiences, and, if we do, in what such access consists. (shrink)
In Consciousness and Persons: Unity and Identity, Michael Tye takes on the thorny issue of the unity of consciousness and answers these important questions: What exactly is the unity of consciousness? Can a single person have a divided consciousness? What is a single person? Tye argues that unity is a fundamental part of human consciousness -- something so basic to everyday experience that it is easy to overlook. For example, when we hear the sound of waves crashing on a beach (...) and at the same time see a red warning flag, there is an overall unity to our experience; the sound and the red shape are presented together in our consciousness. Similarly, when we undergo a succession of thoughts as we think something through, there is an experience of succession that unifies the thoughts into a conscious whole. But, Tye shows, consciousness is not always unified. Split-brain subjects, whose corpus callosum has been severed, are usually taken to have a divided or disunified consciousness. Their behavior in certain situations implies that they have lost the unity normal human subjects take for granted; it is sometimes even supposed that a split-brain subject is really two persons.Tye begins his account by proposing an account of the unity of experience at a single time; this account is extended over the succeeding chapters to cover bodily sensations at a single time and perceptual experience, bodily sensations, conscious thoughts, and felt moods at a single time. Tye follows these chapters with a discussion of the unity of experience through time. Turning to the split-brain phenomenon, he proposes an account of the mental life of split-brain subjects and argues that certain facts about these subjects offer support for his theory of unity. Finally, addressing the topic of the nature of persons and personal identity, Tye finds the two great historical accounts -- the ego theory and the bundle theory -- lacking and he makes an alternative proposal. He includes an appendix on the general representational approach to consciousness and its many varieties, because of the relevance of representationalism to the theory of unity being adanced. (shrink)
Representationalism is a thesis about the phenomenal character of experiences, about their immediate subjective ‘feel’.1 At a minimum, the thesis is one of supervenience: necessarily, experiences that are alike in their representational contents are alike in their phenomenal character. So understood, the thesis is silent on the nature of phenomenal character. Strong or pure representationalism goes further. It aims to tell us what phenomenal character is. According to the theory developed in Tye 1995, phenomenal character is one and the same (...) as representational content that meets certain further conditions. One very important motivation for this theory is the so-called ? transparency of experience.? The purpose of this paper is to elucidate the appeal to transparency more carefully than has been done hithertofore, to make some remarks about the introspective awareness of experience in light of this appeal, and to consider one problem case for transparency at some length, that of blurry vision. Along the way, I shall also address some of the remarks Stephen Leeds makes in his essay on transparency. (shrink)
[Michael Tye] Externalism about thought contents has received enormous attention in the philosophical literature over the past fifteen years or so, and it is now the established view. There has been very little discussion, however, of whether memory contents are themselves susceptible to an externalist treatment. In this paper, I argue that anyone who is sympathetic to Twin Earth thought experiments for externalism with respect to certain thoughts should endorse externalism with respect to certain memories. /// [Jane Heal] Tye claims (...) that an externalist should say that memory content invoking natural kind concepts floats free of the setting where the memory is laid down and is at later times determined by the context in which the memory is revived. His argument assumes the existence of 'slow switching' of the meaning of natural kind terms when a person is transported from Earth to Twin Earth. But proper understanding of natural kind terms suggests that slow switching is likely never to be completed. Hence the situation of a person unknowingly transported to Twin Earth is not that his memories switch content but rather that he gets two natural kinds confused. (shrink)
In this essay, I want to take another look at the phenomenon of transparency and its relevance to qualia realism and representationalism. I don’t suppose that what I have to say will cause those who disagree with me to change their minds, but I hope not only to clarify my position and that of others who are on my side of the debate but also to respond to various criticisms and objections that have arisen over the last 10–15 years or (...) so.The transparency thesisI begin with four quotations, two from G. E. Moore, one from Gilbert Harman, and one from an earlier paper of mine:…that which makes the sensation of blue a mental fact seems to escape us; it seems, if I may use a metaphor, to be transparent — we look through it and see nothing but the blue… (Moore 1903, p. 446).When we try to introspect the sensation of blue, all we can see is the blue: the other element is as if it were diaphanous (Moore 1903, p. 450).When Eloise sees a tree before her, the colors she experiences are all experien. (shrink)
A consideration of some of the most common questions about animal minds.Do birds have feelings? Can fish feel pain? Could a honeybee be anxious? For centuries, the question of whether or not animals are conscious like humans has prompted debates among philosophers and scientists. While most people gladly accept that complex mammals - such as dogs - share emotions and experiences with us, the matter of simpler creatures is much less clear. Meanwhile, the advent of the digital age and artificial (...) intelligence has created an added dimension to questions about non-human consciousness. In Tense Bees and Shell-Shocked Crabs, Michael Tye offers answers to some of today's most pressing questions about nonhuman consciousness. Blending the latest research about animal sensation with theories about the nature of consciousness, Tye develops a methodology for addressing the mysteries of the animal mind. Without endorsing any specific theory on the nature of consciousness, Tye tackles issues such as the animal experience of pain and fear, and the role of brain anatomy in determining consciousness. He then turns his attention to the artificial realm, considering whether complex robots could ever be considered conscious. Tye concludes with a discussion of how, if we consider animals conscious, this might impact our ethical obligations to them. From insects to crabs, fish to birds, Tense Bees and Shell-Shocked Crabs offers an insightful exploration of the ways in which animals relate to the world. Tense Bees and Shell-Shocked Crabs will appeal to students and scholars of philosophy and neuroscience, as well as general readers with an interest in animal and environmental ethics. (shrink)
According to color realism, object colors are mind-independent properties that cover surfaces or permeate volumes of objects. In recent years, some color scientists and a growing number of philosophers have opposed this view on the grounds that realism about color cannot accommodate the apparent unitary/binary structure of the hues. For example, Larry Hardin asserts, the unitary-binary structure of the colors as we experience them corresponds to no known physical structure lying outside nervous systems that is causally involved in the perception (...) of color. This makes it very difficult to subscribe to a color realism that is supposed to be about red, green, blue, black, and white—that is, the colors with which we are perceptually acquainted.1 Similarly, Evan Thompson says. (shrink)
The thesis that there is a troublesome explanatory gap between the phenomenal aspects of experiences and the underlying physical and functional states is given a number of different interpretations. It is shown that, on each of these interpretations, the thesis is false. In supposing otherwise, philosophers have fallen prey to a cognitive illusion, induced largely by a failure to recognize the special character of phenomenal concepts.
Qualia internalism is the thesis that qualia are intrinsic to their subjects: the experiences of intrinsic duplicates have the same qualia. Content externalism is the thesis that mental representation is an extrinsic matter, partly depending on what happens outside the head. 1 Intentionalism comes in strong and weak forms. In its weakest formulation, it is the thesis that representationally identical experiences of subjects have the same qualia. 2.
Most men and nearly all women have non-defective colour vision, as measured by standard colour tests such as those of Ishihara and Farns- worth. But people vary, according to gender, race and age in their per- formance in matching experiments. For example, when subjects are shown a screen, one half of which is lit by a mixture of red and green lights and the other by yellow or orange light, and they are asked to ad- just the mixture of lights (...) so as to make the two halves of the screen match in colour, they disagree about the location of the match. Where one male subject sees the two sides of the screen as being the same in colour, an- other female subject may see one side as a little redder or greener. And there are corresponding differences with age and race. (shrink)
Sainsbury and Tye present a new theory, 'originalism', which provides natural, simple solutions to puzzles about thought that have troubled philosophers for centuries. They argue that concepts are to be individuated by their origin, rather than epistemically or semantically. Although thought is special, no special mystery attaches to its nature.
Disjunctivists (Hinton 1973, Snowdon 1990, Martin 2002, 2006) often motivate their approach to perceptual experience by appealing in part to the claim that in cases of veridical perception, the subject is directly in contact with the perceived object. When I perceive a table, for example, there is no table-like sense-impression that stands as an intermediary between the table and me. Nor am I related to the table as I am to a deer when I see its footprint in the snow. (...) I do not experience the table by experiencing some- thing else over and above the table and its facing surface. I see the facing surface of the table directly. (shrink)
The experience of emotion is a fundamental part of human consciousness. Think, for example, of how different our conscious lives would be without such experiences as joy, anger, fear, disgust, pity, anxiety, and embarrassment. It is uncontroversial that these experiences typically have an intentional content. Anger, for example, is normally directed at someone or something. One may feel angry at one=s stock broker for provid- ing bad advice or angry with the cleaning lady for dropping the vase. But it is (...) not un- controversial that emotional experiences are always intentional. John Searle, for exam- ple, remarks, AMany conscious states are not Intentional, e.g., a sudden sense of elation...@. Moreover, many animals experience emotions and it is natural to sup- pose that such emotions lack the sophistication of beliefs or thoughts. When a dog ex- periences delight in seeing its master after an absence of several days, the suggestion that at least part of the dog=s experience of delight is a belief that its master has returned home seems to import into the experience something that at best is associ- ated with it and perhaps is not really a state to which the dog is subject at all. And even in the case of human beings, emotional experience often does not seem to involve thought. Consider the experience of disgust, to take one obvious example.1 Nor is a sali- ent belief required. One may have a strong fear of spiders and yet not believe that spi- ders typically pose any risk to humans. But if emotional experiences need not involve beliefs or thoughts, then just how are they intentional?2. (shrink)
In this paper, we defend the representationalist theory of phenomenal consciousness against a recent objection due to Hilla Jacobson, who charges representationalism with a failure to explain the role of pain in rationalizing certain forms of behavior. In rough outline, her objection is that the representationalist is unable to account for the rationality of certain acts, such as the act of taking pain killers, which are aimed at getting rid of the experience of pain rather than its intentional object. If (...) representationalism were true, she claims, then the act of taking pain killers would be just as irrational as the act of a ruler who responds to bad tidings by killing the messenger. This paper aims to show that these charges are mistaken. (shrink)
Keith has just taken a hallucinogenic drug. A few minutes earlier, he was occupied with the beginning of H.H. Price's well-known book on perception. The combined effect of these activities is that Keith is now hallucinating a ripe tomato. This is not a de re hallucination. There is no particular tomato located elsewhere out of Keith's vision such that he is hallucinating that tomato as being before him. Keith is hallucinating a tomato without there being any particular tomato that he (...) is hallucinating. What is the representational content of Keith‟s experience? (shrink)
There is widespread agreement that consciousness must be a physical phenomenon, even if it is one that we do not yet understand and perhaps may never do so fully. There is also widespread agreement that the way to defend physicalism about consciousness against a variety of well known objections is by appeal to phenomenal concepts. There is, alas, no agreement on the nature of phenomenal concepts.
Cohen, Hardin, and McLaughlin (2006) complain that my solution to the puzzle of true blue (Tye 2006) depends upon my assuming that 'all variation in colour experience among standard perceivers in standard circumstances is at the level of ﬁne-grained hues (4)'. That assumption, they say, is false: 'there is in fact variation in colour experience among.
Experiences vary widely. For example, I run my fingers over sandpaper, smell a skunk, feel a sharp pain in my finger, seem to see bright purple, become extremely angry. In each of these cases, I am the subject of a mental state with a very distinctive subjective character. There is something it is _like_ for me to undergo each state, some phenomenology that it has. Philoso- phers often use the term 'qualia' to refer to the introspectively accessible properties of experiences (...) that characterize what it is like to have them. In this standard, broad sense of the term, it is very difficult to deny that there are qualia. There is another, more restricted use of the term. (shrink)
1) There is widespread agreement that consciousness must be a physical phenomenon, even if it is one that we do not yet understand and perhaps may never do so fully. There is also widespread agreement that the way to defend physicalism about consciousness against a variety of well known objections is by appeal to phenomenal concepts (Loar 1990, Lycan 1996, Papineau 1993, Sturgeon 1994, Tye 1995, 2000, Perry 2001) . There is, alas, no agreement on the nature of phenomenal concepts.
In her black and white room, Mary doesn’t know what it is like to see red. Only after undergoing an experience as of something red and hence acquainting herself with red can Mary learn what it is like. But learning what it is like to see red requires more than simply becoming acquainted with it. To be acquainted with something is to know it, but such knowledge, as we argue, is object-knowledge rather than propositional-knowledge. To know what it is like (...) one must know an appropriate propositional answer to the question ‘what is it like?’. Despite this mismatch between object-knowledge and knowing an answer, we believe that acquaintance is crucial to Mary’s epistemic progress. When Mary leaves her black and white room, her new knowledge tempts one to think that she must come to know a candidate answer (a coarse-grained fact) that she didn’t know in her room. Since Mary already knows all the physical facts in her room, any additional facts she might learn appear to threaten physicalism. In reply, many physicalists have been attracted to the phenomenal concept strategy according to which Mary can come to have new knowledge and hence know a new answer to the question ‘what is it like to see red?’ by entertaining a coarse-grained fact under a concept she didn’t possess in her room – Mary learns a new fine-grained fact. We believe both of these accounts of Mary’s epistemic progress are mistaken. As we argue, Mary could know every fact (coarse-grained and fine-grained) that might serve as an answer to the question ‘what is it like to see red?’ and still not know what it is like. The physical world leaves no leftover coarse-grained facts for Mary to learn and because concepts are sharable, easy to possess, and easy to introduce, there are possible situations in which Mary, while in her black and white room, has every concept that might make a fine-grained difference. In short, even when Mary is granted a great deal of factual knowledge and vast conceptual resources, she may still not know an appropriate answer to the question ‘what is it like to see red?’. But in any such situation, Mary lacks acquaintance with red and on this basis we argue that in order to know what it is like, in order for Mary to know an appropriate answer, Mary’s propositional knowledge must be appropriately related to her acquaintance with red. (shrink)
Feelings and experiences vary widely. For example, I run my fingers over sandpaper, smell a skunk, feel a sharp pain in my finger, seem to see bright purple, become extremely angry. In each of these cases, I am the subject of a mental state with a very distinctive subjective character. There is something it is like for me to undergo each state, some phenomenology that it has. Philosophers often use the term ‘qualia’ (singular ‘quale’) to refer to the introspectively accessible, (...) phenomenal aspects of our mental lives. In this standard, broad sense of the term, it is difficult to deny that there are qualia. Disagreement typically centers on which mental states have qualia, whether qualia are intrinsic qualities of their bearers, and how qualia relate to the physical world both inside and outside the head. The status of qualia is hotly debated in philosophy largely because it is central to a proper understanding of the nature of consciousness. Qualia are at the very heart of the mindbody problem. (shrink)
We argue that thoughts are structures of concepts, and that concepts should be individuated by their origins, rather than in terms of their semantic or epistemic properties. Many features of cognition turn on the vehicles of content, thoughts, rather than on the nature of the contents they express. Originalism makes concepts available to explain, with no threat of circularity, puzzling cases concerning thought. In this paper, we mention Hesperus/Phosphorus puzzles, the Evans-Perry example of the ship seen through different windows, and (...) Mates cases, and we believe that there are many additional applications. (shrink)
One standard objection to the view that phenomenal experience is functionally determined is based upon what has come to be called ‘The Absent Qualia Hypothesis’, the idea that there could be a person or a machine that was functionally exactly like us but that felt or consciously experienced nothing at all. Advocates of this hypothesis typically maintain that we can easily imagine possible systems that meet the appropriate functional specifications but that intuitively lack any phenomenal consciousness. Ned Block, for example, (...) asks us to suppose that a billion Chinese people are each given a two-way radio with which to communicate with one another and with an artificial body. The movements of the body are controlled by the radio signals, and the signals themselves are made in accordance with instructions the Chinese people receive from a vast display in the sky which is visible to all of them. The instructions are such that the participating Chinese people together realize whatever programs the functionalist supposes underlie human phenomenal experience. (shrink)
My purpose is to take a close look at the nature of visual content. I discuss the view that visual experiences have only existential contents, the view that visual experiences have either singular or gappy contents, and the view that visual experiences have multiple contents. I also consider a proposal about visual content inspired by Kaplan's well known theory of indexicals. I draw out some consequences of my discussion for the thesis of intentionalism with respect to the phenomenal character of (...) visual experience. (shrink)