Consider two deeply appealing thoughts: first, that we experience external particulars, and second, that what it’s like to have an experience – the phenomenal character of an experience – is somehow independent of external particulars. The first thought is readily captured by phenomenal particularism, the view that external particulars are sometimes part of the phenomenal character of experience. The second thought is readily captured by phenomenal generalism, the view that external particulars are never part of phenomenal character. -/- Here I (...) show that a novel version of phenomenal generalism can capture both thoughts in a satisfying fashion. Along the way, I reveal severe problems facing phenomenal particularism and also shed light on the mental kinds under which experiences fall. (shrink)
Here I advance a unified account of the structure of the epistemic normativity of assertion, action, and belief. According to my Teleological Account, all of these are epistemically successful just in case they fulfill the primary aim of knowledgeability, an aim which in turn generates a host of secondary epistemic norms. The central features of the Teleological Account are these: it is compact in its reliance on a single central explanatory posit, knowledge-centered in its insistence that knowledge sets the fundamental (...) epistemic norm, and yet fiercely pluralistic in its acknowledgment of the legitimacy and value of a rich range of epistemic norms distinct from knowledge. Largely in virtue of this pluralist character, I argue, the Teleological Account is far superior to extant knowledge-centered accounts. (shrink)
It can seem incoherent to fully characterize fundamentality in terms of grounding, given that the fundamental is precisely that which cannot be fully characterized independently. I argue that there is no such incoherence.
I assume that there exists a general phenomenon, the phenomenon of the explanatory gap, surrounding consciousness, normativity, intentionality, and more. Explanatory gaps are often thought to foreclose reductive possibilities wherever they appear. In response, reductivists who grant the existence of these gaps have offered countless local solutions. But typically such reductivist responses have had a serious shortcoming: because they appeal to essentially domain-specific features, they cannot be fully generalized, and in this sense these responses have been not just local but (...) parochial. Here I do better. Taking for granted that the explanatory gap is a genuine phenomenon, I offer a fully general diagnosis that unifies these previously fragmented reductivist responses. (shrink)
I highlight a neglected but striking phenomenological fact about our experiences: they have a pervasively spatial character. Specifically, all (or almost all) phenomenal qualities – roughly, the introspectible, philosophically puzzling properties that constitute ‘what it’s like’ to have an experience – introspectively seem instantiated in some kind of space. So, assuming a very weak charity principle about introspection, some phenomenal qualities are instantiated in space. But there is only one kind of space – the ordinary space occupied by familiar objects. (...) And the only objects appropriately located in ordinary space are outside the subject’s mind. This entails experiential externalism, the view that at least one phenomenal quality is instantiated outside the subject’s mind. Experiential externalism is incompatible with many leading theories of experience, including certain mental paint theories; some forms of representationalism; paradigmatic versions of sense-datum theory; and views on which no phenomenal qualities are instantiated. My argument is structurally similar to familiar arguments based on the ‘transparency of experience.’ However, I suggest, phenomenological intuitions about spatiality are considerably more stable than phenomenological intuitions about transparency. For many philosophers, transparency intuitions fade markedly with respect to non-standard experiences, including experiences associated with blurry or double vision. But spatiality intuitions remain robust even for these experiences. Thus, spatiality intuitions should be more dialectically effective than transparency intuitions for supporting experiential externalism. (shrink)
According to phenomenal particularism, external particulars are sometimes part of the phenomenal character of experience. Mehta criticizes this view, and French and Gomes :451–460, 2016) have attempted to show that phenomenal particularists have the resources to respond to Mehta’s criticisms. We argue that French and Gomes have failed to appreciate the force of Mehta’s original arguments. When properly interpreted, Mehta’s arguments provide a strong case in favor of phenomenal generalism, the view that external particulars are never part of phenomenal character.
In his 2009 article “Self-Representationalism and Phenomenology,” Uriah Kriegel argues for self-representationalism about phenomenal consciousness primarily on phenomenological grounds. Kriegel’s argument can naturally be cast more broadly as an argument for higher-order representationalism. I examine this broadened version of Kriegel’s argument in detail and show that it is unsuccessful for two reasons. First, Kriegel’s argument (in its strongest form) relies on an inference to the best explanation from the claim that all experiences of normal adult human beings are accompanied by (...) peripheral awareness of those very experiences to the claim that all experiences are accompanied by peripheral awareness of those very experiences. This inference is inadequately defended, for the explanandum may also be given a straightforward evolutionary explanation. Second, contra Kriegel, I argue that phenomenological investigation does not support the thesis that we are always peripherally aware of our experiences. Instead, it delivers no verdict on this thesis. Kriegel’s phenomenological mistake may be explained via a highly diluted version of the famous transparency thesis about experience. (shrink)
What grounds facts of the form? One promising answer is: facts of the form. A different promising answer is: x itself. Isaac Wilhelm has recently argued that the second answer is superior to the first. In this paper, I rebut his argument.
According to the Epistemic Theory of Mind, knowledge is part of the best overall framework for explaining behavior at the psychological level. This theory, which has become increasingly popular in recent decades, has almost always been conjoined with an invariantist theory of “knows.” In this paper, I argue that this is a mistake: the Epistemic Theory of Mind is far more explanatorily powerful when conjoined with contextualism. I conclude that if the Epistemic Theory of Mind is true, then there is (...) a powerful new reason to accept contextualism. (shrink)
In this paper, I advance a new hypothesis about what the ordinary concept of perceptual experience might be. To a first approximation, my hypothesis is that it is the concept of something that seems to present mind-independent objects. Along the way, I reveal two important errors in Michael Martin’s argument for the very different view that the ordinary concept of perceptual experience is the concept of something that is impersonally introspectively indiscriminable from a veridical perception. This conceptual work is significant (...) because it provides three pieces of good news for the common kind theorist. (shrink)
I construct a tempting anti-physicalist argument, which sharpens an explanatory gap argument suggested by David Chalmers and Frank Jackson. The argument relies crucially on the premise that there is a deep epistemic asymmetry (which may be identified with the explanatory gap) between phenomenal truths and ordinary macroscopic truths. Many physicalists reject the argument by rejecting this premise. I argue that even if this premise is true, the anti-physicalist conclusion should be rejected, and I provide a detailed, physicalist-friendly explanation of the (...) relevant premise. Along the way, I sketch an account of a priori conceptual knowledge that is compatible with naturalistic accounts of intentionality. I conclude by noting that the resulting view is a version of the popular phenomenal concept strategy that avoids a potentially worrying dilemma facing earlier incarnations of this strategy. (shrink)
Naïve realism is a theory of perception with great explanatory ambitions. It has been influentially argued that, in order to realize these explanatory ambitions, the naïve realist should say that any perception belongs to just one fundamental kind. I think, however, that adopting this commitment does not particularly help the naïve realist to realize her explanatory ambitions, and so is not warranted. This result is significant because once this commitment about fundamental kinds is relinquished, we see that it is possible (...) to develop some new and surprising forms of naïve realism—most notably, what I call pluralist naïve realism. (shrink)
In this paper, I offer a new argument for the perceptual rationality thesis: the claim that perceptual experiences themselves can be rational or irrational. In her book The Rationality of Perception, Susanna Siegel has offered several intertwined arguments for this same thesis, and, as you will see, one of Siegel’s arguments is what inspires my own. However, I will suggest that the new argument is significantly better-supported than Siegel’s original argument.
Representationalism is, roughly, the view that experiencing is to be analyzed wholly in terms of representing. But what sorts of properties are represented in experience? According to a prominent form of representationalism, objective representationalism, experiences represent only objective (i.e. suitably mind-independent) properties. I explore subjective representationalism, the view that experiences represent at least some subjective (i.e. suitably mind-dependent) properties. Subjective representationalists, but not objective representationalists, can accommodate cases of illusion-free phenomenal inversion. Moreover, subjective representationalism captures the so-called transparency of experience, (...) as it is standardly articulated, just as well as objective representationalism. (shrink)
I defend a subjective representationalist theory of phenomenal experience. On this view, phenomenal experiences are simply certain kinds of representations of subjective (i.e., suitably mind-dependent) physical properties of environmental objects or of one’s body. Chapter 1 focuses on the thoroughly spatial character of experience. Here I argue against views of experience according to which phenomenal properties – roughly, the properties which constitute “what it’s like” to have an experience – are internal to the subject’s mind. If my arguments succeed, then (...) phenomenal properties are outside the subject’s mind. Representationalists typically embrace this claim. Chapter 2 quickly recapitulates some well-known motivations for representationalism and then considers an important choice point for representationalists: are phenomenal properties objective (essentially mind-independent) or subjective (essentially mind-dependent)? I introduce a robust set of inversion intuitions and argue that subjective representationalism, which holds that some phenomenal properties are subjective, can better accommodate such intuitions than objective representationalism. Chapter 3 focuses on the familiar “explanatory gap” problem. I consider a recent version of this argument which concludes that phenomenal consciousness is not reducible to the physical. Since the version of subjective representationalism I hold is part of just such an attempt to reduce phenomenal consciousness to the physical, I spend this chapter developing the resources to respond to Chalmers’ argument. Chapter 4 considers the intuition that internal twins must have precisely the same kinds of phenomenal experiences. This intuition is widespread, powerful, and recalcitrant. But it is very likely that representationalism, especially of the highly externalist sort that I defend in Chapter 1, is incompatible with such intuitions. I argue that this intuition is unreliable and attempt to debunk it. Chapter 5 very tentatively fills in some details of the subjective representationalist account. Representationalists can be sorted into first-order and higher-order theorists. Roughly, first-order representationalists hold that a ground-level representation of a certain kind suffices for phenomenal experience, while higher-order representationalists insist that phenomenal experiences also require a higher-order representation of the ground-level representations. I am tempted by the first-order view on grounds of parsimony. In this chapter, I rebut just one recent, introspectively-based argument for higher-order representationalism. (shrink)