It’s a familiar fact that there is something it is like to see red, eat chocolate or feel pain. More recently philosophers have insisted that in addition to this objectual phenomenology there is something it is like for me to eat chocolate, and this for-me-ness is no less there than the chocolatishness. Recognizing this subjective feature of consciousness helps shape certain theories of consciousness, introspection and the self. Though it does this heavy philosophical work, and it is supposed to be (...) relatively obvious to anyone who introspects, it is rather difficult to see just what this phenomenal me-ness is supposed to be; indeed, many philosophers deny it exists. In this paper we try to provide a clear sense of what phenomenal me-ness involves, and then then consider some arguments for the existence of phenomenal me-ness experience as well as some accounts of what gives rise to it. In the end, we argue that the plausible senses of me-ness are a good deal thinner than what often seems to be claimed. (shrink)
Robert J. Howell offers a new account of the relationship between conscious experience and the physical world, based on a neo-Cartesian notion of the physical and careful consideration of three anti-materialist arguments. His theory of subjective physicalism reconciles the data of consciousness with the advantages of a monistic, physical ontology.
Self-Knowledge and Self-Reference is a defense and reconciliation of the two apparently conflicting theses that the self is peculiarly elusive and that our basic, cogito-judgments are certain. On the one hand, Descartes seems to be correct that nothing is more certain than basic statements of self-knowledge, such as "I am thinking." On the other hand, there is the compelling Humean observation that when we introspect, nothing is found except for various "impressions." The problem, then, is that the Humean and Cartesian (...) insights are both initially appealing, yet they appear to be in tension with one another. In this paper I attempt to satisfy both intuitions by developing a roughly descriptivist account of self-reference according to which our certainty in basic beliefs stems precisely from our needing to know so little in order to have them. (shrink)
A purely metaphysical formulation of physicalism is surprisingly elusive. One popular slogan is, 'There is nothing over and above the physical'. Problems with this arise on two fronts. First, it is difficult to explain what makes a property 'physical' without appealing to the methodology of physics or to particular ways in which properties are known. This obviously introduces epistemic features into the core of a metaphysical issue. Second, it is difficult to cash out 'over-and-aboveness' in a way that is rigorous, (...) metaphysically pure and extensionally apt for the purposes of the debate. In this paper I will touch on the first problem, but I wish to focus on the second. In particular, I will focus on the claim that supervenience theses cannot define physicalism because they allow classical emergentist dualism through the physicalist door [Horgan 1993; Kim 1998; Wilson 2005]. I will argue that when the relevant supervenience thesis is metaphysical, emergentism is excluded. Against recent arguments to the contrary, I maintain that this is the case even given necessitarianism about natural laws [Wilson 2005]. I will argue that a necessitarian with emergentist sympathies will be forced either into a type of quasi-panpsychism, where our basic physical properties contain the illicit seeds of mentality at their core, or she will be forced to admit that emergence laws are not necessary after all. Either way, the combination of necessitarianism and emergentism does not provide a counterexample to supervenience physicalism. (shrink)
How could physicalism be true of a world in which there are no fundamental physical phenomena? A familiar answer, due to Barbara Gail Montero and others, is that physicalism could be true of such a world if that world does not contain an infinite descent of mentality. Christopher Devlin Brown has produced a counterexample to that solution. We show how to modify the solution to accommodate Brown’s example: physicalism could be true of a world without fundamental physical phenomena if that (...) world does not contain an infinite descent of mentally constituted mentality. This solution is independently plausible and is available to physicalists of virtually all significant varieties. (shrink)
'Where am I?' This is something we might expect to hear from hapless explorers or academics with no sense of direction. If we can, we'll explain to our inquirer that he is east of East St. Louis and hope he can find his way from there. If he persists, insisting that he is not really lost, but only cannot find himself no matter how hard he looks, we might reasonably suspect that we are dealing with that peculiarly incorrigible academic explorer, (...) the philosopher. When we hesitantly point to his body, we hear him explain, exasperated, 'No, don't you get it? That's my body, but I'm looking for my self! And I cannot find it!' At this point it is tempting to slip away, convinced that our philosophical friend is .. (shrink)
Since Sydney Shoemaker published his seminal article ‘Self-Reference and Self-Awareness’ in 1968, the notion of ‘Immunity to Error through Misidentification’ has received much attention. It crops up in discussions of personal identity, indexical thought and introspection, and has been used to interpret remarks made by philosophers from Wittgenstein to William James. The precise significance of IEM is often unspecified in these discussions, however. It is unclear, for example, whether it constitutes an important status of judgments, whether it explains an important (...) characteristic of judgments, or whether it merely marks an important characteristic of judgments. Nevertheless, reference to IEM abounds, making this obscure notion seem all the more significant. (shrink)
This paper develops a view of the content of perceptual states that reflects the cognitive significance those states have for the subject. Perhaps the most important datum for such a theory is the intuition that experiences are ‘transparent’, an intuition promoted by philosophers as diverse as Sartre and Dretske. This paper distinguishes several different transparency theses, and considers which ones are truly supported by the phenomenological data. It is argued that the only thesis supported by the data is much weaker (...) than those typically considered in the literature, and has no obvious implications for the existence of sensory intermediaries. It does, however, have implications for the content of perceptual experience. It is argued that combining the first personal project with the transparency intuition yields an error theory of perception. The counterintuitive implications of this error theory are mitigated, however, by an account of perceptual beliefs which allows for them to be true even if the perceptual states are non-veridical. (shrink)
Abstract: In recent years two-dimensional semantics has become one of the most serious alternatives to Millianism for the proper interpretation of modal discourse. It has origins in the works of a diverse group of philosophers, and it has proven popular as an interpretation of both language and thought. It has probably received most of its attention, however, because of its use by David Chalmers in his arguments against materialism. It is this more metaphysical application of two-dimensionalism that is the concern (...) in this paper. For though there is probably something salvageable from two-dimensionalism as a way to explain the content of thought, as a metaphysical tool it should be abandoned. In this paper I aim to establish this point by reductio: if 'metaphysical' two-dimensionalism is assumed, it can be shown to be false. (shrink)
We argue that there is a interesting connection between the old problem of the Speckled Hen and an argument that can be traced from Russell to Armstrong to Putnam that we call the “gradation argument.” Both arguments have been used to show that there is no “Highest Common Factor” between appearances we judge the same – no such thing as “real” sensations. But, we argue, both only impugn the assumption of epistemic certainty regarding introspective reports.
Since Sydney Shoemaker published his seminal article ‘Self-Reference and Self-Awareness’ in 1968, the notion of ‘Immunity to Error through Misidentification’ has received much attention. It crops up in discussions of personal identity, indexical thought and introspection, and has been used to interpret remarks made by philosophers from Wittgenstein to William James. The precise significance of IEM is often unspecified in these discussions, however. It is unclear, for example, whether itconstitutesan important status of judgments, whether itexplainsan important characteristic of judgments, or (...) whether it merelymarksan important characteristic of judgments. Nevertheless, reference to IEM abounds, making this obscure notion seem all the more significant. (shrink)
A Dialogue on Consciousness introduces readers to the debate about consciousness and physicalism, starting with its origins in Descartes, through a lively and entertaining dialogue between unemployed graduate students, who, secretly living in a university library, discuss major theories and quote passages from classic and contemporary texts in search of an answer.
Most philosophers in the phenomenological tradition hold that in addition to the explicit self-consciousness we might get in reflection, there is also a pre-reflective self-consciousness. Despite its popularity, it can be a little difficult to get a grasp on this notion. It can seem impossibly thin—such that it really amounts to little more than a restatement of the notion of consciousness—or problematically robust—such that it seems to conflict with the apparent transparency of consciousness. This paper argues for a notion of (...) pre-reflective self consciousness that avoids these extremes. It is argued that though pre-reflective self-consciousness exists and is an important part of conscious experience, it is not an intrinsic feature of first-order consciousness. Instead, it is constituted by an agent’s background awareness of her ability to reflect and thereby self-ascribe her experiences. (shrink)
This article presents the knowledge argument against physicalism and objections to it. The focus is on the ways responses to that argument have tried to account for phenomenal knowledge within a physicalist picture. Various ‘phenomenal concepts’ strategies are considered, along with recent arguments against them. Also considered are attempts to explain phenomenal knowledge in terms of indexical knowledge and in terms of acquaintance.
Both a priori physicalism and a posteriori physicalism combine a metaphysical and an epistemological thesis. They agree about the metaphysical thesis: our world is wholly physical. Most agree that this requires everything that there is must be necessitated by the sort of truths described by physics. If we call the conjunction of the basic truths of physics P, all physicalists agree that P entails for any truth Q. Where they disagree is whether or not this entailment can be known a (...) priori. The a priori physicalist says it can, the a posteriori physicalist says it cannot. Though a posteriori physicalism is probably the dominant view, it is really a surprising and somewhat unlikely stance. In this article, the nature of the view is discussed, and two arguments are presented that should cause us to look again at the potential of a priori physicalism. (shrink)
Physicalism is standardly construed as a form of monism, on which all concrete phenomena fall under one fundamental type. It is natural to think that monism, and therefore physicalism, is committed to a supervenience claim. Monism is true only if all phenomena supervene on a certain fundamental type of phenomena. Physicalism, as a form of monism, specifies that these fundamental phenomena are physical. But some argue that physicalism might be true even if the world is disorderly, i.e., not ordered by (...) supervenience relations in the way commonly supposed (Montero in J Philos 110:92–110, 2013; Leuenberger in Inquiry 57:151–174, 2014; Montero and Brown in Topoi 37(3):523–532, 2018; Zhong in Philos Stud 178(5):1529–1544, 2021). Unless these authors intend to challenge the claim that physicalism is a type of monism—a claim so central to the dialectic in philosophy of mind that rejecting it risks changing the subject—they are committed to challenging a supervenience requirement for monism. We argue that monism entails that there are substantial supervenience relations among concrete phenomena: relations that would not obtain in a disorderly world. Our argument thus has implications for debates about physicalism and supervenience, and sheds light on an under-discussed issue: what is implied by classifying a theory in the philosophy of mind as a form of monism? We also argue that physicalism’s commitment to monism creates problems for _via negativa_ physicalism, on which the physical is characterized negatively. (shrink)
Despite the fact that many of our beliefs are justified by perceptual experience, there is relatively little exploration of the connections between epistemic justification and perceptual content. This is unfortunate since it seems likely that some views of justification will require particular views of content, and the package of the two might be quite a bit less attractive than either view considered alone. I will argue that this is the case for epistemic internalism. In particular, epistemic internalism requires a view (...) of perceptual content that results in an error theory of perception. This, in turn, hobbles the internalist’s account of perceptual justification. While there are various stages along the way at which one can resist the argument, each one will involve significant commitments that highlight heretofore unacknowledged connections between justification and content. Even if the internalist is willing to make these moves and resist the argument, the argument reveals a novel way for the epistemic externalist to resist one of internalism’s main arguments. (shrink)
The God Dialogues is an intriguing and extensive philosophical debate about the existence of God. Engaging and accessible, it covers all the main arguments for and against God's existence, from traditional philosophical "proofs" to arguments that involve the latest developments in biology and physics.
The existence of a self seems both mysterious and inevitable. On the one hand, philosophers from the Buddha to Sartre doubt its existence. As Hume writes, when we introspect we find thoughts, feelings, and conscious states, but nothing that has them. The subject of experience is elusive, but its existence seems certain. Descartes’ cogito is beyond doubt and the thought that “I am thinking” involves an undeniable form of self-awareness. Self-Awareness and the Elusive Subject develops and defends the claim that (...) we don’t find ourselves in introspection, and that consciousness is, in general, impersonal. It then develops an account of self-awareness that takes these phenomenological data seriously. Our grasp of ourselves is epistemically robust but introspectively slight: we know ourselves most fundamentally as the bearers of our conscious states. (shrink)
It is an intuitively attractive view that the importance of a proposition affects the amount of evidence a subject needs in order to know that proposition—the more important the proposition is to the subject, the more evidence the subject must have in order for her to count as knowing the proposition. This paper argues that because unimportant propositions entail the falsity of very important propositions this position either results in the lack of closure of knowledge under known implication, or it (...) results in standards for evidence being universally high. (shrink)