The primary aim of this book is to understand how seemings relate to justification and whether some version of dogmatism or phenomenal conservatism can be sustained. It also addresses a number of other issues, including the nature of seemings, cognitive penetration, Bayesianism, and the epistemology of morality and disagreement.
In this chapter I introduce and analyse the tenets of phenomenal conservatism, and discuss the problem of the nature of appearances. After that, I review the asserted epistemic merits phenomenal conservatism and the principal arguments adduced in support of it. Finally, I survey objections to phenomenal conservatism and responses by its advocates. Some of these objections will be scrutinised and appraised in the next chapters.
Open-minded people should endorse dogmatism because of its explanatory power. Dogmatism holds that, in the absence of defeaters, a seeming that P necessarily provides non-inferential justification for P. I show that dogmatism provides an intuitive explanation of four issues concerning non-inferential justification. It is particularly impressive that dogmatism can explain these issues because prominent epistemologists have argued that it can’t address at least two of them. Prominent epistemologists also object that dogmatism is absurdly permissive because (...) it allows a seeming to provide justification even if the seeming was caused in some apparently inappropriate way. I conclude by disarming this objection. (shrink)
In this paper, I argue that Phenomenal Conservatism (PC) is not superior to alternative theories of basic propositional justification insofar as those theories that reject PC are self-defeating. I show that self-defeat arguments similar to Michael Huemer’s Self-Defeat Argument for PC can be constructed for other theories of basic propositional justification as well. If this is correct, then there is nothing special about PC in that respect. In other words, if self-defeat arguments can be advanced in support of alternatives (...) to PC, then Huemer’s Self-Defeat argument doesn’t uniquely motivate PC. (shrink)
This paper criticizes phenomenal conservatism––the influential view according to which a subject S’s seeming that P provides S with defeasible justification for believing P. I argue that phenomenal conservatism, if true at all, has a significant limitation: seeming-based justification is elusive because S can easily lose it by just reflecting on her seemings and speculating about their causes––I call this the problem of reflective awareness. Because of this limitation, phenomenal conservatism doesn’t have all the epistemic merits attributed (...) to it by its advocates. If true, phenomenal conservatism would constitute a unified theory of epistemic justification capable of giving everyday epistemic practices a rationale, but it wouldn’t afford us the means of an effective response to the sceptic. Furthermore, phenomenal conservatism couldn’t form the general basis for foundationalism. (shrink)
Perceptual dogmatism is a prominent theory in epistemology concerning the relationship between perceptual experience and reasonable belief. It holds that, in the absence of counterevidence, it is reasonable to believe what your perceptual experience tells you. Thus, if you are not aware of your experience’s casual history, then it doesn’t matter. Critics object that the causal history does matter: when a perceptual experience is caused in certain ways, it is unreasonable to trust what it tells you. These objections regularly (...) appeal to cognitive penetration and biased searches for evidence. Given the myriad accounts of what covert attention is, one wonders (at least I wondered) if biased patterns of covert attention could raise a new objection to dogmatism. I argue that, while covert selection might raise various problems for dogmatism, none of them are new. This is good news for dogmatism, because the fewer distinct problems it faces, the more likely it can resolve them all. (shrink)
In this paper, I respond to Michael Huemer’s reply to my objection against Phenomenal Conservatism (PC). I have argued that Huemer’s Self-defeat Argument for PC does not favor PC over competing theories of basic propositional justification, since analogous self-defeat arguments can be constructed for competing theories. Huemer responds that such analogous self-defeat arguments are unsound. In this paper, I argue that Huemer’s reply does not save his Self-defeat Argument for PC from my original objection.
One common way of attacking dogmatism is to attack its alleged Mooreanism. The thought is that dogmatism includes (or perhaps entails) Mooreanism, but that Mooreanism is false and thus so is dogmatism. One way of responding to this charge is to defend Mooreanism. Another strategy is to articulate a version of dogmatism without Mooreanism. This paper is an attempt to articulate the latter view.
This chapter focuses on the relationship between consciousness and knowledge, and in particular on the role perceptual consciousness might play in justifying beliefs about the external world. We outline a version of phenomenaldogmatism according to which perceptual experiences immediately, prima facie justify certain select parts of their content, and do so in virtue of their having a distinctive phenomenology with respect to those contents. Along the way we take up various issues in connection with this core theme, (...) including the possibility of immediate justification, the dispute between representational and relational views of perception, the epistemic significance of cognitive penetration, the question of whether perceptual experiences are composed of more basic sensations and seemings, and questions about the existence and epistemic significance of high-level content. In a concluding section we briefly consider how some of the topics pursued here might generalize beyond perception. (shrink)
It is natural to think that many of our beliefs are rational because they are based on seemings, or on the way things seem. This is especially clear in the case of perception. Many of our mathematical, moral, and memory beliefs also appear to be based on seemings. In each of these cases, it is natural to think that our beliefs are not only based on a seeming, but also that they are rationally based on these seemings—at least assuming there (...) is no relevant counterevidence. This piece is an introduction to a volume dedicated to the question of what the connection is between seemings and justified belief: under what conditions, if any, can a seeming justify its content? (shrink)
Phenomenalist dogmatist experientialism (PDE) holds the following thesis: if $S$ has a perceptual experience that $p$ , then $S$ has immediate prima facie evidential justification for the belief that $p$ in virtue of the experience’s phenomenology. The benefits of PDE are that it (a) provides an undemanding view of perceptual justification that allows most of our ordinary perceptual beliefs to be justified, and (b) accommodates two important internalist intuitions, viz. the New Evil Demon Intuition and the Blindsight Intuition. However, in (...) the face of a specific version of the Sellarsian dilemma, PDE is ad hoc. PDE needs to explain what is so distinct about perceptual experience that enables it to fulfill its evidential role without being itself in need of justification. I argue that neither an experience’s presentational phenomenology, nor its phenomenal forcefulness can be used to answer this question, and that prospects look dim for any other phenomenalist account. The subjective distinctness of perceptual experience might instead just stem from a higher-order belief that the experience is a perceptual one, but this will only serve to strengthen the case for externalism: externalism is better suited to provide an account of how we attain justified higher-order beliefs and can use this account to accommodate the Blindsight Intuition. (shrink)
Is color experience cognitively penetrable? Some philosophers have recently argued that it is. In this paper, we take issue with the claim that color experience is cognitively penetrable. We argue that the notion of cognitive penetration that has recently dominated the literature is flawed since it fails to distinguish between the modulation of perceptual content by non-perceptual principles and genuine cognitive penetration. We use this distinction to show that studies suggesting that color experience can be modulated by factors of the (...) cognitive system do not establish that color experience is cognitively penetrable. Additionally, we argue that even if color experience turns out to be modulated by color-related beliefs and knowledge beyond non-perceptual principles, it does not follow that color experience is cognitively penetrable since the experiences of determinate hues involve post-perceptual processes. We conclude with a brief discussion of the implications that these ideas may have on debates in philosophy. (shrink)
According to the inferential view of language comprehension, we hear a speaker’s utterance and infer what was said, drawing on our competence in the syntax and semantics of the language together with background information. On the alternative perceptual view, fluent speakers have a non-inferential capacity to perceive the content of speech. On this view, when we hear a speaker’s utterance, the experience confers some degree of justification on our beliefs about what was said in the absence of defeaters. So, in (...) the absence of defeaters, we can come to know what was said merely on the basis of hearing the utterance. Several arguments have been offered against a pure perceptual view of language comprehension, among others, arguments pointing to its alleged difficulties accounting for homophones and the context-sensitivity of ordinary language. After responding to the arguments against the perceptual view of language comprehension, I provide a new argument in favor of the perceptual view by looking closer at the dependence of the justificatory qualities of experience on the notion of a defeater as well as the perceptual nature of language learning and language processing. (shrink)
Lycan (1985, 1988) defended a “Principle of Credulity”: “Accept at the outset each of those things that seem to be true” (1988, p. 165). Though that takes the form of a rule rather than a thesis, it does not seem very different from Huemer’s (2001, 2006, 2007) doctrine of phenomenal conservatism (PC): “If it seems to S that p , then, in the absence of defeaters, S thereby has at least some degree of justification for believing that p ” (...) (2007, p. 30). My Principle was differently motivated and put to uses different from Huemer’s. In this paper I shall explore some of the differences. (shrink)
In this chapter I analyse an objection to phenomenal conservatism to the effect that phenomenal conservatism is unacceptable because it is incompatible with Bayesianism. I consider a few responses to it and dismiss them as misled or problematic. Then, I argue that this objection doesn’t go through because it rests on an implausible formalization of the notion of seeming-based justification. In the final part of the chapter, I investigate how seeming-based justification and justification based on one’s reflective belief (...) that one has a seeming interact with one another. (shrink)
Perceptual dogmatism holds that if it perceptually seems to S that P, then S thereby has prima facie perceptual justification for P. But suppose Wishful Willy's desire for gold cognitively penetrates his perceptual experience and makes it seem to him that the yellow object is a gold nugget. Intuitively, his desire-penetrated seeming can't provide him with prima facie justification for thinking that the object is gold. If this intuitive response is correct, dogmatists have a problem. But if dogmatists have (...) a problem, you do too (well, most of you anyway). Reliabilists have denounced dogmatism's cognitive penetration problems, but they have problems with cognitive penetration that are even worse. (shrink)
As an important view in the epistemology of perception, dogmatism proposes that for any experience, if it has a distinctive kind of phenomenal character, then it thereby provides us with immediate justification for beliefs about the external world. This paper rejects dogmatism by looking into the epistemology of imagining. In particular, this paper first appeals to some empirical studies on perceptual experiences and imaginings to show that it is possible for imaginings to have the distinctive phenomenal (...) character dogmatists have in mind. Then this paper argues that some of these imaginings fail to provide us with immediate justification for beliefs about the external world at least partly due to their inappropriate etiology. Such imaginings constitute counterexamples to dogmatism. (shrink)
Reflection on the possibility of cases in which experience is cognitively penetrated has suggested to many that an experience's etiology can reduce its capacity to provide prima facie justification for believing its content below a baseline. This is epistemic downgrade due to etiology, and its possibility is incompatible with phenomenal conservatism. I develop a view that explains the epistemic deficiency in certain possible cases of cognitive penetration but on which there is no epistemic downgrading below a baseline and on (...) which etiology plays no explanatory role. This view is not phenomenal conservatism exactly, but it does capture what’s right about phenomenal conservatism. (shrink)
Alexander Campbell once declared “a solemn league and covenant” between philosophy and common sense. Campbell’s pronouncement is representative of a broader trend in the Restorationist movement to look favorably on the common sense response to skepticism—a response originating in the work of Scottish philosopher and former minister Thomas Reid. I recount the tumultuous history between philosophy and common sense followed by the efforts of Campbell and Reid to reunite them. Turning to the present, I argue that an epistemic principle known (...) as phenomenal conservatism best embodies the core insights contained within Reid and Campbell's common sense response to skepticism. I finish by arguing for phenomenal conservatism. (shrink)
This chapter explores whether and when experience can be evidence. It argues that experiences can be evidence, and that this claim is compatible with just about any epistemological theory. It evaluates the most promising argument for the conclusion that certain experiences (e.g., seeming to see) are always evidence for believing what the experiences represent. While the argument is very promising, one premise needs further defense. The argument also depends on a certain connection between reasonable belief and the first person perspective.
I discuss Richard Swinburne’s account of religious experience in his probabilistic case for theism. I argue, pace Swinburne, that even if cosmological considerations render theism not too improbable, religious experience does not render it more probable than not.
According to a traditional Cartesian epistemology of perception, perception does not provide one with direct knowledge of the external world. Instead, when you look out to see a red wall, what you learn first is not a fact about the color of the wall—i.e., that it is red—but instead a fact about your own visual experience—i.e., that the wall looks red to you. If you are to justifiably believe that the wall is red, you must be in a position to (...) justifiably infer this conclusion about the external world from known premises about your own visual experience. Recent anti-Cartesian theorists have pushed back against this traditional model, claiming that the epistemic significance of having a perceptual experience is not exhausted by what can be inferred from the fact that you have the experience. After clarifying an underappreciated commitment of Cartesian accounts and some key motivations for resisting it, I argue that any anti-Cartesian account strong enough to take advantage of these motivations must license a way of updating one’s beliefs in response to anticipated experiences that seems diachronically irrational. To avoid this implausible result, the anti-Cartesian must choose between licensing an implausible kind of epistemic chauvinism, or else claiming that merely reflecting on one’s experiences can defeat the perceptual justification that they otherwise provide. This leaves us with a puzzle: Although there are powerful motivations for rejecting Cartesianism, any view that avails itself of them faces serious problems of its own. (shrink)
Outside of philosophy, ‘intuition’ means something like ‘knowing without knowing how you know’. Intuition in this broad sense is an important epistemological category. I distinguish intuition from perception and perception from perceptual experience, in order to discuss the distinctive psychological and epistemological status of evaluative property attributions. Although it is doubtful that we perceptually experience many evaluative properties and also somewhat unlikely that we perceive many evaluative properties, it is highly plausible that we intuit many instances of evaluative properties as (...) such. The resulting epistemological status of evaluative property attributions is very much like it would be if we literally perceived such properties. (shrink)
According to Perceptual Fundamentalism we can have justified perceptual beliefs solely in virtue of having perceptual experiences with corresponding contents. Recently, it has been argued that Perceptual Fundamentalism entails that it is possible to gain an a priori justified belief that perception is reliable by engaging in a suppositional reasoning process of a priori bootstrapping. But I will show that Perceptual Fundamentalists are not committed to a priori bootstrapping being a rational reasoning process. On the most plausible versions of Perceptual (...) Fundamentalism, a priori bootstrapping cannot be used to rationally support anti-sceptical beliefs about the reliability of perception. Moreover, seeing why Perceptual Fundamentalists are not committed to a priori bootstrapping will help us to better understand the nature of the perceptual entitlements that Perceptual Fundamentalists posit, or at least should posit. (shrink)
In this paper I articulate and defend a view that I call phenomenaldogmatism about intuitive justification. It is dogmatic because it includes the thesis: if it intuitively seems to you that p, then you thereby have some prima facie justification for believing that p. It is phenomenalist because it includes the thesis: intuitions justify us in believing their contents in virtue of their phenomenology—and in particular their presentational phenomenology. I explore the nature of presentational phenomenology as it (...) occurs perception, and I make a case for thinking that it is present in a wide variety of logical, mathematical, and philosophical intuitions. (shrink)
In previous work, I have suggested a doxastic account of perceptual experience according to which experiences form a kind of belief: Beliefs with what I have called “phenomenal” or “looks-content”. I have argued that this account can not only accommodate the intuitive reason providing role of experience, but also its justificatory role. I have also argued that, in general, construing experience and perceptual beliefs, i.e. the beliefs most directly based on experience, as having different contents best accounts for the (...) defeasibility of experiential reasons. In this paper, I shall have a closer look at the evidential or inferential relation between looks-propositions and the contents of perceptual beliefs and argue for a form of what I shall call “Pollockianism” about experiential reasons: such reasons are good unless defeated. Questions to be investigated include: Does the resulting picture of perceptual justification contain an externalist element? Is it compatible with Bayesianism? And how does it do with respect to problems that have been raised for other forms of Pollockianism such as dogmatism or phenomenal conservatism? (shrink)
In this paper I argue that it's possible that the contents of some visual experiences are influenced by the subject's prior beliefs, hopes, suspicions, desires, fears or other mental states, and that this possibility places constraints on the theory of perceptual justification that 'dogmatism' or 'phenomenal conservativism' cannot respect.
The paper presents a number of empirical arguments for the perceptual view of speech comprehension. It then argues that a particular version of phenomenaldogmatism can confer immediate justification upon belief. In combination, these two views can bypass Davidsonian skepticism toward knowledge of meanings. The perceptual view alone, however, can bypass a variation on the Davidsonian argument. One reason Davidson thought meanings were not truly graspable was that he believed meanings were private. But if the perceptual view of (...) speech comprehension is correct, then meanings are public objects like other perceivable entities. Hence, there is no particular problem of language comprehension, even if meanings originate in “private” mental states. (shrink)
Some mental states seem to be "of" or "about" things, or to "say" something. For example, a thought might represent that grass is green, and a visual experience might represent a blue cup. This is intentionality. The aim of this book is to explain this phenomenon. -/- Once we understand intentionality as a phenomenon to be explained, rather than a posit in a theory explaining something else, we can see that there are glaring empirical and in principle difficulties with currently (...) popular tracking and functional role theories of intentionality, which aim to account for intentionality in terms of tracking relations and functional roles. -/- This book develops an alternative theory, the phenomenal intentionality theory (PIT), on which the source of intentionality is none other than phenomenal consciousness, the subjective, felt, or qualitative aspect of mental life. While PIT avoids the problems that plague tracking and functional role theories, it faces its own challenges in accounting for the rich and complex contents of thoughts and the contents of nonconscious states. In responding to these challenges, this book proposes a novel version of PIT, on which all intentionality is phenomenal intentionality, though we in some sense represent many non-phenomenal contents by ascribing them to ourselves. This book further argues that phenomenal consciousness is an intrinsic feature of mental life, resulting in a view that is radically internalistic in spirit: Our phenomenally represented contents are literally in our heads, and any non-phenomenal contents we in some sense represent are expressly targeted by us. (shrink)
Doxasticism about our awareness of normative (i.e. justifying) reasons – the view that we can recognise reasons for forming attitudes or performing actions only by means of normative judgements or beliefs – is incompatible with the following triad of claims: -/- (1) Being motivated (i.e. forming attitudes or performing actions for a motive) requires responding to and, hence, recognising a relevant reason. -/- (2) Infants are capable of being motivated. -/- (3) Infants are incapable of normative judgement or belief. -/- (...) It should be clear that (3) is true, given that infants lack the required reflective and conceptual capacities. So doxasticists have to reject either (1) or (2) (or both). But this forced choice may be understood as a dilemma for doxasticism. On the hand, doxasticists may adopt a Kantian approach and reject (2), precisely because they think that motivation presupposes the doxastic recognition of reasons, and because infants lack the capacity to doxastically recognise reasons. But this choice seems to wrongly reduce the responses of infants to mere reflexes or instinctive reactions. On the other hand, doxasticists may choose a Humean route and deny (1) by espousing a purely causal or teleological account of motivation. But this would mean detrimentally ignoring the normative nature of (some instances of) motivation. -/- One elegant way of avoiding this dilemma is to give up doxasticism and instead endorse experientialism – the view that we enjoy some experiential access to reasons, which is independent of, and perhaps more fundamental than, our capacity to form normative judgements and beliefs. In this talk, I would like to provide an argument for the existence of such a non-doxastic form of access to reasons. More specifically, I aim to defend the claim that our basic awareness of reasons is phenomenal in nature. What this means is that it forms part of our access from the inside to those of our mental episodes that provide us with access to reasons. In other words, when we introspectively attend to reason-giving mental episodes and what they are about, we have the impression of the presence of a reason for us. My defence of this experientialist alternative to doxasticism will primarily focus on perceptual reasons for first-order beliefs about the external world. (shrink)
I argue that the most common interpretation of experiential transparency’s significance is laden with substantive and ultimately extraneous metaphysical commitments. I divest this inflated interpretation of its unwarranted encumbrances and consolidate the precipitate into a position I call core transparency. Core Transparency is a thesis about experience’s presentational character. The objects of perceptual experience are there, present to us, in a way that the objects of most beliefs and judgments are not. According to core transparency, it is in the disclosure (...) of that which is central to experience’s presentational character, an intrinsic and irreducibly phenomenal aspect of experience I call phenomenal presence, that transparency’s significance principally consists. Phenomenal presence is uniquely positioned to illuminate the relationship between perceptual experience’s most important features: its intentionality and its phenomenality. The position I defend comprises two main claims. (1) The representational features of experience, understood in isolation from experiential phenomenality, neither constitute nor explain phenomenal presence. Consequently, the representational features of experience neither determine completely nor explain exhaustively experiential phenomenality. (2) Phenomenal presence is not representational, but is nevertheless the minimal realization of experiential intentionality. (shrink)
(for online upload) The readings in Investigating Phenomenal Consciousness (2000) were developed from an International Symposium on Methodologies for the Study of Consciousness: A new Synthesis,” that I organised in April, 1996, funded and hosted by the Fetzer Institute, Wisconsin, USA, with the aim of fostering the development of first-person methods that could be used in conjunction with already well-developed third-person methods for investigating phenomenal consciousness. In this Introduction, we briefly survey the state of the art at that (...) time, the reasons for a resurgence of interest in consciousness, the available methodologies, the reasons for increasing dissatisfaction with the adequacy of reductive third-person methods, various difficulties facing the development of rigorous first-person methods, and various creative approaches to solving these difficulties. Suggestions are also made about how to heal the fragmentation in consciousness studies, by placing different approaches to the study of consciousness into a broader context, establishing their domain of applicability and providing some bases for synthesis. (shrink)
Experiences like pains, pleasures, and emotions have affective phenomenal character: they feel pleasant or unpleasant. Imperativism proposes to explain affective phenomenal character by appeal to imperative content, a kind of intentional content that directs rather than describes. We argue that imperativism is on the right track, but has been developed in the wrong way. There are two varieties of imperativism on the market: first-order and higher-order. We show that neither is successful, and offer in their place a new (...) theory: reflexive imperativism. Our proposal is that an experience P feels pleasant in virtue of being (at least partly) constituted by a Command with reflexive imperative content (1), while an experience U feels unpleasant in virtue of being (at least partly) constituted by a Command with reflexive imperative content (2): -/- (1) More of P! (2) Less of U! -/- If you need a slogan: experiences have affective phenomenal character in virtue of commanding us Get more of me!, Get less of me! (shrink)
I review recent work on Phenomenal Conservatism, the position introduced by Michael Huemer according to which if it seems that P to a subject S, in the absence of defeaters S has thereby some degree of justification for believing P.
One of Brian Loar’s most central contributions to contemporary philosophy of mind is the notion of phenomenal intentionality: a kind of intentional directedness fully grounded in phenomenal character. Proponents of phenomenal intentionality typically also endorse the idea of cognitive phenomenology: a sui generis phenomenal character of cognitive states such as thoughts and judgments that grounds these states’ intentional directedness. This combination creates a challenge, though: namely, how to account for the manifest phenomenological difference between perception and (...) cognition. In this paper, I argue that there is in fact no obvious account of this difference. I consider three main approaches: in terms of high-level vs. low-level contents, of conceptual vs. nonconceptual content, and of propositional vs. objectual content. After arguing against each, I conclude by considering the phenomenal-intentionalist’s options moving forward. (shrink)
During the last two decades, several different anti-physicalist arguments based on an epistemic or conceptual gap between the phenomenal and the physical have been proposed. The most promising physicalist line of defense in the face of these arguments – the Phenomenal Concept Strategy – is based on the idea that these epistemic and conceptual gaps can be explained by appeal to the nature of phenomenal concepts rather than the nature of non-physical phenomenal properties. Phenomenal concepts, (...) on this proposal, involve unique cognitive mechanisms, but none that could not be fully physically implemented. David Chalmers has recently presented a Master Argument to show that the Phenomenal Concept Strategy – not just this or that version of it, but any version of it – fails. Chalmers argues that the phenomenal concepts posited by such theories are either not physicalistically explicable, or they cannot explain our epistemic situation with regard to qualia. I argue that it is his Master Argument that fails. My claim is his argument does not provide any new reasons to reject the Phenomenal Concept Strategy. I also argue that, although the Phenomenal Concept Strategy is successful in showing that the physicalist is not rationally compelled to give up physicalism in the light of the anti-physicalist arguments, the anti-physicalist is not rationally compelled to give up the anti-physicalist argument in the light of the Phenomenal Concept Strategy either. (shrink)