Many philosophers have held that we cannot say what it is like to be a bat as they present a fundamentally alien form of life. Another view held by some philosophers, bat scientists, and even many laypersons is that echolocation is, somehow, at least in part, a kind of visual experience. Either way, bat echolocation is taken to be something very mysterious and exotic. I utilize empirical and intuitive considerations to support an alternative view making a much more (...) mundane contention about bat phenomenology: echolocatory experience probably just has an auditory character. These points also call for further reflection on our intuitions about animal consciousness and standard arguments for the explanatory gap. (shrink)
This paper defends a novel view of ‘what it is like’-sentences, according to which they attribute certain sorts of relations—I call them ‘affective relations’—that hold between events and individuals. The paper argues in detail for the superiority of this proposal over other views that are prevalent in the literature. The paper further argues that the proposal makes better sense than the alternatives of the widespread use of Nagel’s definition of conscious states and that it also shows the mistakes (...) in two prominent suggestions about the definition when properly understood: first, that it is empty and uninformative, and second, that it leads directly to a substantial claim in the theory of consciousness, namely that an individual is in a conscious state only if the individual is aware of their being in that state. (shrink)
Ned Block argues that the higher-order (HO) approach to explaining consciousness is ‘defunct’ because a prominent objection (the ‘misrepresentation objection’) exposes the view as ‘incoherent’. What’s more, a response to this objection that I’ve offered elsewhere (Weisberg 2010) fails because it ‘amounts to abusing the notion of what-it’s-like-ness’ (xxx).1 In this response, I wish to plead guilty as charged. Indeed, I will continue herein to abuse Block’s notion of what-it’s-like-ness. After doing so, I will argue (...) that the HO approach accounts for the sense of what-it’s-like-ness that matters in a theory of consciousness. I will also argue that the only incoherence present in the HO theory is that generated by embracing Block’s controversial notion of what-it’s-like-ness, something no theorist of any stripe ought to do. Block is famous for (among other things) having introduced the notion of ‘phenomenal consciousness’ into contemporary philosophy of mind (Block 1995). This term is widely employed in the philosophical literature and it even appears in the empirical literature. But wide-speared usage has brought about divergent interpretations of the term. We can distinguish a ‘moderate’ and a ‘zealous’ reading of ‘phenomenal consciousness’. On the moderate reading, ‘phenomenal consciousness’ just means ‘experience’. Many people have embraced this sense of the term and use it to roughly pick out conscious experience involving sensory quality (states like conscious visual experiences or conscious pains, for example).2 On the zealous reading, however, phenomenal consciousness is held to be ‘distinct from any cognitive, intentional, or functional property’ (Block 1995: 234). That is, any explanation of phenomenal consciousness in exclusively cognitive, intentional, or functional terms will fail to capture, without remainder, what is really distinctive about phenomenal consciousness. Block, of course, is fully clear about embracing the zealous reading; indeed, his initial introduction of the notion is in those terms. The same ambiguity occurs with the much-used (and abused) idea of ‘what-it’s-like-ness’.. (shrink)
It is often held to be definitive of consciousness that there is something it is like to be in a conscious state. A consensus has arisen that ‘is like’ in relevant ‘what it is like’ locutions does not mean ‘resembles’. This paper argues that the consensus is mistaken. It is argued that a recently proposed ‘affective’ analysis of these locutions fails, but that a purported rival of the resemblance analysis, the property account, is in fact compatible (...) with it. Some of the implications of this argument are briefly explored: it is suggested that the meaning of ‘what it’s like’ does not, in itself, have any special bearing on consciousness, and that the implications for the so-called ‘hard problem’ of consciousness are deflationary. (shrink)
Kulvicki’s goal is to give a representationalist account of what it’s like to see a property that is “fully externalist about perceptual representation” (p. 1) and yet accommodates a certain “internalist intuition” (p. 4), which he describes as follows: “something about what it is like to see a property is internally determined, dependent only on the way one is built from the skin in” (p. 3). He illustrates this intuition with an inverted spectrum case and the (...) manifest-image problem. On his view, there’s an apparent conflict between the intuition and representationalism. That’s because, on representationalism, “what it is like to see a shade of color can be exhaustively explained in terms of what is perceptually represented” (p. 1) and, he claims, “all representational facts are externally determined” (p. 4). In short, if what it’s like is partly internally determined, then how can it be fully explained in terms of externally determined representational facts? (shrink)
Humanity has sat at the center of philosophical thinking for too long. The recent advent of environmental philosophy and posthuman studies has widened our scope of inquiry to include ecosystems, animals, and artificial intelligence. Yet the vast majority of the stuff in our universe, and even in our lives, remains beyond serious philosophical concern. In _Alien Phenomenology, or What It’s Like to Be a Thing_, Ian Bogost develops an object-oriented ontology that puts things at the center of being—a (...) philosophy in which nothing exists any more or less than anything else, in which humans are elements but not the sole or even primary elements of philosophical interest. And unlike experimental phenomenology or the philosophy of technology, Bogost’s alien phenomenology takes for granted that _all_ beings interact with and perceive one another. This experience, however, withdraws from human comprehension and becomes accessible only through a speculative philosophy based on metaphor. Providing a new approach for understanding the experience of things _as_ things, Bogost also calls on philosophers to rethink their craft. Drawing on his own background as a videogame designer, Bogost encourages professional thinkers to become makers as well, engineers who construct things as much as they think and write about them. (shrink)
What someone’s behaviour must be like if we are to be aware of their emotions in it Content Type Journal Article Pages 1-14 DOI 10.1007/s11097-011-9224-0 Authors Rowland Stout, School of Philosophy, UCD Dublin, Dublin 4, Republic of Ireland Journal Phenomenology and the Cognitive Sciences Online ISSN 1572-8676 Print ISSN 1568-7759.
The central claim of this paper is that what it is like to see green or any other perceptible property is just the perceptual mode of presentation of that property. Perceptual modes of presentation are important because they help resolve a tension in current work on consciousness. Philosophers are pulled by three mutually inconsistent theses: representational externalism, representationalism, and phenomenal internalism. I throw my hat in with defenders of the first two: the externalist representationalists. We are faced with (...) the problem of explaining away intuitions that favor phenomenal internalism. Perceptual modes of presentation account for what it is like to see properties in a way that accommodates those intuitions without vindicating phenomenal internalism itself. Perceptual MoPs therefore provide a new way of being an externalist representationalist. (shrink)
It is often argued that the existence of qualia -- private mental objects -- shows that physicalism is false. In this paper, I argue that to think in terms of qualia is a misleading way to develop what is in itself a valid intuition about the inability of physicalism to do justice to our conscious experience. I consider arguments by Dennett and Wittgenstein which indicate what is wrong with the notion of qualia, but which by so doing, help (...) us to locate the real problem for physicalism. This is not that there may be mental as well as physical objects of which we are aware, but that the very notion of awareness is itself resistant to physicalist treatment. In the concluding sections, I draw on Wittgenstein's positive account of sensations, to suggest a way in which the apparent chasm separating objective and subjective viewpoints might be bridged in a non-reductive fashion. (shrink)
This paper attempts an interpretation of Everett's relative state formulation of quantum mechanics that avoids the commitment to new metaphysical entities like âworldsâ or âmindsâ. Starting from Everett's quantum mechanical model of an observer, it is argued that an observer's belief to be in an eigenstate of the measurement (corresponding to the observation of a well-defined measurement outcome) is consistent with the fact that she objectively is in a superposition of such states. Subjective states corresponding to such beliefs are (...) constructed. From an analysis of these subjective states and their dynamics it is argued that Everett's pure wave mechanics is subjectively consistent with von Neumann's classical formulation of quantum mechanics. It follows from the argument that the objective state of a system is in principle unobservable. Nevertheless, an adequate concept of empirical reality can be constructed. (shrink)
The topic of divine omniscience is well-trodden ground, with philosophers and theologians having asked virtually every question there is to ask about it. The questions regarding God's omniscience to be addressed here are as follows. First, is omniscience best understood as maximal propositional knowledge along with maximal experiential knowledge? I argue that it is. Second, is it possible for God to be essentially omniscient? I argue that it is not.
Many people believe that the mind is an epistemic refuge of sorts. The idea is that when it comes to certain core mental states, one’s being in such a state automatically puts one in a position to know that one is in that state. This idea has come under attack in recent years. One particularly influential attack comes from Timothy Williamson (2000), who argues that there is no central core of states or conditions—mental or otherwise—to which we are guaranteed epistemic (...) access. In Williamson’s words, we are cognitively homeless. In this paper I will argue that Williamson’s argument for the conclusion that we are cognitively homeless fails. Then I will show that there is a class of phenomenal states that constitutes a substantial cognitive refuge. When all is said and done, I will have both defended and shed light on our cognitive home. (shrink)
We offer an account of empathetic pain that preserves the distinctions among standard pain, contagious pain, empathetic pain, sympathy for pain, and standard pain ascription. Vicarious experiences of both contagious and empathetic pain resemble to some extent experiences of standard pain. But there are also crucial dissimilarities. As neuroscientific results show, standard pain involves a sensorimotor and an affective component. According to our account, contagious pain consists in imagining the former, whereas empathetic pain consists in imagining the latter. We further (...) argue that awareness of another's standard pain is part of empathetic pain, but empathetic awareness of another's standard pain differs from believing that another is in standard pain. (shrink)
What, if any, is the problem with treating bodies as objects or property? Is there a defensible basis for seeing bodies as different from "other" material resources? Or is thinking the body special a kind of sentimentalism that blocks clear thinking about matters such as prostitution, surrogate motherhood, and the sale of spare kidneys? I argue that the language we use does matter, and that thinking of the body as property encourages a self/body dualism that obscures the power relations (...) involved in all contracts that cedes authority over the body. Recognising the self as embodied, however, also makes it harder to insist on sharp distinctions between activities that involve the body and those that "just" involve the mind, hence harder to justify refusing payment for explicitly body services while condoning it for those to which the body is more incidental. I therefore provide a modest defence of monetary compensation for those who "donate" bodily products or services. Compensation does not, however, mean markets for there is at least one sense in which the body is special. This is that more so, and more intrinsically than other markets, markets in body parts or bodily services depend on inequality. I use this to make a case against such markets. (shrink)
In this issue of CQ we introduce a new feature, in which noted bioethicists are invited to reflect on vital current issues. Our first invitee, John Harris, will subsequently assume editorship of this section.
Bodhicaryåvatåra was composed by the Buddhist monk scholar Íåntideva at Nalandå University in India sometime during the 8th Century CE. It stands as one the great classics of world philosophy and of Buddhist literature, and is enormously influential in Tibet, where it is regarded as the principal source for the ethical thought of Mahåyåna Buddhism. The title is variously translated, most often as A Guide to the Bodhisattva’s Way of Life or Engaging in the Bodhisattva Deeds, translations that follow the (...) canonical Tibetan translation of the title of the book (Byang chub sems pa’i spyod pa la ‘jug pa) and the commentarial tradition of Tibet. But that translation itself is a bit of a gloss on the original Sanskrit, and I think that a more natural English rendering of the Sanskrit title is simply How to Lead an Awakened Life, and that indeed describes the content of the text admirably. Taking this as the title of the text might also issue in a kind of gestalt shift in our view of the text, allowing us to see it not so much as a characterization of the extraordinary moral life of a saint, but as a guide to moral development open to any of us. So, let’s take that as the English title for now. (shrink)
This paper attempts to recast Zhuangzi's Butterfly Dream within the larger normative context of the 'Inner Chapters' and early Daoism in terms of its moral significance, particularly in the way that it prescribes how a Daoist should live through the 'significant symbol' of the butterfly. This normative reading of the passage will be contrasted with two recent interpretations of the passage - one by Robert Allinson and the other by Harold Roth - that tend to focus more on the epistemological (...) and mystical concerns of the text. As will be argued, the undue emphasis on the epistemological and mystical significance of the passage not only comes to grief when considered in light of philosophical and textual concerns but also obscures the moral dimensions of the passage that are more congruent with the 'Inner Chapters' as a whole. (shrink)
This paper critiques the representationalist account of qualia, focussing on the Representational Naturalism presented by Fred Dretske in Naturalizing the Mind. After laying out Dretskes theory of qualia and making clear its externalist consequences, I argue that Dretskes definition is either too liberal or runs into problems defending its requirements, in particular naturalness and mentalness. I go on to show that Dretskes account of qualia falls foul of the argument from misperception in such a way that Dretske must either admit (...) that his kind of qualia have nothing at all to do with what mental life subjectively feels like, or that veridical perception involves qualia and misperception does not. (shrink)
Several subjects are fully convinced that they are brains in vats whose experiences are hallucinatory. They confront a ‘skeptic’ who raises the possibility that they are not brains in vats who lack and hallucinate hands but ‘brains in skulls’ who have hands and see them. Familiar responses to skepticism are offered in support of the claim that the subjects know they do not have hands. The philosophical significance of this looking-glass approach to skepticism is also discussed. It is suggested that (...) these familiar responses to skepticism do not achieve anything because, if we begin from the assumption that we are brains in vats, we can employ those same responses to skepticism to support the claim that we know we do not have hands. One interlocutor argues that things are not so dismal. The main conversation is framed by a discussion among night watchmen at some sort of skepticism laboratory. (shrink)
Carnap in the 1930s discovered that there were non-normal interpretations of classical logic - ones for which negation and conjunction are not truth-functional so that a statement and its negation could have the same truth value, and a disjunction of two false sentences could be true. Church ar-gued that this did not call for a revision of classical logic. More recent writers seem to disa-gree. We provide a definition of "non-normal interpretation" and argue that Church was right, and in fact, (...) the existence of non-normal interpretations tells us something important about the condi-tions of extensionality of the classical logical operators. (shrink)