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Alter & Walter (Ed) - Phenomenal Concepts and Phenomenal Knowledge

Alter & Walter (Ed) - Phenomenal Concepts and Phenomenal Knowledge

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Phenomenal Concepts and Phenomenal Knowledge
New Essays on Consciousness and Physicalism
Alter, Torin
Associate Professor of Philosophy, University of Alabama
Walter, Sven
Junior Lecturer, Department of Philosophy, Universität Bielefeld
Introduction 1Part One - Phenomenal Knowledge 131. Daniel Dennett - What RoboMary Knows 142. Laurence Nemirow et. altri - So This Is What It's Like A Defense of the AbilityHypothesis 323. Frank Jackson - The Knowledge Argument, Diaphanousness, Representationalism 524. Torin Atler - Does Representationalism Undermine the Knowledge Argument? 655. Knut Nordby - What Is This Thing You Call Color. Can a Totally Color-Blind PersonKnow about Color?Part Two - Phenomenal Concepts 856. Janet Levin - What Is a Phenomenal Concept? 877. David Papineau - Phenomenal and Perceptual Concepts 1118. Joseph Levine - Phenomenal Concepts and the Materialist Constraint 1459. David Chalmers - Phenomenal Concepts and the Explanatory Gap 16710. John Hawthorne - Direct Reference and Dancing Qualia 19511. Stephen White - Property Dualism, Phenomenal Concepts, and the Semantic Premise21012. Ned Block - Max Black's Objection to Mind-Body Identity 24913. Martine Nida-Rümelin
Grasping Phenomenal Properties 307
This volume presents thirteen new essays on phenomenal concepts and phenomenalknowledge: twelve by philosophers and one by a scientist. In this introduction, we provide some background and summarize the essays.
Background: Consciousness and Physicalism
“Phenomenal” indicates conscious experience: what it's like to feel pain, to see red, andso on.
 Phenomenal knowledge
is knowledge of conscious experience.
 Phenomenal concepts
are concepts associated with that knowledge: those that express phenomenal
qualities from the experiencing subject's perspective. What is the nature of suchknowledge and concepts? What are their distinctive characteristics? How are their contents determined? What is required for their possession? In what does possessingthem consist? How are they related to abilities, such as the ability to visualize? How arethey related to physical
and physical concepts? These are just a few of thequestions that the essays in this volume address.Why are such questions important? One reason concerns the debate over consciousnessand physicalism.
(also known as
) is the view that the world ismerely physical.
This view implies that consciousness is physical or, as it is sometimes put, that there are no truths about consciousness over and above the physical truths. Manyembrace this implication, partly because it accords well with a naturalistic outlook inwhich the physical sciences, ideally conceived, completely describe reality. But theimplication is controversial even among those otherwise sympathetic to naturalism. Thecontroversy has gained focus over the last few decades, partly because of the refinementof certain antiphysicalist arguments and physicalist replies. In this debate, phenomenalconcepts and phenomenal knowledge have come to play increasingly prominent roles. Tosee why, consider two widely discussed antiphysicalist arguments: the knowledgeargument and the conceivability argument.The classic statement of the knowledge argument comes from Frank Jackson (1982,1986). Jackson formulates the argument in terms of his well-known thought experiment:the case of Mary the super-scientist. Mary is raised in a black-and-white room and has nocolor experiences. She learns everything in the completed science of color vision bywatching lectures on black-and-white television. What she learns includes “everything incompleted physics, chemistry, and neurophysiology, and all there is to know about thecausal and relational facts consequent upon all this, including of course functional roles”(Jackson 1986: 291). Then she leaves the room or is given a color television.Jackson uses the Mary case to argue roughly as follows. Before she leaves the room, sheknows all the physical truths. Intuitively, when she leaves and sees colors for the firsttime, she learns new truths about what it's like to see in color, truths she cannot deducefrom those conveyed by black-and-white lectures. These new truths must be nonphysical;otherwise, she would have known them before leaving the room. If such nonphysicaltruths exist, then physicalism is false. Therefore, physicalism is false. That, in brief, is theknowledge argument.
The conceivability argument is often formulated in terms of another thought experiment,one involving zombies. Zombies are defined as creatures that lack phenomenalconsciousness but are physically identical to conscious human beings. Given thisdefinition, the conceivability argument runs roughly as follows. Intuitively, zombies areconceivable. Their conceivability does not derive from our ignorance or cognitivelimitations; rather, they are conceivable because they are metaphysically possible. If theyare metaphysically possible, then physicalism is false. Therefore, physicalism is false.
Both arguments comprise three main steps. The first step is to establish an
epistemic gap
:the thesis that phenomenal concepts/knowledge cannot be deduced a priori from physicalconcepts/knowledge. In terms of the knowledge argument, the claim is that Mary gainsfactual knowledge when she leaves the room: knowledge of truths that cannot be a priorideduced from her comprehensive physical knowledge. In terms of the conceivabilityargument, the claim is that it is possible to form a coherent positive conception of 
zombies or that no a priori reasoning could show the zombie hypothesis to be incoherent(Chalmers 2002). The second step is to infer a
metaphysical gap
from the epistemic gap:to argue that the epistemic gap reflects a gap in reality, between the physical and the phenomenal themselves, and not just in knowledge or concepts. In terms of theknowledge argument, the inference is to the claim that the truths Mary learns uponleaving the room are nonphysical. In terms of the conceivability argument, the inferenceis to the claim that zombies are not just conceivable but metaphysically possible. Thethird step is to infer physicalism's falsity from the existence of a metaphysical gap.Most physicalists accept the third step but reject the first or the second.
Against the first,some contend that the appearance of an epistemic gap derives from misconstruing phenomenal concepts or phenomenal knowledge. In their view, the appearance of such agap does not reflect reality: on reflection, zombies are inconceivable and Mary gains nofactual knowledge upon leaving her room. Against the second step, some argue that theepistemic gap does not entail a metaphysical gap. On their view, zombies are conceivable but metaphysically impossible and the thesis that Mary acquires factual knowledge whenshe leaves the room does not conflict with physicalism. These two views—the one thatrejects the epistemic gap and the one that rejects the inference to the metaphysical gap— are sometimes called
type-B materialism
, respectively (Chalmers 1996, 2003).Both views have been developed in various ways, and antiphysicalists have responded inkind. But many on all sides of the debate would agree that much depends on how phenomenal concepts and phenomenal knowledge are construed. The latter issue hasimplications for what form physicalism should take: certain construals render theepistemic gap implausible and thus favor type-A materialism, while other construals help provide grounds for rejecting the inference to the metaphysical gap and thus favor type-Bmaterialism. Moreover, the issue of how to construe phenomenal concepts and phenomenal knowledge has implications for the antiphysicalist arguments. For example,some type-A materialists argue that the knowledge argument goes awry in assuming that phenomenal knowledge is a species of factual/propositional knowledge, and some type-Bmaterialists argue that phenomenal concepts have distinctive features that explain whythe conceivability of zombies fails to support their metaphysical possibility. Indeed,views about phenomenal concepts or phenomenal knowledge play pivotal roles invirtually all serious discussions of the antiphysicalist arguments.Thus, two questions emerge:1. Could a proper understanding of phenomenal concepts/knowledge show that there isor is not an epistemic gap?2. Could a proper understanding of phenomenal concepts/knowledge show that there isor is not a metaphysical gap?Most of the essays in this volume address at least one of these questions, and all addresssurrounding issues. The essays in part I focus primarily on phenomenal knowledge andthe knowledge argument. The essays in part II focus primarily on phenomenal concepts,and most do not concentrate narrowly on any single antiphysicalist argument.

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