Physicalism and Subjectivity

Jan Plate 17th February 2007

1 Physicalism 1.1 Introduction and Overview . . . . . . 1.2 Possible Directions . . . . . . . . . . . 1.3 Physicalism . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1.3.1 Defining ‘Physicalism’ . . . . . 1.3.2 A Priori vs A Posteriori . . . . 1.4 The Paradox of Phenomenal Judgment 2 Subjectivity: Preliminaries 2.1 The Concept of Data . . . . . . . . . 2.2 Objections . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 2.2.1 Inspired by Wittgenstein . . 2.2.2 Inspired by Sellars . . . . . . 2.2.3 Inspired by Dennett . . . . . 2.3 The Concepts of ‘I’ and Accessibility 2.4 Why Accessibility? . . . . . . . . . . 2.5 Contexts of Evaluation . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 2 2 4 6 6 13 14 22 23 26 27 27 29 34 36 38 41 41 42 43 48 50 51 53 55 59 65 67 70 75 76 78 80

3 Subjectivity 3.1 The Epistemological Concept of Subjectivity . . . . . . . . . . 3.1.1 Defining ‘Subjectivity’ . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 3.1.2 Intuitions, and the Concept of Consciousness . . . . . . 3.1.3 Metaphysical Significance . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 3.1.4 Remaining Questions . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 3.2 The Knowledge Intuition . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 3.3 Possession Conditions of the Concept of Data . . . . . . . . . . 3.4 Vicarious Cognition and the Paradox of Phenomenal Judgment 3.5 The Concepts of Adjunction and Φ . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 4 Subjectivity and Physicalism 4.1 Gradedness . . . . . . . . . . . 4.2 Liberal Reductionism . . . . . . 4.3 Conclusion . . . . . . . . . . . 4.3.1 Possible Objections . . . 4.3.2 Phenomenal Judgments 4.3.3 Future Directions . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .


Chapter 1

1.1 Introduction and Overview

Not many philosophical positions have so often been made the subject of attack as the materialist stance on the nature of the mind. One of the likely reasons for this is that it marks one of the horns of a dilemma: on the one hand, it is not easy see how the mind could possibly be the product of the workings of mere matter, however intricately composed. And on the other hand, we have no idea how anything else but matter could act on the matter of our bodies or itself be affected by it (e.g., through the senses). This dilemma, of course, is the famous mind-body problem. Its first horn would be to deny the proposition that the mind should be the product of ‘material’ processes; often, the alternative suggestion has then been a kind of mind-body dualism. To be sure, this position has been attacked repeatedly and severely. But the basis of those attacks has practically always been the same: dualism is an ontologically rather extravagant claim, and it is completely unclear how mind and body should interact or otherwise be brought into alignment with each other. It is just because of this criticism, of course, that the dilemma also has a second horn, namely the materialist view, which is endorsed for exactly those reasons dualism is rejected for. And quite analogously (as well as unsurprisingly), the main source of support for dualism has at the same time been the preferred basis for attacks on materialism. In contrast to the case of dualism, however, this basis – the difficulty of understanding how the mind could be the product of material processes – offers much more potential for variation, and the attacks launched from it have been correspondingly more numerous. That potential for variation stems from the various ‘features’ of the mind – e.g., intentionality, rationality, qualia, and (in whatever sense) subjectivity – that might be thought to be unrealisable by a purely physical process. Rationality and qualia, in particular, have in the last century proved a fertile ground for the proposal of ever new (though certainly closely related) arguments against materialism, and in addition, there are even empirical findings that have been interpreted in favour of a non-materialist view of the mind.1 Despite the large number of these arguments, however, and the vigour with which they have been defended, it is today safe to say that the case against the materialist view of the mind is far from won. And it seems that the main reason for this is not the stubbornness of the materialists, but rather the deeply unconvincing nature of the anti-materialist arguments. I will have to leave this claim unsupported here,
1 Eccles and Popper (1977); Penfield (1975). ‘Empirical’ should here be understood in the sense of ‘based on third-person observations’.




but some flaws of those arguments will already become evident in the course of the present chapter. The dissatisfaction with those anti-physicalist arguments, coupled with the belief that their common conclusion is nevertheless correct, provides the main motivation for this thesis. Its goal is therefore the detailed development of a defensible argument against the materialist view of the mind. This argument will not be entirely novel. An important part of it occurs already in the third chapter of David Chalmers’ The Conscious Mind (the relevant passages are cited below, on p. 67), where, however, it takes up little more than a single paragraph. A reasonably detailed development of this argument requires considerably more space and a lot more preparation – much more than I had originally thought myself. The argument itself will be presented in the final chapter, the first section of which is dedicated to Chalmers’ part. The two middle chapters mainly serve as preparation. As the title of this thesis suggests, the central concept of that argument is that of subjectivity. In my exposition of Chalmers’ part of the argument, I will argue that subjectivity is ‘not graded’, i.e., that it cannot be a matter of degree whether a given entity is a subject, and that this makes it difficult for the materialist (who will then be called ‘physicalist’) to provide an adequate analysis of that property. The ‘standard’ analyses invariably fail because they analyse subjectivity as a graded property. Hence, what is needed is a non-graded ‘materialistic’ property with which to identify subjectivity. As I will argue at the beginning of the second part of the argument, this would almost certainly have to be a very wide-spread property; in particular, what suggests itself would be the property of ‘being a physical system’. And this escape route for the materialist will then be closed, thereby completing the reductio of the materialist (or ‘physicalist’) position. Or so it would be in a perfect world. It will emerge, however, that the identification of subjectivity with the property of being a physical system cannot be conclusively shown to be false, but only to be in a certain sense unsatisfactory. Correspondingly, the reductio will not be complete, and the conclusion of the argument will not be that the materialist position is false, but only that it is in the same sense unsatisfactory. Still, I am convinced that this argument constitutes – short of more conclusive empirical evidence – the currently most defensible way of attacking the materialist view of the mind. In preparation to the actual argument, the concept of subjectivity is developed in the two middle chapters, the first of which serves mainly to lay the ground for the second one. To show that subjectivity is indeed a graded property requires a somewhat formal definition of the term, but it is also necessary to connect this definition with our common intuitions of what it means to be be a ‘subject’. All this will be done in the first section of chapter 3. The definition of subjectivity relies itself on another concept, that of accessibility, which in turn is based on that of data. Both of these will be introduced in chapter 2, along with a few others. Rather than to introduce new concepts, the task of the present chapter is to provide clearer definitions of existing ones, and in particular of the concept of physicalism. If I have so far instead been talking of the “materialist view of the mind”, this was because ‘materialism’, and not ‘physicalism’, is the term historically most associated with the mind-body problem, which, as mentioned, provides the general background of this thesis. However, coined in the first half of the last century by members of the Vienna Circle, ‘physicalism’ has relatively soon become the more frequently used term in the context of the philosophy of mind.2 Since it would, at least from an etymological point of view, make little
2 Although

there are certain niches where the term ‘materialism’ is dominant. Eliminativism,



sense to draw a semantic distinction between the two, it will mainly be out of compliance with the generally accepted usage that I am in the following going to speak of ‘physicalism’ instead of ‘materialism’. There is one other reason, however: because ‘physicalism’ is considerably more dominant in the philosophy of mind than in other fields, and is moreover less soaked in tradition than ‘materialism’, it seems to be much more suitable a term for a (re)definition that associates it with a concept intrinsically tied to the philosophy of mind. I will propose such a definition in sect. 1.3.1 below. Two of the sections not mentioned so far (namely, 1.4 and 3.1.4) will primarily deal with the problem of how an anti-physicalist position (a ‘non-materialist view of the mind’) can at all be plausibly maintained. These are more lengthy and of a somewhat more technical nature than most of the other sections and can be skipped on first reading. I should point out, however, that the second part of the main argument, presented in the final chapter, draws heavily on the concept of adjunction, defined in sect. 3.1.4, which in turn ideally presupposes an understanding of sect. 1.4. For the purpose of orientation, it may also be useful to have a look at the diagram on p. 76. I am going to start now by briefly sketching a categorisation scheme for the various directions that a solution of the mind-body problem might take. The intent is to add a little bit of structure to the general backdrop of our discussion.


Possible Directions for a Solution of the MindBody Problem

A natural way to classify approaches to the mind-body problem relies on differences in the degree of theoretical conservatism. It is in such a difference that the traditional divide between materialism and dualism essentially consists. Since attempts to solve the mind-body problem are necessarily positions on the question of how to integrate the ‘phenomenon’ of the mind in one’s general picture of the world, we can move from the mind to phenomena in general and ask what the principal ways are in which a theorist might choose to treat a new phenomenon. The naturally first classificatory step concerns the question of whether the theorist believes that the phenomenon requires a revision of his current theory. If he thinks it does not, this means that, if he is not mistaken, the phenomenon can either be accommodated on the basis of his existing theory, or that it does not really exist in the first place (e.g. because it can easily be ‘explained away’). According to whether he believes the one or the other, we can call him either a reductionist or a sceptic.3 On the other side, if he believes that a theory change is called for, the theorist seems to have three principal options, according to the degree that he takes the phenomenon to be explainable on the basis of his current theory. On the first approach, the change consists mainly in a reinterpretation of some or all of the old theoretical terms, such that they account (as it is hoped) not only for the already explained phenomena but also for the new one. The second approach simply adds new fundamental predicates to the old ontology, but does so in a rather conservative way, preserving the general structure of the
e.g., is also called ‘eliminative materialism’ but not ‘eliminative physicalism’. 3 The term ‘reductionism’ is here admittedly not a very happy choice, as it is already fraught with all kinds of different meanings and connotations. There does, however, not seem to be a better alternative. For details concerning what it means to accommodate a phenomenon “on the basis of existing theory”, see the discussion of physicalism in the next section.



world and just allowing the things in it to have a number of properties in addition to those they already had before. Finally, the third strategy posits an entirely new kind of things alongside the old ontology. Finding names for these different approaches is relatively straightforward. The first one of these strategies may appropriately be named ‘revisionism’, the second one ‘property dualism’ and the third one ‘substance dualism’. The last two of these ‘isms’ are already sufficiently familiar; I might perhaps add that emergentism should in general be regarded as a kind of property dualism. Good examples of revisionism motivated by the need to ‘save’ mental phenomena are hard to come by, however. To my knowledge, nothing in this direction has so far been proposed. The picture this leaves us with is certainly somewhat simplistic, but I think it does provide a reasonable way to classify the various approaches that might be taken in order to come to grips with the mind (or any other phenomenon). To summarise, we have: (1) Scepticism, (2) Reductionism, (3) Revisionism, (4) Property dualism, and (5) Substance dualism. The general order in which the strategies are listed here seems to reflect the order in which they should be tried in order to cope with a purported new phenomenon. Let me briefly explain why I think so. Arguably, when a phenomenon is reported but its existence not yet firmly established, it will be best to deny its existence, leading to scepticism; obviously, only when it is known that the phenomenon really does exist should one try to give it an explanation at all. At first, one should attempt an explanation in terms of the already existing theory, believing in the possibility of which makes one a reductionist. If such an explanation turns out not to be available, one should next try to give the terms of one’s theory a slightly different interpretation, in an attempt to eliminate the restrictions that prevent it from explaining the phenomenon. Only if such revisionism proves impossible (for example, because it would seriously threaten the explanatory achievements regarding other phenomena), should one consider property dualism. It is clear that the cost of such a move is relatively high, since it involves increasing the number of one’s fundamental predicates and thus increasing the complexity of one’s theory.4 Yet property dualism is still less costly than substance dualism, for the following reason. In order to construct a property-dualist ontology, all that is needed to do is to introduce a set of new fundamental predicates and to specify certain laws governing their application. This, of course, also needs to be done if one chooses to be a substance dualist; but whereas in the former case, one is quite free in how those laws are fashioned, as a substance dualist, one will at least have to specify that some of the old fundamental predicates do not find application where some of the new ones do. This, after all, is what enables a substance dualist to speak of ‘two realms’.5 We see, then, that property dualism should be preferred to substance dualism because the latter is more specific than the former, namely insofar as substance
4 I am presupposing here, perhaps not quite uncontroversially, that ontological parsimony should be measured in terms of theoretical complexity, as opposed to, e.g., the number of entities admitted or necessitated by the ontology in question. 5 Cf. the way that Millikan (1984, p. 254) defines her concept of ‘substance category’.



dualism should not be adopted as long as there is no good reason to believe in a separation between the ‘two realms’. But there is also a deeper reason. For, it may be that that separation prevents the substance dualist from exploiting the explanatory potential of having both old and new predicates be applicable to the same entities. To give an – admittedly crude – example: Suppose it is believed (as may seem reasonable) that only relatively large chunks of matter can have consciousness, and that, having for some reason found strategies (1) to (3) insufficient, one has come to take a property-dualist view on this topic. What one might do is therefore to ‘analyse’ consciousness as an aggregate of some large number of tiny ‘mental particles’. Being a property (but not a substance) dualist, one may further postulate that these ‘mental particles’ are nothing else than the familiar physical particles, only equipped with additional ‘mental’ properties (‘proto-qualia’, perhaps). Now, according to our ‘analysis’ of consciousness, these particles need only be put together into a sufficiently large aggregate, and voil`! – consciousness. a Crude though this example certainly is, I think it still serves to illustrate the point, namely that there may be a kind of ‘synergy’ between old and new predicates which a theorist can and should seek to exploit, and that this synergy would be lost in substance dualism. The result is that possibly, the substance dualist will have to painstakingly create the same structures in his new ‘realm’ that he could have found in the old one if only he had looked hard enough. And for this reason, it seems we should first try a strictly property-dualistic ontology before, as a last resort, we turn to substance dualism. Having said this, I should emphasise, however, that the ordering of the strategies does not mean that every kind of revisionism is preferable to every property dualism, nor that every property dualism should be favoured over every kind of substance dualism. Of course, each of these strategies allows for the construction of excessively complex ontologies, and it might well be that a revisionist ontology is, when spelt out, far more complicated than a simple form of substance dualism. And also, of course, it may turn out that an approach further to the top of the list simply does not ‘fit the data’.



To borrow a phrase from Georges Rey, physicalism is the metaphysical doctrine that everything in the world is composed of “matter in motion”.6 This formulation is admittedly somewhat imprecise (it leaves out non-kinetic forms of energy), but, at least prima facie, it serves well enough to convey the basic idea. On closer examination, however, it turns out that a precise definition of physicalism is far more difficult to provide than it at first seems.


Defining ‘Physicalism’

In the course of the dialectic between physicalists and anti-physicalists, there have in recent decades been a number of proposals on how physicalism should be spelt out exactly. The recently most influential one has been given by Frank Jackson and runs as follows: “Any world which is a minimal physical duplicate of our world is a duplicate simpliciter of our world.”7
(1997, p. 180). (1994, p. 28). – The following remarks on the existing literature draw heavily, though not without reservations, on Daniel Stoljar’s article Physicalism in the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, Stoljar (2001). The reservations concern in part Stoljar’s discussion of the possible
7 Jackson 6 Rey



The idea of this is simply that physicalism is true just in case every world in which exactly the same physical facts hold as in our world, and where nothing holds that is not necessitated by this (hence “minimal”), is a duplicate simpliciter of our world. A more concise way of putting this would be: Physicalism is true iff our world is a minimal physical duplicate of itself.8 Or, closer to ordinary ways of speaking: Physicalism claims that all the fundamental facts of our world are physical facts. Now, while this definition of ‘physicalism’ may look reasonable enough, it is clear that in order to make any use of it, we should first like to know what exactly is meant by ‘physical’. As has been pointed out by Crane and Mellor (1990, p. 188), there is a certain threat here of triviality. For, if ‘physical’ is to mean, roughly, ‘consisting of nothing but what has been discovered or hypothesised by current-day physics’, then physicalism would entail that the world does not contain anything fundamental whose existence has not already been proposed by at least some theory of physics. This is surely a much too optimistic view of current physics for any philosopher to embrace. But if the current state of theorizing cannot be the measure, the only possible option is to rely on an idealised notion of physics. And clearly, this would mean trivialisation, since an ideal physics would be a science that covers each and every fundamental aspect of our universe; a science that tells us exactly what it means for a world to be “a duplicate” of our world. Thus conceived, there would indeed be no question whether physicalism has to be true.9 In response to this problem, the philosophical literature offers two kinds of approaches, which Stoljar (op. cit.) labels “the theory-based conception” and “the object-based conception”, respectively, and which he describes as follows: • The theory-based conception: “A property is physical iff: it either is the sort of property that physical theory tells us about or else is a property which metaphysically (or logically) supervenes on the sort of property that physical theory tells us about.” • The object-based conception: “A property is physical iff: it either is the sort of property required by a complete account of the intrinsic nature of paradigmatic physical objects and their constituents or else is a property which metaphysically (or logically) supervenes on the sort of property required by a complete account of the intrinsic nature of paradigmatic physical objects and their constituents.”10 Of these, the second conception offers at first sight an interesting alternative to the arguably more mainstream theory-based conception. However, I think it is almost immediately clear that it suffers from a rather fatal flaw: Suppose panpsychism is true and those “paradigmatic physical objects”, like apples, chairs and
objections to the various formulations of physicalism, which seems to me marred by certain questionable views on the proper treatment of modality. Also, it seems that his argument against the “derivation-view” (sect. 7) is logically flawed. 8 I believe this is the formulation preferred by Brian McLaughlin. 9 Stoljar and others ascribe this dilemma to Hempel (1969), thus calling it “Hempel’s dilemma” (cf. sect. 10). Yet this ascription strikes me as somewhat inappropriate. Hempel’s “linguisticontological dilemma” (op. cit., p. 182f.) is a dilemma between two slightly different kinds of obscurity (namely, the obscurity of what is to count as a physical, biological, chemical etc. object or system vs the obscurity of what is to count as a physical, biological, chemical etc. term), whereas what Stoljar (as well as Crane and Mellor) talks about is a dilemma between falsity and triviality. More could be said here, but this seems to be the main disanalogy. 10 For an example of the theory-based conception, see Chalmers (1996, p. 32f.); Feigl’s concept of ‘physical2 ’ can plausibly be regarded as object-based (Feigl 1967, p. 10). Jackson (1998, p. 7f.) seems to endorse a kind of mixture of these two kinds of conceptions.



pencils are also bearers of mental properties. Surely, such a case should be ruled out by any kind of physicalism worthy of that name. Since there seems to be no easy way in which the object-based conception could be modified to meet this objection, the apparently only option is a theory-based conception of the physical. Unfortunately, this conception is not quite without problems either. For not much is gained with regard to an explication of the physical if we are simply told to look to “physical theories”; after all, what makes a theory physical? Stoljar’s solution to this problem is to point to a Wittgensteinian “family resemblance” between the physical theories found in history, such as Newtonian mechanics, Maxwellian thermodynamics, General Relativity, and so forth. Now I think this is the only possible, or at least the most reasonable, route to take – provided we want to regard physicalism as a general metaphysical claim. But on the other hand: are we really interested in physicalism as a general metaphysical doctrine – especially if it takes on such a vague form as we have just arrived at? How much are we interested in a physicalism that merely holds that a theory which correctly describes the fundamental facts of our world bears a “family resemblance” to the known physical theories? (And besides, how much are we willing to stretch this “family resemblance”? It is after all a commonplace observation that modern physical theories are often very strange indeed, even by the physicists’ own standards.) The more important point, however, concerns the fact that a physicalism conceived in terms of “family resemblance” is, because of this vagueness, not at all easy to pin down for the purpose of philosophical argument. We need certainly not suppose that our conception of physicalism would be rendered entirely useless by such vagueness; but it nevertheless seems that its use will thereby be restricted to a role similar to the one that the term ‘traditional’ plays e.g. in the physical sciences. That is, one may use it in order to give a broad classification of some given theory, and that will be fine if nothing more is desired. But if one would like to use it in a relevant way in the course of philosophical argument, it will quickly become apparent that sentences containing the term ‘physicalism’ or ‘physicalist’ will typically appear at the end, and not in the middle or at the beginning, of any such argument. This is simply due to the fact that propositions containing vague terms tend to be logically rather weak (regardless of whether negated or not), so that in general, not very much can be derived from them when compared to more precise formulations. Much more than this would have to be said concerning potential problems and necessary qualifications, if Jackson’s proposal were in the following to serve as our definition of ‘physicalism’. However, for the reasons just given, I would rather like to make use of another conception of ‘physicalism’, one that does not suffer as much from the imprecision surrounding the term ‘physical’. The price of the added precision will be diminished generality: the notion will no longer be a general metaphysical claim, but rather something specifically belonging to the metaphysics of the mind. On the other hand, insofar as the metaphysics of the mind is exactly what we are here concerned with, this loss of generality can be easily tolerated in the present context. I will therefore propose the following definition: (P) Physicalism is the position that our current physics provides a sufficient basis for the accommodation of all mental phenomena. For a clearer picture of what this means, we have to clarify (1) the meaning of “current physics”, (2) what it means to say that it is a “sufficient basis for the accommodation” of a “phenomenon”, and (3) what is meant by the term ‘mental



phenomenon’. To start with the last item, I think it would not be very fruitful to give a crisp definition of ‘mental phenomenon’ at this point. Such a definition may or may not be given after a fuller view of the fundamentals of mentality has become available, but before we have reached that state, we should be content with an intuitive understanding. More than that will not be needed to guide our investigation. I should also note in this connection that the term ‘phenomenon’ may already be somewhat misleading. For the goal of our argument will be to show that current physics is unable to provide a satisfactory account of subjectivity, and in the course of the following chapters, it will emerge that subjectivity is strictly speaking not a phenomenon at all. Nevertheless, it is inextricably bound up with our notion of ‘the mental’, and it will therefore be equally significant for the philosophy of mind if current physics is unable to give a satisfactory account of subjectivity as it would if current physics could not accommodate any bona fide mental phenomenon. Thus, I will not only base the following investigation on a purely intuitive understanding of what it means to be mental phenomenon, but also (at least insofar as the present definition of ‘physicalism’ is concerned) presuppose a very broad interpretation of the term ‘phenomenon’ itself. As for (1) and (2), there is on the one hand the problem that current physics is not just a single theory, but a whole collection of many mutually incompatible theories, and on the other hand the problem of specifying what it means for a theory to accommodate a “phenomenon”. We can solve these problems in tandem. First of all, I would propose that we adopt an ‘ontological’ view on the issue of accommodation, to the effect that we treat theories as ontologies and regard a phenomenon as ‘accommodated’ by a theory just in case it exists in the corresponding ontology. How do we get from a theory to the corresponding ontology? This is a question I would leave to the respective theory’s author himself. After all, every theorist who has a clear idea of what he is proposing should be able to specify what kinds of things have to exist if his theory is to be true. I suppose that the canonical way to do this will be by an enumeration of axioms through which the fundamental predicates of the respective ontology are defined; in particular, it will have to be made clear in what ways entities can be individuated by these predicates. And in order for the ontology to have a reasonably determinate interpretation in natural language, it should be specified how its fundamental predicates are related to certain fundamental natural-language concepts, such as, e.g., the concepts of space and time. On the basis of such an ontology O, annotated with hints as to how its fundamental predicates should be translated into natural language, it should be relatively determinate which phenomena exist according to it and which do not. Or, to move away from the term ‘phenomenon’ (which we have found to be somewhat too specific in the previous paragraph): it should be relatively determinate which predicates of natural language are instantiated in O. I say ‘relatively determinate’ because it may in some cases be necessary to decide ‘by hand’, and with a certain degree of arbitrariness, whether a given predicate defined in the vocabulary of O should be regarded as subsumed under a given natural-language predicate. So, further ‘annotations’ may be required, in addition to those concerning the fundamental predicates. Now, considering the nature of actual physical theories, we see that their claims and definitions do usually not suffice to determine a complete ontology. For one thing, no theory that I am aware of fully specifies the initial conditions of the universe, even though these conditions clearly have some causal influence on what predicates will be instantiated in later stages of universal history. An exception are theories according to which all initial conditions compatible with the respective laws are realised in separate universes; but it would surely be wrong to leave



the more conventional ‘monocosmic’ theories out of account, insofar as our understanding of ‘current physics’ is concerned. Furthermore, it is a well-known fact that many physicists believe in irreducibly probabilistic (or “intractably statistical”) laws. According to this belief, some events can happen ‘spontaneously’, completely undetermined (though, of course, not unconstrained) by circumstances or natural law. Clearly, these events, too, have an influence on what kinds of things exist in the universe. There is, here again, the exception of ‘polycosmic’ theories positing a multiplicity of universes, where for each set of mutually exclusive possible events (i.e., events that are compatible with the rest of the theory, possibly including the ‘event’ that nothing happens), the respective universe ‘splits up’ into as many further universes. These theories, however, have considerable difficulty accounting for the fact that such events are usually not equally probable,11 and in any case, they can hardly be taken to represent ‘current physics’ to the exclusion of all other theories. We see then that to turn a monocosmic physical theory into a full ontology, we have to supplement it with a specification of the initial state of the universe, and that, if the theory moreover contains ‘irreducibly probabilistic laws’, we also have to specify exactly what ‘spontaneous’ events have occurred or will occur in the history of the universe. (Of course, in the completed ontology, these latter specifications will have no different status from the more commonly so called natural laws, which certainly runs somewhat counter to the physicist’s talk of spontaneous events; but so much the worse for that talk.) Now, does the fact that many physical theories leave some of their ontological issues unsettled constitute a problem for our definition of ‘physicalism’ ? Apparently, not really – or at least, it does not add a further problem to the difficulty already resulting from the multiplicity of physical theories themselves. For the solution in either case is to turn to disjunction. If current physics consists of many mutually incompatible theories, we can regard it as a disjunction of these theories. And likewise, if a physicist’s theory is ontologically underspecified, he may construe the ontology corresponding to his theory as a disjunction of the various ontologies with which his theory is compatible. Thus, the ontology of current physics emerges as a very long and possibly infinite disjunction of many different ontologies (see figure 1.1). As for the question of what it means for a phenomenon to be accommodated by current physics, the natural answer will be that it is accommodated just in case it occurs in at least one of the ontologies of which the disjunction is made up. To add a little bit of terminology: if a predicate (e.g., of natural language) can plausibly be translated into the vocabulary of a given theory, I will say that the theory provides that predicate; moreover, if the predicate is provided by a theory of current physics, I will say that the predicate is provided by current physics. And last but not least, I will call an entity physical just in case it can be fully described by predicates of current physics.12 Still, it may have to be clarified what theories are to count as ‘theories of current physics’. If every theory developed somewhere by some physicist were to count as a ‘theory of current physics’, we would clearly not be in a position to say anything about what the phenomena are that are left unexplained by current physics, since we would be completely unaware of most of those theories. So, if only for practical reasons, we have to restrict the class of ‘theories of current physics’
Chalmers (1996, ch. 10.5). is of course not to say that a physical entity could not instantiate any predicates that are not provided by current physics. A better (though less familiar-sounding) way of explaining the meaning of ‘physical’ would be to say that an entity is called ‘physical’ just in case it is fully individuated by such a predicate. This means: if and only if an entity x is physical, there is a (usually complex) predicate provided by current physics that is true of no other entity but x.
12 This 11 Cf.

CHAPTER 1. PHYSICALISM O1,1 ∨ O1,2 ∨ . . . ∨ O2,1 ∨ O2,2 ∨ . . . ∨ O3,1 ∨ O3,2 ∨ . . . ∨ . . .
T1 T2 T3



Ti (for i = 1, . . .): theories of current physics. Figure 1.1: The disjunctive ontology of current physics. to those that have been reasonably widely acknowledged, such as string theory or ‘branes’ theory, for example. This restriction is admittedly rather vague. One could make it more precise, e.g., by explicitly requiring the theories in question to be published in certain well-respected journals, but at present, there seems to me not much point in doing so. Let us now briefly consider the most important consequences of the above definition of ‘physicalism’. First of all, as previously mentioned, physicalism is under that definition a claim for what is required by a proper treatment of mental phenomena, as opposed to being a claim simply about the nature of the universe. This clearly marks it as a position within philosophy of mind. Second, the proposed concept of physicalism is relative to the current state of physics. I do not think this poses any serious problems. After all, it only means that whoever uses the definition should be reasonably clear about the point of time that determines what he regards as “the current state of physics”. For our purposes, we can fix this to be the beginning of the year 2005. To appreciate the relevance of this, consider that some have claimed that classical physics does not have the means naturally to accommodate mental phenomena, whereas quantum mechanics does.13 Similarly, if there should be some physical breakthrough sometime this year allowing us to explain all the mental phenomena there are, this would mean that Physicalism 2006 would be correct whereas Physicalism 2005 might be simply wrong. Third, physicalism does, according to the above definition, not imply that our current physics is complete. It may well be that our current physical theories will turn out to be changed, extended,supplemented or replaced by something entirely different, and this will all be quite compatible with physicalism as long as this change or extension etc. is not necessitated by the need to accommodate any mental phenomena. Of the definitions of ‘physicalism’ existing in the literature, Papineau’s (Papineau 2002) seems to come closest to this, and it may therefore be reasonable to have a closer look at it. On p. 41, he defines ‘physical’ to mean “identifiable non-mentally-and-non-biologically” (emphasis his), a property he also calls ‘inanimate’. Here, ‘mentally’ and ‘biologically identifiable’ refer to the specific ways of “picking out” certain properties as mental or biological, respectively. Under this definition, his claim that the ‘physical’ (or ‘inanimate’, as he also calls it) is causally complete, together with the obvious fact that mental phenomena have effects in the ‘physical’ realm, entails that every mental phenomenon is identical to a ‘physical’ phenomenon. This is therefore Papineau’s version of physicalism: Conscious causes have inanimate effects. Inanimate effects have full inanimate causes. So conscious properties must be identical with (or realized by) inanimate properties. (p. 42)
13 See,

e.g., Stapp (1995).



The similarity of this to our version of physicalism lies mainly in the fact that it is very much tailored to the needs of a philosopher of mind. Apparently, Papineau offers here quite an elegant solution to the problem of defining ‘physicalism’ in that he completely avoids reference to any actual or ideal physics, but it may prima facie also be seen as somewhat inelegant insofar as it presupposes the distinction between various (kinds of) ways in which to “identify” properties – namely, the ‘mental’ and the ‘biological’ ways, in addition to further ones that, for his purposes, need not themselves be defined. Now, the concept of ‘the mental’ is inevitably presupposed by our definition as well, and it seems reasonable to assume that there will then also be some special kind of way in which ‘the mental’ can be identified, so this does not constitute much of a disadvantage relative to our definition. As for the biological way of identifying properties, Papineau has to make this presupposition for certain technical reasons that do not need to interest us. There may be problems with defining what exactly is supposed to differentiate our way of identifying biological properties from the way in which we identify, say, chemical ones. However, for all we know, these problems may yet be overcome somehow, and in any case, we need not look any deeper into this issue, as there is another problem with Papineau’s definition that is much closer to the surface. Suppose for the moment that substance dualism is correct and that in addition to the fields and particles known from physics, we also have a Cartesian res cogitans. Clearly, this assumption would be utterly incompatible with any reasonable version of physicalism. But then, nothing about it excludes the possibility that the hypothetical res cogitans or its specifically mental properties are ‘identifiable’ not only in a specifically mental way, but also in some non-mental way. For example, it might be that the res cogitans manifests itself in certain localised disturbances of space-time that, to a human eye, appear as some kind of ‘ghosts’. Moreover, let us assume that each and every mentally identifiable property of the res cogitans unmistakeably manifests itself in the nature of those disturbances and thereby also in the appearance of the resulting ‘ghosts’. What we have in such a scenario is a way in which instantiations of those ‘mentally identifiable’ properties have effects that make them also ‘non-mentally identifiable’.14 The ‘identification’ will admittedly be somewhat indirect, but so is the ‘identification’ of many other non-mentally identifiable properties, like, e.g., the charge and spin of electrons. Since this possibility of identifcation holds by hypothesis for every mentally identifiable property of the res cogitans, it follows that under Papineau’s definition, the scenario just outlined, as outlandish as it certainly is, has still to be regarded as consonant with physicalism. But, of course, no-one would seriously consider that scenario as physicalistic, and hence, Papineau’s definition is inadequate. Furthermore, there seems to be no way to salvage it from this objection. It may still be useful to distinguish positions according to which everything ‘mentally identifiable’ is also ‘non-mentally identifiable’ from those that do not entail this kind of implication, but insofar as the former positions are compatible with the existence of a res cogitans manifesting itself in the form of ‘ghosts’, they surely ought not to be called forms of physicalism. Returning now to our own definition, what can in view of our previous remarks be said of the notion of ‘physicalism’ defined by it? Is it more likely than Stoljar’s to occur in one of the central stages of a philosophical argument? I should think so. For, if physicalism is correct, this means nothing else than that either a
14 There is a certain ambiguity here in that “them” may refer both to the properties and to their instantiations. However, I do not think this ambiguity is harmful in any way, since, if I understand Papineau correctly, ‘identifying’ a given property means just to identify an instantiation of it as such (i.e., as an instantiation of that property).



scepticist or a reductionist approach to the explanation of mental phenomena is required. Conversely, if physicalism is wrong, we will have to choose one of the other approaches, i.e., revisionism or one of the two dualisms.15 On Stoljar’s conception, things would look considerably less clear. Knowing whether or not the metaphysical picture that best fits the structure of our world bears a “family resemblance” to our (more or less) familiar physical theories does not really help us in selecting any approach with regard to the mind-body problem, and would probably not be much more useful in solving any other philosophical problem either. Of course, one can now object that under our definition, ‘physicalism’ is a rather superfluous term, since it merely denotes the disjunction of scepticism and reductionism. But I do not think this should worry us. The term ‘parent’ can likewise be regarded as denoting a disjunction, since, for almost all practical purposes, it is coextensive with the expression ‘mother or father’, but this does surely not entail its uselessness. It seems better to have a somewhat redundant but clearly defined term than one that, because of its vagueness, cannot be made any practical use of at all.


A Priori vs A Posteriori

Let us now briefly turn to the recent debate between ‘a priori physicalism’ and ‘a posteriori physicalism’.16 I am putting these labels in quotes here because, contrary to what they might suggest, the positions denoted by them do not claim that physicalism is an a priori or, respectively, an a posteriori doctrine. That physicalism can only be true or false a posteriori is entirely obvious. Or at least, this follows if the alternative, namely that physicalism is true or false a priori, is understood such that the a priori is non-defeasible. Thus conceived, the statement that physicalism is true or false a posteriori does not say much more than that physicalism is not logically true, which certainly is obvious. But the debate is, as I said, not about the epistemological or modal status of physicalism. Instead, the question at issue is whether a physicalist should be committed to an a priori entailment from physical facts (including a ‘That’s all’clause and indexical facts such as ‘I am now here, looking into that direction’) to psychological facts (including those about consciousness). Jackson, who started the debate with his Jackson (1997) and Jackson (1998), argues as follows that the answer is yes: Consider, for instance, a supplementation of our earlier inference: (1) Over 60 percent of the Earth is covered by H2 O. (2) H2 O fills the water role [being the clear, potable liquid we bathe in etc.].
15 Prima facie, there would be the further alternative of waiting a number of years in hopes that, e.g., physicalism 2020 might provide the solution to the mind-body problem. But obviously, this is not really a further alternative. One must take into consideration that revisionism, too, is to be understood in relation to a given theoretical paradigm. So, even if the mind-body problem will be solved by physicalism 2020, in relation to our current physics, expecting such an event would still qualify as a belief in the disjunction of revisionism and dualism (the latter because we cannot now know whether, by the year 2020, physicalist theories will have taken on a dualist form). 16 See Jackson (1997) and Jackson (1998, ch. 3) as well as, e.g., Block and Stalnaker (1999); Chalmers and Jackson (2001); Stoljar (2000). I do not know of any more recent publications on this topic, but the debate seemed still alive in the fall of 2003, when Frank Jackson and Brian McLaughlin held talks entitled “Why We Should Be A Priori Physicalists” and “Why Physicalists Should Be A Posteriori Physicalists”, respectively, on the GAP.5 conference in Bielefeld (Germany).

CHAPTER 1. PHYSICALISM (3) Therefore, over 60 percent of the Earth is covered by water. [...] We did not know that (1) entailed (3) until we learnt (2), because we did not, and could not, have known that (1) and (3) express the same proposition until we learned (2). But as soon as we learn (2), we have the wherewithal, if we are smart enough, to move a priori to (3). (1997, p. 490)17


The reason why Jackson is using the concept of water here, and not some psychological concept, is that he assumes that, from a physicalist point of view, psychological concepts work basically the same way as ‘water’ does, and that the latter can therefore serve as a good example to make his point. To be more precise, Jackson holds that physicalists (or at least those of them he is addressing) think that psychological concepts have “roles” associated with them by which their reference is fixed, in the sense that whatever satisfies such a role is contained in the extension of the respective concept. His argument then proceeds by noting that, if physicalism is true, all the (“contextual”) facts about what roles are filled by what will be physical, and so, of course, will be these role-fillers themselves, as well as all the other facts about them. Now, from those “contextual” facts, we can a priori derive what physical things form the extensions of what psychological concepts, and from those other facts (analogous to (1) in the above quotation), we can equally a priori infer the corresponding psychological facts (analogous to (3) above). As far as I can see, this argument is perfectly valid; the only way to attack it is to refute its premise that all psychological concepts are associated with referencefixing “roles”.18 It is exactly here, however, where the weakness of the argument lies. Consider the case of phenomenal concepts, which clearly form a subclass of the “psychological concepts” Jackson talks about. These phenomenal concepts denote the properties that one can recognise in one’s own states when one, e.g., attends to the kind of visual perceptions produced in oneself by looking at yellow things, or to the kind of smell produced by honey, etc. It is difficult to see what roles these concepts should be associated with; indeed, as Brian Loar argues in his Phenomenal States (1997), these concepts are “irreducibly demonstrative”, which effectively rules out the existence of any roles by which their reference might be fixed. I am not here going to reproduce Loar’s argument, as I think that the absence of reference-fixing roles for phenomenal concepts is already intuitively obvious. Besides, the question of whether a priori or a posteriori physicalism provides the optimal interpretation of ‘physicalism’ is not particularly important for our purposes, and so it is not much use to press the issue here. But at any rate, phenomenal concepts, as well as Loar’s paper, deserve to be mentioned in connection with physicalism, since a popular class of antiphysicalist arguments centre on just those concepts. Loar’s paper nicely shows what is wrong with these arguments.19


The Paradox of Phenomenal Judgment

I have taken the term ‘The Paradox of Phenomenal Judgment’ from Chalmers (1996, ch. 5). For brevity, what it refers to will in this section simply be called
the same argument is given in Jackson (1998, p. 82f.). and Stalnaker (1999) have thought otherwise, attacking instead the idea of a priori entailment even for such concepts as ‘water’. Correspondingly, their arguments have been shown to fail by Chalmers and Jackson (2001). 19 Alternatively, cf. Hill (1997), as well as Hill and McLaughlin (1999).
18 Block 17 Essentially



‘the Paradox’. It goes back to Shoemaker (1975), who does not yet explicitly regard it as a paradox, but instead uses it in an argument for the possibility of a functionalist analysis of “qualitative states” (i.e., phenomenal states of the sort mentioned at the end of the previous section). In his paper, Shoemaker asks whether it is plausible that the qualitative character of a mental state should be independent from the state’s functional properties, i.e., its causal relations to inputs, outputs, and other functional states. Such independence would entail that for two systems that are in the same functional state, this state might have qualitative character only in one of the systems. We can see here how Shoemaker’s question is relevant for the issue of physicalism vs anti-physicalism: namely, many anti-physicalists base their position precisely on the claim that such independence between functional and qualitative properties is indeed possible.20 The problem that the supposition of this independence leads to is, according to Shoemaker, that we would have exactly the same introspective beliefs about our mental states, whether these in fact have qualitative character or not. From this, it would follow immediately that our introspection is to the very least no reliable indicator of qualitative character. But if we cannot tell by introspection whether our mental states have qualitative character or not, what other evidence could there be? Apparently, none at all. For, [t]here could [under the assumption that functional and qualitative properties are independent of each other] be no possible physical effects of any state from which we could argue by an ‘inference to the best explanation’ that it has qualitative character; for if there were, we could give at least a partial functional characterization of the having of qualitative character by saying that it tends to give rise, in such and such circumstances, to those physical effects, and could not not allow that a state lacking qualitative character could be functionally identical to [or in other words, the same functional state as] a state having it. (p. 297) Hence, one would have to conclude that there is simply no way of telling whether our mental states have qualitative character or not. The absurdity of this consequence stands to reason: [O]f course it is absurd to suppose that ordinary people are talking about something that is in principle unknowable by anyone when they talk about how they feel, or about how things look, smell, sound, etc. to them. (Indeed, just as a causal theory of knowledge would imply that states or features that are independent of the causal powers of the things they characterize would be in principle unknowable, so a causal theory of reference would imply that such states and features are in principle unnamable [sic] and inaccessible to reference.) (ibid.) So, if qualitative character is independent of functional properties, we would not only have no way of knowing about our qualitative states, but neither would we be
20 We have to be careful, however, as to the degree of possibility involved. For, on the one hand, hardly anyone – physicalist or not – denies that that independence is logically possible. But on the other hand, while physicalists do deny that it is metaphysically possible, this is not anything that would separate them from every anti-physicalist, not even if the latter’s position is based on considerations about qualitative character. For example, the view Chalmers expresses in The Conscious Mind, though anti-physicalist, implies that the said independence is not metaphysically possible, since qualitative character is, according to his suggestions in the eighth chapter of his book, just another “aspect” of functionally definable information states. In his view, the link between functional and qualitative properties is thus metaphysically necessary. This move, however, does not save him from the Paradox, as will become clearer further below.



able even to talk about them! These two aspects of the problem are what I will call the epistemic and the semantic aspect of the Paradox, respectively. Note that both of them, at least insofar as they are formulated by Shoemaker, presuppose a certain causal theory: the epistemic aspect presupposes a causal theory of knowledge, and the semantic aspect a causal theory of reference. This seems to open a possible route of escape from the Paradox, since one might well argue that a causal theory is appropriate neither for all kinds of knowledge nor for all kinds of reference.21 However, although this may offer some hope of rebutting Shoemaker’s argument, the Paradox itself is not escaped this easily. Before we come to this, let us see how Chalmers formulates it in The Conscious Mind: The problem is this. We have seen that consciousness itself cannot be reductively explained. But phenomenal judgments lie in the domain of psychology and in principle should be reductively explainable by the usual methods of cognitive science. There should be a physical or functional explanation of why we are disposed to make the claims about consciousness that we do, for instance, and of how we make the judgments we do about conscious experience. It then follows that our claims and judgments about consciousness can be explained in terms quite independent of consciousness. More strongly, it seems that consciousness is explanatorily irrelevant to our claims and judgments about consciousness. This result I call the paradox of phenomenal judgment. (p. 177) I should note here that the term ‘judgment’ has been introduced by Chalmers as a temporary replacement for ‘belief’, in order to block largely irrelevant antiphysicalist objections to the effect that phenomenal beliefs are always co-constituted by the appropriate qualitative experiences and thus do not “lie in the domain of psychology”, and should not in principle be “reductively explainable by the usual methods of cognitive science”.22 Loosely put, a judgment is what my brain does when I believe something. Or in Chalmers’ words: “We can think of a judgment as what is left of a belief after any associated phenomenal quality is subtracted” (p. 174).23 Even so, the quoted passage is still somewhat enthymematic, since the simple statement that “consciousness is explanatorily irrelevant to our claims and judg21 Chalmers (1996, ch. 5) has taken this route. N.B.: I am not saying that it would in fact be inappropriate to adopt a causal theory of knowledge or reference in the relevant cases, only that one might argue that way. 22 Cf. Chalmers (1996, p. 178):

One way to resist [the Paradox] would be to argue that the full content of my claims and beliefs cannot be reductively explained, because consciousness plays a role in constituting that content. One might argue that a zombie’s claims and beliefs [i.e., the claims and beliefs of a creature whose states ‘lack qualitative character’, as Shoemaker would put it] are different claims and beliefs, for example (although they look and sound just the same!), because a zombie would not have the full concept of consciousness. But at the very least it is still puzzling that consciousness should be irrelevant to the sounds we make when talking about consciousness, to the finger movements I am making now, and so on; so this response doe not remove the full sense of bafflement. So I will set aside this way of thinking for now, and will continue to think about claims and judgments in the “deflationary” way that allows that they can be reductively explained.
23 It is therefore a little surprising that, in his later treatments of the Paradox (e.g., Chalmers 1999, sect. 4, Chalmers 2003, sect. 4.3), Chalmers discusses the Paradox exclusively in terms of belief, and defends himself against it in almost exactly the same way as anticipated in the previous footnote. Thus, I cannot see how those later treatments should be more successful in defending him against the Paradox.



ments about consciousness” is in itself certainly not paradoxical. The Paradox emerges only as we combine this statement with the following three propositions: (1) My observational judgments about my own consciousness are usually justified. (2) An observational judgment to the effect that S is the case (for some state of affairs S) can be justified only insofar as S is causally relevant for that judgment. (3) If consciousness is causally relevant for a given judgment, it must also be explanatorily relevant for it. Although (3) is only a simplifying and, as we will see further below, rather problematic assumption, I take all three of these propositions to be at least intuitively plausible. By ‘observational judgment’, I mean that kind judgment that is the result of only a minimal amount of theorising, such as the judgment that the sun is shining, reached simply by looking out of the window and noticing how bright everything is. Certainly, there may be no particularly sharp line between observation and non-observation, but such a thing is not needed here, since it is fully sufficient in order to show the anti-physicalist’s predicament to consider judgments that are very clearly observational in character. That is, we can restrict the scope of our discussion to such judgments as: ‘My visual experiences of ripe lemons tend to be like this’ (where, for “this”, insert some appropriate phenomenal concept), or ‘This is a conscious experience’, etc. With this additional clarification in place, I think only an eliminativist would deny (1), and (2) may even count as analytically true, since we will hardly call a statement an ‘observation’ or ‘observational’ if the statement that it purports to be an observation of has no role to play in its causal history. The “insofar” may require further clarification, but a simple example will suffice here: If someone, on seeing a bird fly across a bright sunset, comments ‘Lo, a blue bird!’ without being able to discriminate any colours on the bird at all, this statement will count as an observation only insofar as it mentions that there is a bird. The additional proposition that the bird is blue (whether true or not) will have to be left out if the statement is to be regarded as an observation in the full sense. Now, to see the Paradox, note that it follows from (1) and (2) that the states of affairs my observational judgments speak of are in most cases causally relevant for them. Since these include many statements similar to the lemon-example given two paragraphs before, we may correspondingly infer that qualitative character, such as is exemplified by the ‘yellow’-quale that is there pointed to by “this”, must often be causally relevant for the production of the respective judgments. Because of (3), however, this squarely contradicts the explanatory irrelevance of consciousness that is the result of, on the one side, the supposed impossibility of giving a reductive (physicalist) explanation for consciousness, and, on the other side, the apparent fact that all our judgments are in that sense reductively explainable.24 The former proposition is what makes a position anti-physicalist, at least insofar as one’s antiphysicalism is based on the notion of consciousness. It is, of course, still possible to be an anti-physicalist on the grounds that some other ‘features’ of the mind than consciousness (such as, e.g., rationality) cannot be accommodated on the basis of current physics; but it sems reasonable to suppose that the large majority
24 The close conceptual connection between ‘consciousness’ and ‘qualitative character’ does, I think, not need to be pointed out. That is, I suppose it will be clear that, if qualitative character is causally irrelevant for our judgments, then so is consciousness.



of anti-physicalists today as well as in history are or have been convinced of the irreducibility of consciousness, and that this is also the main source of motivation for their anti-physicalism. As to the other proposition – that all our judgments are physicalistically reducible –, this seems to be just what one should assume, given that the brain is made of matter, and seeing the apparent completeness, for all practical intents and purposes, of our understanding of the ways in which that matter behaves. It will be agreed that, in the light of the success with which current physics is able to handle other phenomena of the known world, positions like interactionist dualism or emergentist property dualism do not look very attractive. The Paradox consists in the fact that at least one of the following three claims must be abandoned if the others are to be upheld (provided the ‘technical’ premises (2) and (3) are correct): the claim that one’s observational phenomenal judgments are justified; anti-physicalism with respect to what these judgments speak of; and the claim that they are reductively explainable. Clearly, this fact poses a serious problem for every anti-physicalist who wishes to regard his observational phenomenal judgments as evidence for the existence of something (qualitative character, say) that cannot be physicalistically accounted for while at the same time staying uncommitted to the idea that this something is causally relevant for those judgments. In particular, it poses a problem for practically every kind of epiphenomenalism. In order to defend epiphenomenalism against the Paradox, one might consider attacking either of the premises (2) and (3). For example, one might question the idea that the link between a state of affairs and its observation must in every case be a causal link for the observation to count as justified. If for two kinds of events A and B, the B-events are in a certain sense ‘the other side of the coin’ of the A-events, it may be argued that then an observation of an A-event would in some cases justify an observational judgment to the effect that a B-event has also happened.25 One might even say that, in this case, the link between A- and B-events is ‘even better’ than any causal connection could be. To give an example, the break-up of certain kinds of intermolecular bonds between H2 O molecules can perhaps be seen as ‘the other side of the coin’ of the melting of ice.26 At least for the sake of argument, let us assume it can. In any case, this kind of relation between two events is indeed ‘even better’ than any causal relation in the usual sense. For, if someone observes the break-up of certain kinds of bonds between H2 O molecules, it seems plain that he can then also be regarded as a witness of the melting of ice, and that his judgment to the effect that ice is being melted will at least in some cases count as justified. So, if those two concepts: ‘melting of ice’ and ‘break-up of such-and-such bonds between H2 O molecules’ should at
25 For the relevance of this kind of suggestion in the present context, cf. Chalmers’ “doubleaspect principle” (1996, ch. 8), as well as his remarks on the justification of phenomenal belief (2003). 26 Although it might be argued that these two kinds of events are in fact one and the same. Since we are here talking of judgments and their justification, however, events and kinds of events must in the present context be individuated in as fine-grained a way as propositions. The reason why I am here nevertheless talking of events and not of propositions is that the defender of epiphenomenalism may have yet another kind of link in mind, different from the connection that holds between two propositions denoting the same state of affairs. And the reason why I am talking of events and not of states of affairs is simply a matter of convenience; the conceptual difference between ‘event’ and ‘state of affairs’ does not matter in the present context. Finally, to take as example, as we have done here, a relation between two kinds of events that practically amounts to their identity is justified because, whatever other connection the defender may have in mind, it cannot possibly be closer than this. Since we are, on the other hand, also considering the ‘usual’ kind of causal connection, what we will say about both of these exemplary relations will plausibly also hold for any relation that may ‘lie between them’.



all be seen as denoting different events, the relation between such events must clearly be counted among those relations by which an observational judgment can be justified. In consequence, this either refutes premise (2) above, or we must broaden our understanding of ‘causally relevant’ in such a way as to imply that the kind of relation just considered makes its relata causally relevant for each other. For the sake of a charitable interpretation of our premises, I propose we take the latter course, so that premise (2) can be upheld. (On the other hand, if we refuse to regard concepts like ‘melting of ice’ and ‘break-up of such-and-such bonds between H2 O molecules’ as denoting different events, there will be no problem at all – except that I would know of no good example to illustrate what might be meant by two events’ representing ‘two sides of the same coin’.) Moreover, let us for the moment also assume that the relata of whatever other kind of relation the defender of epiphenomenalism may have in mind with his coin metaphor can likewise be regarded as causally relevant for each other. From this broadening of our understanding of ‘causal relevance’, which we have undertaken in order to save premise (2), it follows that we can no longer be sure of premise (3). This can easily be seen: if a B-event is ‘the other side of the coin’ of an A-event and is thus (as we assumed) causally relevant for it, it is thereby not guaranteed also to be explanatorily relevant for it, just like the melting of ice is not explanatorily relevant for the break-up of bonds between H2 O molecules.27 So, if we manage to save premise (2) by broadening the concept of ‘causal relevance’, premise (3) becomes problematic. Does this mean that the anti-physicalist has a chance of averting the Paradox at least for cases where qualitative character is only causally, but not explanatorily relevant for observational phenomenal judgments? Well, no: because proposition (2) does by no means formulate a sufficient condition for the justification of an observational judgment. For an observational judgment to the effect that S to be justified, it is only required, not sufficient, that S be causally relevant for that judgment. For, evidently, if I observe a certain state of affairs to be the case, this does not automatically justify my judgment about its causes – even though these causes will trivially also be causally relevant for my judgment (via the observation of their effect). It is perfectly possible that I should observe S, that S should be caused by another state of affairs C, and that I also correctly judge that C, but that this judgment should nevertheless not be justified. After all, it may be just a wild guess. And moreover, it does not seem as if any ‘special kind’ of causal relevance could change anything about this. My judgment may be a completely unjustified guess if C is an entirely ‘normal’ cause of S (e.g., if S is the fact that a certain window is broken and C the fact that a stone has been thrown into it), and it may just as well be an unjustified guess if C is ‘the other side of the coin’ of S (e.g., if S is the melting of water and C the break-up of certain kinds of bonds between H2 O molecules). Certainly, if I observe that a window is broken, I may be justified in believing that a stone has been thrown into it, but only if I have some independent reason to believe that the latter is a likely cause of the former. If I had known nothing whatsoever about windows and stones in general, my belief would not have been justified at all. This seems quite uncontroversial. And similarly, if I observe the melting of some piece of ice, I may be justified in thinking that what is going on is the break-up of certain bonds between H2 O molecules, but only if I know that this is what the melting of ice consists in. In the light of these considerations (informal though they be) it is hard to see how there could be any kind of causal relevance where something similar
27 Of course, it may be argued that for the latter event, the melting of ice is also not causally relevant, but let us be generous. Perhaps there are other relations where causal relevance does obtain without explanatory relevance.



would not be required for the justification of an observational judgment. What this means for the anti-physicalist will be clear: the causal relevance of qualitative character alone is not enough if there is not independent reason to believe in this relevance. In other words, the anti-physicalist may not regard his observational phenomenal judgments as justified as long as he has no independent reason to believe that the states of affairs they speak of are causally relevant for them. This result may strike some as absurd. Are we really being told that if it seems to us that we have such-and-such a kind of experience, the corresponding judgment (‘I have such-and-such a kind of experience’) is not necessarily justified? In principle, yes – but it depends on the way in which ‘experience’ is understood. I have here been presupposing an antiphysicalist reading, according to which phenomenal judgments are interpreted as referring to things and states of affairs that cannot physicalistically be accounted for. On such an interpretation, the above considerations do indeed entail (or at least, strongly suggest) that observational phenomenal judgments are not justified unless there is independent reason to believe that the states of affairs they speak of are causally relevant for them. If one still feels uncomfortable about regarding one’s observational phenomenal judgments as unjustified, I suggest a simple cure: just stop interpreting them in an antiphysicalist way. Instead, one may adopt a self-referential interpretation. For, the apparently only way to interpret those judgments that makes them immediately justified (i.e., justified without the ‘help’ of additional beliefs) is to take them as reporting states of affairs concerning nothing but the judgments themselves, or more precisely, concerning nothing but the intrinsic properties of the brain events that the judgments consist in.28 We see here how the two aspects of the Paradox mentioned above interact: if the observational phenomenal judgments are to be immediately justified (epistemic aspect), they cannot be interpreted as referring to non-physical states of affairs (semantic aspect), or conversely, if they are so interpreted, they cannot be immediately justified. This may again be hard to swallow, since one may have difficulty seeing how our ordinary observational judgments about the external world could ever be justified according to this reasoning. For, according to it, we would first need to have some independent reason to believe that the states of affairs that those judgments are taken to report are causally relevant for them, and what reason could this be? The answer I would most like to give has already been given countless times before: inference to the best explanation, based on our phenomenal judgments. On this account, I am justified in believing that there is an outside world, that I am sitting on a chair etc. because this is what offers the best way of making sense of my observations, the most immediate of which are my (observational) phenomenal judgments. Of course, this view is not as popular among philosophers as one might wish, and the sheer amount that has already been written on the subject makes it impossible adequately to defend it within the space of this thesis. I am therefore not going to defend it here. But neither do I need to. As the above examples have shown (i.e., the broken window and the melting ice; but it would be trivial to invent more), the causal relevance of a state of affairs S with respect to a judgment to the effect that S is the case is simply not enough to justify it. Hence, in those cases where the judgment is justified, there must be something else
28 In this connection, it should be kept in mind that judgments are not necessarily beliefs. Judgments are physical states almost by definition (although they might not be physicalistically explainable, if interactionist dualism were correct). Beliefs, on the other hand, might be nothing else than brain-states, too (and they even will be if physicalism is correct), but for all we know, they might also be states of something else connected to a cognitive system that ‘does the thinking’ for it. We will have to come back to this possibility in the third chapter.



in addition, and it is clearly part of the anti-physicalist’s burden to specify what this additional factor might consist in. This is now not necessarily a paradox. If it is possible to provide an independent reason to believe that non-physical states of affairs are causally relevant for our phenomenal judgments, these might be justified even if interpreted anti-physicalistically, because it may then (perhaps) be justified to draw inferences from the judgments themselves (i.e., from their existence and properties – not their content, unless interpreted self-referentially) to the non-physical states of affairs causally relevant for them. Until such a reason is given, it will be wrong to regard, as so many antiphysicalists have done, one’s phenomenal judgments as direct evidence for corresponding non-physical states of affairs; this is the main lesson of the Paradox. What one would now like to know is of course whether there is any such reason to be given and if so, what it consists in. The following chapters may be seen as an attempt to develop a positive answer to this question.

Chapter 2

Subjectivity: Preliminaries
The term ‘subjectivity’ can serve as a label to a truly vast and varied body of literature, and it is certainly not associated with only a single concept. Nor would it be safe to say that there is only one (or at least a dominant) concept of subjectivity in use in the philosophy of mind. It will perhaps be best to differentiate between two notions with which the term ‘subjectivity’ is associated, namely on the one hand empirical subjectivity, and on the other, epistemological subjectivity, as I would like to call them. The former of these can be said to centre on the idea of persons, agents, organisms, or cognitive systems. Whatever can be identified as the (primary) thinker of my thoughts, doer of my deeds, owner of my goods, etc., might be called an ‘empirical subject’. Whether there is a single concept or rather a multitude of concepts subsumed under this notion, can be left unsettled here, although we will in the following at times, out of convenience, talk of an ‘empirical self-concept’.1 Doubts about the coherence of empirical subjectivity may for example be raised by something like the following: When I am walking, the thing that walks is primarily my body, but when I am thinking, the thing that thinks is my brain; which of these things should I call ‘I’, when I choose to see myself as an ‘empirical subject’ ? Certainly, there are more and deeper problems than this, but we will here not be concerned with any of them, since it is does not appear as if empirical subjectivity held much relevance for the question of whether physicalism is true. It seems plain nowadays – unlike in Descartes’ time – that the “thinking thing” at least must be a cognitive system (such as the brain, or a part thereof), as there is clearly not much room, in our current epistemic situation, for interactionist dualism. Epistemological subjectivity, on the other hand, is not primarily associated with anything physical, which makes it appreciably more promising as the basis of an anti-physicalist argument. The expression that perhaps best characterises this notion is: ‘having a first-person perspective’. In analogy to empirical subjectivity, it may be tempting to identify the epistemological subject as the ‘experiencer of my experiences’. However, in the light of the Paradox of Phenomenal Judgment (and in particular its semantic aspect), this would seem to be a questionable move when it comes to differentiating between the two notions of subjectivity. The phrase ‘having a first-person perspective’ certainly also requires explication, but its slightly technical character at least points us into a more useful direction, away
1 Regarding the difference between ‘concept’ and ‘notion’, I am using the term ‘notion’ to refer to something that might be described as ‘semantical clouds’, fuzzy sets of (possibly not yet thought-of) concepts, whereas a concept will at least have a ‘solid’ semantical core, i.e., a set of entities to which it can be unquestionably applied. The distinction would have to be spelt out further in a more formal context, but for the present purposes, this much may suffice.




from the empirical and more towards the theoretical, in particular, towards the epistemological. Hence ‘epistemological subjectivity’. It is to this notion that the concept of subjectivity belongs that we are going to develop in the third chapter and on which our argument against physicalism will then be based. To be sure, abstraction does not guarantee metaphysical relevance, and by far not every concept that can be subsumed under the label of ‘epistemological subjectivity’ leads to an even remotely successful argument against physicalism.2 The metaphysical relevance of our concept of subjectivity will be ensured by the way in which we are going to ‘derive’ it from more basic concepts. The most basic of these will be the concept of data, which we will introduce in the next section and defend against a number of criticisms in the section that follows it. On this basis, we will then introduce the concepts of ‘I’ and ‘accessibility’, and it will be from ‘accessibility’ that our concept of subjectivity will be derived in the following chapter. Since that concept – as I hope will become evident in due course – can plausibly be seen as the ‘core’ of the notion of epistemological subjectivity, it seems appropriate to refer to it as the epistemological concept of subjectivity. Finally, we will, in the last section of this chapter, briefly introduce the semantical framework in which our subsequent talk about contexts and possibilities is going to be interpreted.


The Concept of Data

Being our conceptual starting-point, the concept of data must strictly speaking remain undefined; only an informal explication can be asked for. A succinct way to give such an explication would be this: The data are the directly given truths, the true propositions I am entitled in believing without inference and without auxiliary assumptions.3 Of course, this short statement is quite in need of elaboration. What is meant by “without inference”, however, will be clear. As for “without auxiliary assumptions”, an example: I do believe that I am at this moment looking at a laptop screen, and I am certainly entitled to this belief, even though I never performed any inference in order to reach it: I just look at the screen and straightway recognise it as the screen of my laptop. However, I would certainly not be entitled to this belief if I did not hold the auxiliary assumption that I am awake and properly functioning in a world that pretty much is as it seems to be (as opposed to being drugged, or a brain in a vat, etc.). Hence, that I am now looking at a laptop screen is not amongst the set of truths that I here call ‘data’. So much for a negative example. For lack of an adequate idiom, positive examples of what is meant by ‘data’ are much more difficult to provide. Accordingly, the items of the following list have to be taken with a pinch of salt: • Stabbing pain in left shoulder. • White spot in centre of visual field. • Memory trace of sudden sound, fading. • Faint awareness of temporal distance from dinner to now.
for example, the concepts of subjectivity William Lycan discusses in the third chapter of his Consciousness and Experience (1996). 3 N.B.: the true propositions I am entitled in believing, not necessarily those that I do believe. It may be noted that, in this emphasis on warrant instead of knowledge, I am taking a similar approach to the one endorsed by Charles Siewert in his Significance of Consciousness (1998).
2 Cf.,



• Facilitating influence of that awareness on the – somewhat less faint – awareness that it will soon be 11pm. These items could be seen as descriptions of events, but I would rather have them understood simply as descriptions of states of affairs, i.e., as propositions, for reasons to to be discussed below. As for the “pinch of salt” with which these descriptions should be taken, every concept employed in them has to be given a purely ‘phenomenal’ reading, shorn of anything external or inter-subjective. For example, take “Stabbing pain in left shoulder”. The state that this describes is a feeling that I can obviously have even without knowing that I have a shoulder. But from a conventional reading of that description, I can infer that I, in fact, do have a shoulder, which is something that no amount of pain in my left shoulder could teach me. Hence it follows that, under a conventional reading, the description does not count as a “directly given truth” or datum. Rather, the word “shoulder” has to be given a ‘phenomenal’ reading, employing not the public concept of ‘shoulder’, but the mode of presentation in which a shoulder of mine is presented to me when, e.g., I feel it hurting. If, as seems plausible, there is no such mode of presentation, since I only have a phenomenal concept of my left shoulder (instead of a generic one), then we have to backtrack a little and parse the description in a more coarsegrained way, treating “left shoulder” as primitive. In view of our informal conceptions of consciousness etc., it is worthwhile pointing out that the concept of data is a decidedly subjective one (as one might put it). Although we have here given an account of the concept that hopefully helps other ‘subjects’ to an idea of what ‘their data’ are (and which, in this sense, could be regarded as ‘intersubjective’), it would be wrong to assume that ‘data’ is a concept that can be freely applied to other cases than one’s own. If it were that way, then ‘data’ would be similar to the ordinary concept of ‘consciousness’. We are relatively liberal in applying this concept, provided we do not see convincing reasons for its inapplicability. Consequently, apart from ourselves, we make use of it when talking of other humans and also in the case of other species, as long as they are reasonably responsive to their environments, and as long as their level of behavioural complexity is sufficiently close to ours (or higher, as the case might be for members of hypothetical extraterrestrial civilisations).4 Unfortunately, though, two things about this practice make the concept of ‘consciousness’ ineligible as a conceptual starting point. First of all, the concept is apparently quite tied up with the notion of having consciousness, i.e., a relation from consciousness to something else. Whenever we speak of consciousness, it is thereby implied that there is something else that ‘has’ it, without its being clear at all whether this apparent necessity of ‘being had’ by something is a conceptual or nomological necessity or whether it only appears to hold because we simply do not (or cannot) know of any cases where consciousness is not ‘had’ by something else. This close and not very well-defined affiliation with another concept counts strongly against making ‘consciousness’ our conceptual starting point. Moreover, even if the nature of the connection between ‘consciousness’ and ‘having consciousness’ were already known, there might still be another problem. Namely, if that connection were to turn out such that ‘being had’ by something is constitutive for a given consciousness, the concept of ‘consciousness’ would be burdened with further unclarity stemming from the fact that it is unknown not only to which organisms (or things) the property of ‘having consciousness’ can be ascribed, but
4 Note that these remarks on ‘data’ being a subjective concept are not meant to be constitutive for this concept. It is only intended to contrast it with the popular notion of consciousness. For this purpose, it was necessary to make use of the related ‘folk-concepts’ of subject and subjective, but this should not be seen as entailing that the concept of data is based on that of subjectivity.



also what ‘having consciousness’ consists in in the first place. Now contrast this with the situation of the concept of data currently being proposed. Our introspective capacities may not be as acute as they would have to be in order to extract every nuance of our mental lives, but we certainly have a clear idea of what to look for, unhindered by any connections with mysterious further concepts. Still, it can be asked: “But why ‘data’ ? Could it not be that a concept of consciousness purged from its affiliation to the concept of ‘having consciousness’ is a better conceptual starting point?” Apparently not. Together with ‘experience’, ‘mental life’, and ‘phenomenology’, ‘consciousness’ belongs to a group of concepts whose members are here taken to be virtually interchangeable salva veritate, barring only linguistic inconvenience.5 In a way, it is true that the concept of ‘data’, as it has been introduced above, can also be seen as belonging to this group. However, there are two crucial differences that make the concept of ‘data’ more suitable as a starting point than any of the others. The first is that ‘data’ is a subjective concept, as has just been emphasised. The second difference lies in the fact that data are defined as certain truths. This distinguishes this concept from the other members of that group, since, on my understanding at least, what ‘consciousness’ and ‘mental life’ refer to are sets of experiences rather than truths. As for ‘phenomenology’, the case is not quite as clear, but it would initially at least seem somewhat strange to say that “phenomenology is a set of truths”. It may be possible (cf. sect. 3.1.2 below), but we would then still be needing a name for these truths that comprise a phenomenology. And whatever that name (‘data’, I think, would suggest itself), it would then clearly designate the more primitive concept. So, how about ‘experience’ ? This concept is certainly much more familiar than that of ‘data’; crucially, however, it is not as ontologically innocent. Data, as we know, are truths, and truths, being nothing but true propositions, are straightforward meta-theoretical entities carrying no ontological commitment whatsoever: Without having even the slightest idea about the actual ontology of our world, we can justifiably assert, e.g., that ‘5+7=12’ is a truth. Experiences, on the other hand, are usually thought of as events, talk about which carries much more ontological commitment than talk about propositions. In particular, talk about events presupposes the ‘existence’ (in a certain sense) of time. And, although this might be seen as a commitment we can easily shoulder, it can still be argued that it would be an unnecessary burden, and consequently, it appears we should rather continue talking about data instead. Furthermore, qua events (more specifically, event-tokens), experiences have to be regarded as reaching all the way down the levels of reality, and of course, not all of these levels are actually ‘experienced’ (or ‘conscious’). So, if we were to operate with experiences instead of data, we would constantly have to separate the conscious aspects of experiences from the non-conscious ones, a complication that is automatically avoided if we use the concept of data instead. Before we come to deal with objections to the concept of data, we briefly need to address the issue of what kinds of truths data should be conceived of from a formal point of view. Truths, like propositions in general, can come in all degrees of complexity, and it needs to be at least provisionally specified which kinds of complexity should be ruled out in the case of data. To start with the most obvious restriction: data do fairly clearly not contain any ‘or’s or ‘if’s, so disjuctions should be ruled out. The proposition ‘I have a pain in my left should or a pressure in my right ear’ (appropriately interpreted) will not count as a datum, for either I have the one or the other (or both), and that proposition, instead of
5 Some might want ‘mental life’ also to incorporate unconscious psychological activities, but so be it. Their usage of the word will then be different from the one adopted here.



being a datum itself, will have to be inferred from that. Things may be somewhat less clear in the case of universal quantification. Consider the sentence ‘All I can see is white’ (uttered in a snow storm, for instance): does this express a datum or rather a lack of data? If it does not qualify as a datum, how would we know whether the sentence is true? There are ways, however. It is, for example, quite conceivable that, before we make that comment, we first try to perceive something that is different from white, and the resulting (though evidently not very dramatic) disappointment is then the datum that makes us believe that we can see nothing but white. And of course, universal quantification would make little sense unless we also allowed disjunction (since the sentence ‘All I can see is white’ is formalised as ‘For all x, if I can see x, it is white’, which is only short for ‘x is white or I cannot see it’). To be sure, this is no conclusive argument, but then, for our purposes, not much seems to hinge on the question of what logical forms are permissible for data. So, as long as our specifications are at least intuitively plausible, there will be little need for detailed discussion. If it is correct to banish, as has just been suggested, both disjunction and universal quantification from the logical structure of data, this implies that the conjunction of all data can be brought into an attractively simple format. Namely, it can be written as a long conjunction of literals, preceded by an operator of existential quantification, as follows: ∃x1 , x2 , . . . : L1 ∧ L2 ∧ . . . , where the literals Li (for i = 1, . . .) are near-atomic expressions of the form P (x) or (alternatively) ¬P (x), with P standing for some predicate and x for some variable bound by the existential quantifier. It is an interesting question whether negative literals (the ‘¬P (x)’s) should be allowed or not, but again, this issue is not very relevant for our purposes, so that we shall not address it here. For pragmatic reasons, one might even say that we should also banish conjunctive data, because this would give us a determinate way of counting them, as every datum would then be a mere literal. But on the other hand, many of the things we would otherwise have called data could then no longer be regarded as such, since they would be too complex. Therefore, I would prefer to continue allowing conjunctive data, and only impose the following restriction: that for every conjunctive datum, the conjuncts should be at least indirectly connected with each other by shared variables (i.e., it should not be possible to divide such a conjunction into two parts that do not share any variables with each other).



The concept of data, as it has just been introduced, faces resistance from at least three different directions, each of which is associated with a famous author. Two of them, inspired by Wittgenstein and Sellars, respectively, will be dealt with rather quickly, before we are going to spend much more time on the third objection, which is inspired by the fifth chapter of Dennett’s Consciousness Explained. The main reason for this is that Dennett’s text has shown itself to be extraordinarily effective in creating a misleading “Anti-Cartesian” impression in many of its readers, and it will be instructive to examine somewhat more closely just how that impression is created.




Inspired by Wittgenstein

Data are truths and as such, propositions. If it is asked why data are not simply conceived of as sentences, the answer will be that sentences contain a lot of unnecessary detail – such as the order of the elements of a conjunction or the choice between words expressing the same concept – which propositions abstract away from. The concepts that data are made up of are, however, rather comparable to words, and if we are talking about the “own terms” of a given mind, thereby referring to its concepts – which might not be perfectly translatable to our own –, this may look a lot like talk of “private language”. And this again might of course well raise concern among Wittgensteinians. To answer this concern would ideally require a clarification of what exactly the problem (or problems) consists in, which in turn would presuppose an interpretation of Wittgenstein’s famous “private language argument”. Since this can obviously not be done here, it will be best simply to ignore that argument in the following. I do not think that very much will be lost by this move, however; for it does not seem to me that Wittgenstein’s argument has much force against the existence of so-to-speak ‘private concepts’ on any interpretation, and neither is the existence of private concepts central to our anti-physicalist argument or to the concept of data itself. Apart from the private language argument, there are certain remarks by Wittgenstein that can be taken to suggest that it is meaningless to speak as if we could know our own mental states (in particular, see Wittgenstein 1953, §246). If this were true, it would obviously undercut our above talk about data, and among many other things, would make it completely mysterious how I could have come up with the examples listed on p. 23. But then, I must say that I find it hard to take this kind of objection very seriously.6 An alternative and somewhat more worthwhile course of argument would be to question the reliability of our introspective knowledge. This, however, would be not so much a Wittgensteinian as a Sellarsian point.


Inspired by Sellars

A sceptic inspired by Sellars’ attack on the “Myth of the Given”7 might object that there is no guarantee that our introspective access to sensations and the like is infallible. We said above that, regarding data, we “have a clear idea of what to look for”, but what reason is there to be so confident that our mental lives are as we think they are? I think this is a good question; actually, two good questions. The first one asks how I can know that what I take to be data really are data, and the second one, how I can be sure that the data I know of really comprise an important part of the total data, and not just a completely marginal fraction thereof. As to the second question, note that we have already conceded the possible incompleteness of our introspective knowledge. It is not a very large step from here to the concession that our beliefs about our mental lives may sometimes be wrong, and I am ready to make that concession. However, it should be clear that we nevertheless have every right to be confident that our introspective judgments are for the most part correct and also cover the most important aspects of our mental lives.8 Just why we can be so confident is, of course, still a good question. It might
6 For a more sympathetic treatment leading to essentially the same assessment, see Siewert (1998, sect. 1.6). 7 Cf. Sellars (1963). 8 It may at this point be appropriate to emphasise that these introspective judgments are not the data we have so far been talking about. Rather, the data are the truths that my introspection



turn out that this confidence can ultimately only be vindicated by a combination of a sound psychosemantic theory and extensive knowledge about the functioning of our cognitive systems, which is not something that we shall here delve deeper in. For the time being, our trust in our introspective powers can perhaps only be justified by the fact that this trust appears to work. Be that as it may, the supposition that we can dramatically and constantly be mistaken about our own mental lives simply seems so absurd that it should – for the moment at least – be safe to move onward, presupposing its falsehood without further discussion. This proposal, of course, is premised on a view of phenomenal judgment that sharply differentiates between the judgments themselves and the mental states which the judgments are about. This is as it must be if judgments are regarded more or less as sentences, be it in English or in a hypothetical “inner language”. However, on a different view, one might also say that the mental states themselves – perceptions, sensations, thoughts etc. – can be seen as a kind of reflexive judgments. A visual perception of something green would, roughly speaking, count as a judgment that one is seeing something green out there, a sensation of bodily pain as a judgment to the effect that one is feeling a pain somewhere in one’s body, and, in consequence, a bona fide judgment with the content P would have to be viewed as, in addition, a judgment with the content of “I believe that P ”. Now, such a position may be defensible,9 but it is, I think, not overly attractive. From a common sense point of view, it rather seems that, in order to yield an introspective judgment, there is still a little something needed in addition to the introspected mental state itself.10 But however that may be, the content of these kinds of introspective judgments will on any such account largely, if not exclusively, be determined by the corresponding introspected mental states; and this will, then, only mean that those judgments may very well be infallible after all, Sellarsian criticisms notwithstanding. Of course, this infallibility would still not guarantee that the data I know of comprise more than just a “marginal fraction” of the total data, so something more needs to be said. For the time being, however, we will again simply rely on the sheer implausibility of the contrary supposition, and consequently assume that the data I know of do comprise the most important part of the total data. We shall return to the question as to why this assumption is in fact correct at the end of the next chapter.
is trying to capture. As has been said above, they are “the propositions I am entitled in believing without inference and without auxiliary assumptions”, so they are neither these beliefs themselves nor necessarily the actually believed-in propositions. 9 For an argument to the effect that Aristotle may have held such a position (at least with respect to perceptions), along with a very interesting defense of it, see Caston (2002). 10 Perhaps I should at this point say what I think this “little something” might consist in. Well: as I see it, this “something” consists in an additional bit of structure (in the sense of ‘structure’ applicable to states) as it were wrapped around the mental state in question so as to yield a ‘larger’ mental state that could be paraphrased as: “I am experiencing this [perception, sensation, judgment, etc.]”. The “this” would here correspond to the mental state in question, and the “I am experiencing . . .” (without the “. . .”) to the “little something” that is needed to yield an introspective judgment. More plainly, one could say that, according to this view, the introspective judgment simply consists in the instantiation of a functionally definable ‘acknowledgment relation’ between the (empirical) subject and the introspected state. This is obviously somewhat like an inner-sense theory of introspection, except that it is much simpler: there is no recognition or conceptualisation of the introspected state, only ‘acknowledgment’. Of course, more would have to be said as to what exactly this ‘acknowledgment’ relation amounts to, but here is certainly not the place to expound yet another theory of introspection. Correspondingly, these remarks should be taken as nothing more than a mere suggestion. (For more detailed considerations in more or less the same direction, see Papineau 2002, sect. 4.12, and in particular Chalmers 2003. The latter also contains, in sect. 4.3, a more extensive discussion of the Sellarsian critique of the “Myth of the Given”.)




Inspired by Dennett

The third kind of criticism we have to address is based on Dennett’s well-known attack on the intuition that the phenomenal states of a given organism are always determinate.11 What is meant here is the idea that, for any given organism, any description of that organism’s mental life is at any given moment either true or false, barring semantic indeterminacies inherent in the description itself. Dennett’s polemic against this “determinacy intuition” (as we shall call it) is fairly complex insofar as it is constructed out of a number of smaller and bigger points supporting each other. To a large part, these points merely consist in consolatory efforts intended for those who have difficulties abandoning the intuition: speculations as to how the “illusion” of phenomenological determinacy might have come about, and brief accounts of how one or other interesting phenomenon is dealt with by Dennett’s alternative to the common-sense view, i.e., his “Multiple Drafts” theory. Only very few of Dennett’s points against the determinacy intuition stand on their own feet; and though arguably none of them survive closer scrutiny, it is, I think, worthwhile to spend some time on the most salient of them. Dennett’s discussion of phenomenological determinacy focusses in large part on two hypotheses of how perceptual and memory processes work together in a particular psychological situation. These hypotheses mostly serve the purpose of whipping boys; Dennett spends considerable effort ensuring that hardly anyone would want to endorse either of them, which is nicely reflected by the now notorious names he has given them: ‘Orwellian’ and ‘Stalinesque’, respectively. Thus, Dennett suggests that a defender of the determinacy intuition is forced to embrace either an Orwellian or a Stalinesque account, so that consequently, the determinacy intuition ‘inherits’ the unattractiveness of at least one of those two hypotheses. Although the tension between Dennett’s position and our concept of data is rather obvious, I should also note that it is not altogether clear whether his argument at all poses a threat for our eventual antiphysicalist argument. Nevertheless, his critique of the determinacy intuition has been sufficiently influential in the recent philosophical climate and is sufficiently effective in obscuring the recipient’s thinking on the matter that it is worth spending some time and effort on getting rid of that influence. It does not seem that, by adopting the concept of data, we are automatically committed to the determinacy intuition. But neither do Dennett’s arguments succeed in showing its falsity. It will first be necessary to have a closer look at the two hypotheses just mentioned. Here is how they are introduced in Dennett’s text: Suppose you are standing on the corner and a long-haired woman dashes by. About a second after this, a subterranean memory of some earlier woman—a short-haired woman with eyeglasses—contaminates the memory of what you have just seen. [...] An Orwellian revision has happened: there was a fleeting instant, before the memory contamination took place, when it didn’t seem to you she had glasses. [...] This understanding of what happened is jeopardized, however, by an alternative account. Your subterranean earlier memories of that woman with the eyeglasses could just as easily have contaminated your experience on the upward path, in the processing of information that occurs “prior to consciousness,”, so that you actually hallucinated the eyeglasses from the very beginning of your experience. In that case, your
11 This attack, as well as the following citations, are found in the fifth chapter of Consciousness Explained (1991).

CHAPTER 2. SUBJECTIVITY: PRELIMINARIES obsessive memory of the earlier woman with glasses would be playing a Stalinesque trick on you [...]. (p. 117–19)


According to Dennett, there is no fact of the matter which of these accounts is the correct one, however contrary to our intuitions that may be. He wants to free us from this intuition, which he thinks keeps us imprisoned in the illusion of a “Cartesian theater”. A little further below, Dennett illustrates the distinction between Orwellian and Stalinesque accounts in the context of the “color phi phenomenon”, i.e., the illusory perception of movement accompanied by a color change of the supposedly moving ‘object’. In the experiment Dennett cites (Kolers and von Gr¨ nau 1976), u subjects were first presented a red spot for a duration of 150 msec. After a 50 msec delay, this was followed by a green spot at a different position in the subjects’ visual field. Surprisingly, the subjects reported a smooth transition between the two stimuli: the red spot seemed to move to the location of the green spot, changing its color in the middle of its movement (the subjects were even able to indicate at which position this change in color occurred). It is instructive to see how Dennett ridicules the ways in which this phenomenon would be explained by a Stalinesque or an Orwellian hypothesis: Consider, first, the hypothesis that there is a Stalinesque mechanism: In the brain’s editing room, located before consciousness, there is a delay, a loop of slack like the tape delay used in broadcasts of “live” programs, which gives the censors in the control room a few seconds to bleep out obscenities before broadcasting the signal. In the editing room, first frame A, of the red spot, arrives, and then, when frame B, of the green spot, arrives, some interstitial frames (C and D) can be created and then spliced into the film (in the order A,C,D,B) on its way to projection in the theater of consciousness. By the time the “finished product” arrives at consciousness, it already has its illusory insertion. Alternatively, there is the hypothesis that there is an Orwellian mechanism: shortly after the consciousness of the first spot and the second spot (with no illusion of apparent motion at all), a revisionist historian of sorts, in the brain’s memory-library receiving station, notices that the unvarnished history in this instance doesn’t make enough sense, so he interprets the brute events, red-followed-by-green, by making up a narrative about the intervening passage, complete with midcourse color change, and installs this history, incorporating his glosses, frames C and D [...], in the memory library for future reference. (p. 120f.) I think these descriptions are likely to discourage any adherent of the determinacy intuition (as well as anyone else) from embracing either of the two accounts. It will therefore be interesting to note that what makes these accounts seem so ridiculous is not just the fact that they are premised on the assumption of phenomenological determinacy. To start with the Orwellian hypothesis, an important aspect of its apparent ridiculousness lies in what might be called augmentation: on Dennett’s description, an Orwellian account assumes that there is an instance in the brain (the ‘historian’) that is very well aware of what is going on, just as a real-life historian following the political events in a particular society would be aware of these. This is a massive enlargement of the time-scale, and with it goes a massive increase in the quality of understanding of the events in question: the



historian, having ample time to reflect on every piece of information, will notice when a revolution erupts; likewise, he will notice when it is beaten down or peters out, where, crucially, ‘to notice’ implies ‘to form a representation of’. Now compare this with the situation of the brain (or any of its subsystems). When the subject is presented with a red spot, the resulting neural firing pattern as early as in the optic nerves can be interpreted as a representation of ‘something red’. But what should we say when the red spot disappears, as in the experiment Dennett cites, where it ceases to be presented 50 msec before the onset of the green spot? When augmented to a historical scale, a historian might take notice of this event and accurately form a representation of the following content: “The red, spot-like object we have just seen has now disappeared; the visual field contains nothing that could qualify as a legitimate successor stimulus, i.e., as a stimulus that would indicate the presence of the same object, only moved to a different location, or changed in shape, color, size, or some other aspect of its appearance”. This is not the kind of representation that one would expect to find on the level of the optic nerves, nor, for that matter, in the visual cortex. One does not need to be a neuroscientist to know that this kind of awareness takes far longer to build up than the simple awareness of the presence of ‘something red’. We see, then, that the apparent unattractiveness of the Orwellian account stems not so much from the account itself than from Dennett’s description: the sequence of conscious events as implied by Dennett’s metaphor is one of ‘full awareness of red spot – full awareness of absence of red spot – full awareness of green spot’,12 and this sequence strikes us as implausible with regard to its central element, for it seems reasonable to suppose that the short time interval before the onset of the green spot gives us no chance of becoming fully conscious of the red spot’s absence. Plausibly, the real sequence of events looks rather more like this: “full awareness of red spot – beginning awareness of absence of red spot – full awareness of green spot”. That is, our awareness of the fact that the red spot has disappeared is not yet fully built up when it is suddenly thwarted by the perception of the second stimulus. Since this brings a Stalinesque element into an otherwise perfectly Orwellian account, we see not only where Dennett’s metaphor misleads us into taking the Orwellian account for more unattractive than it in fact is, but also that our options with respect to explaining the color phi phenomenon are not quite as restricted as Dennett would have us believe. Apart from this, our reflection on Dennett’s caricature of the “Orwellian” hypothesis serves to draw attention to the general point that we should take care not to fall for the Cartesian intuition that awareness necessarily spans, so-to-speak, all levels of abstraction. I mean the following. In the case of the color phi experiment, we may suppose that, as the red spot disappeared, so did the awareness of its presence. But, though one would normally (and rightly) infer from this lack of awareness that there is no red spot, this does not entitle us to the assumption that the subject is immediately aware of the red spot’s absence. It may very well be that this latter awareness takes quite a few milliseconds longer to develop than it takes the awareness of the spot’s presence to fade. Put in more general terms, we cannot rule out situations where our mental life exhibits certain features that would justify immediate inference to more abstract perceptual beliefs without these beliefs actually being entertained. Our intuition that things are otherwise – to have a name, we might call it the ‘abstractive closure intuition’ – is certainly an important aspect of our intuitive,
12 For simplicity of exposition, countless details are here left implicit, such as in particular the awareness of the illusory movement of the “spot-like object”, which is created together with the awareness of the green spot.



every-day conception of the mind, but there are also quite familiar, every-day cases where it is known to be mistaken. For example, while we firmly believe that someone who is looking at, say, three blind mice is practically always also aware of the ‘threeness’ of what he is looking at, we would have serious doubts as to whether someone who is visually confronted by a hundred blind mice is also aware of their hundredness. Perhaps it is worthwhile to search for and point out cases where we would not already have expected that intuition to be mistaken.13 But, however valuable such insights may be, their anti-Cartesian thrust should not make us throw out, with the bath-water of Cartesianism, the perfectly innocent intuition of phenomenological determinacy. This is what I see as the main morale of our discussion of the Orwellian hypothesis. Turning now briefly to Dennett’s caricature of the Stalinesque hypothesis, it is easily seen that here, too, his description contains an element that makes the hypothesis look much less attractive than it actually is. This element consists in the metaphor of the movie screen onto which the ‘film of consciousness’ is projected. Since, in the metaphor, the stream of consciousness is nothing else but the lifelong sequence of images projected onto the internal movie screen, it follows that a single experience consists simply in the projection of a number of consecutive images (or appropriately selected parts thereof). Consequently, what this suggests for a Stalinesque account regarding the nature of experiences is that, just like the projection of an image onto a movie screen, an experience is an event with extraordinarily well-defined spatiotemporal boundaries. And this, of course, is grossly implausible. Indeed, it is strange that Dennett should so repeatedly emphasise this point, as there is no motivation whatsoever to believe in a set of ‘magical synapses’ (or a “turnstile of consciousness”, to use Dennett’s phrase) beyond which neural events are reflected in consciousness, or that experiences pop into and out of existence just as swiftly as a signal passes through a myelinated fibre. We do not here need to address the question why exactly there is no such motivation, but one of the more obvious reasons certainly lies in the well-known fact that experiences come in different degrees of intensity. What is more important in this context is that neither the Stalinesque hypothesis nor the intuition of phenomenological determinacy in any way entails that experiences have sharp spatiotemporal boundaries. In general, a Stalinesque account requires only that experiences are sometimes able to suppress other experiences; while this suppression may be described as preventing the other experience “from entering consciousness”, one could just as well say that suppressing an experience means to prevent it from becoming more intense. And although the determinacy intuition doubtless requires these “intensity values” (if such there are) to be determinate,14 it is nevertheless clear that it asks for no sharp boundaries of conscious events, be they temporal or spatial. The general morale we can draw from these remarks is the same as above: However na¨ and misleading the metaphor of the “Cartesian theater” may be, it ıve would be hardly less misleading to ignore the grains of truth contained in it, such as, in particular, the intuition of phenomenological determinacy. So far, we have been viewing Dennett’s argument primarily as an ‘argument
13 For example, much the same lesson can be drawn from cases of perceptual agnosia (various forms) as well as from cases of change blindness, inattentional blindness, and perhaps also motion blindness. Dennett’s own comments concerning the ‘blind spot’, in the 11th chapter of Consciousness Explained, point into the same direction; cf., however, Pessoa et al. (1998) and Shimojo et al. (2001), as well as No¨ (2002), from which these references are taken. e 14 We must be careful here not to presuppose absolute intensity values where the actual ontology perhaps only allows for, say, “more-intense-than” relations between two given experiences. In such a case, the determinacy intuition would, of course, only require that those relations be determinate – whatever that would mean in the context of the respective ontology.



from caricature’, aimed at discouraging the defender of the determinacy intuition through an unfavourable presentation of the alleged consequences of that view. Officially, however, his argument rather takes the form of a reductio: the determinacy intuition demands that it is determinate whether a given situation is characterised by an Orwellian or a Stalinesque account (or, for that matter, by a mixture of the two); but the subject is unable to decide which it is, hence there is no fact of the matter, hence the determinacy intuition must be false. Dennett’s inference from the subject’s epistemic limitations to there not being “a fact of the matter” is an instance of what he calls his “first-person operationalism”, a position that “brusquely denies the possibility in principle of consciousness of a stimulus in the absence of the subject’s belief in that consciousness” (p. 132). The tenability of such a position depends strongly on how broadly the concept of ‘belief’ is understood. If the notion is construed so broadly that every experience is also viewed as a sort of belief about its own occurrence, then Dennett’s “first-person operationalism” will trivially turn out to be correct. On the other hand, it is obvious that his concept of ‘belief’ is much narrower than this and lies much closer to that end of the conceptual spectrum where having a belief practically always entails its reportability by the person who has it. On such an understanding of ‘belief’, however, it is highly questionable that every experience should entail the existence of a belief about its occurrence.15 According to Dennett, the assumption of an appearance/reality distinction “at the heart of human subjectivity” is “metaphysically dubious, because it creates the bizarre category of the objectively subjective—the way things actually, objectively seem to you even if they don’t seem to seem that way to you!” (ibid.) He forgets that that distinction is, in all the cases he discusses, a distinction between reality and appearance in hindsight. There is nothing dubious at all, metaphysically or otherwise, about the supposition that we can be mistaken about the way things have seemed to us a moment ago, for the same reason as there is nothing dubious about the fact that our memories are not always reliable. In defense of Dennett’s position, it must be said that to a physicalist who – reasonably enough – regards consciousness as explainable on the basis of “cerebral celebrity” (where this notion is equally reasonably operationalised as causal influence on behavioural output), Dennett’s scepticism about phenomenological determinacy might make perfectly good sense. For, if consciousness indeed requires nothing else than a representation’s causal influence on behavioural output, the problem arises of what we should say to cases where a relevant causal chain of neurological events starts but is unnaturally interrupted (for example, by neurosurgical intervention), just before it gets to trigger any behaviour or becomes stored in memory. Suppose that, if such a chain had not been interrupted, it would have corresponded to a phenomenal experience of a kind K. The question is, was there a K-experience immediately before the causal chain was interrupted, or not?16 I agree that such cases are puzzling and might lead one to a scepticism about phenomenological determinacy – but only insofar as one subscribes to the said kind of physicalism. An anti-physicalist would obviously not be committed to a reduction of consciousness in terms of behavioural relevance, so he need not necessarily be worried by interrupted causal chains. And, since the position taken in this thesis is essentially antiphysicalist as well, neither need we.
15 For a related discussion of Dennett’s arguments, see Carman (2005). Christopher Peacocke’s (1989) considerations on ‘perceptual content’ may also serve as a basis from which to attack Dennett’s position. 16 For a discussion of this problem by Dennett himself, see Dennett (2001).




The Concepts of ‘I’ and Accessibility

We have introduced the concept of data as a subjective concept, denoting the truths for which one has immediate and unconditional warrant. Since that concept is to be our conceptual starting-point, its introduction had to be rather informal, in part by way of example, in part through the use of concepts that we strictly speaking ‘do not yet have’, since we want to derive them from that of data rather than vice versa. These concepts, of course, are those of ‘I’ and of subjectivity. The former we have used quite freely in explanations of what is and what is not meant by ‘data’; and the latter, even though it may not occur explicitly, does so implicitly, e.g. where the concept of ‘data’ is characterised as a subjective one. The concepts we have to introduce next are those of ‘I’ and ‘accessibility’. Since the concept of ‘subjectivity’ that we are after in this section does not belong to the notion of empirical subjectivity, the concept of ‘I’ to be introduced now is, correspondingly, not the common, empirical concept of ‘I’ either. That is, it is not the concept one would have in mind when one refers to oneself in the first person singular more or less as the thinker of one’s thoughts and/or the agent of one’s acts (which we will therefore also call the ‘empirical self-concept’). It is different from this, although it might eventually turn out that it coincides with a concept of empirical subjectivity. When I say the concept of ‘I’ is going to be derived from that of ‘data’, the term ‘derived’ should be understood in a very loose sense. What is meant is only that the concept of ‘I’ constitutes a solution to a problem which could not be formulated without making use of the concept of ‘data’. The problem, however, does not arise from the concept of ‘data’, but rather from the data themselves, what they are and what they are not. For, though all data are truths, it can easily be seen that they do not make up all the truths. There are some truths, e.g. arithmetical ones, that are not data at all. The problem, then, is this: What exactly distinguishes data from other truths? It is not very hard to come up with an idea of how a solution to this problem might look like. Given our experience as organisms perceiving and acting in our environment, the obvious solution seems to be – in its roughest outline – this: The data are those truths that stand in a certain relation to a certain entity. We will call the relation ‘accessibility’; and it would seem only logical to call the entity ‘I’. But how is this entity different from others? One might perhaps say that the concept of ‘I’ is simply an indexical expression, referring to different entities as it occurs in different contexts. This is indeed the result we will end up with further below, but I propose to approach this position in smaller steps. Let us begin with the conceptually simpler view that the concept of ‘I’ corresponds to a unary predicate, in the same way as the concept ‘the stars’ corresponds to the unary predicate ‘is a star’. Since a unary predicate can normally be instantiated by more than one entity, we should accordingly be more open about the number of entities denoted by ‘I’, and rephrase the outline of our above solution as follows: The data are those truths that stand in a certain relation to a certain kind of entity. Or, using the terms just introduced: The data are those truths that are accessible to one or more entities denoted by ‘I’. We will modify this account in the next section. In the meanwhile, it should be kept in mind that, by accepting this outline of a solution to the problem of distinguishing data from other truths, we do not yet have a very clear idea of what entity or entities are denoted by ‘I’, nor what exactly the relation of accessibility comes to. The proposal merely consists in postulating a property and a relation in order to account for the fact that the data do not cover all the truths. The metaphysics of that property and



of that relation is thereby far from settled. To say this may seem somewhat odd, as it does not mesh very well with talk of “our experience as organisms perceiving and acting in our environment”, which apparently already presupposes that “we” are organisms. Identifying the new concept of ‘I’ with this rhetorical ‘we’, it would seem to follow that ‘I’ denotes an organism (and a single one at that). But this confusion can simply be attributed to a certain looseness of expression. Translated into more precise (though less familiar) language, the phrase, “our experience as such-and-such organisms”, would read as: “the data, which are centred on such-and-such an organism”. That the data are ‘centred’ on an organism should not be understood as saying that they are ‘accessible’ to an organism. ‘Centredness’ is here meant as a rather innocent and somewhat vague notion, hardly more sophisticated than ‘having to do with’. The data are centred on an organism because, in some way or other, they all pertain to it. This is not to say that a concept referring to that organism has to be a constituent of each datum (as if they were to be rendered in the form P (o), where o denotes the organism). Rather, the data may also be centred on an organism in an implicit way, so-to-speak, which only requires that the organism be involved in the states of affairs encoded in the data. It will probably be clear that the concept of centredness, when understood in this sense, cannot have the same semantics as the concept of accessibility – after all, by far not every fact involving my organism is reflected in a datum (take, e.g., the fact that my organism contains so-and-so many milligrams of magnesium). But even disregarding this, the two concepts ought to be sharply distinguished from each other. For, whereas the concept of accessibility is explicitly introduced as part of the solution of the above problem and therefore opaque (since we do not know beforehand what the solution will look like in detail), the concept of centredness is relatively transparent and bears no problem-solving responsibility whatsoever. Roughly the same applies to the relation between the empirical self-concept and the concept of ‘I’ introduced in this section. The latter, just like the concept of accessibility, is introduced in order to solve a certain problem. The empirical self-concept, by contrast, is there to denote the bearer of my mental activities, the thing that thinks, feels, perceives and wills. As such, this concept will most likely denote (part of) my organism. And, although it might in the end turn out that there is no better solution to the said problem than one according to which the concept of ‘I’ introduced here denotes the same thing as the empirical self-concept, the fact that it might theoretically well be otherwise is enough to necessitate that the two concepts be cleanly kept separate from each other. Now that the contrast between the empirical and the new concept of ‘I’ is clear, the solution (or solution-schema) to the above problem of which this concept is meant to be a part may appear somewhat dubious. After all, that the data are distinguished from other truths by way of their special relation to some special entity or entities called ‘I’ is fairly obviously an idea inspired by the common empirical self-concept. So, with what right do I suppose that the correct solution to the problem of how data are distinguished from other truths can be modelled on a concept whose purpose (if there is a purpose to it at all) lies in completely different areas? This is the question we will now turn to.




Why Accessibility?

The problem for which the introduction of the concepts of ‘I’ and accessibility is supposed to be a solution is that of giving an account for the fact that the data do not comprise all the truths. Since the concept of data is, at core, not an artificial one, this problem is entirely real and the solutions proposed to it will necessarily have metaphysical significance. If, for example, a predicate is postulated to solve this problem (as above the binary predicate ‘accessible to’), then this means that this predicate expresses something about the ‘real nature’ of things, or, to put it negatively: this predicate will then not be a mere ‘Cambridge’ predicate, whose extension is given merely as a set of entities (or tuples of entities) to which it can, by definition, correctly be applied. For this reason, accessibility must be a ‘real’ (i.e., non-Cambridge) relation, and the entities denoted by ‘I’ must be ‘real’ (i.e., not abstract) entities. Now, the question we are facing is why the problem of distinguishing data from other truths is best solved in the way proposed. Because of the metaphysical significance of this problem and hence our solutions to it, the principle of ontological parsimony is in force and directs us to favour the parsimonious solutions over the more expensive ones. A reasonable course of the argument will therefore start with the metaphysically simplest kind of solution: the ‘unary-predicate’ approach, which postulates only one metaphysical predicate, and in fact, only a unary one. That approach will then be contrasted with our present proposal in terms of ‘I’ and accessibility. It will emerge that this proposal, when properly interpreted, can be expected to be strongly superior to the unary-predicate approach, even though it is for the most part unclear how metaphysically expensive it will turn out to be. To get a clearer idea of what a unary-predicate account would look like, let us construct a more concrete hypothesis. An account of the difference between data and other truths is a ‘unary-predicate account’ if it is based on one unary metaphysical predicate. It may at first seem puzzling how such an account could be coherently realised, since truths are very abstract entities and thus do not instantiate any metaphysical predicates. Nevertheless, there are, of course, some relations between truths and the realm of metaphysics. For instance, there is the relation of representation, as we find it between linguistic utterances and propositions. Because of the complex and subjective nature of representation, however – arguably, X represents Y never in an absolute sense, but always for some representational system Z –, this is not a very good relation to base one’s metaphysic on. A much more likely candidate (indeed, the only one I can think of) is the relation between truths and the entities involved in them, in the sense that, e.g., the truth that ‘this apple exists’ involves this apple. A unary-predicate account would thus have to be based not only on the unary predicate it postulates, but also on such a relation; for example, if P is the predicate it postulates, it could analyse ‘the data’ as those truths that involve some entitiy instantiating P . Since only very few truths are data (in comparison to how many truths there are in total, no matter how they are counted), the account would have to make sure that P is only instantiated in a very small number of cases. Indeed, if there is any ‘theme’ (so-to-speak) uniting the data and setting them apart from other truths, it would seem to be the fact that they centre around this particular organism – and not even all of the truths about this organism can properly be called ‘data’. So, if they were to be captured individually, it seems that their individual descriptions would have to figure in the clauses of the resulting theory. And if they could be captured by the organism they centre on, then at least a fully individuating description of this organism would have to occur in that theory. This might be



better than the former case, as there would then be only one description of an individual entity, but it will probably be clear that the result would in any case be far from satisfying. When written out, the theory would consist practically exclusively of the description of either the data or of (some part or ‘aspect’ of) this organism, and would be exceedingly long. The longer it is, however, the more inelegant, and the less attractive it would seem to be. How, then, does our present proposal, formulated in the previous section, fare in terms of ontological parsimony? Not badly, I’d like to claim, provided the proposal is understood such that the concept of data is relativised to the context of its evaluation. Let us first clarify what this means. The basic idea is quite straightforward. In fact, it will already be familiar from the theory of indexical expressions such as ‘I’ (the natural language pronoun, not the concept introduced in the previous section), ‘here’, and ‘now’. For, that an expression (or a concept; there is not much of a relevant difference for our present purposes) is relativised means essentially nothing else than that it has different extensions when used in different contexts. Thus, the indexical expression ‘here’, for example, is such a relativised expression, as it will (usually) denote different places when uttered by different speakers. And similarly, to say that the concept of data is relativised means first and foremost that ‘the set of all data’ denotes different sets of truths depending on the entity in whose context the concept is evaluated.17 But why should a relativisation of the concept of data allow for a more elegant metaphysical theory? Again, the reason is simple: if the concept of data is relativised and has therefore different extensions in different contexts, then the concept of ‘I’, whose task it is to denote those entities by accessibility to which the data are distinguished from other truths, will evidently also have to denote different things in different contexts, and thus to be relativised as well. This allows the concept of ‘I’ to be metaphysically undemanding: it can fulfill its task without requiring the introduction of any new metaphysical predicate. In particular, as we will see below (sect. 3.1), it can simply refer to whatever entity constitues the respective context. One could say that, in terms of ontological parsimony, the epistemological self-concept ‘comes for free’.18 This leaves only the concept of accessibility to worry about. Unfortunately, it is at this point completely unclear how metaphysically demanding this concept is. For all we can say at this point, accessibility could yet turn out to be identifiable with an analytical relation between truths and other entities, such as the involvement relation mentioned above. If something like that should be the best theory on the metaphysics of data available, our antiphysicalist project would of course be doomed, for then, the concept of accessibility would trivially have a place in
17 Regarding the locution “entity in whose context...”, it will be made more explicit in sect. 2.5 how every semantical context is constituted by (or ‘tied’ to) a specific entity. 18 It may not be completely correct to say that it is “evident” that the concept of ‘I’ must be relativised if the concept of data is. It might also be thought possible to relativise the concept of accessibility instead and leave that of ‘I’ unrelativised. But how implausible a suggestion this would be. For one thing, to relativise a concept with respect to context of evaluation requires a plausible function from contexts to extensions. Since ‘I’ is an entity-concept (as we may call a concept denoting one or more entities), and since contexts are ‘tied’ to entities (as we will see in the next section), there is an obvious candidate for such a function in the case of a relativisation of ‘I’: simply the function that maps a context to the entity to which it is ‘tied’. In the case of a relativisation of ‘accessibility’, by contrast, we are dealing with a ‘relation-concept’, whose extension can only be a relation, and we would accordingly need a function from contexts to relations. The only remotely plausible functions I can think of, however, are constant; and a constant function would mean that the extension of ‘accessibility’ does not change across contexts, which, of course, would defeat the purpose of relativisation.



any ontology whatsoever. But it could also turn out that accessibility is based on some binary or ternary or higher-arity metaphysical relation so far unknown to physicists (which would at least entail property dualism), or perhaps that this relation is known but only in an incomplete way (which would still be compatible with mere revisionism). We do not know. We can, however, be reasonably sure that this approach will not lead to such absurdly inelegant theories as the unary-predicate approach. For there is no good reason why accessibility should be instantiated only by a select few truths and entities. Because the data are analysed as only those truths that are accessible to the entity (or entities) denoted by ‘I’, nothing prevents us from assuming that all kinds of other truths are accessible to all kinds of other entities. And less specific restrictions mean shorter and thus more elegant theories. Of course, discounting the unary-predicate approach does not leave our proposal as the only remaining alternative. But since the metaphysics of the accessibility relation is not yet settled, we cannot very well compare it with other approaches in terms of ontological simplicity. This was different for the unarypredicate approach only because of its inability to allow for the relativisation of the concept of data, which resulted in an absurd lack of elegance. The only kind of comparison left to us is therefore not ontological, but conceptual elegance. But it would lead too far here to construct potential alternative approaches and to compare their conceptual elegance with that of our present proposal. I think the canonical character of the latter will become apparent at the latest when we consider the problem of how to account for the fact that the data centre on just a tiny fraction of the universe, in sect. 3.5. We have seen above that the elegance and corresponding attractiveness of our proposal crucially depends on the relativisation of the concepts of data and ‘I’ to the contexts of their evaluation. So far, however, there has been no argument yet as to what this relativisation is supposed to look like. To tackle this question, we first need to develop a clearer conception of what is meant by ‘context’.


Contexts of Evaluation

When approaching the concept of subjectivity, we need at least a rudimentary framework in which to talk about possibilities and contexts of concept evaluation. A very powerful and popular such framework is that of Two-Dimensional Semantics.19 We will here sketch something similar to the traditional Kaplanian version of this framework, adapted to the purpose of theorising about subjectivity. Those familiar with Kaplan’s version of Two-Dimensional Semantics will know that he uses it for the treatment of indexicals and demonstratives, and that one of the ‘dimensions’ of his framework is formed by a large set of ‘contexts of occurrence’. The same will be true in our case, except that we will instead mostly talk of ‘contexts of evaluation’. The reason for the introduction of ‘contexts of occurrence’ is simply that certain expressions, such as ‘I’, ‘you’, ‘here’ etc., have different extensions when evaluated with respect to different situations (e.g., different speakers), whereas others (such as ‘the number 5’) have the same extension regardless of the situation in which they occur. This might lead one to the idea of identifiying contexts with possible situations, and indeed, in all versions of Two-Dimensional Semantics I am aware of, this is essentially what has been done. However, we will not follow this tradition, for reasons that will soon become obvious.
19 E.g.,

see Kaplan (1989), Stalnaker (1978), or Chalmers (forthcoming).



Before we specify what contexts of evaluation will be in our framework, let us introduce the second ‘dimension’. In a similar fashion to all other versions of TwoDimensional Semantics I am aware of, this dimension consists in a set of possible worlds. The sense of ‘possible’ in which I will say that such worlds are possible worlds is the sense in which the term is today mostly understood. The kind of possibility to which it refers has been introduced by Kripke (1971) and also by him been given the name of ‘metaphysical possibility’. I should note that there is yet another important kind of possibility, namely, epistemic possibility. The latter could be incorporated into our framework by adding a third dimension to it (which would be useful for the solution of “Frege’s puzzle”), but for the present purposes, the two dimensions introduced so far will be enough. Let us now consider more closely the elements of the first dimension, namely, the contexts of evaluation.20 Briefly put, we will conceive of them as abstract entities ‘tied’ to other entities by which they are fully individuated; and these latter entities have to be actual. Or in other words: every actual entity ‘constitutes’ a corresponding context of evaluation. With respect to this, two brief clarificatory remarks: 1. ‘Actual’ means: being either an element of the actual world, or a ‘worldless’ entity, i.e., not an element of any possible world at all. Good examples for worldless entities are numbers (barring mathematical Platonism). Put informally, an entity is worldless just in case it can be brought into ‘existence’ simply by defining it, independently of any contingent facts, where, by ‘contingent’, I mean everything that is not logically necessary. 2. The predicate ‘tied to’ should not be seen as having any significance beyond what is implied by the way in which it is being used here. It merely refers to an abstract one-to-one relation between a certain sort of abstract entities (namely, the contexts) and other entities. The purpose of this predicate lies in nothing else than the individuation of contexts of evaluation. That contexts are here analysed in this way and not as ‘possible situations’ or ‘parameter assignments’ constitutes a significant deviation from most traditional accounts. It is not my task here to give a detailed defence of this deviation, and it is not necessary to prove its superiority over every competing framework, since it is only meant as a device for expressing certain truths (or falsehoods, as the case may be). Still, however, it is probably appropriate to give some hints as to what the motivation for the said deviation consists in. First of all, we will let contexts be fully individuated by their ‘being tied’ to other entities, because this reflects the situation we are normally faced with when interpreting an utterance of natural language: there will be some speaker, and this speaker provides the context in relation to which we have to interpret the utterance. For a basic example, if the speaker utters ‘here’ (under appropriate circumstances), we will look where the speaker is located in order to find the place referred to by that utterance. Second, and perhaps more importantly, we will not allow entities from other possible worlds to play the role of ‘bearers’ of contexts. In point of conceptual tidyness, this entails the obvious advantage that the two dimensions – contexts on the one hand, possible worlds on the other – are cleanly kept separate from each other. There are still other reasons, having to do with the concept of ‘indexical possibility’, but to those, we will come further below.
20 There will be little need for us also to deal with possible worlds, although I might note that, where they will in the following be mentioned, what is meant are, very roughly, alternative histories of the universe (where ‘alternative’ is of course not meant to exclude the actual history).



It might at first seem strange why we should associate a context of evaluation with every entity and not just with bona fide speakers (or ‘time-slices’ of speakers), but on closer reflection, it should quickly become clear that this would be quite an unreasonable restriction. Semantic rules tell us what an expression means when uttered in a certain context, but they are hardly concerned with whether anything is, in fact, uttered or not.21 Taking again the number 5 as an example, it is clear that this number could never utter anything at all. Still, it makes perfect sense (and is correct) to say that the expression ‘my arithmetic successor’, in the context of that number, refers to the number 6.

21 This holds even in cases where the expression is something like ‘this utterance’. That this expression does not have a referent unless it is actually uttered is evidently not itself a semantical rule, but only a consequence of such rules. Cf. Kaplan (1989, sect. XIII). I should perhaps also note that this talk of ‘semantical rules’ must to a certain degree be seen as an idealisation, albeit a harmless one.

Chapter 3

I do not yet have a sufficient understanding of what this “I” is, that now necessarily exists. So I must be on my guard against carelessly taking something else to be this “I,” and so making a mistake in the very item of knowledge that I maintain is the most certain and evident of all. – Descartes, Second Meditation1

Having in the previous chapter introduced several concepts that serve as the basis on which to define the epistemological concept of subjectivity, we are now ready to tackle that task itself.


The Epistemological Concept of Subjectivity

We left section 2.4 with the question of what the relativisation of the concept of data to its context of evaluation should look like. A convenient way to approach this question is to ask what the relation would have to be that holds between a given context and those things that are in that context denoted by ‘data’. It is useful in this connection to recall our hypothesis on the distinction between the data and other truths. We proposed the view that the data are those truths that stand in a certain kind of relation, which we called ‘accessibility’, to a certain entity or entities, for which we introduced the term ‘I’. Even though the metaphysics of these entities or of the accessibility relation has in no way been fixed yet, this hypothesis must nevertheless be seen as a conjecture on the ‘essence’ of what it is to be a datum, just like the hypothesis that water is liquid H2 O is a conjecture on the ‘essence’ of water. Just like something counts as water if and only it is liquid H2 O, so – provided our hypothesis is correct – something will rightly be called a datum just in case it is accessible to whatever is denoted by ‘I’. However, unlike ‘water’, the concept of data has to be relativised to contexts of evaluation, in order to avoid the absurdity of the unary-predicate approach (sect. 2.4 above); and this step in turn necessitated a relativisation also of the concept of ‘I’. It follows, then, that the expression ‘the set of all data’, when evaluated in a given context, refers to the set of all truths that are accessible to what in that context is denoted by ‘I’. So, in analogy to above, we have to ask what the relation looks like that holds between a given context and what ‘I’ refers to in that context. And here, there can
1 Translation

by Cuttingham et al. (1984–85).




be only one sensible answer: ‘I’ refers in every context to the very entity by which that context is constituted. Every other answer would be completely arbitrary and introduce into the essence of ‘data’ a foreign element for which there would be no motivation whatsoever.2 This is not without interesting consequences. First of all, since our technical term ‘I’ now refers in every context to the very entity to which that context is tied, it is not a sortal term anymore, and we are finally doing justice to the fact that it is originally the pronoun of the first person singular, as well as, of course, an indexical expression. For this reason, we will now start to use it in the traditional way, including all the derivatives (‘me’, ‘myself’, ‘my’, ‘mine’ etc.). The ambiguity resulting from the fact that the empirical subject can be referred to in the same way will be resolved either implicitly by the context, or explicitly. Furthermore, there is the question of the context of evaluation. As we should not prematurely let our concept of ‘I’ coincide with the empirical self-concept (which would beg the question in favour of physicalism), it follows from the above that the context in which the concepts of ‘I’ and data are used is not necessarily the context of the empirical subject. Rather, it will have to be the context of the entity denoted by ‘I’ itself (in other words, my context), regardless of whether this entity coincides with the empirical subject. Now, this may seem strange. After all, it is the empirical subject (my ‘cognitive system’) that operates with these concepts. Does it not follow, then, that it must also be the empirical subject in whose context they are to be evaluated? This may be a natural way of reasoning, but it is fallacious none the less. There is no good reason to suppose that a system’s operating on a given concept poses any restrictions on the contexts in which that concept can be evaluated. For example, take the concept ‘my arithmetic successor’. We know that, if evaluated in the context of the number 5, it denotes the number 6, and we know this because we can operate on that concept. Yet, even though we operate on it, this patently entails no restriction with respect to the contexts in which it can be evaluated. And why should not a similar independence between ‘processing site’ and context of evaluation be possible in the case of ‘I’ ? Nor is it at all relevant that the empirical subject is the ‘origin’ of the concepts of data and ‘I’. Since, however, the picture being drawn here is admittedly somewhat unfamiliar, I will try to make it more palatable in the next section (i.e., sect. 3.1.4).


Defining ‘Subjectivity’

The topic of this section is the concept of subjectivity, for which I propose the following simple definition: (S) Subjectivity is the property of being a potential first relatum of the accessibility relation. Or, in other words: something is a subject if and only if it is a potential first relatum of the accessibility relation. What is this supposed to mean? First, it needs to be clarified what is meant by a ‘first relatum of the accessibility relation’. This relation is, of course, a binary one, so that every instantiation of it involves two relata. Since the relation is moreover not symmetrical, we need a way of differentiating between its relata, and I would like to do this by giving them numbers, so that one is called the ‘first relatum’ and the other the ‘second
2 This is not quite correct; there is still one alternative referent that would not be arbitrary, namely, the context itself. But this would obviously be a very odd choice, since contexts are merely abstract entities introduced for the purposes of semantic discourse, where they serve as convenient proxies for the entities by which they are constituted.



relatum’, as follows: if x is accessible to y, y is in this instance to be considered the first relatum and x the second. This way of counting may be counter-intuitive at first (because it goes against the grammatical order of the relata), but in the long run, it seems to be more convenient to think about it in this way. Second, we have to specify what it means for an entity to be a potential nth relatum of a certain relation. The idea is this. It has already been pointed out that, at least in metaphysical reasoning if not in pure logic, there is more to a relation than just a set of tuples. So, if we say that x is related to y by the relation R, then this should not only be understood as saying that the pair (x, y) is an element of the set-theoretic interpretation of R, but, insofar as our talk about x and y is ‘grounded’ in reality, it should also be understood as an assertion about how x is related to y, i.e., as an assertion about the relative nature of x and y. Acknowledgment of this goes hand in hand with recognition of the fact that for some entities, it “does not make sense” to talk of them as being related in a certain way to something else. So, for example, one would normally think that it would not make sense to say that the number 5 likes cats. This is because some relations impose certain non-relational conditions on their relata, violation of which logically entails non-instantiation of the relation itself (that is, with the specified relatum). In this case, one of the constraints on being a first relatum of the relation of liking is that of being a sentient being, which is, clearly enough, not satisfied by the number 5. It is this kind of non-satisfaction which, I think, leads us to say that it would not “make sense” to talk of things being liked (or, for that matter, not liked) by the number 5. Hence, the “potential first relata of the accessibility relation” are those entities that satisfy the conditions that this relation imposes on its first relata.


Intuitions, and the Concept of Consciousness

To see why ‘subjectivity’ should be defined in the way proposed, we have to go back to our intuitive concept of subjectivity. The concept I mean is the one that comes to bear in our talk about “what I might have been instead”, i.e, in considerations of alternative identities. We have examples of such considerations in Thomas Nagel’s wonderings of what it is like to be a bat (1974), in Geoffrey Madell’s supposition that he might have been the son of Elizabeth I of England (1981, ch. 4), and also in Zeno Vendler’s exercises in ‘transference’ (1984, ch. 1,2). Arguably, it is this concept that is at play when David Chalmers defines the difference between zombies and ‘normal’ people (1996, ch. 3), and in various related talk (be it by Chalmers or other authors) about ‘experiences’, ‘mental life’, ‘first-person perspective’, ‘phenomenal consciousness’ etc., when applied to other cases than one’s own.3 Finally, the concept is implicitly present whenever people talk about ‘observers’, even though the context in which one does so (e.g., verificationism) is traditionally conceived of as lying outside of the philosphy of mind. These latter (implicit) occurrences of the concept of subjectivity, however, do not seem especially fruitful for an analysis of that concept. In every case where we are asked to think of the experiences or mental lives or the phenomenal consciousness etc. of other beings, it is practically presupposed that we already know what it means to say that something else has experiences, a mental life, and so on, and these locutions do little to elucidate each other. Fortunately, the situation seems to be somewhat different in the former cases, where talk of other minds is primarily rooted in counterfactual considerations of “what I might have
3 In one’s own case, the ‘substitution concept’ I am using is that of ‘data’ or, derivatively, those of ‘I’ and ‘accessibility’. See above, p. 25.



been”. Putting matters this way brings in the concept of possibility, and this, at last, allows us (or so it seems) to furnish an informative analysis of the concept of subjectivity. In particular, it promises an analysis of ‘subjectivity’ on the dual basis of the concepts of data and possibility. It is, I think, not implausible to translate the locution, ‘I could have been something else’ as ‘The data could have been different’. For, if I were for example Napoleon at the battle of Austerlitz, then surely, the truths that I had to identify as data (were I familiar with the concept) would be quite different from what they actually are; and conversely, if the data were such that they centre in the appropriate way on Napoleon as he oversees his victorious troops, thinks of Maria Walewska etc., I were certainly justified in concluding that I am Napoleon.4 For this reason, it seems that we could base our analysis of subjectivity on the concept of possible data, and thus define ‘subjectivity’ as referring to the property of being an entity such that it is possible that the truths accessible to it constitute the set of all data. Defining subjectivity in this way seems to be a fairly intuitive way in which to arrive at that notion (where we may leave it open for the moment whether the definiendum here is really the same as that of the above definition). There are, however, problems with such an approach. In the epistemic sense of ‘possible’, the data could for a large part be no other truths than what they actually are (since we are presupposing that the data I know of form at least an important part of the total data); and in the metaphysical sense of ‘possible’, a set of truths counts as a ‘possible set of data’ only if its elements would in another history of the universe have been accessible to the entity actually denoted by ‘I’ (or in other words, to me). Since we know nothing so far about the metaphysics of this latter entity, we cannot know whether any truths centering on Napoleon at Austerlitz might indeed have been accessible to it. For all we know, it could have come into existence mere decades ago, perhaps even together with the organism that is writing this. So, we see that it can be neither epistemic nor metaphysical possibility that one has in mind when one utters a sentence like ‘I might have been Napoleon at Austerlitz’, being fully convinced of its truth. As far as I can see, there is only one other sense of possibility, which, however, has yet to be constructed; I will call it ‘indexical possibility’. Just like metaphysical possibility corresponds to the second dimension of our semantic framework (and just like epistemic possibility would correspond to the third dimension), this new kind of possibility analogously belongs to the first dimension of our framework, i.e., the one concerned with contexts of evaluation. A proposition is considered possible in this sense just in case it is defined and true in an actual context. For example, ‘I am on the moon’ is indexically possible, because there are entities (dust particles for instance) that are, in fact, on the moon. ‘I am standing on the moon’ is also indexically possible, because we are understanding the actual world in the sense of the actual history, and it is a well-known fact that there have been people standing on the moon. ‘I am watering chrysanthemums on the moon’, on the other hand, may very well be indexically impossible, since, for all we know, it may be that the world will never see such a thing as a lunar garden.5 As for Napoleon at Austerlitz, it will be clear, then, that it is in the indexical sense possible that I am him, overlooking my troops and (perhaps) thinking of poor Maria Walewska. Even though this ‘indexical possibility’ had yet to be defined, it is, I think, not at all too artificial a concept to underlie the apparently ‘counter-factual’ statements here considered. Of course, not in such a way that one is conscious of all the
4 The example, of course, is taken from Bernard Williams’ famous paper, Imagination and the Self. 5 But beware of parallel universes.



apparatus that goes with it. But, allowing for a certain amount of idealisation, I do not see why the concept of ‘indexical possibility’ should not do a very good job of capturing the sense of possibility involved when we say such things as “I might have been Napoleon”, etc. At the very least, it does fit the known facts: for every actual context, tied to an entity x, one can say “I might have been x” in apparently just the same sense as one can say “I might have been Napoleon”; and for every non-actual context, such as the context of the Chief Lunar Gardener might be, we are not inclined to say that we might have been the entity to which that context is tied. However, there is an objection: What, for example, about the number 5? We have already said in the previous section that (being a ‘worldless entity’) the number 5 constitutes an actual context, but we are certainly little inclined to say something like ‘I might have been the number 5’. Does this not falsify our assumption that the kind of possibility here at play is indexical possibility? The answer is: no. It has already been pointed out that those statements about what one might have been are best viewed as statements about what the data might have been. Also recall that the data are, in every context, those truths that are accessible to me (in that context). But since accessibility is a metaphysical relation and the number 5 a worldless entity, the latter is clearly not even a potential first relatum of the accessibility relation. Furthermore, it is not uncommon to regard a concept as undefined in the context of an entity if this entity does not qualify as a relatum of the relation underlying that concept. To see this, consider some examples. If a competent speaker of English is asked how many moons the number 5 has got, the answer will probably not be ‘zero’, but much more likely something along the lines of ‘not applicable’, indicating that the concept ‘my number of moons’ is undefined in the context of a number. Neither can he be expected to give his unqualified assent to such statements as ‘Alpha Centauri never sleeps’ √ or ‘The annual income of 2 equals $0.00’, even though he knows perfectly well that the negations of these sentences are not true. The underlying relations in these three cases are: ‘x has y as a moon’, ‘x sleeps at point-of-time y’, and ‘x earns y’. They all impose certain non-relational conditions on their first relata, so that whatever does not satisfy them (not being a planet, a living being, or a legal person) cannot be a first relatum of the respective relation. After a little reflection, it does seem that one feels uneasy about assigning an extension to a concept in a given context whenever the entity to which that context is tied fails to satisfy the appropriate non-relational conditions imposed by those relations.6 Thus, the concept of ‘data’ will likely also be regarded as undefined in the context of the number 5, from which it follows that the proposition ‘I am the number 5’, taken as equivalent to ‘The data are those truths that are accessible to the number 5’, is meaningless and therefore not indexically possible in the sense specified above. I do not wish to take a stance on the question of whether this entails that the sentence ‘I might have been the number 5’ is also meaningless, or whether the modal operator implicit in the “might” has some ‘redeeming power’ in this respect. What had to be accounted for was merely our intuitive reluctance to agree with the former kind of sentence. This may suffice to establish indexical possibility as the most plausible modality to underlie our talk of what we “might have been”. However, the last paragraph also raises serious doubt as to whether we can base our concept of subjectivity on the notion of “what I might have been”, in particular if that concept is in
6 Although I am in these examples concerned only with cases where there is an ‘underlying relation’ involved, I do of course not presuppose that these are the only cases to give rise to an uneasiness about the applicability of certain concepts.



turn supposed to be the central concept of our argument against physicalism. For, although it may be natural to regard ‘data’ as undefined in the context of an entity that is no potential relatum of accessibility, this is still essentially a matter of convention. Just as well, we could say that the concept of data is defined in every context (even that of the number 5). The extension of ‘the set of all data’ would, in these contexts, be the empty set, but that is also the case in the contexts of those potential relata of the accessibility relation that are not also actual relata, i.e., to which no truths are accessible. On the other hand, we cannot simply assume that “what I might have been” extends to all entities full stop. It is preposterous to say that ‘I might have been the number 5’, perhaps more so than it seems natural to regard ‘data’ as undefined in such contexts. But what makes it so preposterous, then? To this, I know only one answer: When we talk of ‘what we might have been’, this phrase must be interpreted as ‘what subjects we might have been’, taking recourse to the intuitive notion of subjectivity adumbrated above. On the assumption that subjectivity is a metaphysical property, it is, then, practically analytical that the assertion ‘I might have been the number 5’ is false. However, if this way of interpreting our talk of ‘what we might have been’ is correct – and I think it must be –, then it would clearly be circular to base a definition of ‘subjectivity’ on the notion of possible data, for it is the intuitive notion of subjectivity that our definition (S) is supposed to capture. It appears, then, that we have ruled out what seemed to be a promising alternative to that first proposal: ‘what I might have been’ can no longer be seen as providing a basis on which to define ‘subjectivity’. The task still remains to give some positive reasons for adopting (S) instead. We have already seen one such reason only a few paragraphs ago, where we said that it was natural to regard ‘data’ as undefined in the context of anything that is not a potential first relatum of the accessibility relation. By defining ‘subjectivity’ as proposed in (S), we are therefore as it were defining it as the property of constituting a context in which ‘data’ is naturally seen as defined. Thus, our definition of ‘subjectivity’ turns out to capture an intuitively significant property. Moreover, the description just given – ‘the property of constituting a context in which ‘data’ is naturally seen as defined’ – seems to provide no implausible interpretation of what we have in mind when talking of the property of ‘having a first-person perspective’. Of course, thinking of ‘first-person perspectives’ or ‘phenomenal consciousness’ does not usually involve thoughts about data and contexts as they have here been introduced. But once one is acquainted with this terminology, there does not seem to be much cognitive dissonance (at least, not in my case) when one is asked to interpret those notions in the way here suggested, in terms of what contexts one would intuitively regard the concept of data to be defined in. However, there are further, more straightforward reasons. It is not implausible to say that the data are those truths that describe what I informally refer to as ‘my consciousness’. Since the concept of data is relativised to context and the essence of being a datum is now assumed to consist in being a truth that is accessible to me (where ‘me’ is again relativised), it seems only reasonable to think of consciousnesses roughly as follows: (C) A consciousness is fully characterised by a set of truths such that there is some entity to which exactly those truths are accessible that are contained in that set. (P) Such a set is called the phenomenology of the corresponding consciousness.7
7 For

the present purposes, it is unnecessary to specify what a consciousness is, or what exactly



(B) Furthermore, given a particular consciousness, we will call the entities to which the corresponding truths are accessible, the bearers of that consciousness. Evidently, every bearer of a non-empty consciousness is also a potential first relatum of the accessibility relation. But what about the empty consciousness, as we may call that consciousness whose phenomenology contains no truths at all? According to the definitions of ‘consciousness’ and ‘bearer’ just given, every entity to which no truth is accessible would be a bearer of the empty consciousness – for example, the number 5. But this would clearly be a highly inappropriate use of the term ‘consciousness’. As above, what offends us is the fact that 5 is a worldless entity, whereas the relation between bearer and consciousness must be of a metaphysical nature. To avoid this contradiction, we can either refuse to call the empty set a consciousness, or, what is potentially a less drastic measure, impose restrictions on what kinds of entities can be bearers of consciousness. To some, the notion of an empty consciousness may seem absurd in any case, and so, they will perhaps favour the first option. I cannot say that I agree with this assessment. For what it is worth, that notion seems a little strange to me, but not really absurd. Perhaps, it can be made more palatable by the following consideration. As will be agreed, there are much simpler consciousnesses than the typical human ones – but how simple is too simple? Clearly, we should avoid drawing an arbitrary line here. Those that take an empty consciousness to be an absurdity would thus reasonably draw theirs between an empty consciousness and a maximally simple, yet still non-empty one. In which case, what could such a maximally simple consciousness look like? It might be roughly comparable to the visual perception of an undivisibly small white spot that nevertheless fills the whole visual field, since the latter is just large enough to contain the spot. Of course, there must be no accompanying thoughts whatsoever. This would be a very “still mind” indeed, and it is not necessarily easy to imagine such a simple kind of consciousness. But if one compares this to a situation where the spot is absent, it would not seem that these two situations differ sufficiently to justify a judgment to the effect that there is consciousness present in the first case but not in the second. Arguably, it would be more natural to say that, in the second case, the consciousness is simply empty. To be sure, an opponent of empty consciousness need not be impressed by this kind of consideration. But then, the burden of proof clearly falls on his side, for if the notion of an empty consciousness is to be ruled out as ‘absurd’, there must be some good reason for this, and I am unable to see one. What things, however, are the bearers of the empty consciousness? Obviously not any actual relata of the accessibility relation. But we also do not want to let every entity be a bearer of consciousness (vide the number 5). The solution to this dilemma that immediately suggests itself is to require the bearers of consciousness to be at least potential relata of the accessibility relation. A bearer of the empty consciousness would then be a potential but not actual relatum of accessibility. If we adopt this solution – as I suggest we do –, the above definition (B) will have to be replaced as follows: (B ) Given a particular consciousness, we will call the subjects to which the corresponding truths are accessible, the bearers of that consciousness, where ‘subject’ is to be understood in the sense of (S) above, namely, as equivalent to ‘potential first relatum of the accessibility relation’.
is meant by ‘being characterised’. Of this latter predicate, an intuitive understanding will fully suffice for the time being.



We have now seen two ways in which (S) can be said to capture the intuitive notion of subjectivity: 1. The concept of ‘data’ is plausibly regarded as defined exactly in the contexts of potential first relata of the accessibility relation. 2. All and only potential first relata of the accessibility relation are plausibly regarded as bearers of consciousness. This may suffice to establish the connection between our concept of subjectivity as defined in (S) and the common, intuitive notion of epistemological subjectivity.


Metaphysical Significance

Another important aspect of the concept of subjectivity is its metaphysical significance. In some respects, this significance is already well established: For we have already said that the relation of accessibility to which the concept is linked must be a metaphysical relation, and from this, it follows that the non-relational conditions that it imposes on its first relata must necessarily also have a metaphysical character. However, this is not yet quite enough, because, for our argument to succeed, it will also be necessary to show that subjectivity is not a graded property.8 By a ‘graded property’, I mean a property that, like hardness for example, ‘comes in degrees’. For a property to count as ‘graded’ in this sense, there must be an underlying variable with the following characteristics: (a) it is practically continuous, i.e., either truly continuous, or, if discrete, then such that the differences between adjacent degrees are insignificant for all practical purposes, and (b) the value of this variable must lie in a certain range for an entity to count as having the property in question. If this range is specified vaguely, i.e., with some indeterminacy with respect to its borders, the property will itself be called ‘vague’. If the range is specified precisely, the property will not be vague, but still be called ‘graded’. So, for example, our language knows a practically continuous variable called ‘hardness’, in which an entity must have a comparatively high value in order to count as having the property of the same name. Or in other words: something counts as hard just in case it exhibits a comparatively high degree of hardness. This is trivial, of course, but its triviality should not mislead us into thinking that there is only one ‘hardness’. For there are (at least) two: The one is a property, which a thing can either instantiate or not, insofar as the term ‘hard’ has a determinate semantics. The other is what I am here calling a ‘variable’, and can assume various values for different entities. If a property can be represented by a set, the typical mathematical representation of a variable in this sense would be a function; and like a function, a variable can have a certain domain
8 See sect. 4.1 below. Occasionally, arguments have been proposed that might prima facie be taken to support the view that subjectivity is a graded property. So far, however, I have always found this appearance to be misleading. For example, Pauen (2000) argues that “subjectivity is obviously not a property that one can have either fully or not at all” (p. 112), but the sense of ‘subjectivity’ underlying his considerations is irretrievably empirical, bound up with notions of ‘body’ and cognitive capacities. Thus, his argument is completely irrelevant to the purposes of this chapter. Another example is Papineau’s defence (2002, ch. 7) of the claim that the concept of “consciousness-as-such” is “vague”. His concept of ‘consciousness-as-such’ corresponds rather closely to our ‘subjectivity’, while what he takes to be the “vagueness” of this concept is perhaps better described as ‘ambiguity’. Crucially, his argument takes off on the thesis (supposedly established in earlier chapters) that there is no viable alternative to physicalism, and accordingly, it is the assumption of a physicalistically inspired methodology that then leads him to his conclusion regarding the “vagueness” of ‘consciousness-as-such’. Since, however, we have no stake here in the defense of physicalism, we are neither bound to a physicalistically inspired methodology and can therefore safely ignore his argument.



and a certain range. For example, in the case of hardness, the domain consists in solid materials, and the values may be best thought of as properties (e.g., the two vague properties of being soft and being hard).9 Thus, properties and variables are completely different abstract entities and should accordingly be kept separate from each other. If subjectivity were a graded property, this would, according to our definition, mean that there is some practically continuous variable that determines whether a given entity counts as a potential first relatum of the accessibility relation. This situation would be comparable to the case of the relation ‘x has y as a moon’ mentioned above, which imposes on its first relata (as we may plausibly assume) the condition of being a planet. Idealising somewhat, the property of being a planet can plausibly be thought of as a conjunction of several simpler properties, among them the property of being sufficiently large. Since this is obviously a graded property – the underlying variable, known as ‘size’, is clearly continuous for all practical purposes –, it follows that the property of being a planet is also graded. For illustration, imagine an unusually large conglomerate of rocks in some asteroid belt or protoplanetary disk, perhaps a hundred miles in diameter. Certainly, it would to a far lesser degree count as a planet than Pluto, for example, and the other rocks that circle around that conglomerate would hardly count as ‘moons’. But let the conglomerate become larger and larger, and let its gravity gradually crush the rocks into a molten core: no doubt the result will eventually meet all the criteria for being a planet, and if certain bodies circling around it are called ‘moons’, this will no longer be inappropriate. The question, now, is whether subjectivity could also be a graded property. Suppose it were. It would then immediately follow that the non-relational conditions imposed on the first relata of the accessibility relation draw some arbitrary line with respect to the underlying variable. The line may be somewhat ‘fuzzy’, i.e., those conditions may to some degree be vague with respect to where it should be drawn, but it would be arbitrary none the less. Evidently, such arbitrariness cannot be solely the result of the metaphysics of accessibility. It would instead have to result from some terminological decision, or from the properties of our perceptual and cognitive capacities. This can be well illustrated with our planets-and-moons example. The line between planets and proto-planets is certainly ‘fuzzy’, but this does not take away anything from its arbitrariness, for we might easily be somewhat less or more liberal than we actually are with respect to applying the predicate ‘planet’, and would not thereby run into any difficulties. Why, then, do we not call any isolated rock circling around a star a ‘planet’ ? Because it is useful to have a distinction somewhere along the continuum, or because the differences simply seem sufficiently salient to warrant the introduction of various categories for different regions of that continuum. And sometimes, the differences are in fact so salient that the introduction of different categories simply occurs to us, without much of a conscious decision on our part. It is easily seen that nothing of this sort is at work in the case of subjectivity. For one thing, nowhere in the course of the derivation of the concept of subjectivity has there been any decision to draw a line across a continuum. The relation of accessibility was postulated as part of the solution for the problem of distinguishing data from other truths; nothing more was asked of it. And regarding the semantics of ‘subjectivity’, the only arbitrary decision was to give this name to the property of being a potential first relatum of that relation. Nor do salient differences between
9 Of course, finer differentiation is possible, leading to other sets of properties and thus other ways of interpreting ‘hardness’ as a function. I suppose that this merely adds to the ambiguity of that term.



such potential relata have any role to play in the semantics of ‘subjectivity’. This is small wonder, of course, since, before we have a more detailed picture of the metaphysics of accessibility, the only entity of which I know that it is a subject am I myself. But even as that picture becomes more complete, and yields some idea of what kinds of entities could be first relata of the accessibility relation, it would surely be wrong artificially to impose any restrictions on the set of these potential relata – no matter how salient the differences between them may turn out to be. If we did, the arbitrariness of those restrictions would inevitably make the concept of subjectivity correspondingly less interesting from a metaphysical point of view. And without such metaphysical significance, we would clearly not be much interested in the question of whether subjectivity can be satisfactorily accommodated by current physics. So, since there neither is nor should be anything that would make subjectivity a graded property, we can conclude that it is not a graded property, either.


Remaining Questions

Insofar as it is the task of metaphysics to “save the phenomena”, its project is that of explanation, and must therefore proceed by generating and testing explanatory hypotheses. Before any such hypotheses can be generated, however, it is necessary to identify the relevant questions. In the above derivation of the concept of subjectivity, the main motivating question has been that of why not all the truths are data, i.e., the problem of distinguishing the data from other truths. But this is only the first of a set of, overall, three questions that have to be directed at the nature of data in order to see in which sense and why physicalism is unsatisfactory: (I) Why do the data not cover all the truths? (II) Why do the data – or at least an important part of them – centre on a comparatively tiny part of the universe? (III) Why do they centre on such a special part of the universe (e.g., on an organism capable of perceiving and thinking about its surroundings, etc.)? As is easily seen, these questions are so-to-speak ‘concentric’, in that they are increasingly specific with regard to the problematised features of the set of all data. It will be recalled that the first question led us to the postulation of the accessibility relation as well as to the concept of ‘I’; but with this, its potential seemed to be exhausted. ‘I’ would have remained unrelativised, an objective predicate, had we not, in sect. 2.4, begun to wonder why the data seem to centre only around a certain part of the universe. It was only this second question that prompted us to the relativisation of the concept of ‘I’, and indeed, it was only in regard to this question that the preferability of the answer we gave to Question I became evident. That relativisation, then, allowed us to define ‘subjectivity’ solely on the basis of accessibility. Without the relativisation of ‘I’, a subject could hardly have been anything else than what is denoted by ‘I’, and we would have been stuck with a position essentially tantamount to solipsism. Question I, then, can at this point be regarded as answered. Can the same be said of the second question? Certainly not. It has led us to the concept of subjectivity, but so far, there is no explanation yet as to why the truths accessible to a subject should centre only on a certain part of the universe, and without such an explanation, Question II remains unanswered. Moreover, it is extremely desirable to provide an answer to this question, since it would have to be an



enormous coincidence if most or even all of the the data happened to centre on the same tiny spatiotemporal region.10


The Knowledge Intuition

That the data center on a tiny spatio-temporal region is, strictly speaking, not yet known. For, trivially, only of the known data can I know that they centre on such a spatio-temporal region – in fact, I do know that they are so centred, namely, on a certain part of this organism. But from this, I can with respect to the data in general only infer that some of them, namely those I know of, centre on a tiny spatiotemporal region. It is, of course, intuitively plausible that I know more than just a marginal fraction of the data, and this is also what we have been assuming from sect. 2.2 onward, but we have not yet discussed why this intuition should be true. This is a major omission. It has just been hinted at how the truth of the intuition that I know most of the data – which I will in the following call the ‘Knowledge Intuition’ – is required for Question II to arise, but it is worthwhile to point out the importance of this intuition in more general terms. Without the truth of the Knowledge Intuition, all inference from the known data to the total data would be so weak as to be useless: from a proposition to the effect that all of the known data are P , we could with respect to the data in general, as we have already seen, only infer that some of them are P . This would not only affect Questions II and III (neither of which would arise from the mere information that some of the data are centred on a certain part of an organism, however ‘special’ its properties), but also Question I. For, if everything I can know pertains only to some of the data, as opposed to the most important part, or even only more than just a tiny and utterly marginal fraction of them, there is no reason why not every truth should be a datum. Hence, there would not even be a need to distinguish the data from other truths; only the known data would have to be so distinguished, and for this, the postulation of a new relation named ‘accessibility’ would presumably not be necessary. Since, therefore, the Knowledge Intuition is in more than one way crucially important to our project, we now have to turn to the question of why and in what sense it might be true.11 Let us first, however, be more clear about the way the intuition should be understood. Above, it has typically been formulated simply like this: ‘I know an important part of the data’. In this form, it may not be all that plausible; one would probably initially prefer something like ‘I can know an important part of
course, what such an explanation may most plausibly look like will already here be obvious: the explanation will have to analyse the accessibility relation in such a way that for a truth to be accessible to a subject means (in the sense of ‘to entail’) that it centres on either the subject itself or on some other entity that stands in a certain kind of relationship to it. However, the issue cannot be dealt with quite as quickly, and we will have to return to it in sect. 3.5. 11 At this point, certain physicalists may want to offer a strikingly simple account of both the fact that most data centre around a part of this organism as well as of the Knowledge Intuition: The latter, they claim, is true analytically, since only known data count as data in the first place; and the former is said to follow from the fact that that part of this organism on which the data are centred is at the same time that part which does the thinking and judging, and therefore also the believing and knowing: i.e., my cognitive system. Furthermore, I am my cognitive system. All and only the truths that I know of – in some suitably specified, introspective way – are the data, and because of this very fact, all the data centre on the tiny spatio-temporal region that is my cognitive system, i.e., on myself. I do find this kind of account attractive in its simplicity, even though it is, as the next chapter will show, ultimately unsatisfactory. Our present task, however, is only to clarify the conceptual framework constructed in this and the previous chapter, which has to be neutral with respect to the truth or falsehood of physicalism, and in particular, with respect to the question of whether subjects are identical with their cognitive systems.
10 Of



the data, if I choose to direct my attention accordingly and formulate adequate propositions to capture the contents of my consciousness’. But this should not necessarily deter us from using the simpler formulation. After all, it is a wellknown fact that one knows many things that one has never even thought of. (I know, e.g., that earth-worms don’t fly, even though this thought has never before occurred to me.) Correspondingly, it might still be correct to say that I know an important part of the data, regardless of whether I actually pay any attention to them. But however that may be, I will in the following continue to speak simply of ‘knowledge’. Nothing important (at least as far as our argument is concerned) hinges on these points. What also needs to be clarified is the locution: ‘an important part of the data’. The reason why I have preferred this to the simpler ‘most of the data’ lies in the fact that it is intuitively not the case that I really know most of the data, even in the relatively weak sense just mentioned. As far as I am concerned, there may be many truths in my phenomenology that I could never have cognitive access to, because their influence on my cognitive apparatus is simply too weak. But we need not be overly worried by this, because these data should not be considered particularly ‘important’ members of my phenomenology. What makes them less ‘important’ than others is, to a first approximation, the lack of intensity, or the ‘faintness’ of the states they describe. So, ‘an important part’ does not only refer to the number of the data in question (or the amount of information contained in them), but equally well to their intensity. What the metaphysics of phenomenal intensity might consist in is an interesting issue that, admittedly, our conceptual framework so far sheds little light on. Finally, another problematic point of the Knowledge Intuition in its present formulation has to do with the use of the word ‘I’. It is a near-truism that my thinking and feeling, judging etc. happens in my brain, more specifically, in a certain part of my brain that we may refer to as my ‘cognitive system’.12 It will, thus, also be my cognitive system that does my knowing, which, like the thinking, feeling, judging and so on, is mine only by virtue of that system’s being mine. Or in other words: I, as a subject, ‘have’ thoughts, feeling, knowledge etc. only in the sense that my cognitive system has thoughts, feelings, knowledge etc., such that the truths describing these states are accessible to me. The question that this raises is, of course: what does it mean for a cognitive system to be ‘mine’ ? Plausibly, if a cognitive system is said to be ‘mine’, this entails that some of the truths describing the system’s cognitive state comprise a part of the data. For, if the Knowledge Intuition is true and I know the most important part of the data, then it must be true that the data describe, at least to a large part, thoughts, feelings, desires etc. (for so they seem to do), and all of these, as we said, are primarily the thoughts, feelings, desires etc. of my cognitive system. But on the other hand, it is neither the case that all of the truths describing my system’s cognitive state are data, nor does it seem necessary in order for the system to be ‘mine’ that they comprise the most important or even more than just a very marginal part of the data. Informally, one could say that a cognitive system is mine if it ‘does my thinking’ (which is here meant to include also my feeling, desiring, believing etc.), but if we suppose that a given system does only part of my thinking, should it not be mine anymore? There does not seem to be any good reason to suppose so.13 To the contrary, it is quite conceivable that only a small
12 Some might argue that my cognitive system, far from being only a part of my brain, even extends beyond my body. That may be; but such considerations are of little interest here. 13 An interesting question that we shall not pursue here is whether a subject could ‘have’ more than one cognitive system.



part of a subject’s phenomenology consists in truths about some system’s cognitive state, and that system’s thoughts and desires etc. could then still be regarded as those of the subject, insofar as the truths describing them are accessible to it. Why should the same not be true in my case? Like most rhetorical questions, this one, too, has an obvious answer: ‘Because this would contradict the Knowledge Intuition’. Which again leads us to the question of how this intuition can be true.


Possession Conditions of the Concept of Data

To begin with, it bears pointing out that the Knowledge Intuition does not state that every subject knows the most important part of the truths accessible to it. Rather, it says that I know the most important part of the data. Since this my knowledge is nevertheless, as has just been mentioned, primarily that of my cognitive system, it may be useful to have a look at what it means for a cognitive system to know what the data consist in. And since this knowledge is, moreover, de dicto knowledge, i.e., knowledge of the form, ‘the data are such-and-such’ (either using the concept of data itself or some broadly comparable other concept), it will be particularly interesting to see what it means for a cognitive system to have and exercise the concept of data. It seems quite plausible to assume that ‘data’ is usually exercised in roughly the following simple way: First, the system in question subjects its state to a process of introspective analysis, resulting in some internal representation of this state. And this representation, when brought into a suitable form so as to represent the corresponding proposition (e.g., the proposition that there is a “white spot in the centre of the visual field”), is then taken by the system to represent a ‘datum’. Essentially, this seems to be all there is to it. Of course, it would at this point be interesting to know how it is ensured that the constructed representation correctly describes the state under consideration. In this respect, however, I have no more to offer than the suggestion made in footnote 10 of the previous chapter. That is, to recapitulate, the correctness of the representation may plausibly be ensured by the fact that the represented state is itself a constitutive part of the representing state, in such a way even as to determine the content of the representation. The question of whether this hypothesis is plausible also from a neurophysiological point of view has to await further investigation. However such an investigation may turn out, it will be clear that, for any system possessing the concept of data, it is semantically tied to the respective system’s introspective faculties. For, it is the truths discovered through introspection, be it as described in the last paragraph or otherwise, that form the primary examples of what a system refers to as data. The fact that, in sect. 2.1 above, the term ‘data’ has been informally introduced precisely by use of examples drawn from introspection should have some weight in this respect. With a familiar turn of phrase, one could therefore say that the introspective mechanism fixes the reference of the system’s concept of data, much like our typical epistemic access to samples of water fixes the reference of our water-concept. Certainly, to fix the reference of a concept is not yet to fully determine it. For example, although the property of being water will have to be such that it is common to all the typical samples of water – i.e., those that fix the reference – as well as uninstantiated by all the typical samples of non-water, the set of properties satisfying this criterion is still larger than one. So, besides the actual property of being water, namely being H2 O, we also have, e.g., (1) the superficial property of looking, tasting and feeling



like H2 O, (2) the indexical property of being the kind of stuff that fills our rivers and lakes, and (3) the non-projectible property of being H2 O within a distance of 100,000 miles from the centre of the Earth. Out of these, it seems that the property of being H2 O tout court is selected primarily because it is (for a number of reasons) the most useful one to have a concept for. Can we in a similar way simply choose which kind of truths we want the concept of data stand for, as long as the reference-fixing cases are included? If that were the case, the semantics of that concept would, of course, be much more open and indeterminate than it had previously seemed – which means that there must be something that puts an additional constraint on the meaning of ‘data’. Now, this something is, I suggest, nothing else than the Knowledge Intuition itself. For, this intuition, when taken as a ‘partial definition’ (or, to use Carnap’s term, as a meaning-postulate), constrains the meaning of ‘data’ in precisely such a way that the set of all data consists for the most important part in those truths that are in the respective context discoverable by way of introspection. And apparently, this is completely in accordance with the way that the term ‘data’ has so far been used. It thus emerges that the meaning of ‘data’ is fully captured by one’s introspection (which provides the ‘reference-fixing’ examples), combined with the Knowledge Intuition as a meaning-postulate to put an ‘upper limit’ to how far the extension of that concept can reach beyond what one’s introspection is able to reveal. Consequently, it seems entirely justified to adopt the Knowledge Intuition as a meaning-postulate for ‘data’. Except that ‘meaning-postulate’ is not quite the right word. If the Knowledge Intuition really were a meaning-postulate in the classical sense, it would be simply analytically true, which would clearly introduce a strong bias for an ultimately physicalistic metaphysics of subjectivity. For, if every subject had to know the majority of the truths accessible to it, it would be hard to see how subjects could exist independently of cognitive systems, since it is to these that thought, judgment, belief and knowledge are primarily attributable. And as far as we know, all cognitive systems are rather complex physical systems. To be sure, there might be non-physical cognitive systems (computers made of ectoplasm, for example), but it would certainly be unreasonable to burden the cause of antiphysicalism with such metaphysical extravagance, if it can at all be avoided. Hence, the Knowledge Intuition should not be regarded as analytically true. Instead, we will merely treat it as a constraint on what it means for a cognitive system to ‘have’ the concept of data.14 It complements introspection in its task of fixing the reference. Just like a system cannot be said to have the concept of data if it has no introspective faculty to provide it with examples, it neither has that concept if it does not believe that these examples are somehow representative. Or, more precisely, I propose that a system has the concept of data just in case it has a concept whose semantics is determined by exactly the following two features: (1) The system takes the exemplary referents of the concept to be those truths which are revealed to it through introspection (roughly in the way described above); and (2) The system believes the concept’s extension to consist for the most important part in those truths which can be thus revealed (and are in this sense ‘introspectively accessible’).
14 This could also be put in terms of ‘what the concept of data is’, but I would here like to keep a certain distance to this question. It would probably lead too far if we were also to discuss the hotly-debated issue of what kinds of things concepts are.



Needless to add, this concept is then the concept of data, and the system uses it correctly as long as it does so in accordance with these conditions. I should emphasise that what the system here “believes” about that concept is, though not analytic, still true a priori, because these beliefs determine the semantics of the concept insofar as it is ‘had’ by the system in question. There would, after all, be little point in having a system’s beliefs about the extension of its concepts determine the latter’s semantics if these beliefs could be false. What we now have to look at is the question of what the system’s uses of the concept of data can refer to in the contexts of those subjects for which the system ‘is doing the thinking’. The possession conditions just specified are particularly relevant in this respect.


Vicarious Cognition and the Paradox of Phenomenal Judgment

We have already taken a few stabs, in the present and the previous section, at the notion of a cognitive system’s ‘doing the thinking’ for one or more subjects. It is now time to give the relation between a subject and ‘its’ cognitive system a proper name. ‘Ownership’ might at first suggest itself, but is ultimately inappropriate, because there is no conclusive reason why a cognitive system should not be able to ‘do the thinking’ for more than one subject. I will therefore call the subjects for which a certain system is ‘doing the thinking’ not the ‘owners’, but only the ‘(cognitive) beneficiaries’ of that system. And as for the way the possession conditions of a certain concept affect the extension of a system’s uses of that concept in the respective contexts of its beneficiaries, I would propose the following simple principle: The possession conditions apply equally well.15 In its simplicity, this principle seems to me plausible enough not to require further justification. When applied to the concept of data, it entails that a system’s uses of the concept ‘the data’ can, in the context of any beneficiary, refer only to such sets of truths as satisfy the conditions (1) and (2) above. That is, for any such set, the beneficiary subject must believe that its introspection (which is the introspection of its cognitive system) can reveal the most important part of the truths contained in that set – or in other words: the subject must believe in the Knowledge Intuition –; and this belief must, moreover, be true. The belief itself does not seem to be a problem, since it is simply taken over from the cognitive system.16 The requirement, however, that it also be a true belief significantly constrains the way the metaphysics of accessibility can be fleshed out in a given context. On the one hand, there is the Knowledge Intuition, which is true in every context where it can be conceived; its form is ‘I know the most important part of the data’, which, if the analysis presented in previous sections is correct, amounts to ‘I know the most important part of the truths accessible to me’. But now,
15 I should make clear, however, what I mean by the system’s “uses” of a concept. I do not mean ‘ways of usage’ or ‘purposes for which the concept can be used’, but rather ‘occurrences of usage’. And by that, I mean not so much external utterances as rather occurrences of internal usage.’Mental representations’ might be a good alternative term. 16 If the subject were a beneficiary of more than one cognitive system, this would admittedly be more problematic. But, insofar as the subject could not be said to ‘inherit’ the belief from its system, it would follow that the system’s uses of the concept of data do not satisfy this concept’s possession conditions in the context of that subject. So, even though the system could still be said to ‘have’ that concept, the subject itself could not. And hence, it would lack the necessary concept to be able to conceive the Knowledge Intuition. The latter will thus still be a priori true in every context where it can be conceived.



suppose the accessibility relation is subjected to further analysis, e.g., by being identified with some concrete metaphysical relation M . Then, we have, on the other hand, an analysed version of the Knowledge Intuition, whose form is ‘I know the most important part of the truths M -related to me’. Patently, this latter proposition is not necessarily true in every context where it can be conceived. And in those contexts where it is, unlike the original version of the Knowledge Intuition, not true, the hypothetical analysis of accessibility cannot be true either. For, if I know the most important part of the truths accessible to me, but not the most important part of the truths M -related to me, it follows that the accessibility relation is not the same as the M -relation. Unless all subjects are identical with their cognitive systems, and unless our hypothetical M -relation is closely correlated with introspective accessibility, there is nothing to rule out the possibility that for some subjects, only a marginal part of the truths M -related to them is introspectively accessible to their respective cognitive systems. In the context of such a subject, it would clearly be wrong to identify accessibility with the M -relation. Why is this important? Because I myself would not know whether I am such a subject! After all, my entire knowledge is the knowledge of my cognitive system; if accessibility were to be analysed as a relation independent of introspective accessibility (or ‘introspectibility’, as one could also say), there would be no telling whether the most important part of the truths accessible to me are also introspectively accessible to me (i.e, via my cognitive system). On the other hand, however, the accessibility relation is intended to have no other conceptual basis than the concept of data. It may be ‘analysed’ and identified with some independently given relation, but it will always be whatever relation it is – provided there is such a relation, but this is what we have been assuming ever since sect. 2.4 – by which the data are related to me. Consequently, as has already been mentioned in the previous paragraph, the original version of the Knowledge Intuition is assumed to be equivalent to its ‘slightly analysed’ version, namely: ‘I know the most important part of the truths accessible to me’ (where the knowledge in question is, of course, knowledge by introspection). Thus, since the former version of the Knowledge Intuition is true in every context where it can be conceived, so is the latter. But then, we just said that there would be “no telling” whether I can introspectively know the most important part of the truths accessible to me, if “accessibility were to be analysed as a relation independent from introspective accessibility”. It therefore follows that accessibility is not to be analysed in that way. Certainly, this seems to be an embarrassing situation for any proponent of an antiphysicalist interpretation of accessibility. And it is. What we have here is simply another instance of the Paradox of Phenomenal Judgment. As may be recalled, this paradox arises out of the fact that my observational phenomenal judgments cannot be justified unless the states of affairs they report are causally relevant for them. Together with the intuition that my observational phenomenal judgments are (at least usually) justified, this fact militates strongly against any analysis of phenomenality that does not restrict the realm of the phenomenal to the realm of the causally relevant, or, in the drier terminology here developed: against any analysis of accessibility that does not closely correlate this relation with that of introspective accessibility. This is exactly the situation we are here faced with. The only difference from the present case lies in the fact that the Knowledge Intuition is here no longer regarded as a mere intuition, but, instead, as a proposition that is a priori true in every context where it can be conceived. This view on the Knowledge Intuition, however, already marks the first step of our escape from the Paradox, since it guarantees the a priori character of the validity of our phenomenal judgments.



It may be worthwhile to elaborate a little bit on the Paradox, as it appears in the present theoretical context. We have seen that the Knowledge Intuition significantly constrains the set of potential referents of a cognitive system’s uses of the concept of data in the context of a given beneficiary, and thereby also constrains what analyses of the accessibility relation are available in that context. There are essentially two cases to consider: either the accessibility relation can in a given context be analysed as a metaphysical relation not bound to introspective accessibility, or it cannot (see figure 3.1). The latter can be regarded as the ‘default case’ and obtains whenever the only acceptable relations between the subject constituting the context and the truths introspectively accessible to it hold already in virtue of just this introspectibility.17 That is, without introspectibility, there will in such a context be no accessibility either, so that not only introspectibility entails accessibility, but also, conversely, the property of being accessible to the subject entails the property of being introspectible to it: the two properties have to be (materially) equivalent. In the former case, by contrast, there is some acceptable relation that does not already hold in virtue of introspectibility. Thus, there will be some metaphysically respectable relation by which the subject happens to be related to the most important part of the truths introspectively accessible to it, but that it is so related need not be due to introspectibility. Hence, the properties of being accessible to the subject and of being introspectible to it need not be materially equivalent to each other (although they could be). According to these two cases, we can in general differentiate between two sets of beneficiaries of a cognitive system: those for which (i.e., in whose contexts and with respect to which) accessibility has to be equivalent to introspectibility, and those for which the two relations do not have to be equivalent. It follows from the conceptual connection between ‘data’ and ‘accessibility’ that the set of truths to which the cognitive system’s uses of the concept ‘the data’ refers can be quite different across contexts, although the most important part of this set will always be formed by the truths accessible to the system’s introspection. In an antiphysicalist metaphysic where subjects are not identical to their cognitive system, it is to be expected that cognitive systems can have both kinds of beneficiaries. Naturally, if a subject is the beneficiary of such a system, it has no way of coming to know to which kind it belongs, since all it can know is what its cognitive system can know, and this knowledge will be the same for all of the system’s beneficiaries: This is the form of the Paradox that we are here confronted with. In the face of such a situation, what should one think with respect to the correct analysis of accessibility, when there is no way to know whether, in one’s particular context, that relation must be conceived of as equivalent to introspectibility or whether another kind of analysis is also possible (and perhaps preferable)? The antiphysicalist position may seem rather hopeless at this point. If I, as a matter of principle, cannot know whether accessibility must, in my context and with respect to me, be equivalent to introspectibility, I cannot well have an argument showing that accessibility should be analysed otherwise. But if there is no such argument, how should I argue against a physicalist analysis of that relation? Since introspectibility does apparently not pose any problems for a physicalist account, would I not have to argue against the equivalence of
17 By ‘acceptable’, I mean first of all to exclude those relations that are inherently unfit for a metaphysical analysis of accessibility, such as, e.g., ‘x knows someone whose brother thinks that y’. It is not entirely clear whether disjunctive relations should also be excluded, but it seems I can leave this issue unsettled for the time being. In any case, however, for a relation M to be in this sense ‘acceptable’ implies that the subject in question is M -related to the most important part of the truths introspectively accessible to it.



Subjects: The concept of data Possession conditions: (1) Introspection (2) The ‘Knowledge Intuition’ The cognitive system Its uses of the concept of data (‘mental representations’).
Those for which the system’s uses of the concept ‘the data’ denote only the set of those truths that are introspectively accessible to the system.

Those for which these uses denote a set containing more than just the introspectible truths.

Figure 3.1: The concept of data, a cognitive system, and its beneficiary subjects. A cognitive system’s representations count as uses of the concept of data only if the system satisfies, in relation to these representations, the possession conditions associated with the concept of data. What these uses refer to in the context of a given beneficiary, however, is not in every case the same. accessibility and introspectibility – which, as we have just seen, I cannot do? Fortunately, this predicament is only an apparent one. The fallacy in the line of reasoning just presented lies in an equivocation of the word ‘introspectibility’. On the one hand, there is introspectibility to a cognitive system: this is the relation that physicalists will have little difficulty accounting for. But on the other hand, we have introspectibility to a beneficiary of such a system, and this is the relation at play in the previous paragraph. Since this kind of introspectibility is obviously mediated by the relation between a cognitive system and its beneficiary, a physicalist account of it will necessarily have to specify what this latter relation consists in. Here, then, is the loophole through which the anti-physicalist can escape from the Paradox of Phenomenal Judgment, and the ground on which he can at last hope successfully to confront the physicalist. It must be said, however, that the correct analysis of the relation between a cognitive system and its beneficiaries will only indirectly be the object of contention. This relation is inextricably bound up with the concept of a cognitive system, and we have no need for this. There is a more fundamental concept than that of a cognitive beneficiary, with respect to which the physicalist’s position can be more conveniently attacked: namely, the concept of subjectivity. But still, there is a problem. Nothing so far seems to rule out the possibility that a subject can be a beneficiary of more than one cognitive system. Apparently, all that is needed for this to be the case is that in addition to the truths describing the cognitive state of one such system, there are also truths accessible to the subject in question that describe the cognitive state of another system. If the first set of truths suffices to make the subject a beneficiary of the first system, and the second to make it a beneficiary of the second one, it would seem natural to conclude that the subject will then be a beneficiary of both systems, so that, whenever either of them has a belief or desire, this will also be the belief or desire of the subject itself. Furthermore, the subject would be unable to know of how many systems it is a beneficiary. This inevitably leads to the awkward question whether I myself could not be a beneficiary of more than one system. Apparently, nothing I know



as a beneficiary of one of those systems could exclude this possibility. Hence, one might even ask why I should not be the beneficiary of all the cognitive systems there are. Evidently, something must have gone wrong here. If I am indeed a beneficiary of more than one cognitive system, why does it seem to me that I am a beneficiary of just one system? Of course, it could be replied that it seems to me that way simply because it seems that way to a cognitive system of which I am a beneficiary. But this is not going to satisfy us. When it seems to me that I am a beneficiary of just one system, this is meant to imply that it seems to me that I do not have any beliefs in addition to those that I have qua beneficiary of this system – in fact, I am rather convinced of not having any such further beliefs. Yet, if it were possible that I am a beneficiary of more than one system, this conviction would rest on a shaky foundation. What is more, for every belief to the effect that p that I might have qua beneficiary of one system, I could easily believe that non-p due to my being a beneficiary of a second system, and I would never notice the contradiction. So, what this leads to is apparently a scenario where my thinking does not in general respect the rules of logic. But can this be a possibility we ought to take seriously? It would seem that it is not. Or at least, it is a possibility that contradicts the initial, implicit assumption of my theorising, namely, the assumption of its rationality. Without some initial confidence that my reasoning will be rational, it would have been more rational not even to start. Correspondingly, because of the vital role that the assumption of my own rationality has played for my entire reasoning so far, it would be rather inconsequent to start questioning that assumption only because my reasoning has led to the discovery of a possible scenario where it is false. In fact, that possibility was also there in the very beginning. I did not take it seriously then, so why should I do so now? This is not to say that the possibility is ruled out; we will only continue to assume that it is not actually the case.


The Concepts of Adjunction and Φ

Returning, now, to the beginning of this section, it may be recalled that Question II asked why “the data – or at least an important part of them – centre on a comparatively tiny part of the universe”. Given our above remarks on the Knowledge Intuition, it may seem that this question has already been answered. After all, that intuition even states that the most important part of the data are introspectible to a cognitive system. Since cognitive systems tend to be rather tiny parts of the universe, and since for a truth to be introspectible to such a system obviously means to centre on it, it may well be taken to follow that the fact asked about in Question II is simply a consequence of the Knowledge Intuition. However, the latter is guaranteed to be true only in every context where it can be conceived. This may be enough to do justice to its intuitive appeal, but it still leaves to explain why the Knowledge Intuition can be conceived in this context. The obvious explanation for this is that I am a beneficiary of a certain kind of cognitive system. But why am I such a beneficiary? If we were to explain this with the possession conditions for the concept of ‘I’ (as we did in the case of the Knowledge Intuition), we would be going in a circle: those possession conditions would (more or less) have to entail that the concept of ‘I’ can, in every context where it can be conceived, only refer to the entity constituting that context; but in order to explain that the concept of ‘I’ can be conceived in my context, we would again have to invoke the fact that I am a beneficiary of a cognitive system.



I do not yet, however, want to consider the question of why I am a beneficiary of a cognitive system; this would already be addressing Question III. Instead, I would at this point like to ask for the reasons of a more general fact, and (re)interpret Question II accordingly. For, in order for a subject to be a beneficiary of a cognitive system, it is necessary that a certain part of the truths accessible to the subject centre on that system, describing its cognitive state. This part need not exactly be “important” – it may also be only a “small” part, as has been conceded at the end of sect. 3.2 –, but if other, equally or more important parts of the data centred on further systems, describing their cognitive states, then the subject would also be a beneficiary of those. That this possibility does not obtain in my own case follows from the assumption of my own rationality, as explained at the end of the previous section. But nevertheless, one may ask if this assumption does not call for quite an unlikely coincidence, since it requires that the data be to a significantly larger extent centred on one particular cognitive system, rather than on others as well. Why should there be such a clustering? This, then, is how I would like Question II to be understood. There are essentially two ways how this question could be approached. One may either go the direct way and ask how an ontologically parsimonious explanation of the said fact might look like, or, taking a less direct approach, develop a very basic analysis of the accessibility relation in the hope that it may yield the desired explanation. While both are viable options, the direct way happens to be relatively cumbersome. I will therefore here present only the other approach. Considering that accessibility is a relation between entities ‘in the world’ on the one side and truths on the other, there is not much of a choice as to what the first step of an analysis of this relation has to look like. It is, I think, safe to assume that truths are, like all propositions, abstract entities, and are thus not disposed to be relata of metaphysical relations. To put it informally: they ‘do not float around’, like atoms or molecules, for other things to enter into metaphysical (e.g., spatial) relationships with. Rather, there seem to be only two general kinds of relations that may be instantiated between propositions and concrete entities: (1) representational relations, and (2) relations based on the ‘aboutness’ of (or ‘involvement’ by) propositions.18 The former are based solely on our interpretation of signs and other (e.g., mental) representations, such as we find where a set of chalk marks looking like ‘CH’ is taken to express the Continuum Hypothesis. It is commonplace that these relations are not instantiated ‘all by themselves’, but only for us, who interpret those representations. The second kind consists of relations based on the relation between propositions and the entities they are ‘about’, in the way the proposition expressed by ‘John loves Mary’ is about both John and Mary. It could be argued that this relation, too, is representational, on the grounds that our concepts are nothing else but abstract objects derived from our own mental representations. This may be true; but still, the relation between a sign and the proposition it stands for is clearly different from the relation between an entity and the proposition it is involved in. Moreover, whereas the question which signs represent which propositions is often decided by conventions and other contingent factors, it is so-to-speak intrinsic for a proposition which entities it involves: propositions are partly individuated by the entities they are about. So, whereas one and the same proposition could be represented by one sign today and a completely different sign tomorrow, two propositions that involve different sets of entities could never be the same. Because of this difference between the two kinds of relations, it will be obvious that the accessibility relation cannot plausibly be a
18 Cf.

above, p. 36.






adjunction part of the universe subject

Figure 3.2: What accessibility consists in. See text for explanation. representational relation, but must, instead, be based on ‘aboutness’.19 Whenever a truth is accessible to some subject s, there must consequently be a further entity x such that the truth involves x, and the subject stands in a certain kind of relationship to x. More precisely: there have to be (non-Cambridge) relations R1 and R2 such that (1) for all t and x, R1 (t, x) entails that t is a truth about x, and (2) for all t, t’s accessibility to s is metaphysically equivalent to there being some x such that R1 (t, x) and R2 (s, x). I will call R1 the Φ-relation (‘Φ’ being short for ‘phenomenology’), and R2 the adjunction relation (see figure 3.2). Needless to say, the metaphysics of the adjunction relation is thereby not yet settled. It could be an already familiar relation just as well as something completely new. On the familiar side, for example, it could even be the identity relation: the cognitive system or organism (or whatever) on which the phenomenological truths are centred would then itself be the subject. Presumably, this is the hypothesis that a physicalist would favour.20 We will see in the next chapter, however, that this would not make for a very satisfactory position. It may be a little surprising that the Φ-relation is not the same as ‘aboutness’, but instead only entails it. The primary reason for this – in fact, the reason why it would even be implausible to equate Φ with the ‘aboutness relation’ – lies in the fact that it is a pervasive feature of the data to be associated with different degrees of phenomenal intensity.21 Because of this pervasiveness, it is quite natural (in fact, almost inevitable) to conclude that the basis of phenomenal intensity must lie in the accessibility relation, since it is by virtue of accessibility that a truth becomes a datum. Given our analysis of accessibility into adjunction and Φ, the basis of phenomenal intensity must, moreover, lie in at least one of these relations. We may as yet not be able to say much about the adjunction
19 This is not to say that the two kinds of relations do not overlap; they do. For example, if a sequence of chalk marks resembling ‘John loves Mary’ is taken to represent the proposition that John loves Mary, this relation will be based just as much on the fact that the proposition in question involves John and Mary as it will be based on a putative representational relation between the ‘John’ and ‘Mary’ parts of that sequence and, respectively, John and Mary. Nor should ‘aboutness’ here be misunderstood in the sense that a proposition is ‘about’ some given entity only if this entity is explicitly named in it. Just as data can be said to ‘centre’ on an organism simply by ‘having to do’ with it (sect. 2.3), not much more is meant when I here say that a proposition is ‘about’ or ‘involves’ an entity. So, there is in fact no difference in meaning between ‘centering on’ and ‘being about’ or ‘involving’. I only use the former term when talking of a plurality of propositions (or a conjunction thereof), to indicate that each of them is ‘about’ the specified entity. 20 Cf. footnote 11 above, p. 51. 21 See sect. 3.2 above.



relation in this respect, but it is fairly obvious that at least the differences in phenomenal intensity of the various data must be accounted for by differences in the strengths of the respective Φ-relationships. After all, those differences in phenomenal intensity clearly seem to correlate quite closely with differences in ‘cerebral celebrity’ (to use Dennett’s term) – i.e., the degree to which they influence other cognitive processes –, and it is the Φ-relation that provides the connection from the cognitive system to the data.22 So, it follows rather straighforwardly from the gradedness of phenomenal intensity that the Φ-relation, too, must be graded, and that the degree of phenomenal intensity must consist in the strength of the Φ-relation, possibly combined with the strength of the respective subject’s adjunction to the part of the universe it is adjoined to. Moreover, since Φ is graded and the aboutness relation patently not, we see that the two relations cannot be identified with each other. With a new metaphysical analysis of a phenomenal feature, however, comes a new threat from the Paradox of Phenomenal Judgment. On the one hand, we regard phenomenal intensity as a feature of the relation between a subject and its data. But on the other hand, we just said that differences in phenomenal intensity “seem to correlate quite closely with differences in ‘cerebral celebrity’ ”. The question that this provokes is: How can this cognitive system know anything about those correlations? Indeed, how can this cognitive system know that there is such a thing as phenomenal intensity in the first place? As far as I can see, the only way to answer this is to incorporate the correlation of phenomenal intensities with degree of cognitive influence (or some other causally effective variable) in the possession conditions for the concept, similar to the way the Knowledge Intuition has above been made a part of the possession conditions for the concept of data. Accordingly, a cognitive system’s representations would count as uses of the concept of phenomenal intensity only if, under the assumption that they are uses of that concept, the system’s judgments on the phenomenal intensity of ‘its’ data are typically correlated to some considerable degree with the degree of cognitive influence of those truths. Furthermore, these judgments would also have to count as true insofar as they are in that way correlated. Evidently, if judgments on phenomenal intensity are thus a priori correlated with degree of cognitive influence, it has to be asked why phenomenal intensity is, then, not simply the same as degree of cognitive influence. The answer is twofold. Phenomenal intensity would be the same if (a) cognitive influence were the same as the Φ-relation, and if (b) the adjunction relation were ungraded (as would, e.g., be the case if it were the identity relation). As for (a), the reason why I hesitate to equate cognitive influence with the Φ-relation lies partly in the fact that the former concept is simply not yet well enough defined, partly in the irrelevance of the metaphysical analysis of Φ for our antiphysicalist argument (hence, no need to commit to any such analysis), and finally in the fact that the term ‘cognitive’ suggests an exclusive applicability to cognitive systems, for which there seems to be, with respect to the Φ-relation, no principled reason. And, as for (b), we obviously do not yet know whether the adjunction relation is ungraded. If it is asked why the adjunction relation should be relevant for phenomenal intensity in the first place: the reason is that phenomenal intensity is clearly conceived of as a feature of the data, and as such, bound to our analysis of what it means to be
22 Furthermore, even if they did not correlate at all with differences in ‘cerebral celebrity’, they would have to correlate with differences in some other neurophysiological or functionally definable variable, since we would otherwise hardly be in a position to make judgments about them. Of course, this leads us to another instance of the Paradox of Phenomenal Judgment, to which we will turn shortly.



a datum. (It should also be noted in this connection that it is chiefly the concept of phenomenal intensity that gives meaning to the phrase “the most important part” in our formulation of the Knowledge Intuition.) Thus, phenomenal intensity is as it were bound to accessibility ‘as a whole’; if accessibility is analysed into two components, both of which are graded relations, the combined strength of both of these relations must be regarded as phenomenal intensity. The present analysis of the accessibility relation also serves to clarify what it means to be a cognitive beneficiary. The whole point of letting cognitive systems have ‘cognitive beneficiaries’ potentially different from themselves was to equip ourselves with a concept of subjectivity according to which subjects are at least not a priori identical with cognitive systems. It would, therefore, not make much sense to suppose that non-subjects could also be beneficiaries of a cognitive system. But what makes a subject a beneficiary of a given system? At the end of sect. 3.2, we said that in order for a cognitive system to be ‘mine’, it is required that truths describing some of its cognitive states be among my data, i.e., accessible to me. To say that a cognitive system is ‘mine’ is, of course, the same as saying that I am its beneficiary. Furthermore, now that we have analysed accessibility as a combination of adjunction and the Φ-relation, the only way how truths centering on some part of the universe can become accessible to a subject is for the subject to be adjoined to that part of the universe. From this, it follows that a subject cannot be a beneficiary of a cognitive system unless by being adjoined to it. That a subject is adjoined to a cognitive system does not in itself entail that it is a beneficiary of that system, but adjunction is still the underlying relation – the ‘essence’, so-to-speak – of what it means to be the beneficiary of a cognitive system. In the previous section, it was stated that in different contexts, different analyses of the accessibility relation will be acceptable (i.e., compatible with what the concept of data refers to in the respective contexts). These differences, however, do not affect the acceptability of the present analysis of accessibility into adjunction and Φ-relation. As we just said, a subject is a beneficiary of a cognitive system only by being adjoined to it. So, in any context where the concept of accessibility can be conceived at all (which will always be the context of a beneficiary of some cognitive system), it must be analysed in such a way that accessibility-relations consist partly in adjunctions; otherwise, the analysis would be incorrect, and thus inacceptable. This leaves, therefore, only Φ subject to differing analyses. As will be recalled, the concept of data must in every context refer to a set of truths that are for the most important part introspectible. For some subjects, this means that accessibility and introspectibility are equivalent: in the contexts of these, Φ will thus have to be the same as the introspectibility relation, i.e., the same as the relation ‘x is introspectible to y’, where the place of y would in any instance be taken by some cognitive system. For others, some other analysis would be acceptable, such as, e.g., ‘cerebral celebrity’, or, for a more general relation, ‘x is the description of a state of y’. In any case, however, it would have to be kept in mind that the relation must be graded. Hence, any satisfactory analysis would have to specify what the strength (or ‘intensity’) of the Φ-relation should be taken to consist in. In the case of introspectibility, this might be the degree of ‘vividness’; in the case of ‘cerebral celebrity’, the gradedness is already given; and in the last example, the strength of the relation may perhaps lie in some (suitably defined) degree of ‘dominance’ of the described state. Admittedly, to say that these other analyses are in those contexts acceptable does not entail that they are also preferable to the ‘default’ analysis in terms of introspectibility. This will have to be decided in each case separately. At any rate, the analysis of Φ lies somewhat beyond the scope of



this thesis, since it will not be relevant for our antiphysicalist argument. Out of the three questions listed at the beginning of this section, the third one (“Question III”) has so far been left untouched, but it will play a rather prominent role in the next chapter. Yet already at this point, it may be noted that, in the light of the above analysis of the accessibility relation, that question can quite conveniently be reformulated. Since we have seen that what makes the data centre for an important part on a cognitive system is my adjunction to the same, it may instead also be asked why I am adjoined to something as ‘special’ as a cognitive system.23

23 This ‘specialness’ is further enhanced by the relatively high level of complexity of this particular cognitive system (compared, e.g., with that of an insect), and perhaps by other properties as well. For the sake of simplicity, however, I will continue to talk as if the specialness of the part of the universe I am adjoined to were exhausted by its being (or at least, including) a cognitive system. As for what is meant here by ‘special’, see below, sect. 4.2.

Chapter 4

Subjectivity and Physicalism
Looking back on the previous two chapters with their introduction of the epistemological concepts of ‘I’ and subjectivity, it will strike some as strange that nowhere, the name of Kant has been mentioned, who, after all, is the father of the concept of the transcendental subject,1 which he distinguishes from the empirical subject just as sharply as we have distinguished the epistemological concept of subjectivity from the empirical notion. The reason for this omission is that it seemed better to present the ‘derivation’ of those concepts en bloc and free of complicated discussions of historical antecedents. For discussions of this kind (especially, complicated ones), we have no space here either, but some brief remarks are inevitable. First, many authors who (more or less) followed Kant in his conception of the transcendental subject have apparently been impressed by his view that the transcendental subject could be no “real substance” but only an “ideal substance” (eine Substanz in der Idee),2 and have likewise been at pains to emphasise that their respective concepts of a transcendental subject should not be taken to denote anything real.3 The present approach is obviously different from this. The subjects whose existence we have postulated to help us explain why the data are not all the truths are thereby implicitly postulated to be ontologically real entities, ‘things in the world’ so-to-speak. The reason for this is simply that, as has already been mentioned, every postulation must have some metaphysical import; if epistemological subjects were to be thought of as a purely abstract entities, like numbers or the empty set, there would be no point in postulating them, for they could simply be defined. Second, Kant has conceived his transcendental subject as the origin of the ‘unity of apperception’, which is required not only for the unity of consciousness as a whole but also for the synthesis of the various judgments out of concepts and representations.4 In our approach, by contrast, the synthesis of judgments is never touched upon, but this is not meant to suggest that the issue is unimportant (after all, something very similar has for over a decade now been struggled with in cognitive neuroscience under the name of ‘the binding problem’). Rather, it is only ignored here because (a) the problems on which we have focussed instead (most notably, the problem of distinguishing the data from other truths) are already
(1998), cf. Kant (1993, B132; B404 (A346)). (1993, A351) 3 For example, see Rickert (1902, ch. 2), Husserl (1913), or, for a more recent proponent, Vendler (1984). 4 Kant (1993, B137f.). He even suggests (A116) that the unity of consciousness is already required for all representations, insofar as they are to represent anything – a strikingly modern thought.
2 Kant 1 Halbfass




sufficient as a basis of our anti-physicalist argumentation, and (b) because it is hard to see how the ‘synthesis problem’, as we may call it, could pose a problem for physicalism. It may at this point be asked whether the synthesis problem is not essentially the same as the problem of distinguishing the data from other truths. For, could not, by just the same means by which truths are combined into one consciousness, representations likewise be combined into one judgment? The answer, however, is a clear no. To establish a difference between data and other truths, nothing more is needed than a relation by which a certain set of truths are bound to one or more entities. If it were not for the resulting metaphysical asymmetries, the solution could even have consisted in a fundamentally unary predicate (see sect. 2.4). Things are considerably more complicated in the case of the synthesis problem. For example, let us assume that the judgment, ‘The cat chases the dog’ is composed (or ‘synthesised’) out of three representations, which we may label, according to their semantic contribution, ‘the cat’, ‘chases’, and ‘the dog’. It can easily be seen that simply grouping them together by inventing a new predicate F that applies to all of them falls far from the mark, since the result tells us nothing about who is chased by whom. It is aspects like this that make the synthesis problem much more difficult to handle than the problem of distinguishing data from other truths, and therefore, they cannot be appropriately regarded as essentially the same. We now at last come to the promised argument against physicalism. Its general structure is quite simple: In the first part, it will be argued that none of the usually supposed candidate properties provided by current physics are suitable for identification with subjectivity, since all of these are in some way or other graded (cf. 3.1.3).5 This will force the physicalist to adopt the only remaining option, namely, an extremely liberal form of reductionism. Consequently, the second and final part will then be concerned with an argument to the effect that such a liberal position is theoretically unsatisfactory. One possible objection to the argument should already now be addressed, however. For, patently, the argument as it has just been outlined is directed against the claim that physicalism can give a satisfactory account of subjectivity, i.e., against a reductionist view on subjectivity. But, as we saw in the first chapter, physicalism is a disjunction of reductionism and scepticism, the latter of which is in the context of the philosophy of mind better known as eliminativism. Hence, even if a reductionist view on subjectivity is refuted or otherwise made unattractive, eliminativism still seems to be a viable option. This objection is certainly correct insofar as the refutation of eliminativism constitutes an indispensible step of our antiphysicalist argument. But on the other hand, that refutation does not really require enough space to make it also a noteworthy step. Eliminativism of subjectivity is, of course, simply the view that there are no subjects.6 As will be recalled, however, the concept of subjectivity is derived from the concept of data, and refers to the property of being a potential first relatum of the accessibility relation. So, to deny the existence of subjects is to claim either that there are no data, or that there is no such thing as accessibility. It will hardly have to be pointed out that, in the light of the previous two chapters, neither claim appears to be at all defensible.
the meaning of ‘provided by current physics’, see above, p. 10. (2003) is a recent proponent of such a view. Unfortunately, it is not very clear to me how his claim that there are no such things as subjects is motivated by the rest of his – quite elaborate – theory of consciousness.
6 Metzinger 5 Concerning





The arguably most important obstacle to the successful application of a reductionist strategy in the case of subjectivity is the fact that, as shown in sect. 3.1.3, subjectivity is not a graded property, and that, as such, it cannot be identified with any of the candidate properties provided by current physics that would otherwise suggest themselves. Of course, it would have been remarkable if this argument had not in a similar form been proposed before, but even so, the earliest publication in which I was able to locate it is David Chalmers’ The Conscious Mind. Although he puts the point in a rather forceful way (suggesting that he believes it to be a rather strong argument), he spends only one paragraph on it: [A]ny functionally analyzed concept will have a degree of semantic indeterminacy. Does a mouse have beliefs? Do bacteria learn? Is a computer virus alive? The best answer to these questions is usually in a sense yes, in a sense no. It all depends on how we draw the boundaries in the concepts, and in any high-level functional concepts the boundaries will be vague. But compare: Does a mouse have conscious experience? Does a virus? These are not matters for stipulation. Either there is something that it is like to be a mouse or there is not, and it is not up to us to define the mouse’s experience into or out of existence. To be sure, there is probably a continuum of conscious experience from the very faint to the very rich; but if something has conscious experience, however faint, we cannot stipulate it away. This determinacy could not be derived from any functional analysis of the concepts in the vicinity of consciousness, as the functional concepts in the vicinity are all somewhat vague. If so, it follows that the notion of consciousness cannot be functionally analyzed.7 (p. 105) I shall now briefly discuss three proposals for a physicalist identification of subjectivity. The first of these, ‘intelligence’, is not actually a proposal one is likely to find in the literature, rather than in scientifically na¨ thinking. Nevertheless, ıve I selected it for discussion because of its intuitive appeal. The other two proposals (having ‘higher-order thoughts’ and having globally available states) are, by contrast, taken from the literature. With regard to these, I should point out that they do clearly not originally address the specific topic of the physicalistic reduction of subjectivity in the sense in which the concept has been defined in the last chapter; instead, they are, in their original forms, mostly formulated in terms of ‘consciousness’, ‘phenomenality’, or ‘first-person perspective’. Still, however, the properties
7 There may be some confusion here about the proper understanding of the word ‘functional’. It should, however, be clear from the first lines of this passage that ‘functional’ has to be understood in a rather broad way, so that ‘having beliefs’, ‘being capable of learning’, and ‘being alive’ all count as functional concepts. Chalmers himself introduces the notion of ‘functional analysis’ two paragraphs before the passage just quoted, as follows:

The only analysis of consciousness that seems even remotely tenable for these purposes [i.e., the purpose of making consciousness a consequence of a set of physical facts] is a functional analysis. Upon such an analysis, it would be seen that all there is to the notion of something’s being conscious is that it should play a certain functional role. For example, one might say that all there is to a state’s being conscious is that it be verbally reportable, or that it be the result of certain kinds of perceptual discrimination, or that it make information available to later processes in a certain way, or whatever. (p. 104f.) This “whatever” may perhaps be taken to suggest that it will not be too misleading if we interpret the term ‘functional concept’ in these passages to mean roughly the same as ‘defined in terms of causes and effects’.



that figure in those proposals under the labels of ‘being phenomenally conscious’, ‘having a first-person perspective’ etc. can plausibly be assumed to correspond quite closely to our epistemological concept of subjectivity. In any event, I think it will have to be agreed that, among the properties provided by current physics, there are hardly any better candidates for the identification with that property. (a) Intelligence. The kind of property we probably first tend to look for when asked whether or not subjectivity can be attributed to a given kind of system. When faced with a new kind of object – animal, machine, etc. –, we are quite reluctant to attribute subjectivity to it as long as it does not show any sign of intelligence. But the more intelligence it exhibits (where we are apt to pay particular attention to those intellectual capacities that we recognise as specifically ‘human’), the more we are willing to grant it the status of a ‘conscious being’, or of a ‘subject’. The physicalist, concerned with doing justice to this linguistic practice might decide to identify subjectivity with a certain form of intelligence (or a combination of it with a number of further properties). But when he does so, since intelligence clearly ‘comes in degrees’, he will thereby automatically identify subjectivity with a graded property. The same goes, evidently, for every other ‘performance measure’ we may choose instead of intelligence. The Turing test, for example, can also be not just passed, but passed by a more or less narrow margin and with more or less consistency over different trials, and it is clear that these things need to be taken into account as well when assessing the ability of a given system to ‘pass the Turing test’. (b) Having higher-order thoughts (HOTs). In the past decade, there have been a number of proposals that in effect seek to identify consciousness with the property of having thoughts that are in a certain way directed at (i.e., are ‘about’) other mental states of the same system.8 With respect to subjectivity, these proposals can therefore be taken to suggest that we identify subjectivity with the property of having the respective kind of higher-order thoughts. At first, this property might be thought to be rather unproblematically graded. For, on the most plausible accounts, a thought is ‘about’ a given entity by virtue of involving a representation of that entity, and the question of whether some entity (a state, or a feature of a state, or whatever) somewhere in a brain counts as a representation of some other entity elsewhere is in general not likely to have a determinate clearcut answer. Usually, one would go about identifying representations in a given brain (or any other kind of system) in a rather holistic way, and assign contents only after having reached a fairly stable ‘best interpretation’ at least for a sizeable fragment of the system’s representational activities. That is, one would assign contents to representations much the same way as a field linguist would assign meanings to the expressions of a newly discovered language. But on such a view,
8 E.g., Carruthers (2000); Rosenthal (1997). It should be noted that HOT theorists typically formulate their positions in terms of state consciousness, i.e., they focus on the question of what it means for a mental state to be conscious (in the sense in which we say that a thought, desire, perception etc. is a conscious one). But this does clearly not preclude paraphrasing their positions in terms of ‘system consciousness’, since, arguably, to say that a system is conscious means nothing else than that it is in a conscious state. Two important distinctions between the various HOT theories concern whether they hold that (a) the higher-order state has to be more of a belief-like or more of a perception-like nature, and (b) whether it is thought that consciousness requires the system in question really to be in a higher-order state (actualist theories), or whether it is deemed enough if the system is only in some way disposed to be in such a state (dispositionalist theories; with respect to these distinctions, cf. Carruthers (2001)). Fortunately, we need not concern ourselves with these distinctions here. For simplicity, I will mostly restrict myself to talking about actualist HOT theories that assume the relevant higher-order states to have a belief-like nature. Our results will be easily transferrable to other kinds of HOT theories.



a higher-order thought has its content only insofar as – i.e., to the degree that – one is justified in assigning that content to it. The property of having higher-order thoughts would correspondingly seem to be a graded one. However, although I think the kind of holism just sketched is a perfectly tenable position on the semantics of mental representations, the issue under discussion cannot be shrugged off quite that easily. The problem is that it is open to HOT theorists to require that the relation between the higher-order state and its target be not simply a general sign-object relation, but something much more special. Recall, for example, the relation between a state and the corresponding introspective (and thus higher-order) belief that I suggested in footnote 10 of chapter 2. There, the target state is conceived of as a component of the higher-order state directed at it. Clearly, insofar as the HOT theorist restricts the semantic relations between higher-order states and their targets to relations of this sort, there will, for every such higher-order state, be only one possible interpretation, and the above argument for the gradedness of HOT-theoretical subjectivity consequently loses its force. However, we still have to take into account that, in order to obtain a higher-order state, there is plausibly something needed in addition to the target state. According to the suggestion made in the above footnote, this something is the ‘acknowledgement’ of the target state, i.e., a relation between the corresponding representational system and that state which constitutes the latter’s being ‘taken at face value’. The question, then, is whether this relation of ‘acknowledgement’ (or whatever other relation or property may be needed) is a graded one. Most plausibly, it will have to be some functionally definable relation, so that a given relation between the system and the state in question can be said to constitute an ‘acknowledgement’ insofar as – or to the degree that – it satisfies the relevant functional role. There is, of course, the possibility that the ‘acknowledgement’ relation can be very crisply defined. To give a very crude example just for the sake of illustration, it might theoretically be the case that this relation can be defined as follows: a state S is acknowledged if and only if neuron f (S) fires, where ‘f ’ stands for some to-bespecified function. However, I think there will be agreement that such a definition is not likely to be forthcoming. The acknowledgement relation may be realised in such a way for a certain type of systems, but in general, it will have to be functionally defined, and it seems simply inevitable that a functional role can be more or less satisfied. Hence, acknowledgement, too, must be a graded relation. (c) Having states that are ‘globally available’. Perhaps the most plausible property – among those provided by current physics – with which to identify subjectivity is that of being a system whose states (or the informational content of whose states) are at least in part globally available for the rest of the system.9 The correspondence between this property (or something like it) and that of being ‘phenomenally conscious’ has been pointed out numerous times in the literature,10 and, when we equate, as seems reasonable, the property of being ‘phenomenally conscious’ with that of subjectivity, it appears that the main source of plausibility for the said identification lies precisely in this correspondence. But is there really a correspondence between subjectivity and the property of having globally available states (as we may abbreviate it)? It may certainly seem so, since the data I know of – i.e., the truths of which I know that I am entitled in believing them, or, in
9 Baars (1997); Chalmers (1997). Dennett (2001) provides a discussion of some of the problems associated with a reduction of state consciousness to global availability (cf. p. 33 above). Again, the various refinements that have been proposed for the notion of global availability are not interesting for our present discussion. 10 Cf., again, Chalmers (1997).



informal terms: what I know about my consciousness – are always of such a nature that they may affect my behaviour; for example, in that I am able to talk about them. But this, it could be objected, might also be due to the fact that I know of these data, whereas there may be large amounts of further data that I have not the slightest idea of. We have already discussed at length (namely, in sect. 3.1.4) why this is not to be regarded as a real possibility, but nevertheless, it might be true that it is not the datum itself, but only the knowledge about it that leads to its global availability. If this is correct, those data that I am not in a position to know of – and we cannot completely exclude the possibility that there are such data – might not be globally available at all. Be that as it may, however; the question we are here primarily interested in is whether having globally available states constitutes a graded property. And, clearly enough, it does: simply because global availability is a graded property itself, as may be seen from the fact that brain-states can be more or less globally available. It seems, then, that every property that would suggest itself for the physicalist identification of subjectivity is a graded one. Since, however, subjectivity cannot be a graded property (as we have seen in the previous chapter), it follows that none of these ‘obvious candidates’ is, in fact, eligible. Let us therefore now turn to the less obvious ones.


Liberal Reductionism

Faced on the one hand with the unacceptability of eliminativism and, on the other, with the unidentifiability of subjectivity with any graded property, the only remaining option for the physicalist is to search for some ungraded property with which to identify subjectivity. The natural direction of such a search is apparently ‘outward’, i.e., from the initially favoured properties (intelligence, having higherorder states, etc.) to ever more general ones, in the hope that one may soon find a suitable candidate. The reason for this direction of search is that the opposite direction, moving to more and more specific properties, does simply not seem very promising in point of eliminating gradedness. It is difficult to provide a formal argument for this, but I think the point will at least become plausible if we look at it in the following way: By moving towards more specific properties, we are as it were adding further specifications to our current description of the property; so, if the description already contains a component that is responsible for the gradedness of the property, we can therefore not be expected to get rid of that gradedness by making the property more specific. By contrast, moving to less specific properties can typically be seen as simplifying the description of the property in question (I am assuming that we need not consider disjunctive properties here), which is clearly comparable to eliminating any components from that description that entail gradedness. So, the apparently only reasonable course for the physicalist will be to make the property with which he intends to identify subjectivity less specific. However, regardless of where we start, it seems that not much will be left once the ‘graded components’ are eliminated. For example, starting with intelligence, the next less specific ungraded property would almost seem to be the trivial property of being an entity, were it not for the fact that, from a physicalist perspective, the property of being intelligent is the same as the property of being an intelligent (physical) system. The same holds for the other properties considered: Having higher-order thoughts can be equated with being a physical system having such thoughts, and



having globally available states is arguably the same as being a system with such states. It appears, then, that what we have to consider is the property of being a system. If this property turns out to be ungraded, it might be a suitable candidate for the identification of subjectivity. Analogous considerations for other physicalist properties (having higher-order states, having states that are globally available) arguably lead to the same result. The question the physicalist has to address, then, is whether or not the property of being a system is a graded one. Luckily for him, it seems that indeed a case can be made that that property is not graded, so that his search has turned out a plausible candidate at least in this respect. For, if we define the property of being a system (physical or not) on the basis of the concept of causal connectednes, such that something is a system just in case the causal connectedness among its parts is greater than its connectedness with anything outside of it, then it is, of course, still true that the difference can be smaller or greater, but at least, it does not seem arbitrary to draw the line at zero, i.e., exactly where the internal connectedness exceeds the strength of every external connection. On this basis, a physical system could then be defined as a system that exists in one or more of the ontologies compatible with current physics.11 This suggested definition of physical systemhood is clearly a very rough-hewn one, and much in need of refinement, but an intuitive understanding will suffice for our purposes. Now, if the physicalist equates subjectivity with the property of being a system in this sense, it has to be asked with what relation he then identifies the accessibility relation. After all, subjectivity is still formally defined as the property of being a potential first relatum of that relation. Since, however, we have also already analysed accessibility as a combination of adjunction and the graded Φ-relation, it will be more practical to start by asking how the physicalist might reasonably interpret those relations. As has already been hinted at in the previous chapter, adjunction would apparently have to be equated with the identity relation. Since adjunction is the relation between a subject and its cognitive system, and since the physicalist will regard as subjects hardly anything else but cognitive systems, this seems to be the only plausible possibility. As for the Φ-relation, it will be most reasonable to choose something like Dennett’s ‘cerebral celebrity’, i.e., a graded relation between systems and states, whose strength equals the influence of the respective state within the system in question. Ideally, this interpretation of the Φ-relation would be coupled with an account of introspection where the same variable figures as the system’s awareness of the respective states. If such an account could be made to work, the analysed version of the Knowledge Intuition (which would in this case read: ‘I know the most important part of the truths Φ-related to me’) would be automatically true in the context of every system. To be sure, it is not quite appropriate to say that a thermostat, for instance, ‘knows’ about its internal states. But on the other hand, it is, I think, not too far-fetched to suppose that at least for those systems that can be said to have the concept of ‘data’ – which, as pointed out in the previous chapter, presupposes at least some introspective capacity –, the states that are most influential in these systems are also known by them. It would certainly be strange if a system’s introspection would fail to register, of all things, the most influential states of that system. So, there is definitely hope that the physicalist position makes the analysed version of the Knowledge Intuition true in every context where the concept of data can be conceived. The physicalistic position we now have before us states that every physical
11 This is meant to yield the result that the property of being a physical system is itself a physical property.



system is a subject, and that for every state instantiated in such a system, a corresponding truth is more or less accessible to that subject. It hardly needs to be pointed out that this position, which I would like to call ‘Liberal Reductionism’, is a rather unfamiliar one, since every single system – plant, bacterium, molecule – is considered to be a subject.12 This is certainly not a position anyone would want to adopt who is not forced to it. However, for all the considerations of this section have so far shown, the physicalist is forced to adopt such a position, or one very much like it. Can we conclude, then, that we have just completed a reductio ad absurdum of physicalism, or do we have to take liberal reductionism more seriously? I think that only the latter is correct. Liberal Reductionism may be extremely unattractive to common-sense, but this might only be due to its strangeness. Although I agree with common-sense that Liberal Reductionism is wrong, it is not obviously wrong, and regardless of how wrong I think it is, all I can show is merely that it is theoretically unsatisfactory. It is quite conceivable that Liberal Reductionism, if anyone were to take it seriously in the first place, would be rejected on the basis of various kinds of bad arguments. It is therefore fortunate that, unlike the falsity of this position, the weaknesses of those arguments are rather obvious. For example, many will reject it because they think it is clear that thermostats, molecules etc. ‘are not conscious’. However, what is clear is only that we have no evidence that those things ‘are conscious’. We may not like the idea that there is something ‘it is like’ to be a thermostat or a molecule, but insofar as this is merely due to the fact that we are not used to this idea, we should simply try to get rid of such prejudices. Another reason why Liberal Reductionism may be deemed problematic lies in the belief that it is a ‘metaphysically extravagant’ position. This reason, however, would be even more obviously mistaken. It is true that the position can be seen as a kind of panpsychism (i.e., the view that consciousness is ubiquitous in nature), and that practically all historical forms of panpsychism are by modern standards quite extravagant. But this does certainly not apply to Liberal Reductionism, which, after all, is still a form of reductionism (as specified in sect. 1.2) and thus metaphysically conservative, at least insofar as current physics can be regarded as metaphysically conservative. So, whatever may be wrong with this position, the arguments against it must be based on different sorts of considerations. The in my view only remotely successful way to argue against Liberal Reductionism is to criticise its inability to provide a satisfactory answer to Question III, i.e., its inability satisfactorily to explain why I am adjoined to something as ‘special’ as a cognitive system (cf. above, p. 64). This inability of Liberal Reductionism seems to me straightforwardly evident from a common-sense point of view, especially in the light of the fact that according to that position, practically every molecule counts as a subject. Correspondingly, I also think that it is just this inability that accounts for our strong reluctance against that position. From a philosophical point of view, however, the above statement (namely, that Liberal Reductionism is unable satisfactorily to explain why I am adjoined to something as ‘special’ as a cognitive system) urgently requires clarification, and in more than one respect. In particular, it provokes the following two questions: (1) We said that according to Liberal Reductionism, adjunction is identity: I am my cognitive system. But is it not absurd require an explanation for the fact that something is the same as itself? What could such an explanation look like?
12 ‘Rampantly Liberal Reductionism’ might actually be more appropriate; but I decided to use the shorter expression.



(2) What is meant by ‘special’ ? Is it not much too vague to play such a crucial role in this argument? To start with (1), it certainly has to be conceded that it usually does not make much sense to require an explanation for an identity relationship – even if the thing in question is given under two different descriptions. That the Morning Star is identical to the Evening Star, for example, is a fact for which there simply cannot be any further explanation. But it would be wrong to suppose that this is peculiar to the identity relation. Evidently, what makes the demand for an explanation absurd in this case is the fact that to be identical to something is an individuating property: that the entity in question would not be itself if it did not have that property. Being identical to the Evening Star is such a property, but the property of being a star simpliciter is equally individuating. Nor need such properties be in any way non-relational. If two electrons, for instance, are different only in virtue of their different location in space, and if spatial location is determined solely by relationships of spatial distance to other entities (as Leibniz had assumed), then the property of being so-and-so far away from a given other entity would also be an individuating property. And the same may well be true of the property of being adjoined to a given other entity, regardless of whether adjunction is the same as identity or not. So, the liberal-reductionist identification of the adjunction relation with identity does not buy us any more than would be gained by any position according to which adjunction-based properties are individuating. Still, one may think that it is equally absurd to demand an explanation for the fact that I am adjoined to a cognitive system, if adjunction is indeed the same as identity, as it would be to demand an explanation for the identity of Morning Star and Evening Star. In fact, however, it is not absurd. The need for an explanation arises simply from the fact that, under the assumption of Liberal Reductionism, I would never have expected that I, conceived of as the subject constituting the present context of evaluation, am adjoined to (or identical with) a cognitive system. For, since according to Liberal Reductionism every physical system is a subject, it would have been vastly more likely if I had turned out to be a magnesium atom, for instance. This may again sound absurd, because magnesium atoms are patently unable to reason about such things. But this would miss the point. What is at issue is clearly not that I, conceived of as the subject that is – vicariously or not – thinking these thoughts, am (adjoined to) a cognitive system, but rather that the subject constituting this context is. The same line of reasoning would thus also be valid in the context of a cognitive beneficiary of an underdeveloped or functionally impaired brain. Or, to put it in a less technical way: a child (for instance) who is unable to grasp the argument would nevertheless be entitled to it. It could now be objected that my being adjoined to a cognitive system is just a coincidence that I simply have to accept. But can this be correct? Consider the event that I throw a thousand dice and each of them comes to rest with a three facing upwards. To be sure, this would not contradict the assumption that the dice are fair. It would, however, strongly prompt us to look for an explanation of this outcome – it would make us suspect that there must be something about the dice that makes them turn up a three with a much higher probability than any other number (or, perhaps, some influence that leads to their turning up the same number, whatever it may be). Similarly, the fact that I am adjoined to a cognitive system raises, I would argue, the suspicion that there must be something that results in a tendency among subjects to be adjoined to cognitive systems. A believable hypothesis as to how such a tendency may be brought about would be the “explanation” I have been talking about above. Since Liberal



Reductionism does obviously not afford such an explanation, it would follow that it is correspondingly unsatisfactory. Admittedly, assessing the appropriate level of suspicion about a given outcome – the confidence with which one should believe that there must be a deeper explanation to it, and that it is not to be shrugged off as a mere coincidence – is not an exact science, but seems to be largely a matter of theoretical instinct. If a dice-throw with 1000 dice yields 1000 threes, this will rightly rise suspicion; but if the outcome had been that (supposing the dice are numbered) die #1 had turned up a 2, die #2 a 5, die #3 a 1, and so on, with some random assignment of numbers to dice, it would have passed as completely unspectacular, even though this particular outcome would have been just as unlikely as a thousand threes. The only reason for this difference that I can think of is the fact that an outcome of 1000 threes vaguely suggests that a relatively simple explanation is available, such as, e.g., the hypothesis that every face of every die is a three. I say a ‘relatively simple explanation’ because it is not that there is a lack of explanation. We do, after all, not miss an explanation in the case of the random outcome either: the explanation we imagine to be applicable in that case would be a certain, very complicated story about the initial positions of the dice and their motions when thrown. Just the same kind of story could be told in the case of the 1000 threes, but still, we think there must be another explanation, a simpler one. The reason why we expect such a simpler explanation lies evidently in the relative simplicity of the outcome. An outcome of 1000 threes kann be described in very few words, whereas, to describe a random outcome to the same degree of detail, the numbers would typically have to be written down one by one. Now, the outcome that I am adjoined to a cognitive system arguably differs from that of the 1000 threes in that it does on the whole not afford a simpler description than the contrasting cases. The reason why we expect an explanation for it must therefore lie in something else than its simplicity. What instead suggests that there is an explanation for that outcome seems to be the ‘specialness’ of cognitive systems. This specialness consists essentially in the fact that cognitive systems – and in particular the human kind of cognitive system I am adjoined to – are situated on the higher end of what one might call the ‘spectrum of intelligence’, where by ‘intelligence’, I mean the degree to which something is able to perceive and understand the world. With respect to this ability, humans notoriously surpass every other known kind of entity,13 and moreover, there is also a certain conceptual relationship between this ability and subjectivity: That I am a subject makes it possible that truths are accessible to me; one could think of this as a primitive way to be connected to the world. But if I am, in addition, adjoined to a cognitive system, I am also able to analyse and interpret the data, and make inferences as to what other things there are. It does not seem too far-fetched to view this additional ability as a strengthening of my connection to the world, already prefigured in my being a subject. Certainly, it would be desirable for this relationship between being a subject on the one hand and being adjoined to a cognitive system on the other hand to be spelt out in furhter detail, but it should not surprise us that our theoretical instinct is often guided by rather vague notions. I think one will at least agree on the significance of this relationship if one realises that without it, the present argument would be open to the following kind of parodying objection: If I were adjoined to a can-opener, I would be entitled to just the
to humans, of course, but how much of a limitation this entails remains to be seen. For what it is worth, the search for extraterrestrial intelligence has so far seen very little success, and the case for the existence of paranormal intelligent beings (such as demons etc.) is also rather doubtful.
13 Known

CHAPTER 4. SUBJECTIVITY AND PHYSICALISM same argument, to the effect that there must be a tendency among subjects to be adjoined to can-openers. For, this kind of entity is clearly superior to all others when it comes to can-opening ability.


The only missing premiss would, indeed, be an appropriate relationship between being a subject and “can-opening ability”. Since there patently is no such relationship, the parody does not work, and the objection fails. Because of the said specialness of cognitive systems (and in particular of highlyevolved cognitive systems), there seems to be justified hope that my being adjoined to such a system can be correctly explained by a tendency among subjects towards “stronger connections to the world” in the sense adumbrated in the previous paragraph, i.e., a tendency that in effect increases the number of subjects adjoined to ‘intelligent’ cognitive systems.14 That there is hope for such an explanation does, of course, not mean that we can already rule out Liberal Reductionism on the grounds that it is unable to provide that explanation. It only means that we may assume that position to be wrong until we find strong reasons for believing that there is no such explanation, after all, and that it is really just a coincidence that I am adjoined to a cognitive system. And again, it should be pointed out that we are here mostly following our theoretical instinct. It is this ‘instinct’ (or however else one might choose to call it) that tells us that we can expect there to be an explanation for our being adjoined to cognitive systems, even though it is rather unclear how much this expectation can be justified on the basis of logic and probability theory, or whether it has to be justified on that basis in order to be justified at all. This issue is strongly related to the subtle and much-discussed question of whether inferences to the best explanation can stand on their own or must, instead, rely on something else (such as probability theory) in order to count as justified.15 Since we obviously cannot deal with this question here, it will have to suffice if we merely conclude that Liberal Reductionism seems to be wrong and that we should therefore (in a spirit of pragmatic optimism, perhaps) assume that it is wrong as long as there is still hope for an explanation for our being adjoined to cognitive systems. Consequently, physicalism itself should be assumed to be wrong as long as there is such hope, since we have above seen that the physicalist is forced to adopt Liberal Reductionism in order to do justice to the non-gradedness of subjectivity.



This, then, is the argument. As is easily noticed, it mainly consists in two theses. First, the non-gradedness of subjectivity: without it, we might just as well accept one of the physicalist analyses considered in sect. 4.1. Second, the thesis that there
precisely, what is increased is of course the ratio of this number to the number of all subjects. Or, as one might also say: the ratio m/n, where m is the number of contexts in which the proposition ‘I am a subject adjoined to a cognitive system’ is true, and n the number of contexts where ‘I am a subject’ is true (i.e., the number of all subjects). Since this ratio strongly resembles the way probabilities are computed for equal distributions – namely, by computing ratios between numbers of cases –, and since contexts form the indexical dimension of our above semantical framework, one might well call this ratio the indexical probability for the proposition ‘I am adjoined to a cognitive system’ under the condition that the respective ‘I’ is a subject. (Besides, since the projected explanation works by providing a hypothesis that leads to an increased estimate of this probability, we may correspondingly call it an indexical explanation. In a more or less analogous way, one can also develop the notions of metaphysical and epistemic explanation, but this will best be left for another occasion.) 15 For proponents of the former view, see e.g. Harman (1986); Lycan (1988).
14 More



Physicalism is unsatisfactory. (4.2)

Failure of common physicalist analyses. (4.1)

Liberal Reductionism is unsatisfactory. (4.2)

Subjectivity is not a graded property. (3.1.3)

‘subjectivity’ (3.1.1)

‘adjunction’ (3.5)

‘I’ and ‘accessibility’ (2.3)

‘data’ (2.1) Figure 4.1: The general structure of the argument and its conceptual basis. Numbers in parentheses indicate the sections in which the respective concepts or theses have been introduced. is justified hope for an explanation of the fact that the data centre on a highlyevolved cognitive system, which fact has been analysed as our being adjoined to such a system: if this hope were unjustified, we might just as well embrace Liberal Reductionism. For illustration, the rough structure of this argument, together with the ‘genealogy’ of the most essential underlying concepts, is represented in figure 4.1. The diagram shows four points on which the argument is most likely to be criticised: First, the basis of the whole edifice, the concept of data; second, the thesis that subjectivity is not a graded property; third, the part of the argument that is intended to show that Liberal Reductionism should be assumed to be wrong; and fourth, the thesis that, if physicalists are to do justice to the non-gradedness of subjectivity, they are forced to adopt Liberal Reductionism. Let us deal with these points in turn.


Possible Objections

We have, of course, already dealt with a number of objections to the concept of data (sect. 2.2). Yet it may be that a certain reluctance against it persists. If so, probably the main reason for this will be either a certain tension with Wittgenstein’s



private language argument (which we chose to ignore) or its near-homonomy with the term ‘sense-datum’ and the latter’s constant unpopularity among philosophers. I do not think, however, that the concept of data, as it has here been conceived, contains anything a clear-headed opponent of sense-data philosophies should find objectionable. Data are not ‘mental entities’. Instead of populating consciousness, they only describe it; and there will be no question that, if consciousness exists, it will also be, at least in its own terms, describable. If the reason for the reluctance against data lies in the fact that data are conceived of as propositions, and as such for some reason considered to be not ‘austere’ or ‘ontologically innocent’ enough, it almost seems the discussion has to stop here. I suppose, though, that those who argue in this way would be more content if data were conceived of as sentences. But then there should be no problem, since propositions can very well be construed as equivalence classes of sentences. A second potential point of attack would be the claim that subjectivity is a non-graded property. I think it has been fairly conclusively shown in sect. 3.1.3 that subjectivity, as we have defined it, is not a graded property. To recapitulate, if subjectivity were graded, there would have to be some underlying practically continuous variable such that the entities on one end of the spectrum are subjects whereas those on the other end are not. This, in turn, would require an arbitrary (though more or less fuzzy) line to be drawn somewhere along this spectrum. From the derivation of the concept of subjectivity, however, it can be seen that no decisions to that effect have been taken. Moreover, it was also argued that no such decisions should be taken with respect to the semantics of ‘subjectivity’, as this would clearly impair the metaphysical significance of the concept. A concept of subjectivity that rests on arbitrary decisions would simply not be ‘the real thing’. So, it was argued that subjectivity is not only not graded under our definition, but also that this is as it should be. The only way I can see to counter this argument would be to present an alternative (and of course graded) property as ‘true subjectivity’, whereas our concept would then be dismissed as some meaningless construct. But the only basis on which this kind of argument could be based would apparently consist in intuitions on what it means to be a subject (or to ‘have a first-person perspective’, etc.). And here again, it is difficult to see how such an argument could succeed. First of all, any conception according to which subjectivity is a graded property is already counter-intuitive to begin with.16 And moreover, the connection of our concept of subjectivity to the associated intuitions has been at length discussed in sect. 3.1.2. Given this, it would surely not be easy for a physicalist to produce a more intuitive concept of subjectivity that defines it as a graded property. Considerably more problematic than the case for the non-gradedness of subjectivity is our argument, in the previous section, against Liberal Reductionism. According to it, the ‘special’ conceptual connection between the property of being adjoined to a (relatively highly-evolved) cognitive system on the one hand and the property of being a subject on the other makes it seem likely that there is a deeper reason for the fact that I, a subject, am adjoined to such a system. Because Liberal Reductionism is patently unable to provide such a reason (as it takes every physical system to be a subject), we concluded that we could assume its falsity as long as there is still hope that such a ‘reason’ – i.e., an explanation – can be
16 The above quote by Chalmers (p. 67) brings this out very well: “Either there is something that it is like to be a mouse or there is not, and it is not up to us to define the mouse’s experience into or out of existence. To be sure, there is probably a continuum of conscious experience from the very faint to the very rich; but if something has conscious experience, however faint, we cannot stipulate it away.”



provided. Put more briefly, we concluded that Liberal Reductionism is ‘unsatisfactory’. As has repeatedly been emphasised, however, the belief that an explanation is forthcoming is so far motivated only by ‘theoretical instinct’ (or ‘intuition’, as one might also say). This does not automatically invalidate the argument; after all, much scientific reasoning is not exclusively based on logic and probability theory either, but also quite crucially turns on considerations of simplicity and theoretical elegance, i.e., it involves ‘inferences to the best explanation’. These can (at least apparently) not be justified on the basis of logic and probability theory alone. But if they are justified – and science would certainly not have come very far without them – it seems plausible enough to suppose that ‘inferences to the more promising position’ are also justified, insofar as ‘promising’ means: offering hope of a better explanation. In our case, this ‘more promising position’ was the assumption that Liberal Reductionism is false. Still, it is very much an open issue whether such inference should count as justified. Therefore, this would be the point where I would try to attack if I were a physicalist. On the other side, however, a physicalist who attacks the above argument against Liberal Reductionism while accepting the other points of our argument will thereby in effect endorse Liberal Reductionism. I am not sure whether many physicalists would be happy with this consequence, but if they are not, it would be very interesting to know why. The fourth and final point of attack consists in the thesis that a physicalist who takes the non-gradedness of subjectivity seriously will have no other option than to adopt Liberal Reductionism. This route may seem the most tempting to a physicalist, since all he has to do is to present a non-graded physical property that can be plausibly identified with subjectivity. The problem, of course, is that it is completely unclear (at least to me) what this property could be. The physicalist might reply that I, as an anti-physicalist, face exactly the same problem, since I have not so far presented any (non-physical) property with which to identify subjectivity. Yet these two sides are not equal. Given acceptance of the nongradedness of subjectivity, the physicalist has to hold that subjectivity can be identified with a non-graded physical property. Since, to my knowledge, no such property has so far been proposed, and since no potential candidate comes to mind either, it will be fair to assume that there does not seem to be any such property. There still may be one, to be sure, but the burden of this proof lies squarely on the side of the physicalist. The fact that I have so far not presented any nonphysical alternatives is therefore relatively unimportant – even though it has to be admitted that a plausible non-physical analysis of subjectivity would clearly help to strengthen the anti-physicalist position.


Phenomenal Judgments

Besides the antiphysicalist argument itself, a considerable portion of this thesis has been dedicated to the effort of protecting the argument from the Paradox of Phenomenal Judgment. Whenever an antiphysicalist position or argument is to be based on judgments about things that can supposedly not be accommodated on the basis of current physics, whereas the judgments themselves can – as seems plausible – very well be explained on that basis, there is always the question of how those judgments might be justified. We have argued in sect. 1.4 that, insofar as those judgments are observational and interpreted in an antiphysicalist way, they cannot be regarded as justified unless there is some independent reason to believe that the states of affairs they are interpreted as reporting are causally relevant for them. This is a fact that many antiphysicalist positions that are based on



(antiphysicalistically interpreted) phenomenal judgments fail to take into account. In connection with our own considerations, we approached the Paradox by first asking how the Knowledge Intuition could be true, i.e., how it is that I know the most important part of the truths accessible to me. We answered this by making the Knowledge Intuition a part of the possession conditions of the concept of data (and thereby of accessibility), but this alone was not enough to protect us from the Paradox. The problem was only shifted from ‘How can I know the most important part of the data?’ to: ‘How can I be sure that my analysis of the accessibility relation will honour the fact that I do know the most important part of the data?’ It was a shift from the epistemic to the semantic aspect of the Paradox. We essentially solved this problem by providing an analysis of the accessibility relation that was acceptable in every context and divided the relation up into two parts, namely adjunction and Φ. Of these, only Φ is subject to different analyses in the contexts of different subjects. The adjunction relation, by contrast, must be analysed in the same way in the context of every subject; it is this relation by virtue of which subjects are ‘beneficiaries’ of a cognitive system. Hence, it was guaranteed that we could consistently maintain an antiphysicalist analysis of the adjunction relation (even if not of accessibility as a whole), and it was consequently on this issue that we would eventually have to argue against physicalism. Consequently, while our critique of Liberal Reductionism in the previous section was primarily an argument against the identification of subjectivity with the property of being a physical system, it was at the same time also directed against an identification of adjunction with the identity relation. And necessarily so, since every subject is a potential first relatum of accessibility and thereby also of the adjunction relation. Now, with respect to the question of whether our phenomenal judgments are justified when interpreted antiphysicalistically, does our argument provide an independent reason to believe that the states of affairs they report are also causally relevant for them? Apparently, yes; but we have to be careful with respect to what kind of antiphysicalist interpretation of phenomenal judgments is warranted by our argument. What we have argued in the previous sections was that subjectivity cannot satisfactorily be identified with a physical property (i.e., with a property definable in terms of current physics), and this result plausibly gives us a reason for believing that in fact, subjectivity is not a physical property. Can we infer from this that accessibility and adjunction are non-physical properties, too? It does not seem so; for it is at least conceivable that current physics provides all that is needed to define a certain relation, but not the properties required of the relation’s potential first relata. So, given an observational phenomenal judgment J that, on a self-referential interpretation, reports a truth T about my cognitive system, I can only in the following way construct an antiphysicalist interpretation of it under which it is still justified: Since I have reason to believe that subjectivity is a non-physical property (as we just said), and since, due to the possession conditions associated with that concept, I have to regard T as a datum and thus as a truth accessible to some subject (namely, to me), I also have reason to believe that T is accessible to something that instantiates a non-physical property. This, then, enables me to see J as indicating the further proposition just mentioned, namely, that T is accessible to something that instantiates a non-physical property. In other words, it is now possible for me to regard that proposition – call it ‘P ’ – as the content of J. Because P makes reference to a non-physical property, this will constitute an antiphysicalist interpretation of J, and from the way we constructed it, it follows that J is also justified under this interpretation. I would like to close with some less technical remarks on the consequences to

CHAPTER 4. SUBJECTIVITY AND PHYSICALISM be drawn from our above discussions.



Future Directions

Having developed an argument against physicalism based of the concept of subjectivity, where do we stand now with respect to the mind-body problem? It may be recalled from the first chapter that physicalism can be seen as the disjuction (so-to-speak) of the first two ‘directions’ that a solution of that problem can take, namely, scepticism and reductionism. Since both of these were either ruled out in the course of our argument (p. 66) or shown to be unsatisfactory (sect. 4.2), this leaves us with the three other directions: revisionism, property dualism, and substance dualism. As was pointed out already in sect. 1.2, this is the order in which these approaches should be considered, as revisionism is in general more theoretically conservative than property dualism and property dualism more theoretically conservative than substance dualism. So, if scepticism is wrong and reductionism unsatisfactory, the next best guess will be revisionism. One of the reasons why I am stressing this fact here is that apparently, no full-blown revisionist theories of the mind have so far been proposed. Indeed, antiphysicalists seem in general not even to be aware of the option, and have instead tended to follow property-dualist or substance-dualist approaches. This may in recent decades have begun to change somewhat, as certain ‘strange’ aspects of modern physics and their possible ‘implications’ for the mind-body problem have moved more into the centre of public awareness.17 As far as I know, however, this movement has so far not engendered much in the way of well-developed proposals. Moreover, one of the main motivations for property dualism and perhaps also for substance dualism seems to stem from the intuition that our observational phenomenal judgments make reference to certain non-physical properties (also known as qualia) – and this intuition has, as I hope, been revealed to be deeply problematic by our above discussions of the Paradox of Phenomenal Judgment. Assuming that there are no other successful arguments against physicalism than the one presented here, the apparently only antiphysicalist interpretation under which our phenomenal judgments are justified can be called antiphysicalist only insofar as it takes the judgments in question to refer to the non-physical property of subjectivity (see sect. 4.3.2). It is clearly an exciting question how the deeper metaphysical nature of adjunction and subjectivity might be constituted. If revisionism is indeed correct, these concepts would have to be in such a way integrated into one of the world-views of current physics that they do not form mere additions (as they would in a dualist ontology), but instead are ‘fused’ with certain existing, though perhaps strongly modified, physical concepts. This will certainly not be an easy task, but the difficulty also has its advantages. After all, what motivates us to attempt this task is only insufficiently described as ‘theoretical conservatism’. It would be more appropriate to speak instead of ‘ontological parsimony’ and ‘theoretical elegance’; mere conservatism is only what distinguishes the scepticist from the reductionist. The constraints imposed on our theorising by the existing structures of physical theory may be difficult to meet, but without them, our theorising would have nothing to hold onto. We should therefore rather be grateful for those constraints, as long as revisionism still holds some promise for an explanation of our being adjoined to cognitive systems (according to sect. 4.2). If it should turn out that no revisionist theory can provide such an explanation, there seem to be two options: either to resign ourselves to the inavailability of the desired explanation and consequently
17 For

example, cf. Penrose (1994).



adopt Liberal Reductionism (or something like it); or to accept dualism. In the former case, hardly anything more will have to be said: adjunction will be identity, subjectivity more or less the property of being a physical system, and ‘consciousness studies’ merely another name of cognitive neuropsychology. If we were to accept dualism, by contrast, hardly anything more could be said. For by separating ‘subjectivity’ from physical concepts, the constraints previously provided by physical theories will cease to apply. As a result, explanations of our being adjoined to cognitive systems may then no longer be very hard to construct, but due to their lack of connection with the rest of our theories, they will be reduced to free-wheeling speculations, and there might be little warrant for believing any of them. Suppose revisionism is not able to afford the desired explanation: which of those two paths should one take? This is an interesting question not just in the case of the failure of revisionism. It points to the much more general (and apparently quite difficult) methodological issue of how much theoretical elegance one should be willing to sacrifice for the sake of explaining a given set of facts. This issue will almost certainly have to be addressed already with respect to revisionism itself; for revisionist theories, too, can vary widely in regard to elegance. So, even if a revisionist theory can be constructed that offers an explanation of our being adjoined to cognitive systems, there will, if the theory is less elegant than the original physical theory, still be the question of whether the explanation justifies that loss of elegance. As long as no answer to this question is in sight, the antiphysicalist’s best hope will be to work towards a theory that not only entails a tendency among subjects to be adjoined to cognitive systems, but that is also at least as elegant as the best physical theory available. This is certainly a daunting task.

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