Conf: Metaphysics and Ontology of Phenomenal Qualities

Posted: 16 de June de 2011 by Fernando Furtado in Event

**The Phenomenal Qualities Project**


A conference on the Metaphysics Ontology of Phenomenal Qualities

at the University of Hertfordshire, UK, 16th-17th September 2011.

Confirmed papers:

David Rosenthal (CUNY)
‘Two Concepts of Mental Quality’

Philip Goff (Hertfordshire/Kings College London)
‘Against Funny Physicalism’

Sam Coleman (Hertfordshire)
‘Unfelt Qualia and the Structure of Consciousness’

I argue that the problem of consciousness should be understood as bi-partite: one part of it
concerns how sensory qualities (qualia) are generated in a physical world that seems to lack them.
The other part concerns how we become aware of these qualities. The answer I propose to the first
part of the problem is that qualia are intrinsic, irreducible properties of matter: this is a form of
Russellian Monism or panpsychism (at a stretch). The answer I propose to the second part of the
problem is that conscious awareness must be a form of relation: somehow the function of a brain
is to enable conglomerations of basic sensorily-propertied items to represent other such
conglomerations, and the world. I survey some ways of making out the relational structure
involved in phenomenal consciousness.

Bence Nanay (Cambridge/Antwerp)
‘On the Binary Structure of Colour and Neural Supervenience’

Torin Alter (Alabama)
‘Pereboom on the knowledge argument and Introspective Inaccuracy’

In Consciousness and the Prospects of Physicalism (OUP 2011) Derk Pereboom argues that (i) it is
an open epistemic possibility that phenomenal properties are not as they are introspectively
represented to be and (ii) this provides physicalists with an adequate response to the knowledge
argument against physicalism. I will raise some difficulties for Pereboom’s reasoning. Introspective
representation can go awry in certain ways. But to show (ii), Pereboom would have to establish the
epistemic possibility of radical inaccuracy: the claim that (roughly put) phenomenal properties bear
virtually no non-trivial resemblance to how they seem from the experiencer’s viewpoint. Radical
inaccuracy is a strong claim, and Pereboom’s arguments do not show that it is epistemically
possible—at least not in a sense that would threaten the knowledge argument. I will also argue
that similar difficulties arise for Christopher Hill’s “refutation of dualism” in Consciousness
(Cambridge 2009).

Kranti Saran (Harvard)
‘Do Bodily Sensations Exist?’

An influential materialist view held by Smart (1959), Nagel (1965), Armstrong (1969) and Kim
(1972) maintains that while there are states or events of having bodily sensations, there are no
bodily sensation objects. Dualists like Jackson (1977) reply that bodily sensation objects exist and
that they are sense-data. According to the canonical view of sense-data (Moore (1953)), they only
exist when perceived, are conceptually private to the perceiver, have no appearance-reality
distinction and do not exist in any public space. Are bodily sensations mere states or events, or are
they sense-data? Neither, I argue. In contrast to the materialist tradition, I argue for the existence
of bodily sensation objects; in contrast to dualists, I deny that such objects are sense-data. On my
account, bodily sensations are sui generis mental objects: bodily sensation objects can exist
unperceived, admit of an appearance-reality distinction, and exist in public physical space. I
establish the existence of bodily sensation objects as follows: firstly, via the method of
phenomenal contrast as developed by Siegel (2010), I argue that some experiences of bodily
sensations represent bodily sensation objects. Next, if some experiences representing bodily
sensations as object-like are veridical, then bodily sensation objects exist; some experiences
representing bodily sensations as object-like are veridical; thus bodily sensation objects exist. My
discussion of bodily sensation objects is put to the service of addressing a larger question about
the role of phenomenological considerations in drawing ontological conclusions.

John Nicholas (Western Ontario)
‘Dead Horse Walking (Part 37) – Sense Datum Answers for: “Is there a coherent picture on which
phenomenal qualities are physical properties?” and “What is the relation between phenomenal
qualities and the brain?”’

Tom McClelland (Sussex)
‘Salvaging the Ignorance Hypothesis; A Hybrid Account of Phenomenal Qualities’

Phenomenal qualities are the intrinsic properties that characterise our subjective awareness, but
what place do these qualities have in the natural world? Plausibly, they must be the upshot of
certain physical states, but the apparent inexplicability of phenomenal states in physical terms
casts doubt on this. Stoljar’s Ignorance Hypothesis (IH) suggests that this apparent inexplicability
is merely a symptom of our limited conception of the non-phenomenal world. I establish two
obstacles to IH and argue that they cannot fully be overcome. However, I propose that IH can still
be put to good use as half of a Hybrid Account of phenomenal states and their qualities. This
employs a Self-Representationalist theory of subjective awareness whilst using a Russellian
version of IH to account for the qualitative character of that awareness. The result is a promising
and distinctive view of the metaphysical status of phenomenal qualities.

Two further papers to follow

Registration for the conference is now open. To register please send an email to Sam Coleman
The conference benefits from a limited number of graduate student bursaries generously provided
by the Analysis Trust. Allocation of these bursaries is on a first-come-first-served basis. To apply
please contact Sam Coleman.

Dr. Sam Coleman
Lecturer in Philosophy, Chief Co-investigator ‘The Phenomenal Qualities Project’
University of Hertfordshire
de Havilland Campus
AL10 9AB


Project Homepage:

Telephone: +44 (0)1707 285643


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