Conference of the **Phenomenal Qualities Project**

Posted: 28 de June de 2011 by Fernando Furtado in Event

THE METAPHYSICS AND ONTOLOGY OF PHENOMENAL QUALITIES

a conference of the **Phenomenal Qualities Project**

at the University of Hertfordshire, UK, Friday 16th to Saturday 17th September 2011.

Speakers:

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

I contrast two ways of thinking about mental qualities.  On consciousness-based theories, we know
about mental qualities at bottom solely by the ways they present themselves to consciousness.  On
the alternative perceptual-role approach, we know about mental qualities primarily by appeal to
the roles they play in perceiving, independent of consciousness.  Many take intuitions such as the
conceivability of undetectable quality inversion to preclude any informative account of mental
qualities.  I argue that these intuitions tacitly rely on adopting the consciousness-based approach,
and that no compelling reason exists to adopt that approach or to credit those intuitions.  I
then sketch an alternative perceptual-role theory of mental qualities. This alternative relies on
constructing quality spaces of discriminable perceptible properties for each sensory modality.
Because this theory does not rely on perceptual states’ being conscious, it provides an account of
the mental qualities that occur in perceiving independent of whether it is conscious or not.  I
conclude by showing how this quality-space theory fits comfortably with a higher-order theory of
conscious awareness to account for conscious qualitative states.

Bence Nanay (Cambridge/Antwerp)
‘Colour and Sound’

Here is a debate about vision: is the unique/binary structure of the color  spectrum determined by
neural facts alone or does it also depend on some  non-neural facts? And here is one about the
auditory sense modality: are  harmonies determined by neural facts alone or does it also depend
on some  non-neural facts? In spite of the structural similarities between the two  debates, the
consensual view about the second debate is the exact opposite  of the one about the first. I
examine whether this tells us something  interesting about the difference between the two sense
modalities.

William Seager (Toronto)
‘Panpsychism, Aggregation and Combinatorial Infusion’

One of the most serious objections facing many forms of modern panpsychism is the combination
problem: how can the “elemental” experiential features of the fundamental entities combine to
form more complex forms of consciousness, ultimately of the sort we are familiar with in
introspection. in this paper, I explore a possible solution to the combination problem based on
“phenomenal fusion”. This is the idea that there is a kind of combination which generates
increasingly complex forms of phenomenality by fusing together simpler forms. Fusion typically
involves the claim that the fused features are obliterated when the fusion forms. This promises to
preserve a distinctive causal role for phenomenal fusions while solving the combination problem.
Fusion faces a number of serious problems however, including issues of how it could be that the
phenomenal could fuse (e.g. could *subjects* of experience fuse in any intelligible sense), issues of
understanding the exact nature of phenomenal fusions, and possible problems of causal exclusion.
I will attempt to address or mitigate these problems in a theory of phenomenal fusion.

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).

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

Many philosophers who accept the soundness of the ‘standard anti-physicalist arguments’ in the
literature, by which I mean the knowledge argument and the zombie-conceivability argument, are
nonetheless sympathetic to funny physicalism. Funny physicalism is the view that there is a non-
observable, intrinsic nature to the physical world which is ‘proto-phenomenal’, i.e. somehow
intrinsically suited to realise conscious experience. I try to move from premises I take to be
involved implicitly or explicitly in the standard anti-physicalist arguments – the logical distinction
of the mental and the physical, and semantic internalism about phenomenal concepts – to the
thesis that consciousness is fundamental in a way that is inconsistent with funny physicalism. The
upshot is that those who reject physicalism on account of the standard arguments ought to reject
funny physicalism too.

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.

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.

Giovanni Merlo (Barcelona LOGOS)
‘The Univocity of Phenomenal Information’

When I have a headache, it seems to me as though the phenomenal experience associated with the
headache were, in some important sense, ‘wholly before my mind’: intuitively, that phenomenal
experience is no more and no less than what I can ‘see’ of the headache by introspecting it. Call
this the Obscure Intuition. In this paper, I wish to offer advice to anti-physicalists about how to
capture the content of the Obscure Intuition and put it to philosophical use. My proposal will be
informed by a certain epistemological modesty. I do not think anti-physicalists should insist that
having a headache puts me in a position to know the nature or essence of the corresponding
phenomenal experience. Nor am I persuaded that one can literally subsume the phenomenal
character of one’s headaches into a concept. My suggestion is that anti-physicalists will be better
off if they cash out the Obscure Intuition in terms of a thesis about phenomenal information: the
thesis that phenomenal information is fundamentally univocal. To say that phenomenal
information is univocal is, roughly, to say that for every phenomenal fact f (i) there is at most one
way one feels when one knows that f obtains and (ii) it is in virtue of f that one feels that way
when one knows that f obtains. I will raise some problems for this thesis and sketch the contours
of an anti-physicalist metaphysics designed to avoid these problems.

*

REGISTRATION for the conference is now open.

To register, please email Sam Coleman (S.Coleman@herts.ac.uk) with the subject heading
‘REGISTRATION’ and give your name and affiliation in the email body.

The conference fee is £10 for those in post, free for students.

The conference benefits from a limited number of graduate student bursaries thanks to the
generous support of the Analysis Trust. To apply please contact Sam Coleman. We have already
allocated half of our stock of these so please move fast. Note: the bursaries only cover
accommodation costs, not travel expenses.

The Phenomenal Qualities Project is funded by the UK AHRC
http://phenomenalqualities.wordpress.com/

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