AuthorAshby, Brandon James
MetadataShow full item record
PublisherThe University of Arizona.
RightsCopyright © is held by the author. Digital access to this material is made possible by the University Libraries, University of Arizona. Further transmission, reproduction, presentation (such as public display or performance) of protected items is prohibited except with permission of the author.
AbstractThere is something that it is like to be us as we go about our waking and dreaming lives. There is something that it is like to see red, to feel a pressure, or to taste hot coffee. Each of our experiences has a phenomenal character. Our conscious experiences also represent the world around us; they have representational or intentional contents. An experience as of a moderate pressure against one’s shin represents a force being exerted against that part of one’s body. If there is a force of that degree at that location, then the experience is accurate; otherwise, it is inaccurate. In addition to representing the world around us, we also represent the phenomenal characters of our experiences by thinking about them. We can prefer some experiences to others, for instance. This dissertation concerns the role of phenomenal consciousness in the representational mind. It explores the connections between what our experiences are like, what those experiences represent, and how we think about those experiences. In particular, it explores various structural connections between the phenomenal characters and intentional contents of our mental states. In ‘The Price of Twin Earth’, I consider the extent to which the representational contents of our perceptual experiences are reflected in their phenomenal characters. I do so by taking the debate between liberals and conservatives about the contents of perceptual experience as a case study and showing how to generalize those results. Liberals claim that our perceptual experiences (a) can represent specific, familiar individuals and kinds as such, and (b) that these representations are reflected in the phenomenal characters of our perceptual experiences: those of our perceptual experiences that represent their object as being one familiar individual or kind differ in their phenomenal character from those that represent their object as being a different individual or kind or that do not represent their object as being a familiar individual or kind. Conservatives deny the latter if not also the former claim. I use a twin earth-based argument to show that perceptual content internalism entails conservativism. Liberals must perform modus tollens on this entailment and adopt perceptual content externalism. This raises difficult questions for their phenomenal reflection claim. I suggest that liberals should claim that representational contents supervene on phenomenal characters for a subject in a world. Conservatives claim that that is too weak of a phenomenal reflection claim. Many appeal to twin earth to argue that representations of individuals and kinds are not phenomenally reflected in a way that representations of, say, color and shape are. I show that these arguments overgeneralize: there are twin earth cases for color, shape, and other paradigmatically perceptible properties and not just individuals and kinds. In, ‘Rainbow’s End’, I argue that the phenomenal characters of our perceptual experiences constrain their possible intentional contents by possessing a compositional and systematic structure similar to the grammar of a language or the rules of composition for the representational elements employed in maps, models, and diagrams. They have an argument structure. I call this view phenomenal schematics: the phenomenal structures of our experiences place a priori, syntactic, and sometimes semantic constraints on the possible intentional contents of our experiences. For example, consider the differences between our pressure and temperature experiences. What it is like to feel a pressure has two components to it: one corresponding to the degree and the other to the direction of force. These two components can vary independently of one another. Consequently, we would need to use vector fields to formally model our pressure experiences; they have a vectorial structure. Our temperature experiences, in contrast, have no directionality component to them. We can be more or less hot or cold, cool or warm; but that’s it. To formally model our temperature experiences, we would need to use scalar fields; they have a scalar structure. Consequently, our temperature experiences are ill-suited to represent pressures; they lack the dual-component structure needed to represent a pressure’s degree and direction of force. There are three main positions in the literature on the phenomenal-intentional relation, and phenomenal schematics interacts with them all. Separatism claims that phenomenality and intentionality are only contingently related to one another, just as the typographical and representational properties of written words are only contingently related. Representationalists claim that phenomenality is identical to, reducible to, or grounded in a kind of intentional content. And phenomenal intentionalists claim that there is a kind of intentionality that is identical to, reducible to, or grounded in the phenomenality of our experiences. Phenomenal schematics shows that separatism is false, whereas it can enhance representationalism and phenomenal intentionalism, though it can be accepted independently of those views as well. Phenomenal schematics shows us that separatism’s comparison between phenomenal characters and typographical properties is deeply flawed. Not only do the phenomenal characters of our experiences constrain their possible intentional contents, they also possess their argument structures essentially, unlike written words. While it is conceivable that ‘found’ could have been a quantifier, for instance, it is inconceivable that our temperature experiences could have represented pressures. While we can imagine temperature spectrum inverts—physical/functional duplicates of us for whom what it is like to feel hot is what it is like for us to feel cold—we cannot imagine pressure-temperature inverts—physical/functional duplicates of us for whom what it is like to feel pressures is what it is like for us to feel temperatures, and vice versa. While we have both a typographical and a grammatical way of thinking about written words, when it comes to the phenomenal characters of our experiences, the “grammatical interpretation” in mandatory. In, ‘What Was That Like?’, we turn to the question of how the phenomenal characters of our experiences are represented in our thoughts about them and, in particular, how the metaphysics of consciousness bears upon this issue. Many philosophers have argued that epiphenomenal anti-physicalism entails that we could not know if we are conscious or what our experiences are like because our experiential beliefs would not causally depend upon our experiences. David Chalmers responds to this objection by arguing that there are pure phenomenal concepts, which pick out token experiences or types of experiences by including token experiences as “constituent parts”. Consequently, our thoughts about our experiences could non-causally depend upon what experiences we have. By way of comparison, the shape of a word depends upon the shapes of its component letters, but it does not causally depend upon its letters’ shapes. I argue that Chalmers’ response fails to fully resolve the epiphenomenal anti-physicalist’s epistemic problems. If epiphenomenal anti-physicalism is true, then the differences in what we would have thought about our experiences if our experiences had differed from what they are would be limited to our pure phenomenal concepts alone. If we were to think ____was the same sort of experience as ____, we still would have had a thought of that exact same form even if the compared experiences had differed widely. Our thoughts about the patterns of similarity and difference between our experiences would not depend upon the similarities and differences of the compared experiences if epiphenomenal anti-physicalism is true. The picture of the mind that emerges from this dissertation is one according to which the intentional contents of our perceptual experiences supervene upon their phenomenal characters for a subject within a world, the phenomenal characters of our experiences constraint their possible contents by way of their structure, and we can only think about the phenomenal characters of our experiences in the kinds of ways that are required of knowledge if our experiences causally interact with the physical domain, perhaps by being physical events themselves.
Degree ProgramGraduate College