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Mind and Illusion

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  08 January 2010


Much of the contemporary debate in the philosophy of mind is concerned with the clash between certain strongly held intuitions and what science tells us about the mind and its relation to the world. What science tells us about the mind points strongly towards some version or other of physicalism. The intuitions, in one way or another, suggest that there is something seriously incomplete about any purely physical story about the mind.

Copyright © The Royal Institute of Philosophy and the contributors 2003

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1 Over the years I have received a large number of papers, letters and emails seeking to convince me of the error of my old ways. Much of what I say below was absorbed from, or was a response in one form or another to, this material but I am now unsure who deserves credit for exactly what. More recently I am indebted to discussions of various presentations of ‘Representation and Experience’ in Representation in Mind: New Approaches to Mental Representation, H., Clapin, P., Slezack and P., Staines (eds) (Wesport: Praeger, to appear 2002)Google Scholar.

2 See, e.g., Jackson, Frank, ‘Epiphenomenal Qualia’, Philosophical Quarterly 32 (1982), 127–36CrossRefGoogle Scholar. The argument has a long history in one form or another. For an outline version drawn to my attention recently, see Dunne, J. W., An Experiment with Time (London: Faber and Faber, 1927), 1314Google Scholar.

3 This claim is common enough but it has been disputed on the basis of a Twin Earth argument. See Block, Ned and Stalnaker, Robert, ‘Conceptual Analysis, Dualism and the Explanatory Gap’, Philosophical Review 108 (1999), 146CrossRefGoogle Scholar. For a response, see Chalmers, David J. and Jackson, Frank, ‘Conceptual Analysis and Reductive Explanation’, Philosophical Review 110(2001), 315–61CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

4 See, e. g., Block and Stalnaker, op. cit., but this is but one example among many.

5 See, e. g., Jackson, Frank, Critical Notice of Susan Hurley, Natural Reasons, Australasian Journal of Philosophy 70 (1992), 475–87CrossRefGoogle Scholar, and From Metaphysics to Ethics: A Defence of Conceptual Analysis (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1998)Google Scholar.

6 Most recently by Block and Stalnaker, ‘Conceptual Analysis, Dualism and the Explanatory Gap’, op. cit. For a fuller development of the reply in the text, see Jackson, Frank, ‘From H2O to Water: the Relevance’ to A Priori Passage, Real Metaphysics, papers for Mellor, D. H., Lillehammer, Hallvard et al. , (eds.) (London: Routledge, 2002)Google Scholar. Many once held, and some still hold, that the first premise, suitably fleshed out, is necessarily true as well as a priori. Nothing here turns on this issue. Incidentally, I am following the philosopher's lazy practice of simplifying the science.

7 See David J. Chalmers and Frank Jackson, ‘Conceptual Analysis and Reductive Explanation’, op. cit.

8 See, for example, Byrne, Alex, ‘Cosmic Hermeneutics’, Philosophical Perspectives, 13 (1999), 347–83Google Scholar.

9 In my view, the illusion also fuels the modal intuitions encapsulated in the zombie, absent qualia, inverted qualia etc. arguments, but I do not argue that here (though it may be clear how the argument would go).

10 Moore, G. E., ‘The Refutation of Idealism’, Philosophical Studies (London: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1922), 130Google Scholar.

11 David Hume, Treatise of Human Nature, bk. I, pt. IV, sec. VI.

12 See, e. g., Harman, Gilbert, ‘The Intrinsic Quality of Experience’, Philosophical Perspectives 4 (1990), 3152CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

13 These properties include the usual suspects like extension, colour and shape but I see no reason not to include, e.g., being a hydrometer. We can see something as a hydrometer. The difference between, e.g., being extended and being a hydrometer is that you cannot see something without seeing it as extended whereas you can see something without seeing it as a hydrometer.

14 See, e. g., Jackson, Frank, Perception (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1977)Google Scholar.

15 For a recent view of this kind, see Foster, John, The Nature of Perception (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2000)CrossRefGoogle Scholar, part three.

16 E. g., recently by Tye, Michael, Consciousness, Color, and Content (Cambridge, Mass.: M.I.T. Press, 2000)Google Scholar; see also Byrne, Alex, ‘Intentionalism Defended’, Philosophical Review 110 (2001), 199240CrossRefGoogle Scholar. I should, perhaps, footnote what I think should be said about one example. The very same shape may have a different visual appearance depending on its putative orientation with respect to oneself. This in itself is no problem for representationalism, as orientation is part of how things are represented to be. However, as Christopher Peacocke points out, e. g., in ‘Scenarios, Concepts and Perception’ in Tim, Crane (ed.) The Contents of Experience (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1992), 105135Google Scholar, seeing something as a regular diamond and as a square on its side need differ neither in putative shape nor orientation, and yet differ experientially. However, when this happens, one figure is being represented to be symmetrical about a line through its corners and the other about a line parallel to its sides.

17 How things are being represented to be need not be determinate. My experience may represent that something is a roundish shape without representing that it is any particular shape—the experience represents that there is some precise shape it has but there is no precise shape that the experience represents it to have. Indeed, it is arguable that all experience has some degree or other of indeterminacy about it. The same goes for maps and most sentences, of course.

18 I am indebted here to a discussion with Ned Block but he will not approve of my conclusion.

19 See, e. g., Tye, Michael, Consciousness, Color, and Content (Cambridge, Mass.: M.I.T. Press, 2000)Google Scholar and Ten Problems of Consciousness (Cambridge, Mass.: M.I.T. Press, 1995)Google Scholar. Tye‘s suggestion is not that the whole story about where the feel comes from lies in sensory states having nonconceptual content. But it is a key part of the story.

20 As has been widely recognized, most recently in Heck, Richard G. Jr., ‘Nonconceptual Content and the Space of Reasons’, Philosophical Review 109 (2000), 483523CrossRefGoogle Scholar; see also Crane, Tim, ‘The Nonconceptual Content of Experience’ in Tim, Crane, (ed.), The Contents of Experience, op. cit., 136157Google Scholar.

21 I think it is the way Tye wants to go but I am unsure. But let me say that here, and in the immediately following, I draw on helpful if unresolved discussions with him.

22 For recent example, Richard G. Heck Jr., ‘Nonconceptual Content and the Space of Reasons’, op. cit. He is affirming it as an agreed view.

23 I am here agreeing with Crane, Tim, ‘The Nonconceptual Content of Experience’ op. cit., p. 140Google Scholar, but he would not, I think, agree with the use I make of the point on which we agree.

24 Byrne, Alex, ‘Consciousness and Higher-Order Thoughts’, Philosophical Studies 86 (1997), 103–129, see p. 117CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

25 Some argue that the two understandings are connected as follows: the reason for holding that belief contents are special in containing, in some sense, the relevant concepts is that having a belief is special in requiring that one has the relevant concepts.

26 As Christopher Peacocke puts it in Sense and Content (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1983), 7Google Scholar ‘[experience] can hardly present the world as being [a certain] way if the subject is incapable of appreciating what that way is’. Peacocke no longer holds this view.

27 Tye, Michael, Ten Problems of Consciousness, op. cit., p. 139Google Scholar, suggests that the key point is that to believe that something is F requires having a stored memory representation of F whereas to experience it as F does not. Thus, belief requires possession of the concept F in a way that experience does not. But one can believe that something is F for the very first time, and if the point is merely that one's system needs to have already in place the capacity to categorize something as F, that is equally plausible for both belief and experience. Peacocke, Christopher, ‘Analogue Content’, Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society, supp. vol. 15 (1986), 117Google Scholar, points out that when we enter a room full of abstract sculptures, we perceive things as having particular shapes but need not have ‘in advance concepts of these particular shapes’ (p. 15, my emphasis). This is true but does not show that we do not have the concepts at the time we see the things as having the shapes.

28 The talk of tagging the shade should not be understood on the model of a demonstration. According to representationalism, there need be no instance of the colour shade to be demonstrated.

29 What drives the idea that the lack of words implies a lack of concepts sometimes seems to be the modal claim that it is impossible to have words for all the shapes and colours we represent in experience, together with the plausible thesis that if I have the concept of, e.g., a certain shape, it must be possible for me to have word for it. However, although it is impossible for me to have a word for every shape I discriminate; for any shape I discriminate, it is possible that I have word for it.

30 I am here following David Armstrong but he should not be held responsible for the details.

31 Armstrong, D. M., Perception and the Physical World (London: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1961), p. 128Google Scholar.

32 Laurence Nemirow, review of Nagel, T., Mortal Questions, Philosophical Review 89 (1980), 475–6Google Scholar, and ‘Physicalism and the Cognitive Role of Acquaintance’, Mind and Cognition, Lycan, W. G., (ed.) Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 1990, 490–99Google Scholar; Lewis, David, ‘What Experience Teaches’, Mind and Cognition, op. cit., 499–19Google Scholar.