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Mind and Illusion


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.

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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).

2 See, e.g., Jackson Frank, ‘Epiphenomenal Qualia’, Philosophical Quarterly 32 (1982), 127–36. 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), 1314.

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), 146. For a response, see Chalmers David J. and Jackson Frank, ‘Conceptual Analysis and Reductive Explanation’, Philosophical Review 110(2001), 315–61.

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), 475–87, and From Metaphysics to Ethics: A Defence of Conceptual Analysis (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1998).

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). 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), 347–83.

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), 130.

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), 3152.

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).

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

16 E. g., recently by Tye Michael, Consciousness, Color, and Content (Cambridge, Mass.: M.I.T. Press, 2000); see also Byrne Alex, ‘Intentionalism Defended’, Philosophical Review 110 (2001), 199240. 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), 105135, 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) and Ten Problems of Consciousness (Cambridge, Mass.: M.I.T. Press, 1995). 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), 483523; see also Crane Tim, ‘The Nonconceptual Content of Experience’ in Tim Crane, (ed.), The Contents of Experience, op. cit., 136157.

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. 140, 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. 117.

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), 7 ‘[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. 139, 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), 117, 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. 128.

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

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