Philosophy 290-5

Fall 2005

Number Title Instructor Days/time Room
290-5 Autonomy of the Phenomenal Martin W 2-4 225 Wheeler

Most discussion of phenomenal consciousness, whether dualist or physicalist in intent, assumes that we have a grasp of what the stream of consciousness is, or what it is like, independently of our knowledge of other aspects of the world. This is evident in the discussion of the putative identity of pain with some neural process. In this seminar I want to explore some issues which throw doubt on the autonomy of the phenomenal.

In particular, I’ll aim to address the following four themes:

(A) The Claims of Transparency

Recently it has become popular to insist that introspection of our sense experience confirms that such experience has the ordinary public objects of perception as part of its subject matter. Such a view is presumably rejected by those who suppose that sense perception is nothing but the awareness of non-physical sense-data. Can introspection really support the former view over the latter?

For this topic I want to start with some of the recent words of caution by Michael Tye, look back to GE Moore; and assess some of the recent writings of A.D. Smith.

(B) The Links between Sense Perception and Imagination

I want to return to an old theme from Hume concerning the relation between impressions and ideas and the so-called ‘Copy Principle’. In effect, Hume starts with a conception of there being a difference in kind between sense experience and other experiential episodes such as remembering and imagining, and then constructing an account which denies that there is any such difference. In the analytic tradition, Hume’s stance is endorsed almost universally. I want to explore the problems with Hume’s approach, and alternatives to this.

We will be looking at work by Bernard Williams, Chris Peacocke, Zeno Vendler, David Velleman.

(C) Emotions and Feelings of Emotion

Philosophical theories of emotion have tended to focus on the opposition between identifying emotion with feelings or with judgement. Recent popular accounts have led others to suppose that emotional states are forms of perception.

In contrast, I want to suggest that we should look at the idea that emotional states are not themselves part of the stream of consciousness, and that we need to mark a fundamental distinction between emotions and feelings of emotion. This leads us instead to question how one should identify and individuate the feelings of emotion.

We will be looking at work by Gilbert Ryle, Richard Wollheim, Malcolm Budd, Jesse Prinz.

(D) Pain, Affect and Evaluation

The paradigm example of a simple phenomenal quality in many philosophical discussions is that of feeling pain. I want to explore the idea that pain is not a simple feeling or quality, and that we can understand what pain is only in the context of its psychological and biological function without thereby eliminating the phenomenal aspect of these episodes.

We will be looking at work by Nikola Grahek and Valerie Grey Hardcastle.