Thu Nov 1, 2018
Howison Library, 4–6 PM
Ian Phillips (University of Birmingham)
What’s Wrong with Worldly Discrimination Theory?
Behavioral and neuroimaging data often indicate that a stimulus has been registered and processed by a subject’s brain. But what evidence specifically justifies the claim it has been perceived by a subject? Or that it has been perceived consciously? According to Worldly Discrimination Theory, both perception and perceptual consciousness can be operationalized in terms of a subject’s better-than-chance capacity to detect or discriminate stimuli. This approach finds little favor in the literature. It is commonly dismissed on the grounds that: (i) it entirely leaves out the essential subjectivity of consciousness; (ii) it fails to take subjects’ reports seriously; (iii) it implies systems as simple as photocells are conscious; (iv) it does not offer an exclusive measure of consciousness uncontaminated by unconscious influences; (v) it is inconsistent; and (vi) it cannot handle illusions. Against this consensus, I argue that, when properly understood, Worldly Discrimination Theory withstands all these familiar objections. Worldly Discrimination Theory should thus be taken seriously as an operational approach to perceptual awareness.