Blurring two conceptions of subjective experience: Folk versus philosophical phenomenality

Philosophical Psychology 27 (6):862-889 (2014)
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Philosophers and psychologists have experimentally explored various aspects of people’s understandings of subjective experience based on their responses to questions about whether robots “see red” or “feel frustrated,” but the intelligibility of such questions may well presuppose that people understand robots as experiencers in the first place. Departing from the standard approach, I develop an experimental framework that distinguishes 20 between “phenomenal consciousness” as it is applied to a subject (an experiencer) and to an (experiential) mental state and experimentally test folk understandings of both subjective experience and experiencers. My findings (1) reveal limitations in experimental approaches using “artificial experiencers” like robots, (2) indicate that the standard philosophical conception of subjective experience in terms of qualia is distinct from that of the folk, and (3) show that folk intuitions do support a conception of qualia that departs from the philosophical conception in that it is physical rather than metaphysical. These findings have implications for the “hard problem” of consciousness.



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Anthony F. Peressini
Marquette University

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What is it like to be a bat?Thomas Nagel - 1974 - Philosophical Review 83 (October):435-50.
Facing up to the problem of consciousness.D. J. Chalmers - 1996 - Toward a Science of Consciousness:5-28.
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Quining qualia.Daniel C. Dennett - 1988 - In Anthony J. Marcel & E. Bisiach (eds.), Consciousness in Contemporary Science. Oxford University Press.

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