A number of philosophers endorse, without argument, the view that there’s something it’s like consciously to think that p, which is distinct from what it’s like consciously to think that q. This thesis, if true, would have important consequences for philosophy of mind and cognitive science. In this paper I offer an argument for it, and attempt to induce examples of it in the reader. The argument claims it would be impossible introspectively to distinguish conscious thoughts with respect to their (...) content if there weren’t something it’s like to think them. This argument is defended against several objections. Then I use what I call “minimal pair” experiences—sentences read without and with understanding—to induce in the reader an experience of the kind I claim exists. Further objections are considered and rebutted. (shrink)
The notion of a "mental representation" is, arguably, in the first instance a theoretical construct of cognitive science. As such, it is a basic concept of the Computational Theory of Mind, according to which cognitive states and processes are constituted by the occurrence, transformation and storage (in the mind/brain) of information-bearing structures (representations) of one kind or another.
Some analytic philosophers have recently been defending the thesis that there’s “something it’s like” to consciously think a particular thought, which is qualitatively different from what it’s like to be in any other kind of conscious mental state and from what it’s like to think any other thought, and which constitutes the thought’s intentional content. (I call this the “intentional phenomenology thesis”). One objection to this thesis concerns the introspective availability of such content: If it is true that intentional phenomenology (...) is constitutive of intentional content, and that conscious phenomenology is always introspectively available, then it ought to be true that the content of any concept consciously entertained is always introspectively available. But it is not. For example, one can know introspectively that one is thinking that one knows that p without knowing introspectively what the content of the concept of knowledge is. Hence, it cannot be that intentional content is constituted by cognitive phenomenology. -/- I explore three responses to this objection. First, it is not clear that all of the contents of consciousness must be equally available to introspection. The capacities for conscious experience and introspective attention to it are distinct. It is not implausible that the resolving power of the latter might be insufficient to discern all of the fine-grained details of the former, or that its scope might be limited. Second, it is possible that in cases of incomplete accessibility one is entertaining only part of the concept the relevant term expresses in one’s language. In the knowledge case, for example, perhaps one is thinking only that one has justified true belief that p (one’s self-attribution of a thought about knowledge is in fact false). Finally, in such cases one might be consciously entertaining only part of the relevant concept, the rest remaining unconscious, and so unavailable to conscious introspection. I conclude that the objection is not decisive against the intentional phenomenology thesis. (shrink)
In the past few years, a number of philosophers ; Horgan and Tienson 2002; Pitt 2004) have maintained the following three theses: there is a distinctive sort of phenomenology characteristic of conscious thought, as opposed to other sorts of conscious mental states; different conscious thoughts have different phenomenologies; and thoughts with the same phenomenology have the same intentional content. The last of these three claims is open to at least two different interpretations. It might mean that the phenomenology of a (...) thought expresses its intentional content, where intentional content is understood as propositional, and propositions are understood as mind-and language-independent abstract entities. And it might mean that the phenomenology of a thought is its intentional content—that is, that the phenomenology of a thought, like the phenomenology of a sensation, constitutes its content. The second sort of view is a kind of psychologism. Psychologistic views hold that one or another sort of thing—numbers, sentences, propositions, etc.—that we can think or know about is in fact a kind of mental thing. Since Frege, psychologism has been in bad repute among analytic philosophers. It is widely held that Frege showed that such views are untenable, since, among other things, they subjectivize what is in fact objective, and, hence, relativize such things as consistency and truth to the peculiarities of human psychology. The purpose of this paper is to explore the consequences of the thesis that intentional mental content is phenomenological and to try to reach a conclusion about whether it yields a tenable view of mind, thought and meaning. I believe the thesis is not so obviously wrong as it will strike many philosophers of mind and language. In fact, it can be defended against the standard objections to psychologism, and it can provide the basis for a novel and interesting account of mentality. (shrink)
Failure of substitutivity of coreferential terms, one of the hallmarks of referential opacity, is standardly explained in terms of the presence of an expression (such as a verb of propositional attitude, a modal adverb or quotation marks) with opacity-inducing properties. It is thus assumed that any term in a complex expression for which substitutivity fails will be within the scope of an expression of one of these types, and that where there is an expression of one of these types there (...) will be failure of substitutivity for terms within its scope. I shall discuss a series of examples that have been thought to challenge this explanation by exhibiting failure of substitutivity of coreferential terms for positions not within the scope of any of the standard opacity-inducing expressions. If these examples are genuine, then the usual explanations of opacity are either incomplete – because there are sources of opacity other than those standardly identified, or completely mistaken – because the standardly identified expressions are not causes of opacity. I will argue, however, that the examples only exhibit failure of substitutivity of non-coreferential terms, and, hence, do not present a challenge to standard explanations of opacity. (shrink)
Reductive representationalism is the view that the qualitative properties associated with conscious experience are properties of the objects of the experience, and not of the experience itself. A prima facie problem for this view arises from dreams and hallucinations, in which qualitative properties are experienced but not instantiated in external objects of perception. I argue that representationalist attempts to solve it by appeal to actually uninstantiated properties are guilty of an absurdity akin to that which Ryle accused Descartes of in (...) the latter’s doctrine of immaterial substance. (shrink)
The arguments of Fodor, Garret, Walker and Parkes [(1980) Against definitions, Cognition, 8, 263-367] are the source of widespread skepticism in cognitive science about lexical semantic structure. Whereas the thesis that lexical items, and the concepts they express, have decompositional structure (i.e. have significant constituents) was at one time "one of those ideas that hardly anybody [in the cognitive sciences] ever considers giving up" (p. 264), most researchers now believe that "[a]ll the evidence suggests that the classical [(decompositional)] view is (...) wrong as a general theory of concepts" [Smith, Medin & Rips (1984) A psychological approach to concepts: comments on Rey, Cognition, 17, 272], and cite Fodor et al. (1980) as "sounding the death knell for decompositional theories" [MacNamara & Miller (1989) Attributes of theories of meaning, Psychological Bulletin, 106, 360]. I argue that the prevailing skepticism is unmotivated by the arguments in Fodor et al. Fodor et al. misrepresent the form, function and scope of the decompositional hypothesis, and the procedures they employ to test for the psychological reality of definitions are flawed. I argue, further, that decompositional explanations of the phenomena they consider are preferable to their primitivist alternatives, and, hence, that there is prima facie reason to accept them as evidence for the existence of decompositional structure. Cognitive scientists would, therefore, do well to revert to their former commitment to the decompositional hypothesis. (shrink)
Call a thought whose expression involves the utterance of an indexical an indexical thought. Thus, my thoughts that I’m annoyed, that now is not the right time, that this is not acceptable, are all indexical thoughts. Such thoughts present a prima facie problem for the thesis that thought contents are phenomenally individuated -- i.e., that each distinct thought type has a proprietarily cognitive phenomenology such that its having that phenomenology makes it the thought that it is -- given the assumption (...) that phenomenology is intrinsically determined. My concern in this paper is to blunt standard intuitions concerning the external individuation of indexical thought contents, and to defend a conception of indexical thought content that is entirely phenomenal and internalist. (shrink)
Tim Crane maintains that beliefs cannot be conscious because they persist in the absence of consciousness. Conscious judgments can share their contents with beliefs, and their occurrence can be evidence for what one believes; but they cannot be beliefs, because they don’t persist. I challenge Crane’s premise that belief attributions to the temporarily unconscious are literally true. To say of an unconscious agent that she believes that p is like saying that she sings well. To say she sings well is (...) to say that when she sings, her singing is good. To say that she believes that p is to say that when she consciously considers the content that p she consciously affirms it. I also argue that the phenomenal view of intentional content Crane appears to endorse prima facie commits him to the view, at least controversial, perhaps incoherent, that there is unconscious phenomenology. Keywords : Belief; Consciousness; Unconscious; Intentional Content; Judgment. Credenze coscienti Riassunto: Tim Crane sostiene che le credenze non possano essere coscienti, dal momento che perdurano anche in assenza di coscienza. I giudizi formulati consapevolmente possono condividere i loro contenuti con le credenze e il loro verificarsi può essere una forma di evidenza a supporto di quanto uno crede. E tuttavia essi non possono essere credenze, dal momento che non perdurano. Nel commento metto in discussione la premessa di Crane secondo cui porre l’attribuzione di credenze su un piano temporaneamente inconscio sia vero in senso letterale. Dire di un agente non cosciente che esso creda che p è come dire che canti bene. Dire che canti bene è dire che quando canta, il suo canto è buono. Dire che crede che p è dire che quando considera consapevolmente il contenuto p costui lo afferma consapevolmente. Inoltre intendo affermare che la visione fenomenica del contenuto intenzionale che Crane sembra abbracciare lo impegni prima facie nei confronti della prospettiva, quantomeno controversa e probabilmente incoerente, secondo cui esisterebbe una dimensione fenomenica inconscia. Parole chiave: Credenza; Coscienza; Inconscio; Contenuto intenzionale; Giudizio. (shrink)
Externalism is the view that the intentional content of a mental state supervenes on its relations to objects in the extramental world. Nativism is the view that some of the innate states of the mind/brain have intentional content. I consider both “causal” and “nomic” versions of externalism, and argue that both are incompatible with nativism. I consider likely candidates for a compatibilist position – a nativism of “narrow” representational states, and a nativism of the contentless formal “vehicles” of representational states. (...) I argue that “narrow nativism” is either too implausible to appeal to the nativist – because it entails that innate representational states are lost as the mind becomes more experienced, or too costly to appeal to the externalist – because a reasonable version of it requires the analytic-synthetic distinction. Finally, I argue that “syntactic nativism” is indistinguishable from classical anti-nativist empiricism, given the latter’s broad tolerance for innate implementation of psychological principles and mechanisms. (shrink)
According to Brian Loar, an adequate theory of intentionality must acknowledge the fundamental role phenomenology plays in the determination of intentional content. It must take into account individuals’ experience of their intentional states, from a subjective point of view. From this perspective, intentional content is internally determined (given that phenomenology is). On the other hand, Loar is convinced (by arguments given by Tyler Burge) that mental states also have externally determined contents, fixed by objective facts about thinkers’ sociolinguistic environments. This (...) paper argues that Loar’s theory of intentionality is compromised by his acceptance of the Burgean intuitions (which do not, their power and influence notwithstanding, support anti-individualism) and by an overly narrow view of the scope of phenomenology. (shrink)
I argue that what determines whether a science is ‘formal’ or ‘empirical’ is not the ontological status of its objects of study, but, rather, its methodology. Since all sciences aim at generalizations, and generalizations concern types, if types are abstract (non-spatiotemporal) objects, then all sciences are concerned to discover the nature of certain abstract objects. What distinguishes empirical from formal sciences is how they study such things. If the types of a science have observable instances (‘tokens’), then the nature of (...) the types may be determined empirically. If they types have either abstract tokens, or no tokens at all, their nature must be determined by non-empirical methods involving intuition, reasoning and proof. I conclude that the status of (theoretical) linguistics depends on the methodologies of syntax, semantics, phonology, morphology and orthography (and any other subdiscipline that is concerned with the study of the structure of language). (shrink)
In this paper we argue that there is a large class of expressions, typified by ‘plastic flower’, ‘stuffed animal’ and ‘kosher bacon’, that have a unique semantics combining compositional, idiomatic and decompositional interpretation. These expressions are compositional because their constituents contribute their meanings to the meanings of the wholes; they are idiomatic because their interpretation involves assigning dictionary entries to non-terminal elements in their syntactic structure; and they are decompositional because their meanings have proper parts that are not the meanings (...) of any of their syntactic constituents. We argue that extensionalist semantics, on which the meaning of an expression is a function from domains to extensions in those domains, cannot provide an adequate account of the semantics of these expressions, and that supplementation with a theory of pragmatic interpretation does not improve the situation. We show how our account explains the intensionality and the productivity of these expressions. (shrink)
This paper replies a number of objections brought against the solution to Jennifer Saul's puzzle of failure of substitutivity in transparent contexts presented in my 2001 paper "Alter Egos and Their Names".
The thesis that conceptual content is experiential faces a prima facie objection. Phenomenology is not in general compositional. For example, the experienced color of a thing will change depending on its context. If conceptual phenomenology is also subject to context effects, then thought contents will not be compositional. However, the compositionality of thought content is, arguably, explanatorily indispensable. This paper considers several different conceptions of compositionality, but in the end maintains there is no introspective evidence for conceptual context effects.
Philosophical theories of the nature of concrete particulars come in two basic kinds, those according to which a concrete particular consists of properties and a bearer of those properties (a substratum), and those according to which a concrete particular consists only of its properties, in a relation of compresence or concurrence. Substrata are theoretical entities defined by their explanatory functions. As such, there is not much disagreement about their nature: they are propertyless, unobservable constituents of concrete particulars that are the (...) bearers of properties 1 and the individuators of distinct particulars. The situation is different with respect to properties. Among realists, some think properties are universals, either transcendent (Platonists) or immanent (Aristotelians), and some 2 think they are particulars (“tropes” ). Of the resultant possible positions on the nature of concrete particulars, six have been the focus of recent philosophical attention. These theories variously identify concrete particulars with (i) material substrata bearing transcendent universals, (ii) material substrata bearing immanent universals, (iii) material substrata bearing abstract particulars, (iv) bundles of transcendent universals, (v) bundles of immanent universals, and (vi) bundles of abstract particulars. (shrink)