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Henselmans, A.

Auteur: Arnold Henselmans
Afstudeerjaar: 2000
Vakgroep: Wetenschapsfilosofie, Logica en Kentheorie

Phenomenal Consciousness as Grammatical Fiction. A Diagnosis of Nagellian 'What It Is Like' Linguistics.

In both cognitive science and philosophy of mind today it has become customary to conceptualise consciousness in the Nagellian terms of 'what it is like' for us to have experiences, sensations, feelings, emotions, thoughts, beliefs, desires, or mental images. The upshot of this terminology is to address in isolation what is phenomenal about conscious experiences, as opposed to what can or might be explained in physical and/or functional terms.
I argue that this concept of phenomenal aspects, customary called 'qualia', fails to be intelligible. It results from consistently placing a 'what it is like' phrase in front of everything that can plausibly called a conscious experience, and from adding to this an appeal to an ordinary understanding consisting of the claim that 'what it is like' aspects are simply what we are all familiar with about consciousness from what is manifest to us in having experiences. The result, however, is a totally unintelligible generalisation of what counts as experiential phenomena in our (contemporary, western) ordinary language.
After exposing the intelligibility problem I move on to reconstruct what is causing it. The qualia conceptualisation starts off as a mere description of a correlation in ordinary language between speaking of experiences, or of something experienced, and speaking of conscious states/events. It is in this trivial context that technical terms like 'the phenomenal aspect' are introduced. In a three step reconstruction I show how the initially trivial-hence-innocent concept is tacitly transformed by Nagellian linguistics into the concept of an underlying homogenous type of property of mental states/events, a property the presence of which would coincide with mental states/events being conscious states/events, but would also be manifest to us in having experiences. The reconstruction shows this tacit transformation to be a grammatical fiction: hidden behind the all-too-swift linguistics of Nagellian 'what it is like' phrases, it rests upon a fallacious intertwinement of pieces of ordinary experience language with the physicalist conceptual framework of mental states/events and their properties.
The thesis ends as well as begins with some short remarks on the relation between the concept of qualia and the currently widespread conviction that phenomenal consciousness poses an explanatory gap to all physicalist explanation.


Laatst gewijzigd:01 november 2013 16:29