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Sunday, November 09, 2008

Phenomenal Red and The Phenomenal Intentionality Research Program

A lot has been going on the last couple of weeks. Last week we had the Introspection and Consciousness workshop, which was organized by Declan Smithies and Daniel Stoljar, and last Friday Mike Titelbaum hosted a mini-workshop on Sleeping Beauty, with talks by Kenny "Knows About Everything" Easwaran, Terry "Feigning Indifference" Horgan, Wo "The Last Lewisian Halfer" Schwartz, and Mike "Our Ever So Funny Organizer" Titelbaum (the middle names are for the most part due to Mike).

Last Thursday Terry Horgan gave a talk entitled "The Phenomenal Intentionality Research Program", which was based on a larger research project done in cooperation with Uriah Kriegel, and I want to say a bit about this project.

The main thesis of the phenomenal intentionality research program is that intentionality (or representation) has its source in phenomenal character (the what-it's-likeness of experience). Phenomenal intentionality has its source directly in phenomenal character, whereas other forms of intentionality derive from phenomenal intentionality. The main thesis is not new (Terry, Searle and others have defended versions of this view), but it certainly is no less controversial than it used to be. The main thesis can admittedly be spelled out as a relatively uncontroversial supervenience thesis, viz. the thesis that phenomenal intentionality supervenes on phenomenal character. But Terry wants to defend a stronger view, viz the view that all (phenomenal) intentional properties are identical to phenomenal properties.

Now, this latter claim is consistent with the thesis that not all phenomenal properties are intentional properties. This is good news, because it is not hard to imagine phenomenal properties which do not represent. Consider, for instance, a red afterimage. Plausibly the redness of some red afterimages does not represent or aim at representing anything. Or maybe it does represent but then plausibly it doesn't represent in the same way as the redness of, say, a visual experience as of a ripe tomato.

But now a problem seems to arise for the phenomenal intentionality thesis. Consider a red afterimage and a visual experience as of a ripe tomato. It's plausible that the rednesses of the two experiences are phenomenally indiscernible. Moreover, it is plausible that the redness of the tomato experience represents, whereas the redness of the afterimage does not represent (or at least does not represent in the same way). But we then need to distinguish between two kinds of phenomenal red, one corresponding to the phenomenal redness of the red afterimage and one corresponding to the phenomenal redness of the tomato experience -- call them 'phenomenal-red-1' and 'phenomenal-red-2'. But we just agreed that the perceiver needn't be in a position to distinguish between phenomenal-red-1 and phenomenal-red-2 on phenomenal grounds. So, the fact that there are two kinds of phenomenal red isn't grounded in phenomenology. Worse: the fact that one of the phenomenal redness properties represents whereas the other doesn't isn't grounded in phenomenology either. So, there are facts about intentionality that are not grounded in phenomenology. There is no direct tension between this latter claim and the claim that all (phenomenal) intentional properties are phenomenal properties, but it seems a bit odd to defend the thesis that all intentionality has its source in phenomenology and then admit that some facts about intentionality are not grounded in phenomenology.

Terry has subsequently responded to my objection by saying that phenomenal properties acquire their intentionality in context. On this view, whether or not a phenomenal property is an intentional property will depend in part on the overall phenomenal character of the experience. This line seems initially promising. It certainly can explain why the redness of my red tomato experience represents whereas the redness that flows before my eyes after starring at a flashlight does not represent (or does not represent in the same way).

However, I wonder whether one could strengthen the objection in the following way. Suppose one has a red afterimage that fills all of one's visual field and (at a slightly later time) one has a visual experience as of a part of a very large red wall (s.t. the redness fills all of one's visual field). The two experiences could in principle be phenomenally indistinguishable, yet plausibly the two redness properties represent in different ways. But if this is so, then the fact that the two redness properties represent in different ways is not grounded in phenomenology; hence, not all facts about intentionality are grounded in phenomenology. And in this case, it doesn't seem feasible to claim that the phenomenal redness properties acquire their intentionality in context. After all, the only property appearing in the visual field is the property red. So, arguably, there is no context for phenomenal red-1 and phenomenal-red-2 to acquire their intentionality in.

SEP Entry

A new version of our Stanford Encyclopedia entry on the knowability paradox is now online.

Sunday, November 02, 2008

Conference Pics

Just got back from my US/Copenhagen trip. The Second Annual MEW conference was a huge success. This year it was organized by Al Casullo and Sandy Goldberg. Matt Mullins took some pics. They can be found on Matt's facebook page but I have also uploaded some of them here.

UPDATE: All the conference pictures are now available here.

Two post-doctoral research fellowships in Social Epistemology

The research project "The Epistemology of Liberal Democracy – truth, free speech and
disagreement" funded by the Velux Foundation invites applications for two 2-year post-doctoral fellowship. Starting date: February 2009.

The two successful applicants will join an international research group consisting of
Klemens Kappel (Copenhagen), Duncan Pritchard (Edinburgh), Erik Olsson (Lund) and Igor Douven (Leuven), Jesper Kallestrup (Edinburgh), and Mikkel Gerken (Copenhagen).

The two research fellows will spend most of their time carrying out the above research project in close collaboration with members of the research group. The project includes funding for a number of international workshops and for two international conferences, and the research fellows will help organize these.

The research fellows will be based at the Division of Philosophy, University of
Copenhagen. Working language will be English, and there is no requirement to learn
Danish. The project includes funding for individual travels, visitors, equipment and other expenses. Applicants need not have published research directly on the questions addressed by the research project, but must have a strong or promising relevant research record. Applicants must have completed their Ph.D. before taking up the research fellowship.

The application and enclosed documentation must include the following:

(1) Full CV, including information about areas of competence, areas of specialization, teaching, academic supervision, research organization and administration, and previous research positions.
(2) Three writing samples in the form of book chapters or journal articles. Unpublished work will be accepted. Books or book length manuscripts should not be submitted.
(3) A complete and numbered list of publications.
(4) A brief outline of a research plan for the first year of no more than two pages, not including references. The research plan should relate to one or more of the research questions and research strategies outlined in the research proposal.
The application with enclosures must be submitted in four copies. Material in electronic form – such as CDs – is not accepted.

For more information, contact Dr. Klemens Kappel,

Saturday, November 01, 2008

Online Dictionary for Food Tongue

Remember the "Lagadonian language" food tongue? There is now apparently an online dictionary for it, but it is hard to understand without already knowing the language... (thanks to Christopher Owen for the link)