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 A  Philosophy Course 290-5

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Philosophy Course 290-5

Graduate Seminar: Phenomenal Consciousness

Title: ‘The Autonomy of the Phenomenal'


Mike Martin:

134 Moses

Office Hour: 3.30-5pm Thursdays

The class meets on Wednesdays 2-4pm 225 Wheeler


Students taking this course for credit will write a term paper due no later than one week after the last day of class.


Most discussion of phenomenal consciousness, whether dualist or physicalist in intent, assumes that we have a grasp of what the stream of consciousness is, or what it is like, independently of our knowledge of other aspects of the world. This is most salient in discussions of subjective qualities such as pain, where both dualists and physicalists alike suppose that there is something one can identify an understand as pain, or what pain feels like, entirely independent of the psychological role of states of pain.

Something like this thought is operative even when perceptual states and perceptual consciousness is the focus of discussion. Debate about perceptual appearances typically assumes that the introspectible qualitative character can be accessed and articulated independent of one's broader commitments to ways the world is.

Although the autonomy of the phenomenal, as I mean to characterise it, is commonly associated with internalist sympathies within the philosophy of mind, the rejection of internalism doesn't amount in itself to rejecting the autonomy of the phenomenal. For one might suppose that there is a (partly) environmental base to the phenomenal while supposing that we have a grasp of what experience is like independent of our commitments to how the world is, just as one might suppose that pain states are a certain kind of neurological state, even though we also have a purely phenomenal conception of them.


The aim of this seminar is to pursue a couple of issues concerning on the one hand perceptual consciousness, and on the other feelings and bodily sensation which should lead us to question the autonomy of the phenomenal.


In particular, I'll aim to address the following four themes:


(A) The Claims of Transparency

Recently it has become popular to insist that introspection of our sense experience confirms that such experience has the ordinary public objects of perception as part of its subject matter. Such a view is presumably rejected by those who suppose that sense perception is nothing but the awareness of non-physical sense-data. Can introspection really support the former view over the latter?


Initial Reading :

Chapters 2 & 3 from Uncovering Appearances (on my website – currently but I will provide access within Berkeley soon)

A.D. Smith The Problem of Perception (Harvard: 2002), Chs. 5 & 6 (I'll place photocopies in Howison)



(B) The Links between Sense Perception and Imagination

I want to return to an old theme from Hume concerning the relation between impressions and ideas and the so-called ‘Copy Principle'. In effect, Hume starts with a conception of there being a difference in kind between sense experience and other experiential episodes such as remembering and imagining, and then constructing an account which denies that there is any such difference. In the analytic tradition, Hume's stance is endorsed almost universally. I want to explore the problems with Hume's approach, and alternatives to this.


Initial Reading :

‘Out of the Past: Episodic Memory as Retained Acquaintance', from Hoerl and McCormack, Time & Memory (OUP: 2001), prepublication version available on my website

‘The Transparency of Experience', Mind & Language , Sep 2002

Bernard Williams, ‘Imagination and the Self', Problems of Self (CUP: 1973)

Chris Peacocke, ‘Imagination, Experience and Possibility', Foster & Robinson, edd., Essays on Berkeley (OUP:1985)

Zeno Vendler, Matters of Mind , Ch. 4

J. David Velleman, ‘Self to Self', Philosophical Review , 1996


(C) Emotions and Feelings of Emotion

Philosophical theories of emotion have tended to focus on the opposition between identifying emotion with feelings or with judgement. Recent popular accounts have led others to suppose that emotional states are forms of perception.

In contrast, I want to suggest that we should look at the idea that emotional states are not themselves part of the stream of consciousness, and that we need to mark a fundamental distinction between emotions and feelings of emotion. This leads us instead to question how one should identify and individuate the feelings of emotion.


Initial Reading :

Richard Wollheim, On the Emotions , Ch. 1.


(D) Pain, Affect and Evaluation

The paradigm example of a simple phenomenal quality in many philosophical discussions is that of feeling pain. I want to explore the idea that pain is not a simple feeling or quality, and that we can understand what pain is only in the context of its psychological and biological function without thereby eliminating the phenomenal aspect of these episodes.


 B  Reading Available for Download

Chapters from Uncovering Appearances

Chapter Two

The Structure of Appearances

In this chapter I discuss how one should formulate an intentional theory of perception; and the relevance to this of the older debate between adverbialism about sense perception and the act-object approach.

Download in PDF


Chapter Three

Lessons from the Argument from Illusion

In this chapter I argue that the argument from hallucination defines the options available for talk about phenomenal consciousness and explains why so many writers assume that intentional properties and sensational properties should be exclusive and exhaustive.


Download in PDF

Smith The Problem of Perception, Ch. 5&6

And associated, a handout concerning scepticism with regard to the senses.

Download in PDF

Here is a short handout raising some questions about the Smith.

Download in PDF

Here is the handout discussing Evans's notion of information

Download in PDF

Attached here is a scan of a paper on episodic memory, 'Out of the Past', from Hoerl and McCormack, Time & Memory, (OUP 2002)

Download in PDF

©2005 Mike Martin