Bursting at the Seems 2: Electric Boogaloo


Fingers

Originally uploaded by Pete Mandik.

Scenario 1:
Smith and Jones see a dog that is in fact white but due to a trick of the electric lighting, seems blue. Smith is unaware of the facts about the lighting and so believes that the dog is blue. Jones is hip to the lighting situation and so believes the dog is white. Jones agrees, though, that in spite of his believing it to be white, the dog seems blue.

Question 1:
Is there something going on in the minds of Smith and Jones when they look at the dog that cannot be accounted for in terms of their various dispositions to make certain judgments?

Answer 1:
We’ll come back to this in a bit.

Scenario 2:
Smith and Jones are playing Let’s Make a Deal with Monty Hall. There are three doors for Smith and three for Jones. Behind one of Smith’s doors is a car. Likewise for Jones. They each pick their door number one. Before door number one is opened, Monty Hall opens door number three and reveals that there is a goat behind it. Monty asks if they’d like to keep door number one or switch to door number two. Smith figures there is a fifty/fifty chance that the car is behind door number one, so he believes door number two to not be a superior choice. Jones is hip to the explanation of the relevant probabilities and so believes correctly that there is an advantage in switching. Jones admits, though, that while he trusts the explanation, he doesn’t totally understand it, and sympathizes with Smith’s urge to not switch.

Question 2:
Is there something going on in the minds of Smith and Jones when they play Let’s Make a Deal that cannot be accounted for in terms of their various dispositions to make certain judgments?

Answer 2:
No. Here’s a straightforward and uncontroversial explanation of what is going on. Smith has a disposition to judge door number two to not be a superior choice and is aware of no overriding considerations against resisting his disposition. Jones similarly has a disposition to judge door number two to not be a superior choice, but is aware of overriding considerations in favor of resisting this disposition, so he resists. He believes door two to be superior but agrees that it seems not to be suprerior. In what does this latter seeming consist? It consists in his overridden disposition to make a certain judgment.

Answer 1 revisited:
No. Here’s a straightforward yet controversial explanation of what is going on. Smith has a disposition to judge the dog to be blue and is aware of no overriding considerations against resisting this disposition. Jones similarly has a disposition to judge the dog to be blue, but is aware of overriding considerations in favor of resisting this disposition, so he resists. He believes the dog to be white but agrees that it seems to be blue. In what does this latter seeming consist? It consists in his overridden disposition to make a certain judgment.

Objection 1:
This leaves out phenomenal consciousness! It is obvious that there is something else going on in the minds of Smith and Jones besides their various dispositions to make judgments: they have conscious experiences with blue qualia! It is obvious that there is more to seeming than epistemic seeming. It is obvious that there is, additionally, phenomenal seeming.

Reply 1:
Note that Objection 1, while containing many exclamation points, contains no arguments. What it does contain is an assertion that it seems like there are phenomenal seemings. Pending further argument, there’s no reason to not just assimilate this as more epistemic seeming. It epistemically seems to qualiophiles that there are phenomenal seemings. So what?

Objection 2.
But Mandik, you have claimed elsewhere to love qualia. You have also claimed elsewhere to have a theory of phenomenal consciousness. What is your major malfunction?

Reply 2.
So-called phenomenal seemings are reducible to a sub-class of epistemic seemings. There’s nothing going on in the mind in these scenarios that can’t be explained in terms of information bearing states (let’s call them sensations) and our conceptual reactions to them (let’s call them thoughts). So, what are qualia? They are introspectible properties of conscious states. What are conscious states? Not every thought is conscious. Nor is every sensation. Conscious states are hybrid states of mutually causally interacting thoughts and sensations. Dog triggers sensation which triggers thought? If that’s all that happens, neither thought nor sensation is conscious. Dog triggers sensation which triggers thought which feeds back and reactivates sensation? If that happens, both thought and sensation jointly comprise a conscious state. For more on this, see my “Phenomenal Consciousness and the Allocentric-Egocentric Interface“. What’s introspection? It’s the conceptual exploitation of the information that mental states carry about themselves. For more on this see “Churchlandik Introspection” and “The Instrospectibility of Brain States as Such“.

53 Responses to “Bursting at the Seems 2: Electric Boogaloo”

  1. Pete Mandik says:

    Tanasije,

    You’ve stated once again that one can’t have the beliefs without the phenomenal experiences. You have not yet given an argument for the view.

  2. Pete Mandik says:

    Anders,

    I’m not following your remarks on blindsight, blindsmelling, etc at all. blindsmeller could have all the reason in the world to dump the milk: he could, for instance, believe that it smells awful.

    I don’t know what else to say about how a felt inclination could be a belief. I presume a feeling to be a kind of experience, I’ve given arguments for why experience can be a kind of belief, and so the belief in question may be a believed inclination to believe: S believes Q and Q = the proposition that S is inclined to believe P.

    You write: “I don’t understand what the purely belief-based account is supposed to be of this; I am just taking the straightforward idea that this particular p is not in my belief-set, though it may be in my experience set, or, in other circumstances, in my hunch or inclination-to-believe set.”

    So now hunches aren’t beliefs either?

  3. > I’m not following your remarks on blindsight, blindsmelling, etc at all. blindsmeller could have all the reason in the world to dump the milk: he could, for instance, believe that it smells awful.

    Sure, he could have some good reasons to dump it. But one would not expect him to behave as if the smell was noxious to him solely because of his beliefs alone. The belief that it smells bad would not normally be at all painful or bothersome to one. If has no experience of the bad smell, he may know that it has spoiled so should be thrown out, he may even know that the smell is offensive ato other people who actually have experiences of smell, so that throwing it out is a good idea to be considerate to them. But there’s no reason the smell should bother him if he just has beliefs and not experiences. So a blindsmeller with lots of cognitively usable information wouldn’t display all the expressive manifestations of a bothersome experience. He wouldn’t grimace involuntarily at the smell and try to get it away from his nostrils as fast as possible. There’s no reason a belief that it smells bad (to other people who actually experience smells) would prompt you to act like “ugh get that away from me”. And so on.

    > So now hunches aren’t beliefs either?

    Sorry, I wrote hastily there. I think the word “hunch” can be used for a few different sorts of things. I was using “hunch” as a synonym for “inclination to believe”, but of course most normally we do use the term for things actually believed.

    Still I think we can sometimes say a person feels a strong hunch but disbelieves it anyway. And, absolutely trivially, analytically, if you wish, a disbelieved hunch, like a disbelieved experience or disbelieved inclination to believe is not among my beliefs. That’s about all I’ve been using; I am not sure why we are not communicating on such a simple point.

    > I’ve given arguments for why experience can be a kind of belief, and so the belief in question may be a believed inclination to believe: S believes Q and Q = the proposition that S is inclined to believe P.

    OK, now you’re talking about a somewhat second-order belief (in the sense that it is a belief in the existence of another mental state): the belief that one has an inclination to believe p. But isn’t the inclination one thing, and a belief about it another? Isn’t it the inclination itself, not the second-order belief about it, that you need to do the work? Couldn’t a person have an inclination to believe p without even having the concepts necessary to have a belief about this?