Contents, Vehicles, and Transitive Consciousness




Tromp d’oeil painting

Originally uploaded by moocatmoocat

Robert Lurz’s challenge to the standard view of transitive consciousness is constituted by the following claim from his paper, “Neither HOT nor COLD: An Alternative Account of Consciousness”:

[A] creature can be conscious of its thoughts and experiences simply by being conscious of what it thinks or experiences in having those thoughts or experiences

Here is what the Lurz challenge is supposed to be a challenge to. What lots of people seem to agree on, and this would include Tye, Dretske, Rosenthal, Churchland, Prinz, and me, is that transitive consciousness - consciousness of - is implemented by (certain kinds of) representation in the following way: what one is conscious of is what (certain kinds of) representations are representations of. (What further criteria the representations need to meet is what separates the various authors listed, and thus the use of the parenthetical “certain kinds of”.) Call this the Standard View. On the Standard View, one is conscious of such-and-such only if one mentally represents such-and-such. And if one has a (certain kind of) mental representation of a leafy tree, one is thereby conscious of a leafy tree. Or, in other words, what one is conscious of is the content of a certain representation, in this case the content is a leafy tree.

Now, when one has a state of the sort described in the previous paragraph, what sense could it possibly make to say that one is conscious of the state itself? This I try to spell out on pp. 60-61 of The Subjective Brain in terms of the content/vehicle distinction. Being conscious of a leafy tree involves representing a leafy tree. Being conscious of a representation of a leafy tree must involve representing something more than just the leafy tree, that is, something more than just the content of the representation. And the only candidate for the something more is the vehicle of the representation. Thus one is conscious of the representation itself only if one represents vehicular properties of the representation.

So on what basis can adherents of the Standard View resist Lurz’s position that consciousness of what a state represents suffices for consciousness of the state itself? One kind of response would be to point out that it’s not particularly clear what Lurz’s position even means. Another kind of response would be to point out that it isn’t particularly clear that any arguments have been given for Lurz’s position (or even that he takes himself to have supplied any arguments).

Regarding the first kind of response, regarding the meaning of Lurz’s position, is he asserting that being conscious of what a state represents suffices for being conscious of vehicular properties of the representation? Or is he stipulating that being conscious of the content is another way, distinct from the vehicular way, of being conscious of the representation? I’ll come back to this in a moment.

Regarding whether an actual argument is supplied, Lurz does offer “some intuitive support for this claim” in terms of an analogy concerning paintings. He writes:

It seems plain that in order to see what a particular painting represents, one must see the painting itself. If one does not see the painting itself — say, if one is looking in the wrong direction, or is seeing a different painting, or is blind — then one cannot be said to see what that particular painting represents.

Note that while Lurz says this “seems plain,” it seems plain to me that it doesn’t seem plain at all. If what a particular painting represents is the flight of Icarus and I am looking at some other particular painting which also represents the flight of Icarus, then I can see what the first painting represents without seeing the first painting. I do it by seeing the second painting, which is a representation of the same thing as the first painting. So it looks like I can be aware of what a particular painting represents without being aware of that particular painting. (And if paintings and non-paintings can share contents, then I can be aware of what a particular painting represents without being aware of any particular painting at all.)

To make matters worse, it looks like Lurz agrees with this sort of point. He writes:

Three identical-looking paintings by different artists, for example, may each depict a woman seated before an open window…. [I]n one sense of the phrase “what the painting represents,” the intentional-content sense, what these three paintings represent is the same: a woman seated by an open window.

If what they represent is the same, then I can be aware of what the first represents without ever having had any exposure to the first; I just see the second or the third. Imagine further, that while looking at the second, when I blink it is, unbeknownst to me, replaced by the third. And when I blink again, it is once again replaced. I would continue to be aware of what the painting represents without being aware of which particular painting it is –the second or the third –I am looking at. Being aware of what a particular painting represented would suffice for being aware of that particular painting only if different particular paintings necessarily represented different particular things. But, as Lurz admits, paintings can share contents. So which particular painting does being aware of a content suffice to make you aware of?

To return to question of what Lurz’s claim is supposed to mean, specifically whether it is a claim about awareness of vehicles, I note that thinking about typical cases of looking at paintings suggests awareness of vehicles. When I look at paintings I typically notice whether they’re oil or water color, how fat the paint strokes are, etc., and these are vehicular properties of the painting, the properties with which Icarus is represented, not properties that the painting represents.

However, there are atypical cases in which one notices none of the vehicular properties of a painting, and Lurz discusses such cases: trompe l’oeil cases in which, as Lurz points out, we see neither that a painting is present nor the painting as a painting. I might take myself to be looking out a window at a leafy tree when in actuality I’ve been fooled by an incredibly realistic painting. It seems natural to say in such cases that we would not be aware of any vehicular properties of the painting. However, it seems strained to say, as Lurz wants to, that in such cases we are aware of the painting or that we see the painting. Lurz presents his claims about paintings as “intuitive” and I don’t feel the intuitive pull.

So, in summary, the only support offered for Lurz’s challenge to the standard view are some remarks about paintings that are themselves easily resisted.

15 Responses to “Contents, Vehicles, and Transitive Consciousness”

  1. Brendan says:

    Hi Pete,

    Just a quick point: I think some (Kriegel, and Brook and Raymont) who defend self-representational theories of consciousness would agree with his view.

  2. Pete Mandik says:

    Hi Brendan,

    I’m not so sure. I took a brief look at Brook and Raymont and nothing lept out at me as an endorsement of Lurz’s “[A] creature can be conscious of its thoughts and experiences simply by being conscious of what it thinks or experiences in having those thoughts or experiences”. Did you have any particular textual evidence in mind?

  3. Hey Pete,

    Now this is what I call a response! :)

    Now I am not an expert on Robert’s view (I have invited him to reply though, and he said he may) but I want to try to offer some support for the view…

    You say

    there are atypical cases in which one notices none of the vehicular properties of a painting, and Lurz discusses such cases: trompe l’oeil cases in which, as Lurz points out, we see neither that a painting is present nor the painting as a painting. I might take myself to be looking out a window at a leafy tree when in actuality I’ve been fooled by an incredibly realistic painting. It seems natural to say in such cases that we would not be aware of any vehicular properties of the painting. However, it seems strained to say, as Lurz wants to, that in such cases we are aware of the painting or that we see the painting. Lurz presents his claims about paintings as “intuitive” and I don’t feel the intuitive pull.

    This strikes me as wierd. If I am looking at a painting, then wehther or not I am aware THAT I am looking at a painting I am aware of a painting. If it IS a painting, then when I see it I am seeing a painting. Given that transitivie consciousness just is being aware of something then I am transitively conscious of the painting (though not AS a painting)…So if I am conscious of what the painting represents then I am conscious of the painting…Now the reason that this seems unintuitive to you may be because you are running two things together that need to be distinguished. Lurz himself makes this distinction in a footnote. He says that we need to distinguish

    (a) being aware of what a particular representation r represents, and (b) being aware of something which happens to be what a particular representation r represents.

    In (a) since I am aware of what a PARTICULAR PAINTING represents then I am aware of the painting (via the above kind of considerations) yet in (b) I am not aware of a PARTICULAR PAINTING but rather just aware of something which also happens to be represented by some particulra representation…So I don’t think you can as easily resists as you though you could.

  4. Pete Mandik says:

    If it IS a painting, then when I see it I am seeing a painting.

    Yes, but part of what is contested in this case is whether you see it.

    I think that the notion of seeing is too philosophically vexed to try to hang a theory of consciousness on. (Do you see something if you are standing so close to it that you can’t see its boundaries? Do you see something if you are in no position to determine what is that you are seeing?) Things are even more vexed when it comes to seeing paintings (If you only ever saw the Mona Lisa from the back or the edge, would that count as seeing the Mona Lisa? What if you saw frontal portions, but no more that 5% of them?). The weirdness is multiplied even further when we are dealing with the highly unusual case of a totally unnoticed and convincing tromp l’oleil.

    The examples about seeing paintings were, in Lurz’s words, to “lend intuitive support”. But since they lead directly to their own highly vexed philosophical issues, they seem ill-suited to do the job.

  5. Robert Lurz says:

    I am grateful for your comments and interest in my paper. I should mention that my views about consciousness and our awareness of our thoughts and experiences have changed since the paper, and I no longer hold the view therein defended – although, for reasons different from those that you give (see my papers in Gennero (2004) and Kriegel (2006) for my more recent views on these matters.)

    However, I still think that the view in, “Neither Hot nor Cold,” presents a not-entirely implausible account of how a creature might be aware of its own mental states without being aware that he has mental states. One of my objectives in the paper was to show how the trompe l’oeil case could provide a model for understanding how one could be aware of one’s mental states without being aware that one has mental states.

    I claim that in the trompe l’oeil case, one sees (and is aware of) a painting but does not see (aware of) it as a painting (or as a representation of any sort). You find this “strained.” To each his own, I guess. I personally do not find this strained. I admit that in some conversational contexts, it may be inappropriate or misleading to say that the person sees the painting – since the conversational implicature there is that the person notices the painting as such – but that does not mean that it is false that the person sees the painting. Independent of what it’s appropriate to say for purposes of conversation, I think it is pretty clear that we are often aware of things that are F without being aware of them as F. One can see an armadillo, for example, without seeing it as an armadillo (or even as an animal). Why say one sees an armadillo in such cases? Roughly, it’s because the armadillo is causally responsible in some direct sort of way for one’s conscious visual experience. The same can be said in the trompe l’oeil case, as well. The painting itself is causally responsible in a rather direct way for the person’s present conscious visual experience.

    Furthermore, it seems plain to me – and you do not seem to object — that in the trompe l’oeil case, one sees (is aware of) what the painting represents (say, a leafy tree) without seeing (being aware) that it represents a leafy tree. And what is more, in this kind of case, it seems clear that the reason the person is aware of what this painting represents is the fact that he is aware of the painting – that is, that the painting is, in some direct way, causally responsible for the person’s being aware of its content. Had the person never seen the painting when he walked into the room, for example, then all things being equal he would not have seen what it represented. So in this kind of case, the person’s awareness of what the painting represents is the result of the painting itself being causally responsible in a direct sort of way for the person’s awareness of its content, which I take to constitute the person’s awareness of the painting, too. Put in another way, suppose one holds along with you that “what one is conscious of is what (certain kinds of) representations are representations of.” So when the person, S, looks at the trompe l’oeil painting, the painting causes S to go into a visual representational state, R, which has roughly the same intentional content as the painting – namely, that there is a leafy tree there. S’s being in R constitutes S’s being (non-veridically) aware that there is a leafy tree there. However, since R is caused in a direct way by the painting itself, R also constitutes S’s being aware of the painting itself – though, not as such. So in this kind of case, S’s being in R not only constitutes S’s awareness of what the painting represents but S’s awareness of the painting.

    Now it is true as you nicely illustrates that there are some cases in which a person’s awareness of what a painting represents does not constitute or involve his awareness of that painting, for the person may simply be aware of another painting that has the same content. But that does not mean that there are no such cases in which a person’s awareness of what a particular painting represents constitutes or involves his aware of the painting itself. So for those who think that it is true to say, in the trompe l’oeil case, that the person’s awareness of what the painting represents constitutes or involves his awareness of the painting (though, not as such), we have a model for understanding how one can be aware of one’s own mental representations (though, not as such) by being aware of what they represent. Suppose, for example, that one is aware of what one is seeing when one is seeing a tomato on the counter before you. Your seeing the tomato is like the trompe l’oeil painting of the leafy tree: it is a representation (in your head) that represents some state of affairs in the world – in this case, that there’s a tomato before you. Let us call the representation in your head that constitutes your seeing the tomato, R’. Now, your awareness of what you are seeing, I claim, is another mental representation (inyour head) distinct from R’, much like your awareness of what the trompe l’oeil painting represents is a distinct representation from the painting itself. Call the representation in your head that constitutes your being aware of what you’re seeing, R’’. The intentional content of R’’ will be roughly identical with that of R’. If R’’ is appropriately caused by the presence of R’, then we can say, much like we did in the trompe l’oeil case, that one’s being in R’’ constitutes one’s being aware of one’s seeing the tomato – though, not as such.

    Admittedly, this is all rather sketchy and in need of further development and defense. But I believe it presents an approach to understanding how a creature could be aware of its own inner mental states without being aware that it has such states that is not so easily resisted by your comments.

  6. Pete Mandik says:

    Hi Robert,

    Thank you for your detailed remarks. I find them quite helpful in coming to grips with these and related issues. Here are some further thoughts that I hope convey some concerns I continue to have.

    I’m curious, specifically, what you think of my attempt to frame the issues in terms of contents and vehicles. With respect to the tromp l’oleil case, would you say that the viewer is aware of only the content of the painting (e.g., a leafy tree)? Or, would you say that the viewer additionally is aware of vehicular properties of the painting (e.g., canvas, paint, pigment)? In the portion of my comment in which I described the claim that the painting is seen as strained, I was explicitly interpreting the viewer as not being aware of any vehicular properties of the painting. But perhaps this is not what you had in mind.

    I wonder which of the following two formulations best captures your view of the tromp l’oleil cases.

    (1) If viewer is aware of the painting’s content then the viewer is aware of vehicular properties of the painting. (If the viewer is not aware of vehicular properties of the painting, then the viewer is not aware of the painting’s content)

    (2) If the viewer is aware of the painting’s content then the viewer is aware of the painting even though the viewer might not be aware of any vehicular properties of the painting.

    Here are some other remarks.

    I agree with you that one may see an armadillo without seeing it as an armadillo. I’m not sure what the best analysis of such instances of seeing is, but it seems pretty clear (or at least arguable) that being causally responsible for my current visual representations doesn’t suffice for being seen. (You did, of course, admit that your sketch was rough.) An armadillo with a cloaking device would absorb photons from its far side and emit corresponding but numerically distinct photons from its facing side and be effectively invisible, that is, not seen. But the cloaked armadillo would count as causally responsible for my current visual representations of the tumbleweed that the armadillo would otherwise be blocking from view. If cloaking-devices are too far-fetched for your taste, then consider plain-old camouflage. Also, I can raise similar points concerning what we see and their non-seen causal intermediaries in terms of examples concerning microscopes, telescopes, and closed-circuit television.

    If things can cause my current visual state without themselves being seen, then the fact that the tromp l’oleil painting causes my current state of seeming to see a leafy tree doesn’t suffice to make it the case that I see the painting. The painting might be as unseen as my contact lenses currently are or as the liquid-crystal displays in virtual-reality goggles might be. My main point here isn’t that it’s obvious that, e.g., VR LCDs are unseen. It’s just that it isn’t obvious that we must say that they are seen. It is similarly non-obvious, at least to me, that we need to describe the tromp l’oleil paintings as seen.

  7. Robert Lurz says:

    Hi Pete,

    Thanks for the further comments. I’m running to teach my second class for tonight so I have time only to address one (or two) of the comments now.

    You ask: “With respect to the tromp l’oleil case, would you say that the viewer is aware of only the content of the painting (e.g., a leafy tree)? Or, would you say that the viewer additionally is aware of vehicular properties of the painting (e.g., canvas, paint, pigment)?”

    Reply: the canvas, paint, and pigment don’t sound like properties of the painting to me. They’re more like proper parts or elements of the painting. And I think that you see them just like you see the painting — though, you don’t seem them as canvas, paint, or pigment. Now, I think that in seeing what the painting represents you do see properties — such as certain colors, shapes, and relations — and these properties are properties of the painting. But again, I don’t think that you see them as properties of the painting; rather, you seem them as properties of the leafy tree.

    Number (2) above seems to be closer to what I have in mind. I would rather say now, after considering your comments, that, in the trompe l’oeil case, one’s awareness of what the painting represents involves one’s awareness of the painting.

    I have some things to say about your armadillo and contact lense case. I agree that you don’t see these things, but I think that there are relevant differences with the trompe l’oeil case. But I gotta run.

    Best,

    Robert

  8. Brendan says:

    Hi Pete,

    I saw Andy give a talk at the CPA this year where he says any conscious state, roughly, represents its content, the representation state itself, and represents that it is an experience of the person whose conscious state it is. That is what I was thinking of.

    So, rather than “[A] creature can be conscious of its thoughts and experiences simply by being conscious of what it thinks or experiences in having those thoughts or experiences”

    Perhaps Andy and Paul would say that for any conscious state a creatue IS conscious “of its thoughts and experiences simply by being conscious of what it thinks or experiences in having those thoughts or experiences”

  9. Pete Mandik says:

    Brendan,

    I remain skeptical. I don’t see that much of interest (to me) hinges on whether the thesis is phrased with an “is” vs. a “can”. I question whether Andy and Paul (and Uriah) are committed to the “simply” part. Does simply being conscious of the content of a state suffice to implement the Transitivity Principle? Or must further conditions be satisfied besides being conscious of the content for implementation of TP? Textual evidence pertinent to the answering of those questions is what I’d like to see.

  10. Pete Mandik says:

    Robert,

    Thanks for your comments and the promise for more. This is an interesting and enjoyable exchange.

    Regarding the painting case, let me press you a bit further on this vehicle stuff. One thing I find a bit problematic is your claim that being aware of the content of a painting suffices for awareness of the particular painting that has that content. Contents are shareable and thus seem ill suited for the token-individuation of paintings. In one of your own examples, three numerically distinct paintings share the content a woman seated by a window.

    Particular paintings are physical objects, and so I figure that whatever individuates physical objects in general is good enough for paintings. I’m happy to embrace spatio-temporal criteria of physical object individuation. At least, it works well enough for the current line of thought. In the relevant cases, then, what distinguishes numerically distinct paintings is that they can’t occupy all and only the same space-time regions. But note that these differences are vehicular. I like property-talk, so I’d describe this in terms of numerically distinct paintings having different spatio-temporal properties. But the property talk is perhaps inessential here and we can talk of particular paintings having particular proper parts located and particular parts of space-time. What is essential is that when distinct particular paintings share contents, all that’s left to distinguish them is vehicular. This line of thought, if correct, would force you to say that content awareness suffices for vehicle awareness.

    But herein a puzzle arises, and there are several ways to put it: How does awareness of a universal suffice for awareness of a particular? How does awareness of something shareable suffice for awareness of something unshared?

    One impression I get from your remarks about armadillos and tromp l’oleil paintings is that what makes it the case that I’m aware of one particular painting and not some other is that I am in causal contact with that particular painting and not some other. If that’s what you have in mind (and I apologize if it isn’t), then notice what’s doing the work is causal contact with the vehicle and not awareness of content. Note, the armadillo is not itself a representation of anything, and the story of how the armadillo is seen without being seen as an armadillo seems to be the same as the story of how the painting is seen without being seen as a painting. If this line of thought is right, then it’s not awareness of a content that suffices for awareness of a vehicle. It’s that certain causal interactions with vehicles suffices for awareness of the vehicles, and whether they have contents is irrelevant.

  11. Robert Lurz says:

    Hey Pete,

    Again my response are going to have to be a bit quick since I’m running to class.

    You write:

    Regarding the painting case, let me press you a bit further on this vehicle stuff. One thing I find a bit problematic is your claim that being aware of the content of a painting suffices for awareness of the particular painting that has that content. Contents are shareable and thus seem ill suited for the token-individuation of paintings. In one of your own examples, three numerically distinct paintings share the content a woman seated by a window.

    Reply: In the case of looking at the trompe l’oeil painting, you’re awareness of its content involves your being aware of the painting itself. All things being equal, if you were not aware of the painting in that case, you wouldn’t have been aware of its content; and your awareness of its content, in that case, involved and, hence, was sufficient for your being aware of the painting. Of course, you could have been aware of the content of the trompe l’oeil painting in some way other than by seeing the painting. But that is not the sort of case I want to use as my model.

    Of course, numerically different paintings can have the same type of content. And being aware of the content of some painting isn’t sufficient, all on its own, for being aware of the painting. But that’s not my view. My view is that in some cases, where one’s visual experience is caucally connected to a painting in the right sort of way, one’s awareness of the content of the painting involves one’s awareness of the painting itself — without one’s being aware THAT the painting has that content.

    You write:

    I get from your remarks about armadillos and tromp l’oleil paintings is that what makes it the case that I’m aware of one particular painting and not some other is that I am in causal contact with that particular painting and not some other. If that’s what you have in mind (and I apologize if it isn’t), then notice what’s doing the work is causal contact with the vehicle and not awareness of content.

    Reply: Yeah, that seems right. It’s the sort of causal connection your respective visual experiences have with the painting and the armadillo that makes them awareness of each.

    Your write:

    If this line of thought is right, then it’s not awareness of a content that suffices for awareness of a vehicle. It’s that certain causal interactions with vehicles suffices for awareness of the vehicles, and whether they have contents is irrelevant

    Reply:

    It’s relevant that the trompe l’oeil painting has a representational content, given what I want to show with the case. For if it didn’t, I would not be able to be aware of its content and, hence, I would not be aware of what it represents. Remember, I want a case where one’s aware of what a representation represents invoves and, hence, suffices for one’s awareness of the representation itself — but not as such.

  12. Pete Mandik says:

    Thanks for being patient with me, Robert. I think the light is coming on for me.

    In particular, I think I can totally agree with your statement:

    And being aware of the content of some painting isn’t sufficient, all on its own, for being aware of the painting.”

    I think one of the main reasons I thought you had something else in mind was because of the “simply” stuff in this quote from your paper:

    “[A] creature can be conscious of its thoughts and experiences simply by being conscious of what it thinks or experiences in having those thoughts or experiences”

    I have no problem granting that one can be aware of a painting’s content in some cases without being aware that it is the content of a painting. I also have no problem granting that there might be some cases in which I am aware of a painting’s content, not aware that it is the painting’s content or even that there’s a painting, yet nonetheless aware of the painting itself. I offer as such a case one in which I totally fall for a tromp l’oeil of a leafy tree and simultaneously consciously smell the stench of the oil paint without recognizing it as oil paint (I conceptualize it simply as “stinky”).

    What I deny (and am not totally sure whether we disagree on this) is that it is necessary that if I totally fall for a tromp l’oeil and am thus aware as of a leafy tree (aware of the leafy tree content) that I must also be visually aware of the painting itself. I will grant that I must receive some visual input from the painting, that the information must travel from the painting to my eye, and from there to my optic nerve, from my optic nerve to my lateral geniculate nucleus, etc. etc. But I deny that I have to thereby be aware of the painting. I no more have to be aware of the painting in this case than I have to be aware of neural activity in my optic nerve. Do I? I’ll grant that it has to be there, and that it has to have some impact on me. But do you think I am forced to grant that the impact constitutes awareness?

    Some of what you said in earlier comments makes me predict that you will say “no”, that you don’t think I’m forced, and that you are merely offering that it might be the case (a plausible model) that the impact constitutes awareness of the painting itself. If so, I could grant that, yes, it might be the case, or that there is some prima facie plausibility to the claim that it is the case. But I wonder if you think further that it is certainly the case.

    Thanks in advance for indulging further prodding!

  13. Pete Mandik says:

    Hi again.

    I’ve been thinking about the painting cases some more (it’s interesting stuff!) and one thing that seems to me to complicate issues somewhat is that often, pictorial representation works in virtue of shared properties between the representation and the represented. For example, a painting may represent a leafy tree as being a particular shade of green by utilizing paint that is precisely that shade of green. Similarly it may represent the tree as being taller than it is wide using painted regions of the canvas that are themselves taller than they are wide. Thus, when I’ve fallen for a convincing tromp l’oeil and it seems that there is a tree before me, the claim that I’m aware of the painting garners some plausibility from the fact that the greenness that I’m aware of in seeming to be aware of a tree is greenness that is literally greenness of a part of the painting.

    However, there are cases in which the representation does not share properties with the represented. Even in the above case, the represented tree has a depth not literally instantiated by the flat canvas. We can tweak the example further by making the painting in question a meticulously done pointalistic painting whereby none of the colors represented are literally had by any of the dots (the greenness of the tree is represented by only blue and yellow dots). Similarly, contours represented as continuous are represented with non-overlapping dots.

    Stretching these kinds of cases even further, imagine that someone is hypnotized and then presented with words on a screen that say “you see a leafy tree in front of you” which triggers a full blown hallucination of a leafy tree. I think it’s possible that even though the words on the screen trigger a visual mental representation of a leafy tree, the person isn’t aware of the words on the screen.

    To marshal these remarks in the service of a question: How much do you think your own intuitions about the painting cases depends on property-sharing between representation and represented?

  14. Robert Lurz says:

    Hey Pete,

    Good questions. You write:

    imagine that someone is hypnotized and then presented with words on a screen that say “you see a leafy tree in front of you” which triggers a full blown hallucination of a leafy tree. I think it’s possible that even though the words on the screen trigger a visual mental representation of a leafy tree, the person isn’t aware of the words on the screen.

    Reply:

    I’m not sure why not. People who suffer from synesthesia are discribed as having color experiences upon hearing sounds, even though the sounds they hear have little (if any) properties in common with the colors they experience.

    You don’t mention whether the words “presented” to the subject on the screen are noticed and, thereby, reported by the subject, or whether they were “presented’ to the subject at some subliminal level, say by masking them. If the former, then my point above about the synesthetic remains. If the latter, then I don’t know why we wouldn’t say of the subject what we say of blindsight or subliminal-perception subjects — namely, that he is visual aware (sees) the words on the screen but not at a conscious level.

  15. Pete Mandik says:

    Hi Robert,

    I’m losing track of who should have the burden of proof here regarding whether the subliminal perception of the words on the screen counts as awareness or not. I suppose this depends on what the strength of your main claim is supposed to be. If your main claim is supposed to necessarily be true, then I would think you would need to rule out the possibility that the subliminal access to the screen isn’t an instance of consciousness of the screen. If, however, your claim is supposed to be possibly true (a plausible model), then you wouldn’t have to rule out that possibility.

    However, one thing I think you would need to guard against is that by combining the view that subliminal perception counts as a kind of transitive consciousness with the thesis that consciousness of a representation’s content satisfies the transitivity principle then it looks like that subliminal perceptual states are conscious states. Also, I suppose, this stuff would need to be spelled out in such a way that not all mental representations turn out to be conscious.