Before continuing discussion of the reductionist/anti-reductionist dialectic from the previous post in this series, I want to turn to the second dialectic, the external world skeptic vs. the anti-skeptic. The first move in the dialectic is the skeptic’s move. According to the style of skeptical argument I want to focus on, the skeptic (1) identifies our evidence for the existence of an external world with the appearance of the external world and (2) asserts the separability of the appearance of the external world and the reality of the external world. In other words, the skeptical line under consideration is that all of our best evidence for the existence of the external world is consistent with the nonexistence of the external world: it may very well fail to exist in reality without anything appearing different than it already does.
The second move goes to the anti-skeptic and it involves denying the kind of slippage between appearance and reality supposed by the skeptic. The kind of anti-skeptic I’m interested in argues transcendentally by assuming that we do know that there’s an external world and so there must not be the kind of slippage postulated by the skeptic. Further, this anti-skeptic feels compelled to explain how this lack of slippage comes to be. Now, there are two ways for the anti-skeptic to go here, that is, two ways to fill the appearance-reality gap postulated by the skeptic. The first is a kind of idealism whereby so-called external objects are re-construed as constructs of antecedently understood appearances. The second is a kind of externalism whereby appearances are parasitic upon an antecedently existing external reality. On one kind of externalism—epistemological externalism—our justified beliefs about H2O depend for their being justified on certain relations to H2O. On another kind of externalism—semantic externalism—our justified beliefs about H2O depend for their being about H2O on certain relations to H2O.
At this point I would like to return to the first dialectic, for where we are leaving off in the second dialectic gives some indication of the kind of advice I wish to give to the reductionist. The advice is to emulate the kind of move that the anti-skeptic makes. In particular, I think the idealist version is more promising for the reductionist than the externalist version. I further develop my advice to the reductionist in the form of a transcendental argument that depends crucially on the sorts of knowledge claims concerning consciousness that, as crucial elements in the anti-reductionists’ epistemic gap arguments, the anti-reductionist will readily concede.
The argument that I will be developing in the remainder of this series goes as follows.
P1. If I know that I am not a zombie, then phenomenal character is (a certain kind of) conceptualized egocentric content.
P2. I know that I am not a zombie.
P3. Phenomenal character is (a certain kind of) conceptualized egocentric content.
P4. Fixing my physical properties fixes my conceptualized egocentric contents.
C. Fixing my physical properties fixes my phenomenal properties.
The next post in this series will begin to spell out defenses of the premises of this argument.
1. Introducing Transcending Zombies