Some Remarks on Phenomenal Knowledge

In this and the next two posts in the Transcending Zombies series, I defend the first premise of the central argument:

P1. If I know that I am not a zombie, then phenomenal character is (a certain kind of) conceptualized egocentric content.

P1 makes a relatively strong claim and it will help in appreciating it to begin by discussing some related weaker claims.

First, consider the relatively non-controversial claim schema, Schema K, that for any knower, s, any individual x, and any property P,

S knows that Px –> (s believes that Px & Px).

It is a relatively widespread view that it is a requirement on knowing that P that one believes it and that the belief be true. Schema K encodes this widespread view as it applies to singular knowledge, singular belief, and singular truth—knowledge, belief, and truth as it pertains to singular items e.g., knowing, believing, and it being true that Jones jogs.

Focusing on the example, Jones jogs, an instance of the schema would be

Smith knows that Jones jogs –> (Smith believes that Jones jogs & Jones jogs).

Unpacking this further, we may spell out what Smith’s singular belief amounts to by saying that it involves Smith’s having a concept of jogging, applying that concept to Jones and thus, in addition to having a general representation of jogging, Smith has a singular representation of Jones.

It will help to appreciate the thrust of P1 by seeing how far we will fall short of P1 by simply plugging things into Schema K. Consider as one such approximation, K*:

Smith knows that Smith has qualia –> (Smith believes that Smith has qualia & Smith has qualia)

There are three key ways in which K* falls short of capturing the thrust of P1. The first is that it does insufficient justice to the concepts that Smith must bring to bear on any particular occasion of knowing that he has qualia. The second is that K* insufficiently captures the egocentric nature of phenomenal knowledge. The third is that K* leaves out a crucial additional requirement on phenomenal knowledge, namely the identity of the having of the relevant representations and their being true. I unpack these three further immediately below.

In regards to the first point, consider, for example, that the limits of George’s conceptual repertoire limit what George can know about rocks. If George lacks the concept of being igneous, then he cannot know of any rock that it is igneous. This is not to say that George is incapable of learning that some rocks are igneous. This is instead to say that he could not do so without acquiring at that or some prior time the concept of being igneous.

On any particular occasion in which George knows that there is a rock in the room, there will be some set of properties of the rock that he will have concepts for. There may even be occasions in which the property and corresponding concept are simply that of being a rock. Things are close but not exactly parallel when we turn to George’s knowledge of his own occurrent conscious states. While there must be some set of phenomenal properties and a corresponding set of concepts, it simply fails to do justice to the phenomenology of phenomenal knowledge to say that the relevant phenomenal property and corresponding concept are simply that of being phenomenal. To sum up, on any particular occasion in which one is certain of currently having phenomenally conscious states, there is some specific set of qualia and some specific set of corresponding concepts brought to bear. The jointly applied concepts accurately represent the qualia present. The certainty in question, then, rules out the qualia fading, going absent, being inverted, or going dancing.

In the next post I discuss the second key way in which K* falls short of capturing P1.
Previous Posts:
1. Introducing Transcending Zombies
2. Anti-Skeptical Maneuvers
3. I Know I’m Not a Zombie

4 Responses to “Some Remarks on Phenomenal Knowledge”

  1. Josh Weisberg says:

    >To sum up, on any particular occasion in which one is certain of currently having phenomenally conscious states, there is some specific set of qualia and some specific set of corresponding concepts brought to bear.

    How tight does the correspondence have to be? If I am having qualia of the distinctive crimson of Harvard and I have the apply the concept RED, is that good enough?

    What about “comparative” concepts, like SLIGHTLY DARKER THAN FIRE TRUCK RED? Or MORE LIKE PURPLE THAN GREEN, MORE LIKE ORANGE THAN BLUE, etc. (maybe all concatenated into one big comparative concept)?

    I take it you’re going to fight off “pure” demonstrative accounts, which trivially meet the requirement. THAT ONE, for example, as Johnny McCain put it. Or Loar’s “recognitional concepts.”

    One other thing–I’m not sure how the certainty in question rules out INTER-subjective inversion (or if it’s meant to). Intrapersonal, maybe…

  2. Pete Mandik says:

    Hey Josh.

    The correspondence has to be super-tight. If the concept is just RED then that’s what the quale’s going to be like. If the quale’s going to be Harvard crimson, the the concept brought to bear has to be HARVARD CRIMSON. I’ll have more to say about this a little later in the series, including a relatively detailed refutation of the Raffman stuff.

    I’m happy to let comparative concepts do a lot of the work, but I’m no fan of either so-called demonstrative concepts or so-called recognitional concepts.

    One way to put my view here is that I agree with Rosenthal on the conceptual constituency of what-it’s-like-ness (but disagree on whether you can give a first-order account of state consciousness).

    Re: inter- vs. intra, I don’t have a lot specifically to say about that in the current draft, but I probably should address it further. The reductive base is accessible third-personally, so there’ll be no possibility, ultimately, that my physical doppleganger will be a phenomenal invert.

  3. [...] 1. Introducing Transcending Zombies 2. Anti-Skeptical Maneuvers 3. I Know I’m Not a Zombie 4. Some Remarks on Phenomenal Knowledge 5. The Egocentricity of Phenomenal Knowledge 6. The Knowing and the Known 7. My Physical Properties [...]

  4. [...] 1. Introducing Transcending Zombies 2. Anti-Skeptical Maneuvers 3. I Know I’m Not a Zombie 4. Some Remarks on Phenomenal Knowledge 5. The Egocentricity of Phenomenal Knowledge 6. The Knowing and the Known 7. My Physical Properties [...]