My Physical Properties Fix My Conceptualized Contents




Physically fixed.

In this and the next two posts on the Transcending Zombies argument, I discuss Premise 4 (My Physical Properties Fix My Conceptualized and Egocentric Contents). In the current post, I concentrate on conceptualized contents.

Prima facie, it looks like physical similarity would entail conceptual similarity, that my physical doppelganger is my conceptual doppelganger. He and I have all of the same sorting and discriminatory abilities. We have all the same problem-solving capabilities. We can process all of the same information and do so in virtue of the same information-processing computational/functional architecture. We would perform exactly as well in conversation. On the face of it, such similarities entail conceptual similarity.

While the nature of concepts is far from a settled matter we can sketch some details about them that help to further show that my physical doppelganger would be my conceptual doppelganger.

First, having a concept is having a representation that is general, abstract, or allocentric. Second, concepts are mental dispositions (or the categorical bases thereof). Concepts are abeyant (as opposed to occurrent) representations that allow the possessor to satisfy the re-identifiability criterion, the requirement on possessing concept C that the possessor is able to re-identify objects falling under C as such. Thus, George has the concept of dogs only if George is able to identify dogs as such on multiple occasions.

Third, concepts are endogenously triggerable (Weiskopf, 2007); their deployment is not strictly stimulus-bound or conditioned to current environmental conditions but may be deployed in various “off-line” mental processes such as inference and imagination.

We may summarize these three features by saying that concepts are allocentric, abeyant, endogenously triggerable representations. It seems clear that my physical doppleganger would duplicate all of my allocentric, abeyant, endogenously triggerable representations.

It is worth mentioning that the current argument does not depend on construing my physical doppelganger as being only intrinsically similar, we may allow various environmental and historical similarities as well. Thus the argument in this paper is consistent with semantic externalism. This is not to say, however, that I’m a great fan of semantic externalism. The key to note about what counts as my physical doppelganger is that we are careful to not simply assume phenomenal similarity.

There should be no objection to the claim that physical properties fix my concepts since neither possessing nor applying a concept by itself entails phenomenal consciousness. Regarding possession, I have been in possession of the concept of cats for a long time, including all day today. However, as I look up and see my cat for the first time today, this is the first time today that my cat concept has had anything to do with my conscious experience. Regarding application, arguably, blind-sight patients who identify objects in their blind field under forced-choice guessing conditions (Weiskrantz, 1996) are applying concepts without thereby having phenomenally conscious experiences of the objects thereby identified.

Some, like Chalmers (2003), may object that fixing my physical properties does not fix all of my concepts, since phenomenal character is non-physical and there are some concepts, so-called direct phenomenal concepts, which can be possessed only if one has had or is having a state with phenomenal character. My main complaint against this response is that I don’t think there are such concepts as concepts one can only have if one has had or is having a state with phenomenal character. I address this issue at greater elsewhere (Mandik, 2009b). One brief point to make here, though, is that really direct phenomenal concepts, concepts had only while one is currently having a state with phenomenal character seem not to be concepts at all for their violation of both the re-identifiability criterion and the criterion of endogenous triggering (Prinz 2007 pp.207-208 makes a similar point).

Previous Posts:
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

12 Responses to “My Physical Properties Fix My Conceptualized Contents”

  1. Jeremy says:

    You write: “I don’t think there are such concepts as concepts one can only have if one has had or is having a state with phenomenal character.” You are then committed to the claim that the phenomenal concept that Mary acquires upon seeing red could have been acquired without her having had a red phenomenal experience. How might this have happen?

    Secondly, I don’t understand the motivation for the claim you make in the last sentence. Wouldn’t such concepts allow me to re-identify my occurent phenomenal states of the kind to which they refer, even if those very states are needed for the concept to be triggered? And, with respect to endogenous triggering, many people have thought that phenomenal imagination requires having phenomenal states. (E.g. “What is it like to be a bat” footnote 11). What exactly are the problems that are supposed to arise?

    Lastly, I don’t think arguments about whether phenomenal concepts are really CONCEPTS amount to anything. It doesn’t matter what we call them; what matters is whether they correspond to the actual mental objects that allow us to entertain propositions about phenomenal states, and to rationally operate on those propositions. You arguments, a few posts back, making the case for phenomenal knowledge being conceptualized did not appeal to the special criteria for concept-hood that you invoke in this post. Therefore, it seems to me inappropriate to invoke these criteria in order to reject particular accounts of phenomenal concepts. Am I missing a set in the argument?

  2. Jeremy says:

    You write: “I don’t think there are such concepts as concepts one can only have if one has had or is having a state with phenomenal character.” You are then committed to the claim that the phenomenal concept that Mary acquires upon seeing red could have been acquired without her having had a red phenomenal experience. How might this have happen?

    Secondly, I don’t understand the motivation for the claim you make in the last sentence. Wouldn’t such concepts allow me to re-identify my occurent phenomenal states of the kind to which they refer, even if those very states are needed for the concept to be triggered? And, with respect to endogenous triggering, many people have thought that phenomenal imagination requires having phenomenal states. (E.g. “What is it like to be a bat” footnote 11). What exactly are the problems that are supposed to arise?

    Lastly, I don’t think arguments about whether phenomenal concepts are really CONCEPTS amount to anything. It doesn’t matter what we call them; what matters is whether they correspond to the actual mental objects that allow us to entertain propositions about phenomenal states, and to rationally operate on those propositions. You arguments, a few posts back, making the case for phenomenal knowledge being conceptualized did not appeal to the special criteria for concept-hood that you invoke in this post. Therefore, it seems to me inappropriate to invoke these criteria in order to reject particular accounts of phenomenal concepts. Am I missing a set in the argument?

  3. Jeremy says:

    *YOUR arguments…
    *a STEP in the argument

  4. John says:

    “Thus, George has the concept of dogs only if George is able to identify dogs as such on multiple occasions. ”

    This “concept” is a mixture of the phenomenal and the procedural.

    Given your interest in zombies you might be interested in http://newempiricism.blogspot.com/2009/01/progressive-replacement-of-brain.html

  5. Pete Mandik says:

    Jeremy,

    1. Yes, prerelease Mary can know what it’s like to see red. One way she might pull this off is detailed in my forthcoming Phil. Studies paper, ‘Swamp Mary’s Revenge’

    http://www.petemandik.com/philosophy/papers/swamp.pdf

    2.1. Suppose Smith has a red quale at t1, no red quale at t2, and a red quale again at t3. A really direct phen concept , R, of a red quale is possessed only while having a red quale. So Smith possesses no such concept at t2. I don’t see how R can serve, then, as a basis for what happens at t3 to be a re-identification. If I meet you, get amnesia, then meet you again, I re-meet you, but I don’t re-identify you. I don’t recognize you. (”Re-cognize”?)

    2.2. I also do not see how R can be endogenously triggerable. Maybe the story goes like this. I decide to imagine an apple. My apple concept, A, which has neither R nor a red quale as a constituent, is tokened. Then A causes R to be tokened? Why R? Or maybe the story goes like this. An intention to imagine a red quale rises up in my will. The intention has neither R nor a red quale as a consitituent. But it triggers R. But how does it do that? How do I know which quale to trigger? The story can’t go like this: R just happens. How is that endogenous triggering? It’s not triggered by anything endogenous. This is all very sketchy and needs way more work. But hopefully it helps convey the gist of where I want to go with it.

    3.1. I don’t think you missed a step. Maybe I was just insufficiently explicit. I think the argument that needs to be made goes something like this. Among the nec conditions on concept possession are re-id and end-trig. So-called phen concepts don’t meet these conditions. So, they aren’t concepts. I don’t see that it’s an objection that additional nec conditions are the enabling of thought and rational operation. Nor do I see that it’s an objection that the criteria weren’t mentioned earlier. So maybe you mean to suggest that I’m wrong about what the nec conditions are?

    3.2. Another line against so-called phenomenal concepts that impresses me is due to Tim Crane. Such concepts cannot be the basis for my truly thinking thoughts like “I am not now experiencing a red quale”. That’s a line perhaps worth mentioning in a future draft.

  6. [...] Brain Hammer Pete Mandik’s Intermittently Neurophilosophical Weblog « My Physical Properties Fix My Conceptualized Contents [...]

  7. Pete,

    In my neuronal model of the cognitive brain, a concept is not a part of our phenomenal experience until/unless it is projected into egocentric retinoid space as an image or as an inner phonological pattern (”inner speech”). See *The Cognitive Brain*, Ch. 3 “Learning, Imagery, Tokens, and Types”, p. 46, and Fig. 8 in “Space, Self, and the Theater of Consciousness”, *Consciousness and Cognition* (2007). Is this consistent with your take on the matter?

  8. Jeremy says:

    Thanks Pete!

    Re: 3.1

    Let me go along with the claim that PCs (understood according to the Chalmers(2003)/Papineau(2002)/Loar(1997, maybe?) picture) aren’t concepts at all. So what? In previous posts you argued that phenomenal knowledge had certain properties, properties that you referred to as constituting its being “conceptualized.” But in those discussions, it seems to me that what you actually established was that 1) whenever we think about a token of a phenomenal type we deploy a mental representation with that phenomenal type as its content, and 2) this mental representation is the kind of thing out of which thoughts are built, where thoughts are the mental objects that express propositions, and that these thoughts can be rationally operated on and be associated with propositional attitudes. It seems to me that these are the only conditions PCs should have to satisfy, and their not being full-blooded concepts would not seem to make them unable to satisfy them.

    Some of the examples you raised in your reply might show that we require more of our phenomenal concepts than what I just claimed. But this is a different dialectic from the one in the posts. That is, there are two possible dialectics:

    D1: The existence of phenomenal knowledge of requires there to be phenomenal concepts, and concepts have to behave in this and that way, so so phenomenal concepts must behave in this and that way.

    D2: The existence of phenomenal knowledge requires there to be mental representations of phenomenal states having certain properties A, B and C. Moreover, because of what we know about phenomenal re-identification, imagination, etc, these representations must also have properties D, E and F. In fact, something is a concept iff it has properties A-F. So our mental representations of phenomenal states are concepts.

    You officially adopt D1, but it seems to me that you should adopt D2 (or, put another way, the only way to succeed at D1 is to employ D2).

  9. Pete Mandik says:

    Thanks for the follow-up, Jeremy. I think I get it more, now.

  10. Pete Mandik says:

    Arnold, I think so. Are the projections from higher levels in an abstraction hierarchy back down into lower levels?

  11. Pete,

    I speak of forward and backward projections/chaining. I think this would correspond to [lower level] –> [higher level] –> [lower level]. For phenomenal experience, the relevant projection from the higher concept level to the lower phenomenal level would be to the egocentric space of the retinoid system. A simple example of this sequence is shown in Fig. 7 here:

    http://eprints.assc.caltech.edu/355/

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