Institut Jean Nicod

Accueil > Séminaires/Colloques > Archives > Séminaires > 2018-2019 > PaCS > Présentation




Paris Consciousness/Self-consciousness [PaCS] group




Institut Jean-Nicod, Pavillon Jardin, ENS 29 rue d’Ulm, 75005. Salle de réunion.

Contact : Uriah Kriegel




Past sessions 2018

9 janvier, 17h-19h : Uriah KRIEGEL (IJN), "The Value of Consciousness"


18 décembre, 16h-18h : Dorothea DEBUS (York/Konstanz), "The value of Mental Self-Regulation"


5 décembre, 13h-15h : Anna GIUSTINA (IJN), "Introspective knowledge by acquaintance"


Introspective knowledge by acquaintance is (roughly) knowledge we acquire just in virtue of being directly aware of our experiences. Differently from most contemporary acquaintance theorists, and similarly to Bertrand Russell, I think that knowledge by acquaintance is a sui generis kind of knowledge : it cannot be reduced to propositional knowledge. In this talk I argue that, although not propositional, knowledge by acquaintance is nonetheless epistemically significant. I propose that there are two main marks of epistemic significance : information acquisition and epistemic evaluability. I show that knowledge by acquaintance displays both marks. Along the way I also argue that knowledge by introspective acquaintance has a special epistemic property, what I call complete and perfect grasp—an epistemic property that, in a sense, is analogous to an epistemic property that has traditionally been attributed to some introspective propositional knowledge, namely, infallibility. I conclude that there are good reasons for thinking that knowledge by acquaintance is epistemically significant.


29 novembre, 16-18h : Takuya NIIKAWA (with Katsunori Miyahara, Satoshi Nishida, and Hiroaki Hamada), "Is binocular rivalry a perceptual phenomenon ?"


Binocular rivalry (BR) is widely used in modern neuroscience to explore the neural correlates of perceptual consciousness. However, few studies have addressed the subjective features of the experience (BR-experience). This study investigates the subjective features of BR-experience by using qualitative and quantitative methods. In particular, it critically examines the common assumption in consciousness research that binocular rivalry is a perceptual phenomenon. The qualitative method consists of a combination of three phenomenological approaches to conscious experience : front-loading phenomenology, phenomenological interview, and the phenomenological method in qualitative psychology. The quantitative method consists of a statistical analysis of participant responses to a questionnaire designed to explore subjective features of BR-experience. Overall, the results spoke against the perceptual nature of binocular rivalry. In particular, it was strongly suggested that BR-experience are radically different from ordinary perception in exhibiting distinctive features, such as those we call temporal indeterminacy, diachronic spatial indeterminacy and attentional contingency. We conclude by discussing the implications of these results for the usefulness of binocular rivalry for neuroscience of consciousness.


26 novembre, 16h-18h : Lorenza D’ANGELO (Syracuse), "The Experience of Non-Sensory Pleasure"


Conscious sensory perception is a paradigmatic and relatively well-understood type of conscious experience. Thus, a common theoretical approach in philosophy of mind seeks to reduce all conscious experience to the senses, including all experience of pleasure and pain. I argue that this approach to consciousness is mistaken ; it cannot do justice to the variety and complexity of human experience. To illustrate, I discuss two kinds of non-sensory pleasure and pain : the emotional and the aesthetic. I review some examples of emotional and aesthetic algedonic experience, and I explain why it cannot be reduced merely to the sensory.


19 novembre, 16h-18h : Bénédicte VEILLET (Michigan-Flint), "Rethinking Epistemic Arguments"


12 novembre, 16h-18h : Donnchadh O CONAILL (Fribourg), "Subjectivity and Non-Objectifying Awareness"


A long tradition holds that each subject is necessarily aware of her experiences as she has them (I term this the subject’s inner awareness). Inner awareness is often said to constitute the subjectivity of our experiences, their distinctively first-personal character. An important line of thought found in phenomenological thinkers such as Husserl and Sartre holds that inner awareness is non-objectifying : one’s experiences “are not given as objects ; they are not something we observe from a distance and they do not stand opposite us” (Zahavi 2005, 64). The idea of non-objectifying awareness is often criticised as obscure. What is needed is a positive account of what it is for awareness to be non-objectifying. To provide such an account, I appeal to P.F. Strawson’s work on feature-placing statements (1959). These are statements where the distinction between universals and particulars does not apply, e.g., ‘Now it is snowing’ or ‘There is water here’. In contrast, a non-feature-placing statement such as ‘This is a cat’ involves a distinction between a universal term (‘cat’) and the particular instance picked out in the statement. I suggest that inner awareness is a feature-placing form of awareness : it does not involve a distinction between universals and particulars. In inner awareness one is aware of one’s experiences, which are particular events or episodes, but one is not aware of them as particulars. For example, the content of one’s inner awareness might be ‘Now it is painful’, as opposed to ‘This is an experience of pain’. This allows us to understand how inner awareness can be non-objectifying. In inner awareness, one`s experiences are not presented as discrete bounded particulars, and so they do not appear to us in the way that objects of perception or thought usually do.


13 septembre, 16h-18h : Somogy VARGA (Memphis), "High-level perception and perceptual mindreading"


According to what we could call the Perceptual Account of Mindreading (PA), appropriately endowed observers are sometimes able to visually perceive that someone is angry. In this talk, I first explore the merits and limitations of the main strategies that have been employed to defend PA. Subsequently, I present and defend a version of PA, according to which some mental properties can be observational properties.


17 septembre, 16h-18h : Jordi FERNANDEZ (Adelaide), "The functionalist theory of memory"


What is to remember something, as opposed to imagining it, perceiving it, or introspecting it ? First, I will discuss the two main existing conceptions of the conditions that a mental state must satisfy to count as an episode of remembering. The first of these approaches is backward-looking. It puts forward conditions that strictly concern the aetiology of the mental state. I will argue that the conditions offered by the backward-looking approach are both too strong and too weak : They rule out mental states which, intuitively, count as memories while including mental states which, intuitively, do not qualify as memories. The second approach is forward-looking. It puts forward conditions that only concern the use that the subject makes of the mental state while forming beliefs about their own life. I will argue that the conditions proposed by the forward-looking approach are both too weak and too strong as well. However, the discussion of the two approaches will allow us to extract some helpful lessons on the constraints that any proposal about the nature of remembering should respect. I will draw on the literature on functionalism to offer an alternative approach. I will argue that this approach can, on the one hand, accommodate as memories those mental states which indicate that the backward-looking approach and the forward-looking approach are too strict while, on the other hand, excluding those mental states which suggest that the two alternative approaches are too permissive. Accordingly, I will conclude that construing memory along functionalist lines is the most satisfactory approach to the nature of remembering.


24 septembre, 16h-18h : Jordi FERNANDEZ (Adelaide), "The ownership of memories"


Is there such a thing as experiencing a memory as one’s own ? I will argue that the phenomenon of disowned memory gives us a reason to believe that memories do carry a sense of mineness, or an experience of ownership. I challenge a proposal about the nature of this experience, according to which the experience of a memory as one’s own is the feeling of being identical with the witness of the remembered scene, and I put forward an alternative proposal. According to the alternative proposal, the experience of a memory as one’s own is the experience of the memory as matching the past. I argue that the alternative proposal makes better sense of the available reports of disowned memory. I conclude by offering some considerations on how the proposed account of the nature of the experience of memory ownership could accommodate other cases of disowned conscious states.




Past sessions

6 novembre, 16-18h : Antonin BROI (Sorbonne), "Revelation and Phenomenal Relations"

It is usually accepted that low-level sensory phenomenal properties, like phenomenal red, loudness, or brightness, stand in relation of similarity and quantity. Furthermore, these similarity and quantitative relations are taken to be internal, that is, to supervene on their relata. I show that this leads to a difficult position for the many philosophers who endorse Revelation, the claim that we are presented with the essence of phenomenal properties.

16 novembre, 16-18h : Takuya NIIKAWA, "Radical Naive Realism"


7 decembre, 16-18h : Tobias Schlicht (Bochum), "On the Search for the Neural Correlates of Consciousness"

Many philosophers and scientists think that explaining consciousness is an empirical problem left for neuroscientists rather than philosophers. This paper demonstrates the limitations of the primary research program in cognitive neuroscience : finding the neural correlate of consciousness (NCC) as the minimal set of brain processes sufficient for a particular percept. The main claim is that it is doubtful that the right kind of correlations will ever be obtained because the foregoing conceptual decisions regarding the relations between consciousness, attention, report, and other cognitive functions will determine the interpretation of the correlation data that can be obtained. This problem is illustrated by formulating a dilemma : If researchers rely on subjective reports then the NCC will most likely be confounded with the neural mechanism for cognitive functions because reports presuppose cognitive access. But if researchers bypass reports and rely on other objective behavioral data such as automatic eye reflexes, then the NCC will most likely be confounded with neural mechanisms underlying unconscious processes. So there does not seem to be a way of making sure to have isolated the neural correlate of conscious experience.


11 décembre, 16-18h : Enrico Terrone (Torino/IJN), "How We See Things in Pictures : An Attitudinal Approach to Seeing-in"

According to Richard Wollheim, in looking at a picture we enjoy not only a perceptual experience of the picture’s surface but also a perceptual experience of the things depicted. Yet, as pointed out by Malcom Budd and Robert Hopkins, Wollheim only provides a negative account of the latter experience. Wollheim argues that this experience is not a form of standard visual representation, but he does not specifies what makes this experience, as such, special. I will exploit Franz Brentano’s distinction between the content and the attitude of a mental state in order to propose a positive account of how we see things in pictures. I will argue that the specificity of the perceptual experience of the things depicted lies in the attitude of this experience.


11 janvier, 16-18h : Raphaël KÜNSTLER (Toulouse/IJN), "Introspective Social Knowledge"

Philosophers of social sciences disagree whether interpretation is a legitimate method in social inquiries. Can the naturalization of epistemology settle this dispute ? If social sciences rely on interpretive methods, the naturalization of social sciences depends on the naturalization of hermeneutics. According to Mantzavinos (2015), it is possible to use the findings of cognitive psychology in order to accomplish such naturalization. Following this lead, Alvin Goldman’s simulationism is an apt framework to analyze the production of social knowledge. However, the simulationist prediction of the reliability of interpretative processes relies on the assumption that there is a certain familiarity between the inquirer and its target. Such assumption is not legitimate in most social inquiries. Therefore, simulationism entails that the interpretivist method should be abandoned. Is there a way to avoid such drastic conclusion ? What part of the simulationist machinery should be changed in order to avoid skepticism ? The simulationist model of interpretation crucially involves introspective and meta-representational processes. I claim that if introspection is conceived as an inquiry, and not only as a direct access to one’s state of mind, the project of a naturalistic foundation of interpretative social knowledge can be saved.


29 janvier, 16-18h : Tricia Magalotti (IJN), "A Consequentialist Account of Evidential Fit"

Process reliabilism about epistemic justification states that a subject’s belief that p is justified iff it was formed using a process that reliably produces true beliefs. Evidentialism about epistemic justification (or a version of it) states that whether a subject was justified in believing p depends on whether that subject formed the belief on the basis of evidence that supports p. Both reliabilism and evidentialism capture certain intuitive features of epistemic justification. For this reason, several epistemologists have been motivated to adopt hybrid versions of evidentialism and reliabilism. This talk will present a novel hybrid view of evidentialism and reliabilism. I will argue that this view improves in certain ways upon existing views in the literature and, specifically, upon Comesaña’s Evidentialist Reliabilism.


5 février, 16-18h : Andrew Lee (NYU), "First-Personal Technology"

First-personal technology is technology that enhances first-personal investigation of experience. This talk will provide a philosophical analysis of first-personal technology. I’ll discuss how we could develop first-personal technology to control and observe experiences, just as we have developed third-personal technology to control and observe the physical world. I’ll consider nascent examples of first-personal technologies, address the philosophical challenges that arise in developing and employing such technology, and discuss why first-personal technology could transform the science of consciousness.


8 février, 16-18h : Uriah Kriegel (IJN), "Introspective Awareness, Introspective Acquaintance, Introspective Revelation, and Introspective Insight"

In this talk, I distinguish four putative introspective phenomena of interest and formulate nine theses of interest about them. The weakest of these theses is that introspective awareness exists. The strongest is that introspective insight is indispensable for philosophical understanding of the world.


30 avril, 16h-18h : Benjamin Kozuch (University of Alabama), “A paucity of HOTs : Evaluating the neuroscientific evidence for higher-order theories of consciousness"

Higher-order theories of consciousness hypothesize perceptual states to be conscious when and only when they are represented by another mental state. Some higher-order theorists have recently appealed to neuroscientific data to support this theory, especially lesion evidence. This talk first investigates the question of what kinds of deficit of consciousness should result when a brain area that produces higher-order states is impaired, then argues that the lesion evidence to which higher-order theorists appeal fails to meet these predictions.


3 mai, 16h-18h : Sebastian Watzl (Oslo), "The Perception-Desire Distinction"


14 mai, 16-18h : François Kammerer (IJN), "Pain, pleasure and value in a world without consciousness"

Many people think that phenomenal states (and more particularly ​valenced phenomenal states, such as pain and pleasure) ground some important kind of value. For example, they think that our lives are valuable only because we are phenomenally conscious : were we to become phenomenal zombies, our lives would lose most, if not all of their value. They may also think that the instantiation of ​valenced ​phenomenal states, such as phenomenal pleasure or phenomenal pain, has some kind of intrinsic value (positive or negative), which is such that creatures able to enter these states (sentient creatures) hence possess some ​specific rights.​ ​
Such claims linking phenomenality to value are quite common, and maybe also quite intuitive. One may therefore wonder : what happens to the value of our lives, or to the rights of sentient creatures, if eliminativism regarding phenomenal consciousness is true – if there are no phenomenal states ? I will try to answer this question.


28 mai, 16-18h : Laurie Paul (UNC), "Reverse-engineering the Self"

A truly intelligent machine needs to be an intelligent agent in order to successfully think, perceive and act in a human world. We identify some key features of intelligent agency in functional terms, and use these features to explore ideas about how to reverse engineer the core (functional) structure needed for humanlike, intelligent agency, that is, how to reverse engineer the grounding structure of a humanlike self. Our approach brings together the "standard model" of an intelligent agent that is at the heart of both modern AI and leading computational models of human cognition with contemporary philosophical work on selves, intentional agency, indexicality, and the de se.
(Work done in collaboration with Tomer Ullman and Josh Tenenbaum.)


31 mai, 16h-18h : Benjamin Kozuch (University of Alabama), "A legion of lesions, or : How to neuroscientifically rout higher-order thought theory"

The higher-order thought theory of consciousness says that a mental state is conscious only when it is represented by another, certain kind of mental state. Were this theory true, there would exist area(s) in the brain such that, because they produce these higher-order states, they are necessary for the having of conscious states. This talk uses brain lesion evidence to argue that no such areas exist, anywhere in the brain.


7 juin, 16-18h : Géraldine Carranante, "Grounding Pluralism : Metaphysical foundations of the perception/cognition border(s)"

Pluralism with respect to the boundary between the class of perceptual states and the class of cognitive states has recently been defended by some philosophers (Beck, 2017 ; Phillips, 2017). Contrary to traditional Monism (’there is a unique border between perception and cognition’) and Eliminativism (’there is no border at all’), pluralism defends the idea that there are several equally good distinctions to draw between perception and cognition. This kind of classificatory pluralism is not new in other scientific domains, such as biology, and has already met with
resistance. In this talk, I will explore these different worries concerning pluralism. I will argue then (1) that the resistance to pluralism is due to a lack of good metaphysical grounding and (2) that Promiscuous Realism (Dupré, 1981) is a good metaphysical position to ground adequately pluralism with respect to mental classification.


14 juin, 16-18h : Claudia Passos-Ferreira (NYU), "Varieties of Phenomenology in Infants"

Two questions about infant consciousness are especially central. First : are infants conscious ? Second : what is infants’ conscious experience like ? In a previous work, I have addressed the first, arguing that newborn babies are conscious at birth and that it is possible to know something about what infants’ experiences are like. In this talk, I address the second, investigating the phenomenal structure of infant consciousness. Using Kriegel’s framework from The Varieties of Consciousness​ ​(2015), I explore whether infants have sensory phenomenology, cognitive phenomenology, imaginative phenomenology, emotional phenomenology, and agentive phenomenology.