Institut Jean Nicod

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Workshop : Phenomenal concepts

Le 16 Juin 2014


Ecole normale supérieure 29, rue d'Ulm 75005 Paris - Bibliothèque des sciences expérimentales, Salle Haüy.
Dans la limite des places disponibles

Organisation : Stéphane Lemaire (IJN et Université de Rennes1) et Filipe Drapeau-Viera-Contim (Université de Rennes1).


Martina Fürst (University of Graz),
Modes of presentation and phenomenal concepts

Résumé :
The phenomenal concept strategy (PCS) aims at explaining anti-physicalist intuitions by highlighting the particularities of phenomenal concepts—their conceptual isolation and their special cognitive role. Proponents of the PCS point to different features of phenomenal concepts to provide an explanation of these particularities. Some accounts have it that phenomenal concepts are analogous to demonstrative concepts, some focus on their special vehicle, and others on their special mode of presentation.
In this talk, I argue that phenomenal concepts can fulfill their cognitive role only if they are necessarily tied to a specific phenomenal mode of presentation. I argue for this claim via a reductio: I start by developing scenarios that are conceivable if a contingency in the relation of a phenomenal concept and its mode of presentation is allowed. These scenarios will turn out to be absurd ones. Next, I will show that the transparency-thesis motivates an analogy between phenomenal and perceptual concepts. Thus, I will construe analogous scenarios involving perceptual concepts. Notably, the latter scenarios will not give rise to the same problem as the ones involving phenomenal concepts.
The outcome of my analysis will be twofold: First, an adequate account of phenomenal concepts has to posit a necessary link between a phenomenal concept and its phenomenal mode of presentation. Second, by considering the transparency thesis and perceptual concepts, I will also provide an explanation as to why some philosophers fail to recognize the importance of the mode of presentation involved in phenomenal concepts.

11h15-11h30 Pause

Emile Thalabard (Université Paris4-Sorbonne),
Our grasp on the intrinsic properties of experience

Résumé :
During the 80‘s and the 90‘s, much of the debate on qualia has focused on their alleged intrinsic nature and the so-called ‘transparency’ thesis, according to which, upon introspection, we never become directly aware of these intrinsic features of experience. Levine has stressed how discussing the nature of qualia faces one with an uncomfortable dilemma. Although recent discussions have partly left aside this question, I wish to examine some of the metaphysical consequences of attention-dependent theories of consciousness, identifying consciousness to access or mere accessibility to mental representations, such as Prinz’s AIR theory or Dehaene’s Global Workspace Model. I will assess how to understand the transparency thesis in light of these approaches to consciousness, and examine how to construe phenomenal properties in these attentional understandings of consciousness. Ultimately, I will show how an attentional model of consciousness allows for an intrinsic residue, although preserving a strong transparency thesis.


Pascal Ludwig (Université de Paris4-Sorbonne),
How can we think about phenomenal properties?

In a physicalist framework, the phenomenal properties of our conscious experiences should be physical properties, presumably neural properties of a certain sort. Let us assume that phenomenal knowledge exists, that is, let us assume that human beings are able to gain information about the phenomenal properties that some of their mental states instantiate, and let us assume a physicalist framework. It is not clear at all, under such assumptions, how phenomenal knowledge is even possible: we certainly do not perceive the instantiations of phenomenal properties in the brain; so how do we come to know them? In this paper, I will address this Kantian question, and I will compare the answers that can be given to it. I will claim that we come to know the phenomenal properties of our experiences in an indirect way, and I will examine the consequences of this claim on a theory of phenomenal concepts.

15h30-15h45 Pause

François Kammerer (Université de Paris4-Sorbonne),
Phenomenal concepts are epistemological concepts – and why this explains anti-physicalist intuitions.

Résumé :
The Phenomenal Concept Strategy (PCS) is a popular strategy used to support physicalism in the realm of conscious experience. It seeks to account for anti-physicalist intuitions but uses the ways in which we think about conscious experiences to explain these intuitions in a physicalist framework, without any appeal to ontological dualism. According to the PCS, anti-physicalist intuitions are a mere by-product of phenomenal concepts: they arise in virtue of some specific features of those concepts, and do not indicate anything real about the nature of conscious experience.
Current versions of the PCS face at least two serious problems. First, even if they can account for certain aspects of anti-physicalist intuitions, some people argued that they are unable to explain the core of these intuitions, which is the “puzzling” and “gappy” character of psycho-physical identities. Second, they seem unable to account for the fact that our grasp of phenomenal properties is both determinate and cognitively significant.
My aim here is to present a new version of the PCS, which will be able to solve these problems. In my conception, phenomenal concepts are epistemological concepts: they are a kind of concepts of justification. More precisely, they present their referents (phenomenal properties) as endowing the states they inhere in with some very specific justificatory powers. But those justificatory powers are thought about in such a way that we can’t ascribe them to anything physical (or, more generally, to anything objective).This explains why anti-physicalist intuitions arise about phenomenal properties, while solving the two problems aforementioned.

17h-17h15 Pause

David Papineau (King’s College London),
The Minimal Phenomenal Concept Strategy

Résumé :
Many critics of the 'phenomenal concept strategy' attribute more features to phenomenal concepts than the strategy needs. I shall show that when phenomenal concepts are shorn of these features, the strategy is no longer open to a range of standard criticisms.



La journée est financée par la MSHB (maison des sciences de l’homme de Bretagne), sur le programme :
Le désir : construire une approche interdisciplinaire.