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Workshop "Illusionism as a theory of consciousness"

May 25, 2018

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This workshop is organized with the support of the LABEX IEC (DEC-ENS, program “New Ideas in the Philosophy of Mind and Language”) and the Institut Jean Nicod (IJN).

Location : salle de réunion, Pavillon Jardin, Institut Jean Nicod, 29, rue d’Ulm, 75005 Paris

Time : 10:00 – 19 :00
 

Contact : François Kammerer (IJN, ENS, PSL) : kammerer.francois@gmail.com

 

Programme :

10 – 11:20 : Liz Irvine (Cardiff University) : Motivating eliminativism about consciousness

11:30 – 12:50 : François Kammerer (Institut Jean Nicod/ENS/PSL) : Consciousness does not existdoes that mean nothing matters ?

Lunch

14:30 – 15:50 : Anna Giustina (Institut Jean Nicod/ENS/PSL) : No Illusion in Primitive Introspection

16:00 – 17:20 : Andrew Lee (Institut Jean Nicod/NYU) : Radical Introspective Error

17:30 – 18:50 : Keith Frankish (University of Crete/University of Sheffield) : What Kind of Illusion is the Illusion of Phenomenal Consciousness ?

 

Abstracts

Keith Frankish (University of Crete/University of Sheffield) : What Kind of Illusion is the Illusion of Phenomenal Consciousness ?

Illusionism comprises positive and negative claims. The negative claim is that experiences do not have phenomenal properties (subjective feels, what-it-is-likenesses, qualia, diet qualia, etc.). The positive claim is that experiences seem to have phenomenal propertiesthat we are under a powerful introspective illusion of phenomenality. This talk will address the positive side of the doctrine. The challenge here is to explain exactly how, why, and in what sense phenomenal properties seem to exist (‘the illusion problem’), and why this illusion is so powerful (what Kammerer calls ‘the illusion meta-problem’). I shall not argue for a specific answer but concentrate instead on mapping out the theoretical options. I shall begin by identifying some constraints on a positive illusionist theory, and then describe various axes along which such theories may vary (some of which mirror differences among realist theories). These include : state type (thought, perception, hybrid) ; mode (actual vs dispositional) ; object (external vs internal, qualities vs relations, upstream vs downstream) ; content type (recognitional, demonstrative, descriptive) ; accuracy (positive vs negative misrepresentation), and function (adaptive vs nonadaptive). Combining different positions on these axes generates a wide number of theoretical options, and I shall briefly indicate the strengths and weaknesses of some of them.

 

Anna Giustina (Institut Jean Nicod/ENS/PSL) : No Illusion in Primitive Introspection

Illusionists maintain that phenomenal consciousness is an illusion, due to functioning of our introspective mechanisms. In this talk I argue, contra illusionists, that there is a kind of introspection, what I call primitive introspection, which cannot output illusory representations. Not only primitive introspection is not illusory : it enables a complete and perfect grasp of the phenomenology of our current experience (in a sense, it is infallible). First, I provide some motivation for being suspicious about the chances of success of the illusionist strategy. Illusionists maintain that the illusion of phenomenal consciousness is created by our introspective representations : introspection represents some physical, non-phenomenal properties (what Frankish 2016 calls ‘quasi-phenomenal properties’) as being phenomenal. For their theory to be compelling, illusionists must spell out what the content of such introspective representation is. By considering a number of options, I show that that is a harder task than illusionists may hope. Moreover, on any available account of the illusory introspective representation, the theory requires subjects to deploy some concepts every time they introspect. I argue that this is implausible. Indeed, there is a kind of introspection, i.e. primitive introspection, that does not involve the application of any concept. I show that the potential cases of introspective illusions which are brought in support of the illusionist theory do not concern primitive introspection. Finally, I show that there is a sense in which primitive introspection is even infallible.

 

Liz Irvine (Cardiff University) : Motivating eliminativism about consciousness

I will start this talk by providing a short survey of ways to motivate different forms of eliminativism about different aspects of consciousness, including recent work on illusionism. I will use this to evaluate the commitments of my own eliminativist view (Irvine 2012) with respect to phenomenal consciousness in particular.

 

François Kammerer (Institut Jean Nicod/ENS/PSL) : Consciousness does not exist – does that mean nothing matters ?

Some people suspect that illusionism regarding phenomenal consciousness has radical consequences concerning what matters and what does not. They think that, if there is no phenomenal consciousness, then some things we thought matter do not really matter (or not in the same way), or maybe even that nothing matters at all.

I will (1) try and clarify why illusionism could be thought to have such consequences, (2) map the options for the illusionist who wants to avoid such consequences, (3) point to an important worry for most of these options.

  

Andrew Lee (Institut Jean Nicod/NYU) : Radical Introspective Error

Could you be radically mistaken about the phenomenal character of your current experience ? This talk examines the possibility of radical introspective error, and in doing so develops a picture of the epistemology of experience. Amongst other things, I will argue that radical introspective error is possible, that no phenomenal judgments are both infallible and epistemologically interesting, that introspective judgments are immune to a kind of error that perceptual judgments are susceptible to, and that we are directly acquainted with our own experiences. Along the way, I will explain why there is an asymmetry between skepticism about the external world and skepticism about one’s current experience, develop an account of the nature and limits of introspective error, discuss similarities between introspective error and mathematical error, and clarify the debate between realism and illusionism about consciousness.

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