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Philosophical Studies

, 147:273 | Cite as

Phenomenal character, phenomenal concepts, and externalism

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Abstract

A celebrated problem for representationalist theories of phenomenal character is that, given externalism about content, these theories lead to externalism about phenomenal character. While externalism about content is widely accepted, externalism about phenomenal character strikes many philosophers as wildly implausible. Even if internally identical individuals could have different thoughts, it is said, if one of them has a headache, or a tingly sensation, so must the other. In this paper, I argue that recent work on phenomenal concepts reveals that, contrary to appearances, this standard conjunction of externalism about content and internalism about phenomenal character is ultimately untenable on other models of phenomenal character as well, including even “qualia realism.” This would be significant for a number of reasons. The first is patent: it would undermine a primary objection to representationalism. The fact that representationalism is incompatible with the conjunction would be no serious problem for representationalism if no other plausible model of phenomenal character is compatible with it. The second is that the many philosophers who embrace the conjunction would be forced to abandon one of the two views; externalism would be true either of both content and phenomenal character, or of neither. Likewise, those philosophers who have taken a stance on only one of the two internalism/externalism debates would have to be seen as thereby committed to a particular stance on the other. The third reason stems from the fact that qualia realism typically goes hand in hand with internalism about phenomenal character. To the extent that it does, my argument would reveal that qualia realism is itself in tension with externalism about content. This would perhaps be the most surprising result of all.

Keywords

Externalism Internalism Phenomenal character Phenomenal quality Phenomenal concept Qualia Consciousness Representationalism Representationism Content externalism Content Introspection 

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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Philosophy, Cowell Faculty ServicesUniversity of California, Santa CruzSanta CruzUSA

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