Philosophical Studies

, Volume 166, Issue 2, pp 349–361 | Cite as

Function and feeling machines: a defense of the philosophical conception of subjective experience



Philosophers of mind typically group experiential states together and distinguish these from intentional states on the basis of their purportedly obvious phenomenal character. Sytsma and Machery (Phil Stud 151(2): 299–327, 2010) challenge this dichotomy by presenting evidence that non-philosophers do not classify subjective experiences relative to a state’s phenomenological character, but rather by its valence. However we argue that S&M’s results do not speak to folk beliefs about the nature of experiential states, but rather to folk beliefs about the entity to which those experiential states are attributed. In two experiments, we demonstrate that ordinary attributions of subjective experiences (of smell and felt emotions) to a simple robot are not sensitive to valence, but instead respond to functional assumptions about the entity to which the states are (or are not) attributed.


Philosophy of mind Phenomenal consciousness Subjective experience Experimental philosophy Mental state attribution Function 

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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.The City University of New York-Graduate CenterNew YorkUSA
  2. 2.Lawrence UniversityAppletonUSA

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