Friday, January 15, 2010

Notes on "What is it like to be a phenomenologist?"

Notes on Jolley, K. D., & Watkins, M. (1998). What is it Like to be a Phenomenologist? The Philosophical Quarterly, 48(191), 204-209.

J&W might seem to be fellow travellers in my quest to ward off Raffman’s worries about conceptualism [link to my Color-Consciousness Conceptualism], but there are two related points that bother me about their account. The first is that they find themselves denying that, in relevant cases of judgment, judgments of distinctness can be made without differences in appearance. The second concerns their illustration of the first point (illustrations involving phenomenal sorites). When we think about the illustration in the right way, we come to see that they have not properly focused on the relevant class of judgments.

Their discussion of sorieties goes something like this. A series of chips placed side by side can be produced such that adjacent chips are indistinguishable shades, but chips at the beginning and end of the series are clearly distinguishable. As J&W describe these cases one might come to judge that adjecent chips are of different shades even though there is no difference in the appearance of the chips.

I question whether such judgments are relevant for the discussion of Raffman’s criticism of conceptualism. The sorites case seems to me to be importantly similar to the following case, a case that I take to be clearly irrelevant to the evaluation of Raffman’s case.

Suppose there are two shades that I judge to be different because I’ve watched over a black & white TV one of my color-sighted friends distinghish the shades. But this seems to clearly be irrelevant to the discussion of Raffman’s arguments. Perhaps the problem here is that the concepts I exercise in the TV case aren’t observational concepts (they are, in this case, deferential).

So what judgments are relevant to the evaluation of Raffman’s arguments? They seem to be the ones in which there clearly is an apparent difference in the color samples presented. For it is in these cases it is plausible that, at least in the synchronic conditions, there are different color-correlated contents in conscious experience.