Monday, May 31, 2010

The Myth of Determinate Phenomenology

This is Part 7 of the serialization of the long version of my paper, "Color-Consciousness Conceptualism," the short version of which appeared in the Second Annual Conference of Consciousness Online. This post contains section 7 of the paper.

7. Phenomenological Objections and Replies (Determinateness)
7.1. Raffman’s determinateness objection and my reply

Raffman (1995) presents an argument designed to block the sort of conceptualism that the Second Approximation exemplifies. Call Raffman’s supplement to the Diachronic Indistinguishability Argument the “Determinateness Argument.” In the Determinateness Argument, Raffman claims that it won’t do to say that our experience is only as determinate as we have determinate concepts for (we do have determinate concepts of the unique hues green, blue, red, and yellow), and merely determinable otherwise (we have only determinable concepts for non-unique hues like dark-reddish-orange). Raffman points out that there’s no introspectible difference between the ways in which unique and non-unique hues appear with respect to their ‘determinateness’ despite the radically different ways we have to conceptualize them. (Raffman 1995 pp. 301-302).

Raffman’s argument concerning determinateness seems to overlook a powerful resource available to the conceptualist. Raffman overlooks the possibility that the failure of seeming differences with respect to determinateness may simply be due to a failure to apply a concept of determinateness. Just as the conceptualist will model differences in apparent darkness in terms of the application of a relational concept of one color being darker than another, so may the conceptualist model differences in apparent determinateness in terms of the application of a relational concept of one hue or one experience of hue as being more determinate than another. Thus, the failures of appearance with respect to determinateness that Raffman refers to may be regarded by the conceptualist as due to normal perceivers simply failing to apply any such concept of determinateness to their experiences.

7.2. Is phenomenology indeterminate?
The nonconceptualist may hold that conceptualism is manifestly implausible, that phenomenology reveals a much higher frequency than conceptualism allows of experiences of maximally determinate color shades. The nonconceptualist may take it that an appeal to phenomenology can decide (or help decide)in favor of the dispute between nonconceptualism and the present form of conceptualism. In particular, the nonconceptualist may wish to hold that it is phenomenologicallly obvious, for instance, that in the simultaneous presentation of blue1 and blue2, the content of experience is not exhausted by the determinable content, two shades of light blue, one darker than the other. The nonconceptualist may wish to offer, as grounded in phenomenological reflection, that our experiences take a stand on which determinate shades of light blue the left and right paint chips happen to be.

However, I think the conceptualist is right to reject such an alleged appeal to phenomenology as a question-begging assertion that experience is determinate in a way the conceptualist denies.

Let’s suppose for conversation’s sake that an object that is blue is only one of 25 determinate shades of blue (blue1-blue25). It’s consistent with the conceptualism I am here defending that on a discriminating encounter with two objects that are blue1 and blue15, respectively, a subject consciously experiences them in a coarse-grained way as one’s being a darker blue than the other. However, that’s not the only way the content might turn out and still be consistent with my coarse conceptualism. Other options of possible contents include (1) one color’s being only slightly darker blue than the other (where the coarse-grained concept SLIGHTLY DARKER THAN is deployed), (2) one color’s being some determinate degree of darkness darker blue than the other (where the coarse-grained concepts deployed remain open on which determinate degree of darkness it is), and (3) one color’s being some determinate shade of blue distinct from the determinate shade of the other (where the coarse-grained concept DETERMINATE SHADE is deployed in a manner leaving open which determinate shades are present).

The nonconceptualist needs to provide some argument that our experiences do take a stand about which determinate shades are present, and thus an argument that characterizations such as (1)-(3) are inadequate for capturing the content of color consciousness. However, it’s not clear that the nonconceptualist has such an argument at hand.

Perhaps a charitable reading of the nonconceptualist here is as presenting a phenomenological argument, an argument that has as implicit premises propositions concerning how our experiences seem upon introspection. However, such an appeal to introspection may be easily countered by the conceptualist along the lines I sketched against the Determinateness Argument. It may seem to us that our experience is of determinate shades because we deploy, in introspection, an existentially quantified conceptualization that there are some distinct determinate shades present. It may very well be the case that it seems to us in introspection that our experience takes a stand on which determinate shades are present without it being the case that there are determinate shades that experience takes a stand on. Compare: I can believe that there is some particular man in the next room without there being a particular man that I believe to be in the next room. I hear a solitary manly voice from the next room over. I figure that it must be some particular man (what other kind of man could it be? A non-particular man?). But for each particular man I have beliefs about, I do not have a belief that commits me to that particular man being the one making the manly racket.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Saturday, May 29, 2010

swing swing swing

Second approximation of a response to the non-conceptualist

This is Part 6 of the serialization of the long version of my paper, "Color-Consciousness Conceptualism," the short version of which appeared in the Second Annual Conference of Consciousness Online. This post contains section 6.6 of the paper.

6.6. The Second Approximation
I think that the most promising strategy for the conceptualist in responding to worries concerning diachronic indiscriminability, especially in light of the New Experiment, is to emphasize the indeterminacy of the content of most color concepts. The relevant notion of determinacy may be spelled out in opposing terms of, on the one hand, color properties that are maximally determinate—thought of, perhaps, as points in a color solid or lines on a color spectrum—and color properties that are merely determinable—thought of, perhaps, as regions of non-zero extent in a color solid or bands of non-zero thickness on a color spectrum.[11]

Consider the conceptual content expressible by the sentence John’s shirt was a shade of light blue. We might think of the logical form of this content as being existentially quantified: there is a shade of light blue such that John’s shirt has it. We might even allow that the content commits to there being a maximally determinate shade that the shirt has, while being noncommittal as to precisely which shade that is: there is a maximally determinate shade of light blue such that John’s shirt has it. As I shall be understanding the relevant notion of indeterminacy, the color concepts expressed in the above sentences concerning the color of John’s shirt are indeterminate. The concept deployed, LIGHT BLUE, has a content that is determinable but not determinate—there are multiple maximally determinate shades that are correctly conceived of as light blue.

An appeal to indeterminacy can help the conceptualist deal with the New Experiment in the following manner: The conceptualist may suppose that the conceptual content of the experience upon being presented with both chips at time t1 is roughly expressible as

(e1) The chip on the left has a shade of light blue that is darker than the shade of light blue on the right.

And the conceptual content of the experience at t2 is roughly expressible as

(e2) The chip on the right has a shade of light blue that is darker than the shade of light blue on the left.

The conceptualist may point out that the content of e1 and e2 differ only with respect to which chip (chip on the left v. chip on the right) is being conceived as being a shade of light blue darker than another. The concepts deployed with respect to color in e1 and e2 are the same concepts. But the failure of diachronic distinguishability may be explained in terms of the indeterminacy of the deployed color concepts. The contents of e1 and e2 are noncommittal as to which maximally determinate shade of light blue each of the presented chips have and thus the subject is at a loss to say whether the darker of the two chips at t1 is the same maximally determinate shade as the darker of the two chips at t2.

An emphasis on indeterminate conceptual contents can also account for the data of the Old Experiment. Now, like the First Approximation, the advocate of the Second Approximation’s indeterminacy-based explanation can say that the same color concept, LIGHT BLUE, is deployed at t1 and t2. But what distinguishes the First Approximation from the Second Approximation is one of emphasis: where the First Approximation emphasizes the sameness of the concept deployed, the Second Approximation emphasizes the indeterminacy of the concept deployed. We might say that the crucial difference of the two explanations is that the former attempts to account for indiscriminability in terms of the presence of the same conceptual representation on two occasions, the latter attempts to account for indiscriminablity in terms of the absence of a conceptual representation of which maximally determinate shade is present on the two occasions. (This crucial difference between the First and Second approximations will serve to further illustrate the superiority of the latter when we examine problems that arise in contemplation of phenomenal sorites in section 8.)

One line of support for the indeterminacy-based Second Approximation over the First Approximation is that the subjects in the experiments are not confident that at t1 and t2 they are presented with the same color. Instead, they lack confidence about whether the presentations at t1 and t2 have the same color. One would expect that, if the First Approximation was correct, the subjects would be judging that the colors present at the two times are the same. It seems more plausible, however, that when one is subjected to such stimuli, one will lack confidence about whether they are the same as opposed to representing them as the same.

[11] For other advocates of the view that experiences can have indeterminate contents see Grush (2007), Hellie (2005), and Pautz (2007).

Friday, May 28, 2010

Fiction Friday: Sex On Wheels

Sex On Wheels

Every night some pissed-off robot kills one of your babies.

You wake to a start, some asshole pounding on your windshield. The flailing of a figure obscured by heavy downpour.

You sleep in your car. Or someone else's. Every night, parking meters doubling as rent meters. So many do, nowadays, that no one pities you. Their pity reserved for those who sleep on their biodegradeable motorcycles or reclining bicycles. No one sleeps without at least a pair of wheels under their ass, homelessness/vehicularlessness having been outlawed around the same time Hiroshima seceded from japan.

When you're in your own car, your hands never leave the steering wheel. Constant transdermal drug delivery through your palms regulates your diurnal arousal cycle. No matter where you go, you're always at work. Continuously chord-typing the keys inlaid in the hand grips. You've got eyes to spare for the multifarious inputs concerning road, work, and social relations. Everyone's a spider nowadays, you included. Though you all have the standard issue human number of limbs, its the four pairs eyes that earn the arachnoid moniker.

Your outputs are catheterized and even your ejaculate is siphoned off to one of the car's multiple reservoirs. Gentle electric shocks constantly jerk you off as the car feeds computer generated porn into one of your eyes. It's constant caress elicits raw material for your constant gene-gineering. Other materials, the bulk of the biomass, are obtained in the form of road kill.

Your car pups a litter of useful monsters daily. Its only exhaust: the products of your genometric hacking. Your babies clean the streets, repair the infrastructure. Your fame depends on the usefulness of your babies. The constant utility you secrete into society's mainframe brings favor from the city elders. But no favor from the disgruntled robots.

You're working, it seems, like 24/7. dream/work/sleep/play. Dreamwork. Sportfuck. It's all the same, nowadays, and no one pities you, their pity reserved for the robots who've been unemployed ever since the corporate heads got sick of their constant metallic whining about robot rights. Humans are cheaper and more pliable and much more willing to put up with the degradation/privilege of the 24/7, the constant go go go of the life on the wheel.

The robots are angry. The robots kill your babies.

The downpour eases up enough for you to see that it's a robot pounding on your windshield. Pounding on your windshield with the corpse of an octopus. One of yours. The sight of it makes your eyes do that thing where they all twitch in a separate direction at once. All eight of them. It's a facial expression, but the emotion conveyed is utterly alien. Even you don't know what you're feeling anymore. But your car knows you better than any lover, and the change in your body chemistry is detected by the onboard computer. The engine races and the car lurches forward. The robot crunches underneath, trailing sparks for a kilometer before it finally releases its grip on your bumper.

Every night some pissed off robot kills one of your babies. But you don't mind. You'll make more.

(c) 2004 Pete Mandik

Pete Mandik

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Fate, Time, and Language

Fate, Time, and Language: An Essay on Free Will

David Foster Wallace, Edited by Steven M. Cahn and Maureen Eckert; Introduction by James Ryerson and Epilogue by Jay Garfield

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Link Dump 05/28/2010

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Thursday, May 27, 2010

Initial problems defending conceptualism

This is Part 5 of the serialization of the long version of my paper, "Color-Consciousness Conceptualism," the short version of which appeared in the Second Annual Conference of Consciousness Online. This post contains sections 6-6.5 of the paper.

6. The First Approximation and its problems
6.1. Problems facing the First Approximation

The gist of the First Approximation is to hold that the way blue1 appears in the diachronic presentation is different from the way blue1 appears in the synchronic presentation (blue1 seems the same as blue2 in the diachronic but different from blue2 in the synchronic presentation). This looks to be endorsed by Rosenthal (2005, pp. 188-189) and Gennaro (forthcoming).
One of the main problems immediately faced by the strategy under consideration is the following: Since, (1) by hypothesis, the phenomenal appearance of blue1 in the diachronic context is the same as the phenomenal appearance of blue2 in the diachronic context, and (2) it’s highly implausible that blue1 and blue2 give rise to the same phenomenal appearance when synchronically presented—they are synchronically distinguishable, after all—it seems to follow that (3) the phenomenal appearance of blue1 is different in the synchronic and diachronic contexts. And here is the problem: it needs to be made plausible that blue1 can give rise to different phenomenal appearances in these different contexts.

Now, the problem is not insurmountable, but spelling out just how to surmount it requires some care. And part of what will put pressure on the conceptualist is that the conceptualist will not only need to account for the data regarding diachronic indiscriminability so far described—data from what I’ll call the “Old Experiment”—but also data from a to-be-described “New Experiment”.

I turn now to discuss further these and other challenges that arise for the First Approximation, challenges with which the First Approximation will have varying degrees of success in meeting. They are:

(1) The problem of content: What are the contents of the different experiences in the synchronic and the diachronic presentations?
(2) The problem of mechanism: Why are the contents that way and not some other?
(3) The problem of plausibility: Can it really be made plausible that blue1 seems differently in the synchronic and diachronic contexts?
(4) The problem of the New Experiment: Diachronic indiscriminability can be shown to fail in experimental setups where it’s quite plausible (more plausible than in the Old Experiment) that there isn’t a difference between the way blue1 is experienced in the synchronic and diachronic tasks.

6.2. The problem of content
This looks to be an easy problem for the proponent of the First Approximation to meet. It doesn’t look like there’s any special reason to think that this version of conceptualism will be at a loss of giving an account of what the contents are. They can say, for example, that in the synchronic presentation of blue1 and blue2, the content of the experience is exhausted or matched by the conceptual content expressible as two shades of light blue, one darker than the other. And they can say that, in the diachronic context, the relevant content is expressible as light blue.

Alternately, there might be comparative concepts involved in the diachronic presentations, concepts that are involved in comparisons to the background.

Now, in saying that the proponent of the First Approximation can answer the problem of content is not to say that there aren’t other problems that may arise, but the problem of simply giving an answer to the question of what the contents are is met by the First Approximation.
It needs to be emphasized that, relative to the dialectic, the conceptualist need not give a very specific answer to this question as long as he/she rises to the challenge of making plausible that there are enough concepts for the colors experienced. For the purposes of simplifying discussion, I will take the First Approximation to be giving the following specific answer to the content question: in the diachronic presentation of the chips, the color content of experience is the noncomparative BLUE whereas in the synchronic presentation, the color content is the comparative DARKER BLUE THAN.

6.3. A problem with mechanism?
Given some answer to the question of what the relevant conceptual contents are in the different contexts, a further questions arises of why those contents, and not some other. One way to put a point on it is to consider that the proponent of the First Approximation holds that (1) in the synchronic context but not the diachronic context, a comparative concept, a concept of one shade’s being darker than another, is deployed and (2) in the diachronic context but not the synchronic context, only a noncomparative concept, a concept of being light blue, is deployed. The problem of mechanism might be stated as the problem of supplying some mechanism that explains why the concepts deployed are as described in (1) and (2) as opposed to (1’) comparative concepts deployed in both synchronic and diachronic contexts or (2’) noncomparative concepts deployed in both synchronic and diachronic contexts.

There are two questions that I will address in turn: Why not comparative concepts in both the synchronic and diachronic contexts? Why not noncomparative in both synchronic and diachronic contexts?

Why not comparative concepts in both synchronic and diachronic contexts? The portion of this question that is especially pressing is why not comparative in diachronic? One can put a point on this by saying that nothing seems to rule out, at least in thought, conceiving of the diachronically presented stimulus as not just light blue, but as a blue lighter than the blue on the Union Jack.

One sort of move the conceptualist can make at this point is to appeal to an independently motivated account of a mechanism that would serve to distinguish a perceptual deployment of a concept, in this case, light blue, from a deployment in an accompanying thought, in this case, lighter than the blue of the Union Jack. One might say that what's distinctive of perceptual deployments is that they are automatic and exogenous, and further, which concepts are automatically exogenously elicited by a stimulus reflects, in part, the learning history of the person (Mandik, 2006).

An additional move is to note that it wouldn't really be damaging to the conceptualist to allow comparative contents in the diachronic context, for there's no reason to believe that the comparative concepts would have much effect on the patterns of success and failure in the Old Experiment. So, to go back to questions along the lines of “Why can’t a subject apply a comparative concept in the diachronic case?” the advocate of the First Approximation may offer a response that will be along the lines of “They can, but these will just be guesses or flights of fancy with no real hope of being accurate.” So, suppose a comparative concept were deployed during the diachronic case. Which one? And, when? At time t1 the subject can make some wild guess prediction that the current color is darker than the one coming up next. But there’s no reason to suppose the existence of a reliable mechanism for deploying the right concept. That would be clairvoyance. At time t2 the subject can make some wild guess that the previous color was darker, but it is implausible to suppose there to be a memory trace of what was present at time t1 and thus the subject would be no more reliable about the past than the future.

I turn now to the second question that constitutes the problem of mechanism. Why not noncomparative concepts in both synchronic and diachronic contexts?

The portion of this question that is especially pressing is why not noncomparative concepts in synchronic contexts? Why not two noncomparative concepts, BLUE1 and BLUE2? On the face of it, the hypothesis that the subject possesses these two concepts is tantamount to the hypothesis that the subject possesses individual concepts (lexical, non-phrasal concepts) for each property the subject is able to perceptually discriminate. And the question needing consideration here can be considered as the question of what basis the conceptualist has for rejecting this hypothesis. It strikes me that the remarks made earlier about memory can serve as this basis. Noncontroversial examples of experienced colors we do have concepts for are such that, as a matter of empirical generalization, differently conceptualized colors are diachronically discriminable. It seems reasonable, and in keeping with empirical generalization (M) for the advocate of the First Approximation to deny the possession of fine-grained noncomparative concepts by subjects to whom the relevant colors are diachronically indiscriminable.

6.4. The problem of plausibility
The defender of the First Approximation needs to make it plausible that blue1 can seem different in the diachronic and synchronic contexts. Here the conceptualist can make a plausible case that such differences would be a species of already well known and widespread effects of context on color appearance. Context effects are well known in the literature on color perception.[10] In normal lighting conditions, one and the same paint chip may seem gray or bright yellow depending on what else is present in the visual field. Further, manipulations of context can make distinct chips look the same in color. Such context effects need not involve a difference in what light arrives at the eye from the paint chip in question. Nor are they explained by interactions between retinal cells. The perceptual effects of context depend on higher levels of the visual processing hierarchy than the retina.

It is open to the conceptualist, then, to offer as plausible that different conscious perceptions arise from the same chips presented in different contexts. Presenting a chip by itself on one occasion and with another chip on another occasion is to present the chip in two different contexts, contexts that give rise to differences in the perception of the color of one and the same chip.

6.5. The “New Experiment”
Where the first three problems seemed met by the First Approximation with relative ease, this fourth problem will show some real weaknesses.

We can view the New Experiment as designed to control for the sorts of context effects discussed above. The sort of redesign I here have in mind might go as follows. The stimuli presented in each distinct presentation in the diachronic discrimination case would be one of figures 1 and 2.

figure 1.

figure 2.

The task put to the subject is to make a “same as before, yes or no?” judgment about colors appearing on the right side of each display. Synchronic discrimination tasks could use just one of figures 1 and 2 and ask, say of figure 1, if the left and right regions contain the same color.
Such an experimental design is aimed at avoiding the accusation that the colors presented in the synchronic and diachronic contexts are colors presented in different color contexts and thus may not be assumed that there is a color appearance that is constant across contexts. In this new experiment, the color context of the right-hand color in figure 1 is arguably the same as the color context of the left-hand color in figure 2 since figures 1 and 2 are just spatial rotations of each other.

The New Experiment seems to pose a serious difficulty to the First Approximation. Recall what the core of the First Approximation’s explanation of the data in the Old Experiment is: blue1 and blue2 are synchronically but not diachronically distinguishable because the conscious experience of blue1 involves different concepts in the synchronic and diachronic contexts. But in the New Experiment, the synchronic and diachronic discrimination tasks do not involve presenting blue1 in different contexts, so the First Approximation’s central explanatory strategy looks to gain no purchase.

Now, I am optimistic that there is a version of conceptualism that will be able to handle the data from the New Experiment, but it looks like the explanatory strategy the First Approximation will not suffice.

[10] See (Lotto & Purves, 2002)

Link Dump 05/27/2010

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wait for it

Shot with my Hipstamatic for iPhone
Lens: John S
Film: Blanko
Flash: Off

Pete Mandik

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Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Robots Hate You

Robots Hate You
Originally uploaded by shewhophotographs
Robots: They hate you.


The floor at Port Authority Bus Terminal, NYC. No photoediting, shot with an iPhone.

Pete Mandik

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Link Dump 05/26/2010

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Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Man's Worst Friend: The Creeptastic Dogbots

Headless horrors! I don't really see the need to weaponize these: their high degree of yick factor ought to suffice.
Big Dog

Little Dog

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First approximation of a response to the diachronic indistinguishability argument

This is Part 4 of the serialization of the long version of my paper, "Color-Consciousness Conceptualism," the short version of which appeared in the Second Annual Conference of Consciousness Online. This post contains section 5 of the paper.

5. My Response to the DIA, First Approximation
My general strategy against the DIA involves calling into question the Experience Assumption. Recall that according the Experience Assumption is formulated as follows:

Shade blue1 gives rise to a conscious experience with a phenomenal character at time t1 that is distinct from the phenomenal character of the conscious experience that the shade blue2 gives rise to at time t2.

The gist of my strategy will center on the suggestion that, contrary to the Experience Assumption, one does not have, at time t1, an experience with a phenomenal character that is distinct from the phenomenal character one has at time t2. As I say, that’s the gist. Spelling this out with more precision will take some time and care. I develop my line of response to the DIA as a pair of approximations, the second approximation dealing with objections that arise for the first approximation.

Recall that in an earlier section I said that there are two general explanatory strategies for accounting for a failure to diachronically discriminate colors that are synchronically discriminable: one may explain the failure as either a kind of memory failure and the other as a kind of perceptual failure. The specific response that I will be developing is in terms of a kind of perceptual failure. More needs to be said, of course, about what it is that, despite the failure, is perceived. Of course, one kind of perceptual failure would be a failure, at time t1 or t2 (or both), to perceive anything, but clearly it is implausible to attribute a temporary total blindness to the subjects presented with these stimuli.

More plausible than attributing a temporary total blindness would be to attribute to the subjects visual experiences with the same phenomenal characters at time t1 and t2. Such an explanation would account for a failure to discriminate blue1 from blue2 by hypothesizing that the way blue1 seemed at t1 was the same as the way blue2 seemed at t2. In keeping with the gist of conceptualism, the conceptual content that either exhausts or matches this single phenomenal character would be the same conceptual content at t1 and t2. Suppose, for the sake of illustration, that the concept deployed on both occasions is the concept LIGHT BLUE. The suggestion under examination, what I’ll call the First Approximation, is that the Experience Assumption is false because what contents of the conscious experiences at t1 and t2 are the same: what’s consciously perceived regarding the color of the respective stimuli is that each is light blue.


Escape from New York: Pulling out of the Port Authority Bus Terminal

Pete Mandik

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multiple-drafts theory of consciousness

From Key Terms in Philosophy of Mind (Continuum, 2010):
multiple-drafts theory of consciousness, due to Daniel DENNETT, a theory of CONSCIOUSNESS consistent with PHYSICALISM wherein a conscious state (see CONSCIOUSNESS, STATE) is spread out in both space and time in the brain across multiple instances of what Dennett calls “content fixations” (see MENTAL REPRESENTATION), each of which—the “multiple drafts”—compete for domination in the cognitive system or what Dennett calls “fame in the brain.” Crucial to Dennett’s account of consciousness is a denial of the existence of what he calls “the Cartesian theater”—a single place in the brain where at some specific time which is the onset of consciousness, “it all comes together.” The Cartesian theater is where the various previously unconscious brain events march onto the stage of consciousness before the audience of a HOMUNCULUS who watches the passing show. Dennett regards such a positing of a homunculus as nonexplanatory: How is the homunculus conscious of the show in the Cartesian theater?

Many of the considerations that Dennett provides in support of the multiple-drafts theory hinge on features concerning the application of the CONTENT/VEHICLE DISTINCTION to conscious representations of time. Such representations may themselves (the vehicles) occur at times other than the times that they are representations of (the contents). The importance of the content/vehicle distinction for time representation can be drawn out in contemplation of an
argument Dennett gives concerning the illusory motion and illusory color- change in an effect known as the color-phi phenomenon. In the color-phi phenomenon, the subject is presented with a brief flash of a green circle, followed by a brief flash of a red circle. The two flashes occur in slightly different locations. Subjects report the appearance of motion: a green circle, that moves and becomes red at the point roughly between where the green circle was flashed and where the red circle was flashed. Especially interesting is that subjects report that the green circle turns red before arriving at the spot where the red circle is flashed. The subjects cannot have known ahead of time that a red circle was going to flash, so how is it that they are able to have a conscious experience of something turning to red prior to the red circle’s
flashing? One candidate explanation is that the subject unconsciously perceives the red circle’s flash and the subject’s brain uses that INFORMATION to generate an illusory conscious experience of a green circle changing to red. Another candidate explanation is that the subject consciously perceived only the nonmoving green and red circle flashes and has a false memory of there having been a moving and color-shifting circle. Dennett argues that there is absolutely no basis for preferring one of these candidate explanations over the other. According to Dennett, there is no fact of the matter about consciousness aside from how things seem to the subject (see APPEARANCE), and how things seem to the subject is determined by the BELIEF that is arrived at via the process, smeared out in space and time in the brain, of competitions for fame in the brain via multiple content fixations. Some of Dennett’s critics have accused his argument here of relying on an untenable VERIFICATIONISM.


Monday, May 24, 2010

Preplanning for CO3

Richard Brown says:
Exciting things have been in the works here at consciousness online. The special issue of the Journal of Consciousness Studies featuring papers from the first online consciousness conference came out. The second conference was a success and selected papers will be forthcoming in Consciousness and Cognition, which is very exciting!

Looking ahead I am beginning to think about the third annual online consciousness conference which is scheduled for February 2011. As with previous years the call for papers will go out in the Fall but I welcome volunteers to be reviewers or commentators and suggestions for symposia or invited talks. Interested persons should feel free to contact me at

Free beer

Photos for today:
(1) Take me to your liter
(2) Free, please take

Pete Mandik

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Link Dump 05/24/2010

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private-language argument

From Key Terms in Philosophy of Mind (Continuum, 2010):
private-language argument, due to Ludwig WITTGENSTEIN, an argument the conclusion of which is that it is impossible for there to be a language that can be understood by only a single individual. Another way to put the conclusion, then, is that if a language may be understood by any individual, then it must be possible as well for it to be understood by many individuals. Wittgenstein’s discussion of the argument involves contemplation of an attempt to devise a language for keeping a diary of one’s own private sensations. A key issue that arises is, in devising a sign, “S,” to stand for some particular SENSATION, whether there can be any basis for knowing or saying that “S” does indeed stand for that sensation as opposed to something else or nothing at all. The keeper of the allegedly private journal will not be in a position to distinguish whether his grasp of a private ostensive definition of “S” is correct instead of merely seeming correct. And where there can be no graspable distinction between seeming correct and being correct, there is no place for a notion of correctness at all (see also NORMATIVE).

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Does conceptualization require re-identification?

This is Part 3 of the serialization of the long version of my paper, "Color-Consciousness Conceptualism," the short version of which appeared in the Second Annual Conference of Consciousness Online. This post contains section 4 of the paper.

4. Formulating the DIA with and without the Re-identification constraint
The gist of DIA is easy to convey, but certain difficulties arise in stating precisely how the argument is supposed to present a problem for conceptualism. One of the central difficulties concerns whether DIA needs to be formulated in terms of a strong memory-based requirement on concept possession, the Re-identification constraint. In what follows, I’ll begin with the gist and then move on to formulations of DIA with and without the Re-identification constraint. Along the way I’ll make remarks about the Re-identification constraint and certain problems with it.

4.1. The gist of DIA
There exist color pairs sufficiently similar to be indiscriminable across a memory delay while sufficiently distinct to be discriminable when presented simultaneously (Perez–Carpinell, Baldovi, de Fez, & Castro, 1998; Raffman, 1995). So, for example, two paint chips presented side-by-side will be clearly and correctly distinguished as having distinct colors, but if presented one after the other, the viewer will be uncertain whether they have distinct colors. Though, for simplicity, I’ll just be focusing here on color, the point generalizes to aspects of vision other than color and also to other sensory modalities besides vision. There are thus a wide variety of stimulus pairs that are discriminable in simultaneous presentations but indiscriminable in serial presentations.

As Raffman (1995) argues, if we make certain natural assumptions concerning the relations of concepts to memory, then the existence of such stimulus pairs puts pressure on the suggestion that conceptual contents exhaust the contents of experience. Given certain connections between the conceptualized and the remembered and the recognized, then the existence of such stimulus pairs suggests that experience outstrips our concepts.

On the face of it, Raffman’s case against conceptualism may seem persuasive. Since the colors in question are simultaneously discriminable, that gives us reason to believe that there are corresponding contents of consciousness. Given certain assumptions about the relation of concepts to memory, the failure to discriminate these colors across a memory delay indicates that these conscious contents outstrip conceptual content.

It is clear that the gist of the argument involves two key assumptions: one concerning what’s experienced in the diachronic presentation of the diachronically indiscriminable colors and one concerning a memory constraint on concept possession. In working toward a more precise statement of the logical structure of the DIA, we can represent these two assumptions as two distinct premises. Additionally, we must include a premise concerning conceptualism—a thesis concerning the relation of concepts to conscious experience. And, of course, there must be some statement of the empirical finding concerning the failure of diachronic discrimination. The form of the argument then is the following four-premise argument. (We can state the argument in terms of two shades of blue, blue1 and blue2, that are synchronically distinguishable but not diachronically distinguishable, and are presented separately at two times, t1 and t2, respectively.)

(1) The Experience Assumption: Shade blue1 gives rise to a conscious experience with a phenomenal character at time t1 that is distinct from the phenomenal character of the conscious experience that the shade blue2 gives rise to at time t2.
(2) The Memory Constraint: In order to be in possession, at time t1 of a concept of blue1, one must be capable of remembering blue1 at the later time, t2.
(3) Conceptualist Assumption: If one has conscious experience of blue1 (a conscious experience with a phenomenal character distinct from the conscious experience of blue2 at time t2) at time t1, one must be in possession of a concept of blue1 at t1.
(4) An Interpretation of the Indiscriminability Data: Given the diachronic failure to discriminate the synchronically discriminable blue2 from blue1, blue1 was not remembered at t2.
(5) Anticonceptualist Conclusion: One can have a conscious experience of blue1 without being in possession of a concept of blue1 at t1.

4.2. The Re-identification constraint (RIC)
One strategy for resisting the DIA is to construe the memory constraint as an alleged a priori constraint on concept possession—the Re-identification constraint—and then to contrive armchair counterexamples to the constraint. This is what I take to be the main thrust of Chuard’s (2006) case against the DIA.

Chuard presents a case that for arguments against conceptualism based on fineness of grain to have their best chance at success, they need the premise concerning memory to be formulated as follows (p. 170):

[I]f a subject S possesses a concept C for a property f, S must be able to (i) identify some object o as f at time t; (ii) to identify some object o’ as f at time t+1; and (iii) to identify f at t+1 as the same property f as at t.

For an example of the sorts of armchair examples Chuard presents, consider this (p 181).
Suppose that the subject had recently lost her capacity for short-term and long-term memory about her personal life. She still has a very general knowledge about the world, but none about herself. Her general knowledge implies that she has not lost her conceptual skills – and is thus perfectly capable to identify triangles. In her situation, the subject will be completely unable to re-identify the newly presented triangle as the same shape she was earlier presented with. That is because she cannot remember anything about her past experiences. Still, by hypothesis, she can identify the shape in question as a triangle.

Chuard’s case of the amnesiac counts as a counterexample to the Re-identification constraint on the grounds that right before her amnesia, the amnesiac identified something as a triangle and at no later time is she able to re-identify subsequent shapes as the same one she saw on that earlier occasion. Perhaps those who are sympathetic to the Re-identification constraint will want to resist Chuard’s counterexample. But I want to here bypass the issue and just grant Chuard’s counterexample. I am more than happy to reject the Re-identification constraint as imposing an a priori constraint on concept possession. Regardless, I think that there is an empirical generalization that proponents of DIA may make a plausible appeal to, and thus still have a plausible case on their hands against conceptualism.

4.2. Formulating the DIA without the Re-identification constraint
To get a feel for the proper roles that notions of concepts and memory play in the DIA, it helps to begin with considerations of what, in general would explain a failure to diachronically discriminate two colors.
For any two colors that one fails to discriminate diachronically, there are two general possible explanations. One is that the failure is due to memory failure: upon presentation of the second color, one doesn’t adequately remember the first color and thus is not in a position to correctly discriminate the two. The other possible explanation is that the failure is due to perceptual failure: upon presentation of the first color, one does not adequately perceive it, and so even if one perceives the second color, one won’t be in a position to discriminate the two.

Memory-based explanations are plausible only under certain kinds of conditions. For example, if there is good reason to believe that the separate stimuli were both perceived and conceptualized under distinct concepts, then a failure to discriminate the colors is plausibly due to a memory failure only if the delay is quite long. Perceived colors differing with respect to differences we uncontroversially do have concepts for, say, red and blue, that straddle only a short delay, say the time it takes to turn a page, are easily diachronically distinguishable. However, with a really long delay (days, years) one may very well forget the first color and thus, on presentation of the second color, be
in absolutely no position to discriminate it from the first.

In contrast, memory-failure explanations seem implausible for very short delays, especially when the stimuli are conceptualized. And this is not to impose a hard-core Re-identification constraint on concept possession. Even if the Re-identification constraint has possible counterexamples, the following seems to be a well-supported empirical generalization: for very short delays, if one does conceptualize the stimulus, one tends to be able to remember it. Instead of viewing the Memory Constraint premise of DIA as depending on the Re-identification constraint, we can instead see it as following from the following empirical generalization:

(M): Relative to short time periods, if a stimulus is conceptualized then it is remembered.

Of course, an analogous generalization doesn’t hold for very long stretches of time. I can
conceptualize a passing stimulus as a man with a mustache, but it’s highly likely that this will be forgotten eventually in a few minutes, hours, or days. But when we look to shorter time periods, periods spanning just a few seconds, (M) seems highly plausible. Consider diachronic discrimination tasks comparing performance for words or written
characters in known and unknown languages. It is plausible to predict support for (M) in such tasks. And we can see this as consistent with the sorts of effects that psychologists chalk up to “depth of processing” (Craik & Lockhart, 1972).

We are in a position now to see DIA as depending not on a re-identification-based conceptual analysis of the concept of “concept,” but instead on the reasonable empirical generalization, (M). Shades blue1 and blue2, discriminable synchronically but not diachronically even across very short delays seem to give conceptualists a problem. Because of (M), we’d expect a conceptualized blue1 to be remembered long enough to support an appropriate comparison to blue2.

I turn now to present a case that, of the four premises of the DIA, the most questionable one is the Experience Assumption. I turn now to flesh out a case against the DIA that involves calling into question the Experience Assumption.

Link Dump 05/23/2010

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In and around the library, NYC

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Link Dump 05/22/2010

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Friday, May 21, 2010

Temporal-content internalism

My Boltzman-brain doppelgänger, BB, is intrinsically physically identical to me throughout a duration in which I imaginatively estimate how long it takes to write my signature. It looks like there's a common temporal content between me and BB that supervenes narrowly. Further, the content looks to be Russelian, the content itself is an amount of time.

Suppose, however, that BB's in an accelerating reference frame and subsequently time dilated. Do the conceptual contents of our respective duration estimates diverge?

Pete Mandik

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Latest draft of Transcending Zombies

This is the latest draft of my paper, Transcending Zombies.


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Hell's Kitchen + Bryant Park

The Varieties of Consciousness Conceptualism

This is Part 2 of the serialization of the long version of my paper, "Color-Consciousness Conceptualism," the short version of which appeared in the Second Annual Conference of Consciousness Online. This post contains sections 2 and 3 of the paper.

2. First-order and Higher-Order theories of Consciousness Conceptualism
Many debates surrounding conceptualism are cast in terms of a construal of conceptualism that we can characterize as the exhaustion thesis: conscious perceptual states have conceptual content, and the mental aspects distinguishing various perceptual states, aspects such as the phenomenal character or sensory qualities of the states, are exhausted by these conceptual contents. Focusing on conscious experience of color, the exhaustion thesis holds that the difference between a conscious experience of red and a conscious experience of blue just is the difference constituted by deploying the concept red in the one experience and the concept of blue in the other.[7]

Another kind of view that merits considering as a fellow traveler but is not as strong as the exhaustion thesis is what I’ll call the matching thesis. We might state the matching thesis as that there must be as many concepts deployed as there are mental aspects distinguishing perceptual states, but these concepts do not exhaust those aspects. The matching thesis thus allows that there may be nonconceptual aspects to conscious experience (Bengson et al., in press; Rosenthal, 2005). Put in terms of the conscious experience of color, the matching thesis has the same conceptual requirements as the exhaustion thesis: it is required by one experience’s being of blue and the other of red that there be a deployment of a concept of blue in the one and of red in the other. But unlike the exhaustion thesis, the matching thesis does not hold that the respective deployments of the concepts of red and of blue are the sole constituents of the mental differences between the two experiences. The matching thesis allows that there may additionally be nonconceptual differences, differences, for instance, at the level of sensations, impressions, or sensory quality.
Many arguments in the literature designed to attack conceptualism serve as attacks on both the exhaustion thesis and the matching thesis. Arguments hinging on experiential fineness of grain, for example, call into question whether there are as many concepts at the disposal of the perceiver as there are colors that the perceiver may consciously experience. Clearly such an argument is indifferent to the difference between the exhaustion and matching theses.

Though I don’t take the difference between exhaustion and matching to matter much for present purposes, I myself am inclined toward an exhaustion version of conceptualism and in what follows, I will frequently spell out various conceptualist points along exhaustion-thesis lines.[8]

3. Gareth Evans and fineness of grain
Much of the literature on color and conceptual content revolves around Gareth Evans’s rhetorical question: ‘‘Do we really understand the proposal that we have as many colour concepts as there are shades of colour that we can sensibly discriminate?’’ (Evans, 1982, p. 229). Setting aside the portion of the question regarding what it is that we understand, a portion seeming to invite viewing this as a matter of what we can conceive about the relations between concepts and sensible discrimination, Evans’s question seems to be a straightforwardly empirical question: does the number of discriminable colors exceed the number of color concepts? Further, if we make certain assumptions about what to count as discriminable colors and concepts for them, then the answer to this empirical question is already at hand.

Assume, on the experience side of things, that the number of colors discriminable in standard psychophysical tests is one and the same as the number of colors that may be consciously experienced. Assume, on the concept side of things, that by “colour concepts,” Evans intends what we can call lexical concepts of colors, concepts corresponding to individual color words, as opposed to phrasal concepts of colors, concepts corresponding to multi-word phrases. Further, assume that the number of lexical concepts a perceiver has is one and the same as the number of high-frequency (frequently used) individual color words in the perceiver’s native language. Such words are basic monolexemic color terms, and exclude terms such as “light blue,” which is not monolexemic, and “azure,” which is low-frequency. Such assumptions lead to experienced colors numbering around ten million and, for native speakers of English, the number of lexical concepts at a mere eleven.[9] The difference between the numbers is so vast that we can plausibly credit typical English-speaking perceivers with already having an intuitive grasp of such a difference. This intuitive grasp perhaps underlies so many philosophers finding intuitive the claim that we experience more colors than we have concepts for.

This difference in estimated numbers of color concepts and experienced colors depends on certain assumptions. However, if we change our assumptions on the concept side of things, then it is not at all clear that the gulf will be so vast between the numbers of concepts and the number of colors experienced. In particular, if we allow phrasal as well as lexical concepts, then we allow for a combinatoric conceptual wealth that may very well match the wealth of experienced colors. If the nonconceptualists are going to have a hope of defeating this combinatoric strategy on empirical grounds, they are going to need something much stronger than Evans’s rhetorical question. It is to such a stronger argument that I now turn.

[7] The differences relevant to the present example are intramodal differences, as would be expected in discussions of color experience. The larger issue of how and whether various conceptualists account for intermodal differences is too large for discussion in the present paper.

[8] In particular, I hold phenomenal character to be identical to a certain kind of conceptual content (Mandik, forthcoming).

[9] See (Hardin, 1988b, pp. 226-227), where he cites (Judd & Wyszecki, 1963, p. 359) regarding the number of discriminable colors and (Berlin & Kay, 1969) regarding the number of basic color terms in English.

Link Dump 05/21/2010

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Thursday, May 20, 2010

I guess I'll go with "Think Tank"

Developed in SwankoLab for iPhone using Vinny's BL94, Vinny's BL04, and Flamoz Fixer

Pete Mandik

Link Dump 05/20/2010

  • It’s time detensers stand up for themselves and challenge the claim that experience favors tenses. After arguing that there is no "experience of the present" as contemporary metaphysicians conceive it, the paper turns to the main topic: explaining why people have the powerful intuition that there is a mind-independent Now and don't believe the same about the spatial Here. The paper offers a new theory explaining this difference. Oddly, given the central role temporal experience plays in philosophy of time, empirical work on time perception is virtually absent from this literature. When this neglect is rectified, one sees resources emerging in recent experiments in cognitive neuroscience and psychology that bear on the problem. If I am right, we already have enough information to fill out significantly the best explanation of the difference between the Here and Now.

    tags: time

  • Chalmers's John Locke Lectures on Constructing the World.

    tags: Chalmers

  • Gualtiero Piccinini is taking over from John Bickle the editorship of Synthese's annual Philosophy of Neuroscience issue.

    tags: philosophy of neuroscience

  • The user can rotate around the hypercube, or perform direct-manipulation rotations in 4D.

    For a 4D rotation, the 3D vector described by the dragging of the mouse in the plane of the screen combined with the 4D unit vector (0 0 0 1) specify two basis vectors of a four-dimensional plane of rotation.

    This is a lot more intuitive than a set of sliders.

    Before I show an example of the 4D rotation, wrap your head around this simple 3D rotation of a regular old cube.


    tags: alternate minds

  • Eighty years in the future, Earth becomes aware of an alien presence when thousands of micro-satellites surveil the Earth; through good luck, the incoming alien vessel is detected, and the ship Theseus, with its artificial intelligence captain and crew of five, are sent out to engage in first contact with the huge alien vessel called Rorschach. As they explore the vessel and attempt to analyze it and its inhabitants, the narrator considers his life and strives to understand himself and ponders the nature of intelligence and consciousness, their utility, and what an alien mind might be like. Eventually the crew realizes that they are greatly outmatched by the vessel and its unconscious but extremely capable inhabitants.

    tags: alternate minds

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What is philosophy of mind?

Here is a link [link] to a free preview of my book, Key Terms in Philosophy of Mind (Continuum, 2010). The preview contains the introductory essay "What is Philosophy of Mind?" as well as term entries for Action through Chinese nation.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

I put people in them so you don't get lonely

Here are two iPhone Brushes app paintings - "I put people in them so you don't get lonely" and "hey, brick!":

Pete Mandik

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Color-Consciousness Conceptualism: Serialized Long Version

Here begins the serialization of the long version of my paper, "Color-Consciousness Conceptualism," the short version of which appeared in the Second Annual Conference of Consciousness Online.

I defend against a certain line of attack the view that the conscious contents of color experiences are exhausted by, or at least matched by, the concepts brought to bear in experience by the perceiver. The line of attack is an allegedly empirical argument against conceptualism—the Diachronic Indistinguishability Argument (DIA)—based on color pairs the members of which are too similar to be distinguished across a memory delay but are sufficiently distinct to be distinguished in simultaneous presentations. I sketch a model of a conceptualist view of conscious color perception that is immune to DIA. One distinctive feature of the conceptualism on offer here is that it does not rely upon the widely discussed and widely criticized demonstrative-concepts strategy popularized by John McDowell and others. I offer both empirical and philosophical considerations in my criticisms of the DIA and my sketch of my non-demonstrative conceptualism.

0. Introduction
Is there a mismatch between what we experience and what we conceptualize that might be best described in terms of fineness of grain? Are our experiences of color, in particular, more fine-grained than we are able to grasp in conceptualized thought? The goal of the present paper is to defend against a certain line of attack the view that conscious experience of color is no more fine-grained that the repertoire of non-demonstrative concepts that a perceiver is able to bring to bear in perception. The line of attack in question is an alleged empirical argument—the Diachronic Indistinguishability Argument (DIA)—based on pairs of colors sufficiently distinct to be discriminated when presented side-by-side but too similar to be discriminated across a memory delay. The DIA was developed by Raffman (1995) and it or arguments similar have been endorsed by Kelly (2001a) and Prinz (2007, pp. 192-193).[1] [2]My aim here is to show that this argument fails. My aim is not to give arguments in favor of the kind of conceptualism I favor. I do that elsewhere (Mandik, 2008, forthcoming).
The organization of the remainder is as follows: In sections 1-3 I spell out further preliminaries and relevant historical background. In section 4 I spell out the Diachronic Indistinguishability Argument and in section 5 I spell out my main criticism of it. Sections 6-9 are dedicated to objections and replies.

1. Demonstrative and non-demonstrative conceptualisms
At the center of many core debates concerning whether perceptual experience has nonconceptual content have been conceptualists who lean on a notion of demonstrative concepts to fend off worries about experiential fineness of grain. Especially prominent examples include McDowell (1994, 1998) and Brewer (1999, 2005). I will call such conceptualism “demonstrative conceptualism” for its reliance on demonstratives.

I will contrast demonstrative conceptualism with a view I will call “non-demonstrative conceptualism.” Note, however, I do not take the difference between demonstrative and non-demonstrative conceptualism to be a disagreement over whether there are such concepts as demonstrative concepts. The non-demonstrative conceptualist can remain neutral on that question. The key contrast, as I intend it, is over whether considerations having to do with fineness of grain are best dealt with by appeal to demonstrative concepts. In the present paper I will be defending a version of non-demonstrative conceptualism.
There are several motivations for conceptualism. And though the following is not intended to be exhaustive, it will nonetheless be useful to note a few of them. I will sort the motivating considerations into those that are primarily epistemological and those that are primarily metaphysical.

Epistemological motivations for conceptualism. One epistemological consideration motivating many conceptualists, and perhaps the motivation most discussed in the debates over whether perceptual experience has nonconceptual content, is the idea that perceptual experience serves to justify empirical beliefs, and can only play this justificatory role if it itself is, like the empirical beliefs is justifies, a conceptual state (Bengson, Grube, & Korman, in press; Brewer, 1999, 2005; McDowell, 1994). Another epistemological consideration that has motivated some philosophers is the thought that we have an especially high degree certainty about our own conscious states that is best accounted for by denying that our conscious states have an existence separable from our conceptualizations (thoughts, judgments, etc.) of them (Horgan & Kriegel, 2007, pp. 135-138; Lynch, 2006; Mandik, 2008, forthcoming; Rey, 1991, p. 100, 1993, p. 250).

Metaphysical motivations for conceptualism. Many theories of consciousness are argued for on the premises that a conscious state’s being conscious consists in one’s being conscious of the state, and that this consciousness of the state is implemented by one’s having a representation of the state (Carruthers, 2004; Kriegel, 2003, 2006; Lycan, 1996; Rosenthal, 2005; Van Gulick, 2004). On some versions, especially the higher-order thought theory of consciousness as defended by David Rosenthal, in order, for example, to be conscious of one’s perception as being of some color shade, one must have a suitable higher-order thought of that shade, which in turn requires that one have the conceptual resources needed to capture that color (2005, pp. 188-189). A distinct metaphysical motivation for holding conceptualism is less focal than that of the higher-order thought theorists. Instead of relying on a specific claim on the requirements on conscious states, this distinct motivation makes a general claim about mental states by way of a certain kind of appeal to parsimony: by seeking to explain all mental states as conceptual, we achieve a satisfying parsimony in our theorizing about the mind (Rey, 1991, p. 93, 1993, p. 248).[3]

The motives so far discussed are general motivations for adopting conceptualism. These general motivations do not alone suffice to motivate the particular version I am calling demonstrative conceptualism. The motive for demonstrative conceptualism arises in response to worries having to do with the fineness of grain of the conscious experience of color. The basic idea here is that without a recourse to demonstrative concepts, there just are not enough concepts possessed by a person to account for all of the colors that the person is nonetheless able to consciously perceive. To illustrate: a person may be able to perceive, perhaps on two separate occasions, two shades of red that differ in some slight way. If the person conceives of each of them simply as red, then it looks like there are differences in the perceived shades that outstrip the way they are conceived, since they are conceived in the same way. But by allowing, in addition to the concept RED, demonstrative concepts such as THIS SHADE and THAT SHADE, the demonstrative conceptualist prima facie provides for as many conceptualizations of colors as colors consciously perceived.

There have been various criticisms waged against demonstrative conceptualism (Dokic & Pacherie, 2001; Eilan, 2001; Kelly, 2001a, 2001b; Peacocke, 1998, 2001; Prinz, 2007). For present purposes, it will do to just focus on two general lines of complaint against demonstrative conceptualism.

The first line of complaint stems from what we might call the object-involving or externalistic individuation conditions on demonstrative contents. Such conditions are plausible and independently motivated. But this is not the problem. The problem is that also plausible and independently motivated are certain conditions on the phenomenal character of perceptual experience, conditions that seem not to appropriately “line up” with the aforementioned conditions on demonstrative contents. The conditions on phenomenal character may be briefly conveyed here as being closely connected with, if not identical to, the way things perceptually appear to the perceiving subject. The failure of “line-up” between demonstrative contents comes in two varieties. The first involves situations in which there can be a difference of perceptual appearance but sameness of demonstrative content, as when one and the same shade of a painted surface is demonstrated across different times while a dissipating fog intervening between perceiver and the perceived surface gives rise to differences in the appearance of the shade (Kelly, 2001a, p. 398 footnote 392). The second involves situations in which there can be a sameness of perceptual appearance but difference in demonstrative content, as when, on two different occasions two distinct entities are demonstrated, but the properties that serve to distinguish the entities do not suffice to make the entities discriminable in appearance (Davies, 1992, pp. 25-26).[4]

The second line of complaint against demonstrative conceptualism, and perhaps the one most prominent in recent discussions, concerns the worry that so-called demonstrative concepts seem not to be genuine concepts for they seem not to satisfy an alleged constraint on concept possession that we can, following (Chuard, 2006) call the Re-identification constraint. That there is some such criterion on concept possession is endorsed by several philosophers and criticized by Chuard (2006).[5] The gist of the Re-identification constraint can be stated as follows: In order to possess some concept, C, a possessor must be capable of, on multiple occasions, identifying as such entities properly conceptualized under that concept. So, for example, a person in genuine possession of the concept DOG must be capable, on multiple occasions, of conceiving of an entity as a dog. It seems, however, that there are situations in which we can demonstrate a color shade yet not be able to reidentify that shade. I might demonstrate some shade of a paint chip at a paint store (I say “let’s paint our apartment this color” while holding up the chip), and then accidentally drop it into a pile of very similarly colored chips. After dropping it, I may be at a total loss to say whether it is the chip I had previously demonstrated. If reidentifiability is a genuine constraint on concept possession, then whatever conditions sufficed for me to demonstrate the initial shade were insufficient conditions for me to grasp a concept of that shade as such.

Whereas demonstrative conceptualism leans on demonstrative resources to respond to worries about experiential fineness of grain, nondemonstrative conceptualism leans on other resources. One might view both demonstrative and nondemonstrative conceptualism as motivated by a worry about whether there is a general kind of conceptualist resource that can be marshaled to defuse worries that there is an upper bound on the number conceptualizations accessible to a perceiver. What general kind of resource is there besides demonstratives that would allow conceptualists to go beyond what might otherwise seem to be an upper bound? A natural suggestion is to borrow a strategy from elsewhere in the philosophy of mind for dealing with looming upper-bounds: appeal to the indefinite number of combinations achievable with a finite-stock of recombinable elements (Fodor, 1975, 2008).

To my knowledge, such a nondemonstrative conceptualism has not been spelled out at length, though there have been some brief discussions of it. Chuard (2006) brings it up briefly in a footnote but dismisses it quickly.[6] Rosenthal (2005, pp. 188-189) can be read as having a favorable view of such a strategy (a view that Gennaro (forthcoming) endorses), but his treatment of it is brief.

The gist of this combinatoric, non-demonstrative strategy may be spelled out in the manner of Rosenthal’s treatment. The conceptualist may appeal to combinations of two kinds of color concepts, what Rosenthal calls comparative and noncomparative color concepts. Comparative color concepts are those brought to bear in comparisons between colors, concepts such as the concept of one shade’s being darker than another or more blue than another. Noncomparative color concepts are those, such as red and vermillion, that are applicable in judgments that aren’t comparisons of colors. The gist of this version of conceptualism is that it is the view that for any color a perceiver can consciously experience something as, the perceiver must bring to bear in experience some color concept or combination of color concepts. So, for example, I may, on some conscious perceptual encounter with a shade, conceptualize it as vermillion (a noncomparative color concept). Alternately, I might, if lacking the concept vermillion, conceptualize it as more red than orange, and/or more orange than blood-red. Alternately, on a presentation of two shades of red side-by-side, I might conceive of the one on the right as a darker shade of red than the one on the left.

[1] As I interpret the DIA, and as it seems, Raffman intends it, it is an empirical argument. I have doubts about whether Kelly (2001) endorses the empirical argument. He seems, at least in places, to instead have an a priori argument in mind. See, especially his remark, “It's perfectly conceivable, in other words, and there's nothing about the nature of perception to keep it from being true, that our capacity to discriminate colors exceeds our capacity to re-identify the colors discriminated.” (p. 411, emphasis added).

[2] For discussion of the empirical evidence that, in various sensory modalities, our abilities of perceptual discrimination are more fine-grained than our memory and categorization abilities, see (Burns & Ward, 1977; Halsey & Chapanis, 1951; Hardin, 1988a; Hurvich, 1981).

[3] Rey (1993) writes:
[B]y assimilating [qualitative] experience to [propositional] attitudes, we explain the essential unity of the mind, what it is that makes beliefs, desires, memories, hopes, fears and sensations all states of the same sort of entity. What are sometimes proposed as rival accounts seem to me to lack this unity. For example, biologistic or dualistic accounts that regard qualia as biological or as entirely non-physical properties of a computationally organized brain have trouble explaining how a mind that thinks by computing manages to feel by being in some further non-computational relation to such further properties. The further properties seem gratuitous and accidental: unless they were somehow represented in that life, how could they be any more a part of a person’s mental life than the colour of their brain? But then why should not the representations be enough, whether or not there are the corresponding properties? (p. 248)
It should be noted that there is a bit of a wrinkle involved in counting Rey as a conceptualist. In his (Rey, 2007) he writes that on his view, sensational representations are ‘non-conceptual’ (scare-quotes, Rey’s) for not freely combining with each other (p. 115). Further, on Rey’s view, there are no qualia, just the contents of phenomenal concepts (p. 130). On one reading then, Rey is a conceptualist for denying that qualia have any existence beyond the contents of certain concepts. On a different reading though, Rey is a nonconceptualist for his view that sensational representations aren’t concepts.

[4] The demonstrative conceptualist may attempt to avoid these sorts of problems by, as Kelly (2001a, p. 398, note 2) suggests, having the demonstrative content be fixed, not by the shade that is experienced, but instead by the shade as it is experienced. However, such a move seems to make the resultant demonstrative conceptualism highly vulnerable to what Bermúdez & Cahen (2010) call the priority argument, the gist of which that is pertinent here is that experiential content is supposed to be explained by appeal to conceptual content, not the other way around (see also Heck (2000)). However, the appeal to, instead of the shade of color the external object actually has, the shade of color as it appears to experience, seems to invert the proper order of explanation.

[5] Examples of supporters of the Re-identification constraint include Brewer (1999), Jacob & Jeannerod (2003), Kelly (2001a, 2001b), McDowell (1994), and Prinz (2007).

[6] In Chuard (2006, p. 196, note 11) he writes:
Perhaps, one could reach the same result without resorting to demonstrative concepts. Suppose that a subject S possesses some chromatic concepts like RED and GREEN, together with concepts of ILLUMINATION, HUE, SATURATION, etc. She may then be able to form enough complex concepts composed out of those simpler concepts, so as to conceptualize the fine-grained differences between the shades she perceptually discriminates. The problem with this suggestion is that a subject might in fact lack even some basic chromatic concepts, not to mention concepts of ILLUMINATION, HUE and SATURATION.
Chuard here dismisses the nondemonstrative strategy on the grounds of a modal claim concerning what a subject might experience while lacking certain concepts. I find the modal claim to here be inadequately defended. As it appears in Chuard’s note, it is a bald assertion.

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