William G. Lycan
University of North Carolina
Since Twin Earth
was discovered by American philosophical-space explorers in the 1970s,
the domain of “wide” or externalist or extrinsic properties has expanded.Putnam
(1975) originally focused just on the meanings of people’s linguistic utterances,
arguing that two perfect twins, an Earthling and that person’s molecular
duplicate on Twin Earth in parallel physical surroundings, can utter identical
sentences that nonetheless have different meanings.Fodor
(1980) and Stich (1978) extended this argument to cover the contents of
people’s propositional attitudes, so far as those contents comprised concepts
of certain sorts, such as natural-kind concepts.Stich
(1980) then argued that Fodor had underestimated the range of the wide
(“…what Fodor sees as a bit I see as the tip of an iceberg” (p. 97)).
That far, the discussion
had confined itself to standard cognitive and conative propositional attitudes.Block
(1990, 1994, 1996) widened the wide further by granting a sense in which
perceptual contents are wide—in which, for example, a same-colored object
might look red to me but blue to my molecular twin.Yet
Block insisted that there is another and perhaps more important sense in
which the perceptual contents are “narrow,” i.e., in which the object must
look the same color to any molecular duplicate of mine.He
calls these narrow perceptual contents “qualia,” in a special neologistic
sense of that fraught word.
I do not believe in “qualia” in Block’s special sense, though I insist on the existence of qualia in a more customary and familiar sense.My purpose in this paper is to argue that qualia in the latter sense are wide.I made that claim and defended it a bit in Lycan (1996), but since then a number of arguments have been given for the contrary thesis that qualia are narrow, so it is time to rejoin the debate.
1.The Representational theory of qualia.
in my sense are the introspectible qualitative phenomenal features that
characteristically inhere in sensory experiences.The
color of an after-image would be a good example, as is the color occupying
such-and-such a region of your ordinary visual field right now; other examples
are the pitch or the volume of a heard sound, and the smell of a smell.I
emphasize that these are phenomenal properties.They
may be part of normal, veridicasensory experience; or they may be hallucinatory
or otherwise purely subjective, and correspond to nothing
in the subject’s
previous works I have called qualia “introspectible monadic properties
of apparent phenomenal individuals,” meaning the characteristic properties
of what Russell thought were actual phenomenal individuals, i.e., of what
he called sense-data; Russell took qualia in my sense to be first-order
properties of sense-data.But my
reference to “apparent phenomenal individuals” has sometimes confused readers,
since it may be hard to think about “characteristic properties of” sense-data
without falling in with the assumption that there really are sense-data.Yet
it is crucial to see that one need not believe in sense-data to believe
in qualia.Most of us reject Russell’s
idea that an after-image is an actual and nonphysical individual thing,
but if you are experiencing a green after-image, you cannot deny that in
some sense there is greenness in your visual field; greenness is somehow
visually exemplified and present to you.If
the greenness is (indeed) not a first-order property of an immaterial sense-datum,
then of what is it a property, and/or, what kind of property is it?We
must relocate it ontologically.And
I maintain (Lycan (1987a, 1987b, 1996)) that this is a very difficult metaphysical
see the difficulty, suppose that while you are experiencing the after-image,
there is in reality no green physical object in your environment.Suppose
also that there is no green physical object in your brain (if there were
one, you would be in big trouble).But
there is a green something before you, Russellian sense-datum or
not.If there is no green physical
object outside your head and no green physical object inside your head,
it follows that the green something is a nonphysical object.So
much for materialism; it seems that the green something might as well be
a sense-datum after all.
the Representational theory, to carry us between the horns of the foregoing
dilemma:Notice that each disjunct
assumes that the green “something” is an actual thing (else we could
not derive the unwanted conclusion that there actually exists a nonphysical
green thing).The Representational
theory affords a third alternative, by supposing that qualia are intentional
contents of sensory states, properties of intentional objects, represented
properties of representata.Of course
it is characteristic of intentional contents that they may or may not actually
exist; and that is how we evade the dilemma.Your
visual system quite often portrays, alleges something green.But,
vision being not entirely reliable, on a given occasion the green thing
may or may not actually exist.
Suppose Ludwig is
seeing a real tomato in good light, and naturally it looks red to him.He
is visually representing the actual redness of the tomato, and veridically
so.But suppose Bertie is experiencing
a green after-image as a result of seeing a red flash bulb go off.According
to the Representational theory, that is for Bertie to be visually-representing
a filmy green blob located at such-and-such a spot in the room. The representation
has a truth-condition involving greenness.
There visually appears
to Ludwig to be a red tomato; there visually appears to Bertie to be a
green blob.The tomato is real and
so is its redness, but the blob is unreal, an intentional inexistent, and
so is its greenness.The greenness
is the color of an illusory, nonexistent thing.If
that seems weird to you, think of hallucinating pink rats.Perhaps
you know the rats are not real, but they are unquestionably pink.The
pinkness is the color of the nonexistent rats.(I
take that to be uncontroversial.)Construing
intentionality as representation, we can say that the pinkness is the represented
color of the represented but nonactual rats, i.e., it is the color they
are represented as having.
Nor should it be
surprising that Bertie’s blob is a nonactual, nonexistent thing.Since
in reality there is no green blob in the room with Bertie, his visual experience
is unveridical.Remember that after-images
are illusions; it looks to Bertie as though there is a green blob
before him, when there is not anything green before him.Moreover,
vision science has an extensively worked out explanation of this particular
illusion.It is well understood why
it can look to someone as though there is something green even when there
is not anything green before that person.
I contend that Russell mistook a nonactual physical individual for an actual nonphysical one.
are a number of arguments in favor of the Representational theory, but
I will (briefly) state only the three most accessible ones.
theory is the only very promising way to preserve materialism while accommodating
qualia.For the only viable alternative
exegesis of Bertie seems to be belief in actual Russellian sense-data or
at least in immaterial properties.(Jackson
(1977), Butchvarov (1980) and Lycan (1987a, 1987b) argue at length that
the frantic old “adverbial” dodge of Chisholm (1957, Chapter 5) and Sellars
(1967) is hopeless.)
distinguish between veridical and unveridical visual experiences.Ludwig
accurately sees a real tomato, but George Edward hallucinates pink rats.I
would take it to be fairly uncontentious that George Edward’s experience
is, falsely, as of pink rats, and has rats and their pinkness as illusory
intentional objects.Likewise, Bertie’s
experience is as of a green blob and has greenness as an intentional object,
and what the experience reports is false.Moreover,
the experience’s veridicality condition, i.e., there being a green blob
where there seems to Bertie to be one, seems to exhaust not only the experience’s
representational content but its qualitative content.Once
the greenness has already been accounted for, what qualitative content
(Harman (1990)):We normally “see
right through” perceptual states to external objects and do not even notice
that we are in perceptual states; the properties we are aware of in perception
are attributed to the objects perceived.“Look
at a tree and try to turn your attention to intrinsic features of your
visual experience. I predict you will find that the only features there
to turn your attention to will be features of the presented tree, including
relational features of the tree ‘from here’” (p. 39).
Harman’s transparency argument can be extended also to the purely hallucinatory case.Suppose you are looking at a real, bright yellow lemon in good light.Suppose also that you then hallucinate a second, identical lemon to the right of the real one.(You may be aware that the second lemon is not real.)Phenomenally, the relevant two sectors of your visual field are just the same; the appearances are just the same in structure.The yellowness involved in the second-lemon appearance is exactly the same property as is involved in the first.But if we agree that the yellowness perceived in the real lemon is just the yellowness of the lemon itself, then the yellowness perceived in the hallucinated lemon--the yellow quale involved in the second-lemon appearance--is just the yellowness of the hallucinated lemon itself.
On pain of circularity, the Representational theory requires color realism, for it explicates color qualia in terms of the real- (and unreal-)world colors of physical objects; “yellow” means the objective, public property inhering in physical objects.One could not then turn around and explicate the ostensible colors of physical objects in terms of color qualia (e.g., as the disposition to produce yellow qualia in normal human percipients).Of course, color realism has been a minority position in the history of philosophy, so this must be counted as a liability of the Representational theory.What physical property of a lemon is it yellowness supposed to be?For the record, I buy into D.M. Armstrong’s Disjunctive Realism, the view that a color is a wildly disjunctive but perfectly real physical property.(See Armstrong and Malcolm (1984).Lycan (1996, Chapter 4) rebuts some objections to the Disjunctive Realist view.)
2.Internalism and externalism about qualia.
I have mentioned,Ned Block has defended
properties of a type he calls “qualia,” distinct from qualia in my more
familiar sense, that are narrow properties.But
he has also offered a prominent objection to the Representational theory
of qualia in my sense, his (1990) Inverted Earth argument (to which we
shall return).And that argument
depends on assuming that qualia in my sense are narrow also.In
print or in conversation, a number of philosophers (including even Dretske
(1996)) have since called that assumption a “deep / powerful / compelling
reject that judgment utterly.Until
the past few years, the assumption that qualia are narrow has been just
that, a gratuitous and unexamined assumption.And
only recently, to my knowledge, has any philosopher actually tried to motivate
the rest of this paper, I shall first defend the opposing thesis, that
qualia in my sense are wide, and then survey and rebut the arguments I
have heard for their being narrow.
(By the way, I do not myself need phenomenal externalism for my overall Representationalist project, for I have at least two ways of accommodating narrow qualia if I must (Lycan (1996), Chapter 6).But I would prefer to avoid that, and I also enjoy defending phenomenal externalism out of amor belli.)
3.Arguments for phenomenal externalism.
The arguments I shall give are far from conclusive.I believe they create a presumption; but I will be happy if they only show that qualia internalism is not obviously correct.
(A)If the Representational theory is correct, then qualia are determined by whatever determines a psychological state’s intentional content; in particular, the color properties represented are taken to be physical properties instanced in the subject’s environment, features detected by our visual systems.What determines a psychological state’s intentional content is given by a psychosemantics, in Fodor’s (1987) sense.But every known plausible psychosemantics makes intentional contents wide, explicating them in terms of relations to things external to the subject.Therefore (still assuming the Representational theory), very probably qualia are wide.Of course, the Representational theory is itself contentious; but if one grants that it is plausible or at least defensible, the further step to externalism is not a giant step.
qualia are narrow.Then Block’s
Inverted Earth argument is plausible.The
argument is based on an example in which a victim is unknowingly transported
to a planet which is exactly like Earth except that its physical colors
are inverted with respect to ours.But
the victim is fitted with compensating lenses so that s/he does not notice
the color switch; s/he is now misperceiving, because s/he sees green objects
as red, if it is green Inverted objects that correspond to red Earthly
objects under the inversion in question.The
Twin Earthlings’ speech sounds just like English, of course, so they do
not notice anything odd about the victim.But
their intentional contents in regard to color are inverted relative to
ours: When they say”red,” they mean green, and green things look
green to them even though they call those things “red.”
After some period
of time, Block maintains, the victim’s embedding in the physical and linguistic
environment of Inverted Earth would come to dominate, since s/he would
be interacting with the local color environment itself, and speaking the
Inverted Earthlings’ language.Her/his
wide intentional color contents would gradually shift to match those of
the surrounding population on Inverted Earth.But
the victim’s qualia (being supposedly narrow) would not shift.If
all the intentional properties would shift but the qualia would not, then
the qualia are not intentional properties.
Block’s argument would show that either qualia are narrow functional properties or they are narrow properties of a very weird kind whose existence is suggested by nothing else we know (see Chapter 6 of Lycan (1996), in which the weird properties are called “Strange Qualia”and their weirdness is exhibited).But qualia are not functional properties, at least not narrow ones.First, qualia are (ostensibly) monadic properties, while functional properties are all overtly relational.Second and more importantly, Functionalism does nothing to resolve the Russellian dilemma aforementioned.So, either qualia are wide or weirdness is multiplied beyond necessity.
(1996) argues much as follows:So
far as qualia are intentional contents, we must concede that they are distinct
from belief contents and other conceptually characterized contents (since
one can have qualia themselves without possessing the corresponding concepts).Therefore,
one can have qualia without being able to know or even have beliefs about
what qualia one has.Suppose qualia
are narrow.Then two molecular twins
whose intentional contents are all different owing to different environmental
surrounds must nonetheless have the same qualia.But
neither the twins nor anyone else could ever know or even have reason to
think that there were those shared qualia, because neither twin has any
concept that applies to them.So
there is no reason we should believe in them either.
argument is flawed, in that it assumes all knowledge is conceptual.Suppose
instead that the twins have a more primitive kind of introspective acquaintance
with their qualia.Perhaps they,
and we, have a nonconceptual “inner sense” that does the acquainting??“nonconceptual”
at least in that it does not mobilize concepts possessed by ordinary whole
persons.(Unlike Dretske, I believe
that we are equipped with an organ of this kind (Lycan (1995; 1996, Chapter
this would not alleviate the epistemic difficulty.As
Moore, Harman and others have pointed out, what introspection reveals in
the way of sensory qualities are only the qualities imputed (rightly or
wrongly) by the senses to external objects.E.g.,
when I introspect my visual field in regard to the yellow ellipsoidal patch
associated with a lemon that is in front of me, the sensory quality that
I find in the visual field is the very yellowness that the experience presents
as inhering in the lemon, nothing more.If
asked, I would report it using the English word “yellow.”Of
course, introspection presents a much more specific shade, intensity and
saturation of yellow than anyone could express in ordinary English words,
and in this sense it is non- or subconceptual.But
the same is true of vision itself; nonconceptualness of this sort lends
no support to the idea that the yellowness is narrow.And
notice that the same argument goes for the yellowness of an hallucinated
lemon; the argument does not exploit veridicality.
Thus, as before, even if there were shared qualia underlying the twins’ differing intentional contents, neither the twins nor anyone else could ever know or even have reason to think so, this time because neither twin’s introspective access reveals any sensory property other than the one that is being represented by her/his visual experience.
I turn to my official array of objections,I
must address a special one.There
is a possibility that the Disjunctive Realist theory of color and a particular
psychosemantics for vision might interact in such a way as to make color
qualia narrow.Suppose that what
unites the Realist’s disjuncts for a given color is, in fact, that each
of the disjoined physical properties causes the corresponding color sensation
in a normal human perceiver under standard conditions.(Lycan
(1996, Chapter 4) argues that this need not induce circularity in the Representational
theory, so long as the disjunctive property could in principle be identified
independently of human perception and the color is not metaphysically explicated
in terms of perceivers.)Suppose
also that a simple causal psychosemantics is correct: A visual brain state
represents a given color if it is normally caused by visual contact with
an object of that color.Then, depending
on the exact formulation of the psychosemantics, it may follow that molecular
duplicates always have the same color qualia.Red
things always cause, via their respective physical substrata, sensations
of red in normal perceivers under standard conditions; what makes a visual
neural state a sensation of red is its being normally caused by a red thing.So
there is no possibility of varying the environmental surround in such a
way as to have the duplicates’ corresponding sensations caused by things
of distinct natural color-kinds, even if they are caused by different physical
substrata, i.e., by different disjuncts underlying redness.
If these things should turn out to be so, then I would accede to the thesis that qualia are narrow, but maintain that they are, so to speak, only accidentally so.That is, a quale would be narrow, not because of the nature of its containing mental state, but only because of the kind of property the state’s intentional object happens to be.(And color qualia would still be “wide” in the sense of being externally referential, though the example would show that that does not suffice for wideness in the core sense of nonsupervenience.)
3.Arguments against phenomenal externalism.
(1)Block (1996) offers an argument based on the Inverted Earth victim’s memories.But I shall not take up the Memory argument here, since I have already dealt with it in Lycan (1996), and Michael Tye (1998) has responded to it more extensively.
(Tye (1998); cf. Rey (1998, sec. 2.4)):The
Representational theory of qualia, interpreted widely, requires some psychosemantics.Representationalists
typically appeal to teleological psychosemantics (at least Lycan (1987)
and Dretske (1995) do). But
teleology is to be explicated in etiological terms.Therefore
an organism’s teleological properties require a history of some kind.
Now, suppose a creature is freakishly caused to pop into existence in a swamp, or in outer space, and it happens to be a molecular duplicate of some actual or nonactual human being at a given moment.The creature will have all the same internal properties and all the same behavioral dispositions as the human twin; and so we should expect that the creature has the same qualia as the human.But according to the Representational theory, qualia require representation.If externalist representation itself requires teleology and teleology in turn requires having a history, then externalist representationalism is refuted by the historyless swamp creature; the externalist Representational theory counterintutively rules that Swampman and other accidental spontaneous replicas of normal sentient creatures lack qualitative experiences entirely.
as Millikan (1984) would have it, perhaps Swampman does lack qualitative
experiences at first.(To rebut
this suggestion by citing his molecular similarity to his original would
simply beg the question of externalism in favor of internalism.)But,
second, we must take care to distinguish teleological theories of representation
from etiological theories of teleology.One
can easily hold either of those without the other, and actual theorists
do so.I myself believe pretty firmly
in a teleological requirement on representation, but I am not committed
to any particular theory of teleology.
Now, the Swampman type of example was originally mobilized against Larry Wright’s etiological theory of teleology.If it succeeds against etiological theories generally, then we should abandon such theories.But that does nothing to impugn or even embarrass teleological theories of representation, which per se are not committed to any particular account of teleology in turn.Nor, I assume, could Swampman be taken to count directly against teleological theories of representation, since some accounts of teleology are forward-looking and would award full teleofunctional properties to him.
(3)If qualia are wide, then there must be a relevant sort of twin earth, on which the relevant twin WGL’s sensory state has a different representational content from mine even though he is appeared to in the same qualitative way as I am now.Yet if I were spontaneously transported to that twin earth and took the place of my twin, I would notice nothing introspectively, despite a change in representational content; so my qualia must remain unchanged and so are narrow.
same goes for propositional attitudes, i.e., the Earthling transported
to Twin Earth would notice nothing introspectively, despitethe
change in her/his belief and desire contents.Yet
the attitude contents are still wide.Wideness
does not entail introspective change under transportation.
Throughout this paper, I am assuming the standard Putnamian picture of wide propositional-attitude contents.One may reject it, as does Searle (1983).My thesis is only that if one does accept the Putnamian picture of the attitudes, one has no good reason not to accept it for qualia in my sense as well.
(4)Wilebaldo Lara (1995) has complained that if qualia are wide, then then it is hard to see how the qualities of experiences can affect behavior (which they obviously do); what actually causes behavior must be in the head.
Reply:This is just another instance of the problem of wide intentional causation, much discussed for the cases of belief and desire (e.g., Heil and Mele (1993)).It is a vexing problem, but it is not particularly about qualia.(I would argue that it is not even particularly about the mind; wide, though not intentional, causation occurs in biology, in geology, and even in astronomy.)
(5)In the propositional-attitude literature, both the transportation type of argument and the wide-causation problem have been taken as the bases of arguments for “narrow content,” as has the problem of self-knowledge given externalism (Cassam (1994); and see Georgalis (1994)).And, come to think of it, any general argument for narrow content will presumably apply to sensory representation as well as to propositional attitudes.If there is narrow content at all, then, probably sensory states have it too, and so qualia can be taken to be the narrow contents of such states.
Reply:The literature features narrow content or “content” of at least three different kinds.Pursuing my comparison to the Putnam-Fodor line on propositional attitudes, I shall focus just on a kind of narrow content that is supposed to underlie an ordinary wide attitude.The idea is that although I and Twin WGL on Twin Earth have different beliefs because mine is about water and his corresponding one is about the different but superficially similar substance XYZ, impacted within each of those beliefs is a narrow content that we share.I am myself very doubtful of that idea; but suppose it is correct.Suppose further that it extends to sensory contents.Now, even if there are such things as narrow contents underlying sensory states, these still would not correspond to qualia in the sense I have defined.For all that has been shown, the yellowness of a patch in my visual field is still a wide property, even if some other, narrow property underlies it in the same way that narrow contents are supposed to underlie beliefs and desires.On the Putnamian model, it is wide properties that are the ordinary contents of mental states, expressed by and ascribed using ordinary public English words; the narrow contents are not, or not easily, so expressed and ascribed.And qualia in my sense are the sensory contents that do go with public English words such as “yellow.”
(6)There is no such thing as representation without a mode of presentation.If a quale is a representatum, then it is represented under a mode of presentation, and modes of presentation may be narrow even when the representational content itself is wide.Indeed, many philosophers of mind, myself included, take modes of presentation to be internal causal or functional roles played by the representations in question.Georges Rey (1998) very reasonably wonders aloud (p. 455, footnote 29) why, since I too believe in modes of presentation under which phenomenal states are given in introspection, I did not consider those modes of presentation as candidates for qualitative content.Are they not narrow qualia?
the qualia themselves are properties like phenomenal yellowness and redness
and greenness, which according to the Representational theory are representata.The
mode or guise under which redness and greenness are represented
in vision are something else again.
It can plausibly be argued that such modes and guises are qualitative or phenomenal properties of some sort, perhaps higher-order properties.I agree that, in particular, they are appealing candidates for constituting the higher-order property of “what it’s like for the subject to experience” the relevant first-order quale.(Notice that qualia in my sense and the higher-order “what it’s like” are different properties; they must be, since the latter is a property of the former. )But, for the record, there is a problem that arises if we make modes or guises into higher-order qualitative properties:If we suppose that those modes can come apart from the qualia they present to the point of switching or inversion, we get the kind of weirdness scouted in Chapter 6 of Lycan (1996).
(7)Rey (1998), “Wide Semantic vs. Qualitative States” (pp. 442-43):
[Q]ualitative experience...simply doesn’t seem to display any of the standard relational links that are usually intuitively obvious when pointed out in the case of genuinely wide states.Being a parent is obviously wide, requiring children; being a knife wound requires a knife; and being a thought about Rembrandt seems to require Rembrandt.But what does a painful, or a phenomenal red[,] experience require?Not clearly any specific external stimulus; there are phantom limb sensations and endogenously hallucinated red experiences.
Reply:It may be that being a thought about Rembrandt requires the existence of Rembrandt, depending on your view of mental proper names.But more generally, being a thought about X-kind does not require the actual current presence of an X.In what seems exactly the same way, a phenomenal red experience “seems to require” at least one red object??and usually is caused by a red object in the immediate vicinity??even though of course red experiences can be hallucinations.A psychosemantics of color vision might well appeal to the property of being-normally-caused-by-light-waves-reflected-by-a-red-object.The phantom limb example is even better:Tinglings and pains in one’s foot “seem to require” having a foot with some damage or disorder in it, but not always; the very same tinglings and pains can occur in the absence of any foot (even though they continue to represent disorder in the foot).Unless I have misunderstood him, Rey is ‘way off here.
(8)On p. 442, Rey makes a point additional to (7): that “phenomenal similarities and differences don’t track wide semantic similarities and differences” (italics original).Intentional contents are environmentally more malleable than are qualitative contents, or at least our intuitions about intentional contents are more liberal in this regard than are our intuitions about qualitative contents.In a transportation example, most of us are willing to believe that a subject’s beliefs and other attitudes gradually shift their contents in the direction of the new twin planet.E.g., if I am transported to Putnam’s original Twin Earth, the beliefs that I express using the sign-design “water” will gradually stop being about water, i.e., H2O, and be more and more about XYZ.After a month, or a year, or at any rate a decade on Twin Earth (depending on the frequency of my perceptual contact with the waterish stuff XYZ), my beliefs will be about XYZ and mostly true, rather than about H2O and often false.But it is implausible to think that on Inverted Earth, qualitative contents would shift in this obliging way.It is very unlikely that after a month, or a year, or maybe even a decade, red things would start looking green to me, even though I quickly learned to call them “green” and perhaps even came to believe that they are green.Color qualia do not change as readily under environmental pressure as color beliefs do.
may be true that belief contents are fairly malleable.(I
do not respect Block’s own reason for thinking that, which presupposes
that belief content shallowly and slavishly tracks local word meanings;
though I do generally endorse Sellars’ view of the priority of public language
to thought, I cannot go that far.)But
belief contents are not the appropriate point of comparison.The
Representational theory of qualia does not identify qualia with belief
contents, even with the contents of specifically perceptual beliefs.It
identifies them with the contents of sui generis perceptual representations.
Perceptual contents differ from cognitive attitude contents in each of a number of respects.It is probable that one such way is grounded in the comparative modularity of sense modalities (Fodor (1983)):Vision, for example, is informationally encapsulated and (at the level of sensory qualities, pace Hanson (1958), Gombrich (1960) et al.) fairly well insulated from the subject’s beliefs; this is the lesson of optical illusions.Belief and memory contents might shift under transportation between Twin planets, while visual contents remain determined by nature and by the structure and teleology of the visual system, not by common-sense propositional attitudes.That would explain Block’s view (which I share) that the look of a tomato would remain the same even if belief and memory contents changed.And the explanation strikes me as very plausible; and it also explains why we intuitively think that qualia would not shift as easily as attitude contents might.
(9)A problem about modelling a shift of qualia:Even if perceptual contents do not shift in the way attitude contents (arguably) do, perhaps they would eventually shift??say after one or more centuries, if a subject could stay alive that long.After all, they are wide according to me, and environments do change.But how would a distinctive quale even imaginably undergo such a shift?For example, suppose that a quale is supposed to shift from blue to yellow.A shift from blue to yellow might reasonably be supposed to be a smooth and gradual shift along the spectrum that passes through green.But it is hardly plausible that one would experience such a shift, or a period of unmistakable greenness in particular.
Reply:We really have no plausible model for a shift of everyday attitude content either.How would a type of belief state smoothly go from being about blue to being about yellow?Presumably not by being about green in between.So our presumed quale shift is no worse off than the attitudinal shift in this regard; if the present argument works for the former case, it also works for the latter, contrary to hypothesis.
(10)Rey (1998), “Non-Transparency” (pp. 440-42):Even if the Moore-Harman transparency thesis holds for perceptual states, moods and bodily sensations do not have the same transparent character.“Many have noted that states like that of elation, depression, anxiety, pleasure, orgasm seem to be just overall states of oneself, and not ‘features of presented objects’” (p. 441, italics original).
should grant that the qualia presented by bodily sensations such as orgasm,
pains and temperature are narrow in the usual sense.For
even if such sensations are intentional??as Lycan (1996) argues??their
intentional objects are parts of the subject’s own body, and so the subject’s
molecular duplicates will share them.(Though,
n.b., there will be more exacting sense in which they are still wide, if
we draw the boundary of where the “subject” leaves off closer to the central
nervous system and properly within the skin.)I
suspect that this narrowness of bodily-sensation qualia is an important
source of the notion that qualia generally are narrow, for it is likely
that philosophers extrapolate from the narrowness of bodily-sensory qualia
and impute it without thinking to color- and other world-perceptual qualia;
it is tempting to assimilate the “feels” of perceptual states to those
of sensory states, so far as we consider perceptual states to have feels.But
the “feel” terminology suits perceptual states less well than it does bodily-sensory
states.Bodily sensations are themselves
conceived as feelings, while perceptual states are not.Thus,
it would be fallacious to infer that since bodily qualia supervene on molecular
constitution, perceptual qualia do also.
about “whole-person” states such as elation, depression, and free-floating
anxiety?I agree that their felt
phenomenal characters are not “features of presented objects.”So
they do not have qualia in our strict Lewisian sense (though they can lend
phenomenal features to presented objects, and so can be closely accompanied
by qualia).The Representational
theory does not apply.
For what it’s worth, I believe the “whole-person” states are representational nonetheless.Elation represents one’s surroundings, or if extreme the whole world, as being beautiful and benign.Depression represents proposed actions as unrewarding and the subject as generally unworthy.Anxiety represents there being some impending harm or disaster.But I do not contend that these representational contents exhaust the overall “feel” or subjective character of the states in question.(Here and elsewhere I distinguish an “overall subjective character” from qualia strictly construed; see Lycan (1998, pp. 484ff.).)Functional and other dispositional elements are crucial to those states as well, probably a good deal more important to their subjective characters as are their representational contents.
(11)In discussion following a presentation of Lycan (1998), Kent Bach and David Chalmers raised a more serious concern:Natural representation admits of various indeterminacies.One is in complex Twin-Earth travel scenarios, where there seems to be no fact of the matter about which duplicate a mental symbol refers to (cf. Rey, pp. 443-44).Another might be in a long-term evolutionary process, when for some centuries it is vague whether or not some etiological explicans is satisfied.Now, on the Representational theory of qualia, qualia ought to inherit those indeterminacies and/or vaguenesses.But (version 1) qualia are not vague and indeterminate at all; either you have a red blob in your visual field or you do not.Or even if we agree with Dan Dennett that there is a lot less determinacy in the visual field than philosophers think, (version 2) qualia are not vague and indeterminate in the same way(s) that representation is on any going psychosemantics.(Are our biblical beliefs really about Moses, a real person?How about King Arthur?Which twin is my belief about, if I do not realize that there are two of them?)
of this sort have beset the psychosemantics of belief and thought (since
almost all that has been written in the way of psychosemantics has been
about belief and thought).But the
psychosemantics of sense modalities is going to be different, in each of
three ways.First, modularity again;
a sense modality like vision is informationally encapsulated and fairly
hard-wired, processing highly restricted sorts of inputs in comparatively
rigid ways; and each module has an identifiable function.Second,
more specifically, the function of any sense modality is feature detection,
and the proprietary features in question are comparatively few and determinate.Third,
as perceptual psychology continues to advance, it is becoming clearer that
the main task of a given modality is to map that modality’s distinctive
quality space.(Cf. Churchland (1989,
Ch. 7, sec. 7):Discrimination along
each of Edwin Land’s three color axes (short wave, medium wave and long
wave reflectances) yields a huge 3-space of possible color-visual states;
taste has four dimensions generated by the four kinds of receptors found
in our mouths, and any humanly possible taste will be represented as a
point in the resulting 4-space, more concretely a quadruple of spiking
For each of these three reasons, the psychosemantics of a sense modality can be expected to be far more tightly constrained than that of belief or thought.The teleological job description of a given module will specify a proprietary range of features that the relevant organ is to detect.A module will be (veridically or not) detecting a given feature or not.The determinacy of receptor sets and of the resulting state spaces will not leave much room for indeterminacy as to what is represented.And that, I believe, is why qualia are determinate in ways that belief- and other marshmallow-state contents are not.
(12)Horgan (2000):A brain in a vat whose stream of consciousness is engineered to be exactly like yours would have exactly the sequence of perceptual and other intentional states that you do.Since the brain’s external surround would be entirely unlike yours, the intentional contents it shares with you must be narrow contents.
sequitur.From the viewpoint of psychosemantics,
brain-in-vat cases have always been seriously underdescribed.Until
the scenario is much better fleshed out, we can’t say what the brain’s
intentional contents would be.Simply
to assert that they are the same as yours begs the question.
And cf. my reply to (3) above; introspective indistinguishability does not show narrowness.
a paradigm case of a kind-term having wide content, one can make a direct
Twin-Earth argument (cf. Rey, pp. 439-40).E.g.,
what is called “water” on Twin Earth is not water but XYZ; or the things
that look like tigers are not tigers and the tigers look like donkeys.Accordingly,
there is a “fool’s” distinction: Just as iron pyrites is not gold but fool’s
gold, so XYZ is only fool’s water and the tigerish beasts on Tiger Earth
are only fool’s tigers.And the contents
of our various Twins’ thoughts and other representations differ from ours
despite the aliens’ perfect molecular similarity to us Earthlings.But
it is hardly obvious that the green objects on Inverted Earth count as
“fool’s red” for Block’s victim, or that there could be any “fool’s red”
Suppose we agree that an object is red iff the object would look red to a normal percipient under standard lighting conditions.(My Armstrongian Disjunctive Realism is committed to that biconditional, even though the theory does not explicate redness in terms of looking red.)It follows that if an object looks red to a normal percipient in standard conditions, then the object is red.From which it seems to follow in turn that there can be no such thing as “fool’s red.”
show the wideness of looking-red, the problem is to come up with a case
in which two molecular duplicates, say Georges and some twin Georges, experience
different color looks, red and, as it might be, green.Let
us grant that the twins must be in the same neuroanatomically described
visual state Nr
(actually I doubt that even neuroanatomy is narrow).So
Georges and the twin are both in Nr
but supposedly in Georges this constitutes an object’s looking red to him
while in the twin it constitutes the corresponding object’s looking green
expository purposes let us start with a naïve and casual psychosemantics
of “typical causes”: A visual state such as Nr
will represent redness iff that state is typically caused by irradiation
of the retina produced by a red object.Now
consider a planet, Light Earth, which is like ours except that on its surface
the ambient light is strange.The
light is such that green objects almost always cause normal percipients
to go into Nr,
is almost always produced in normal percipients by green objects.According
to the naïve psychosemantics, then, Nr
in Light Earthlings will represent greenness, and green objects will look
green to them.If the relevant twin
of Georges is Light Georges on Light Earth, we have our example of molecular
duplicates visually representing different colors, hence experiencing different
color looks.Moreover, if (original)
Georges were to be suddenly transported to Light Earth and look at a green
object, he would go into Nr,
which for him represents red; so the green object would look red to him
and he would be fooled.Thus, for
Earthlings, green objects on Light Earth would be fool’s-red.(The
foregoing argument against the possibility of fool’s redness is blocked
by the stipulation that the lighting on Light Earth is not standard.Nor
may it be replied á la Block that the greenness present in Light
Georges’ visual state is only a shallow matter of word meaning or belief
content and really has a red quale underneath it, for that would simply
beg the question.)
myself reject the naïve psychosemantics, for reasons related to what
I have said in reply to the previous objection.What
happens if we replace it by a psychosemantics based on having feature detection
as a function?I do not see that
this change would undercut the example.If
the light on Light Earth has always been weird in the same way, then we
may coherently suppose that in Light Earthlings Nr
has the function of indicating green objects, and the argument goes through
as before; molecular twins visually represent different colors, and so
far as has been shown, that constitutes their experiencing different color
is an obvious further objection to the Light Earth argument: that Light
Earth’s strange light is standard or normal for Light Earth, however
weird it may be from the Earthling point of view.So
when the original Georges arrives suddenly on Light Earth, sees the green
object and goes into Nr,
he is a normal percipient in what is locally standard lighting, so (according
to our previous biconditional formula) the green object would look green,
not red, to him, and so it is not fool’s-red after all.
But this is a problem for the present version of Disjunctive Realism about color, not for the wideness of qualia.The problem stems from the biconditional formula, that was licensed by the Disjunctive Realist theory, which would have to be restricted in light of the apparent environment-relativity of “normal,” “standard” and such terms.My own view is that we are entitled to take those terms as defined geocentrically, by reference to Earth rather than Light Earth, because they are words of English rather than of Light English.But, granted, this is a large subject.
Conclusion:Not everyone will accept all of the foregoing replies.But I hope no one will continue to find it obvious that qualia are narrow.
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Heigh-ho!Here’s the elevator man!A charming fellow!You wonder if he knows that you have just had a tooth filled.You feel tempted to tell him and slap him on the back.You feel tempted to tell everyone out in the bright, cheery street.And what a wonderful street it is too!All full of nice, black snow and water.After all, Life is sweet!
(Inside Benchley, New York: Harper and Bros., 1921, p. 83.)
I am especially grateful to Washington University for appointing me as Clark Way Harrison Visitor in the Fall semester of 2000, during which period I finished this paper.The hospitality of faculty, graduate students and staff was bountiful and is much appreciated.