The Phenomenal Qualities Project

Investigating the nature of consciousness and its place in the physical world…

Phenomenal Papers etc.

1.Chalmers’s Master Argument and Type Bb Physicalism

By Sam Coleman, Unpublished.

Chalmers has provided a dilemmatic master argument against all forms of the phenomenal concept strategy. This paper explores a position that evades Chalmers’s argument, dubbed Type Bb: it is for Type B physicalists who embrace horn b of Chalmers’s dilemma. A way is explained of capturing the key Type B claims, whilst respecting the genuine conceivability of zombies, as well as the intuition that they must differ from us epistemically. The discussion concludes that Chalmers fails to show any incoherence in the position of a Type B physicalist who depends on the phenomenal concept strategy.

2.  Hallucination and the Alleged Transparency of Perception

By Paul Coates, forthcoming with MIT Press.

This paper examines the way in which concepts of a low-level classificatory kind occur
in different kinds of experiences, and what happens when subjects of deceptive musical
hallucinations re-assess their experiences and come to realise that they are hallucinating.
Drawing upon this account, it is shown how it is possible for subjects to adopt different
conceptual stances with respect to veridical perceptual experience. The issue of the seeming
“transparency” of perceptual experience is explored, and it is argued that the sense in which
perceptual experience is transparent is compatible with the Critical Realist version of the
causal theory of perception: hallucinatory phenomena show how perception can be
intentionally direct, yet causally mediated. Transparency does not provide any special
support for Direct Realist or Disjunctivist theories of perception.

3. Mind under Matter

By Sam Coleman – Penultimate draft of a paper published in Mind that Abides ed. David Skrbina and Gordon Globus (Amsterdam, Netherlands: Benjamins, 2008).

Distinguishes several existing motivations for panpsychism and offers a new argument for the position, based on the metaphysics of phenomenal qualities.

4. Perception Imagination & Demonstrative Reference

By Paul Coates, forthcoming with Oxford University Press.

In an important late paper, ‘The Role of the Imagination in Kant’s Theory of
Experience’, Sellars brings together ideas about the complex nature of perceptual
consciousness and the content of perceptual demonstratives. In a development of his
previous ideas about perception, he clarifies the key role played by the imagination in
integrating the conceptual and sensory (or phenomenal) components of perceptual
experience. I propose a modification of Sellars’s views on the imagination, and show
how the resulting conception explains the different ways in which experiences can be
conceptualised. I then discuss how the account enables us to understand exactly how,
according to the Sellarsian critical realist analysis of experience, we are able to make
demonstrative judgements about physical objects, while avoiding a problematic appeal
to neo-Russellian notions of acquaintance.

5. Review of Michael Tye’s ‘Consciousness Revisited: Materialism without Phenomenal Concepts’

By Sam Coleman, in Philosophy 85, 3 pp.413-418.

6. ‘Sense-Data

By Paul Coates, in the Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy.

7. The Metaphysics of Perception: Wilfrid Sellars, Perceptual Consciousness and Critical Realism

By Paul Coates, Routledge 2007.

8. Why the Ability Hypothesis is Best Forgotten

By Sam Coleman, in Journal of Consciousness Studies, Vol. 16, 2-3: 74-97.

According to the knowledge argument, physicalism fails because when physically omniscient Mary first sees red, her gain in phenomenal knowledge involves a gain in factual knowledge. Thus not all facts are physical facts. According to the ability hypothesis, the knowledge argument fails because Mary only acquires abilities to imagine, remember and recognise redness, and not new factual knowledge. I argue that reducing Mary’s new knowledge to abilities does not affect the issue of whether she also learns factually: I show that gaining specific new phenomenal knowledge is required for acquiring abilities of the relevant kind. Phenomenal knowledge being basic to abilities, and not vice versa, it is left an open question whether someone who acquires such abilities also learns something factual. The answer depends on whether the new phenomenal knowledge involved is factual. But this is the same question we wanted to settle when first considering the knowledge argument. The ability hypothesis, therefore, has offered us no dialectical progress with the knowledge argument, and is best forgotten.


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  Richard Wilson wrote @

Sam – re the knowledge argument
I would focus on the misleading term “phenomenal knowledge” : it seems to me that it is used in a question-begging role. Mary gains phenomenal experiences of seeing the world in clolour but surely she already knows about the physics of colours and the biology of visual processing? She thus does not gain any knowledge.

  Sam Coleman wrote @

Most interpreters of KA agree that there is something epistemically novel about Mary when she sees red, be it a gain in factual knowledge, abilities, some new concept or something else.

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