Inductive Skepticism and the Methodological Argument

Presenter: Carolyn Suchy-Dicey, Boston University

Commentator 1: Jennifer Corns, The Graduate Center, CUNY

Commentator 2: John Campbell, University of California, Berkeley

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17 Comments

  1. I want to give a short response to the two excellent and extremely helpful commentaries.

    First, Jennifer Corns pointed out some subtleties about Mole’s arguments that I missed in the original paper. Most importantly, that Mole is not intending to make an argument of the inductive skeptic’s form, as primarily evinced by his use of common sense reasoning at the start of his paper. I found Mole’s reasoning on this point unconvincing because of both method and content, but may have been incorrect to leave these thoughts out of the paper, given my strong claims. Mole supports his claim that the commonsense view of attention is that attention is not necessary for consciousness but consciousness is necessary for attention by asking 19 women to describe the case of the baby’s cry waking its mother: is she “conscious of the cry” and/or “paying attention to the cry”, Mole asks. Unfortunately, as “paying attention” requires the subject to direct their attention, this form of the question begs the question in favor of the subjects saying that one must be conscious to attend. A neutral phrasing would have been, “Is the mother attending to the baby’s cry?” I think, in this case, that the responses would have been evenly split. My reasoning for this is that I find the language of attention to be neutral to whether we are always attending or not.

    Some further notes about Jennifer’s commentary:

    1. Although I do not want to blame this reading on Jennifer, as it may well have been my writing that misled her, I do not think that all objections to ANC must take the form of logical inductive skepticism. In fact, I try to push this type of objection aside so that I can look at what I consider the more serious objections.

    2. I do not want to say that Ned Block holds Mole’s view. Block has not written about attention, but access, and the former is not limited to the latter. That is, one can attend to something without having access to it, so I think that there is no reason for him to claim that phenomenal conscious states cannot involve attention (contra Mole).

    Second, John is quite right to point out that I am not clear enough about my view of attention. My view is that attention does contribute to working memory, but that it does not give working memory its distinct character. That is, attention is necessary for access, but only because it is also necessary for conscious perception (and thus access to conscious attention). The character of having epistemic access to one’s conscious perceptions does not come from attention, but from something else. Perhaps whatever is special about access is also special about one type of attention, namely, active attention. However, attention comes in both active and passive types.

    Finally, I very much like John’s suggestion about testing some of these issues. I think that the Sperling test was answered in this way already by Kouider when he showed that subjects do not notice when a letter is degraded, but perhaps a test that does not rely on the subject noticing anything would be better. I will have to think more about these possibilities.

    In close, I am very grateful to the time of my commentators, as they have helped me to see a better direction for the type of response I make to the Methodological Objection.

  2. For John Campbell’s second commentary:

    You make a good point with the emerald examples (and I very much like this way of describing the problem). What I should have said is that if it turns out that there is no way (for either an external observer or the subject) to tell the difference between consciousness and the access of consciousness then this objection collapses into an empty skepticism. But either I need to show that the antecedent is true or my opponent needs to give some reason for us to think the antecedent is false. (I claimed the latter, but there is a case to be made for the former.) I did not think that Mole gave enough by way of evidence to think the antecedent is false, but maybe I need to do more work on my side to show that it is true.

    You give some reasons to think that the antecedent is not true. Namely (if I am getting this right), although subjectivity contributes to access (as in the blindsight case), we can pull the two concepts apart when we think about how subjectivity is only one part of what contributes to access (as in the audiophile case). Further, you suggest a test: let’s find out how good the audiophile’s perception of the speakers is, and then we will know if the judgment was just one of access or of subjectivity. My worry about the test is that it will not tell us about the subject’s experience, but only about their behavior. Could the common sense conception be (instead) that we had equal information available to us but our experience and judgment were tainted by the salesman?

    Let’s say that there is a genuine divide between access and phenomenal consciousness. Why think that it is (primarily) attention that divides them? After all, it seems as though we can attend to unconscious perceptions without being able to access them and we can attend to perceptions of which we have low-level access, so why should attention be absent from the stage in between these? This is a further question that seems left out of Mole’s analysis.

    This is a question to you and Jennifer:

    Do you have more reasons to think that phenomenal and access consciousness come apart? Examples, etc? If so, I would genuinely love to hear them. For myself, I find it difficult to even understand how they could.

  3. I’d like to make a few follow-up comments in response to Carolyn’s post. Many thanks to her for a rich discussion both here in this public forum and in the emails we’ve been exchanging privately. Some of what I say here will draw from that correspondence. I recognize and warn that this means my comments are somewhat lengthy.

    First of all, my apologies for what seems to have been a misinterpretation of Carolyn’s view on two main points. First, on whether she thinks all rejections of ANC can be construed as skeptical and second, on exactly what claim she is targeting with ‘ANC’.

    The pages of Carolyn’s argument that I referred to in my comments and took to support an interpretation of her as making the strong claim that all rejections of ANC are skeptical still seems to me to be the best interpretation of her comments there. She says:”Objections to the claim that attention is necessary for conscious perception (ANC) use inductive skepticism to reject the projection of the property of requiring attention to certain tokens of conscious perception,” (3) and as there was no qualifier there, I assumed she meant all objections (perhaps there’s a scope amiguity here, but I didn’t think so as I take all necessity claims to involve projection to all tokens of a type). In her next few sentences of that paragraph she breaks down the objections into two kinds: both forms of indcutive skepticism and then concludes: “Thus I divide the objections against ANC into two types….” (4) I took that as definitive. I have, however, been persuaded in conversation with Carloyn and by perusing her other work, that this interpretation is misplaced. This does leave me to wonder, however, just how pervasive she thinks skeptical rejection of ANC actually is. As I’ve argued, I don’t think Mole is guilty of it and, as Carolyn has agreed, neither is Block.

    On the second interpretive point, as I say in my comments, I had taken ANC to be a claim about all conscious states, but in conversation it’s become clear that this is not what Carloyn had intended. Rather, ANC, as she was defending it, is a claim only about conscious perceptual states. I think that this sort of conservatism is perfectly well placed and have no objections to the weakening of the claim. Moreover, I don’t think anything substantive in what’s been at issue between Carloyn and I turns on it. As a methodological point, however, I think excessive carefulness with the terms one employs in these discussions is particularly important when there are still live issues about what sort of states can be conscious, what causes and constitutes consciousness, and whether some states always or never occur consciously. Until we all start working with a common vocabulary (perhaps a pipe-dream), one cannot be too clear or careful.

    This last point leads me to Carolyn’s earlier points and recent question about Block’s view and it’s relation to ANC and Mole.

    In her most recent comment, Carolyn asks for reasons for thinking some states could be phenomenally conscious without being access conscious. I myself had intended to stay neutral on the question (largely because I’m rather unpersuaded that we need to posit two kinds of consciousness at all and arguing that would take us far afield), but I think that if one is going to engage with Block (either as such or as it relates to Mole), then one has to wrestle with the reasons that Block gives. My point about Block was an interpretive and methodological one.

    I hadn’t intended to imply that I thought Carolyn had directly against Block as she did against Mole. What I *do* think, however, is that if Block’s mesh argument goes through, it undermines Carolyn’s argument against Mole instead of, as she seems to take it, supporting that argument.

    This leads me to Carolyn and my disagreements about whether Block actually *is* committed to a rejection of ANC. I continue to think that he is, as I continue to understand him to think that attention is necessary for access consciousness, but *not* for phenomenal consciousness. In her first comment, Carolyn says that access is not limited to attention, and if by this she means that attention is not necessary for access consciousness then, while that may be true, I do not think it is Block’s view. I have conceded in discussion with Carolyn that I don’t think Block is very clear in his the mesh article about this, though I think section 7 and his discussion of Prinz’s AIR theory points in that direction. He has, however, confirmed with me in conversation that he does think attention is necessary for access consciousness, but not for phenomenal consciousness. As above, if his mesh argument that there are instances of the latter that aren’t instances of the former goes through, then this amounts to a rejection of ANC. That was the reason I thought that Carolyn needed to deal directly with Block’s mesh argument.

    Moving to Mole, I want to agree with Carolyn that the study Mole provides is insufficient to establish his claim that commons sense denies ANC. Within the context of Mole’s paper, however, I took the study as an example, not as a proof. It would be interesting, I think, to get more experimental evidence for what the folk *do* think. The dangers of imputing unsubstantiated views to the folk seem dangerous indeed.

    Of course, it’s only important to get the folk right if we think that what they think is important. For my part, I think getting the folk right gives us a starting place for further investigation. Once we’ve used the folk to ascertain the reference of their terms, however, I think all bets are off. The decrees of the folk can, and should, be revised in light of sufficient theoretical or experimental pressure. I take this to be Mole’s methodology also, though in the article targeted by Carolyn, the examination is of the experimental evidence only. The interesting questions, then, are whether he *has* the folk right (I don’t think the piece of research he cites is sufficient one way or the other) and, if so, whether there’s sufficient pressure to revise them.

    Lastly, I’d like to stress, as I didn’t have the space to do in my original commentary, that I think Carolyn’s approach to these issues is original and creative. It’s easy to be complacent about our methods, and I appreciate the opportunity to think and converse more deeply about them with her.

  4. Carolyn, you set me a challenge. I was considering a case in which the audiophile listens blind (as it were) to two test pieces of music played from one and the same amplifier in quick succession, but is told by the salesman that the second amplifier costs $50,000 more than the first. The audiophile sincerely declares that the second is far superior, clearer deeper bass, better soundstaging and so on. I said: we can have the hypothesis that the salesman’s patter has somehow had the effect that the audiophile really can hear deeper into the music the second time. And we could test that: is his discrimination of bass tones better the second time round, can he hear better when it’s one instrument playing and when it’s two the second time, and so on. You say:
    “you suggest a test: let’s find out how good the audiophile’s perception of the speakers is, and then we will know if the judgment was just one of access or of subjectivity. My worry about the test is that it will not tell us about the subject’s experience, but only about their behavior. Could the common sense conception be (instead) that we had equal information available to us but our experience and judgment were tainted by the salesman?”
    On one reading, what you are suggesting here is that the second time around, the salesman’s patter had the effect of inducing low-level sensory hallucinations. I think that is, both commonsensically and empirically, most unlikely. True hallucinations at a primitive sensory level are very unusual, a fact that philosophers often have to be reminded of. It’s relatively easy to affect people’s perceptual organization, or what they pay attention to, by talking to them.
    We usually, both in science and commonsensically, characterize people’s perceptions in terms of what’s there for them to be perceiving. We say, ‘now he’s hearing the gentle rolls on the timpani and they weren’t even audible before.’ When we’re talking about the primitive qualitative aspects of people’s experiences, we characterize them in terms of the stimuli they’re perceiving now better, now worse. That’s what I meant by saying that we usually take experience to have an epistemological role: it’s not just a matter of epiphenomenal qualia being whirled off with no further effects, it’s a matter of us being put in epistemic contact with our surroundings. And we can certainly test whether the salesman’s patter is having the effect of putting the audiophile in better contact with the music. That, after all, is what the audiophile is after.

  5. Jennifer, thank you for the follow-up and for making a genuine effort to get my view right. I appreciate that generosity.

    First point: You were right that I divided the objections to ANC into two types of inductive skepticism, but not that I described them both as logical inductive skepticism. (Your original description of my view seemed to amount to the latter of these.) Pragmatic inductive skepticism (as I describe it) questions the extension of a finding to the type, and that is what I think Schwitzgebel and others are up to in criticizing ANC. My intention in writing this paper was not just to defend ANC against what I take to be a shadowy (perhaps invented) opponent, but to set a limit to reasonable objection in general for positive claims. This way my shadowy opponent cannot come creeping in the back door after I have addressed the substantial claims against ANC.

    Third point: I think that you are right that if Block’s point about phenomenal and access consciousness goes through, it counts against my claims. I don’t think that would be enough to refute ANC, as I think one would also have to show that we have reason to suspect phenomenal consciousness is different from access consciousness in a way that is relevant to attention and the research on attention to suspect that the research on attention does not apply to phenomenal consciousness. I think I have given reason to doubt the latter. I now see why we spoke past each other a bit on Block: my point above was the inverse of the way you stated it. You wrote: “In her first comment, Carolyn says that access is not limited to attention” but I wrote: “Block has not written about attention, but access, and the former is not limited to the latter,” i.e. that attention is not limited to access. What I mean by this is that attention goes beyond access, and thus is not the relevant difference between phenomenal and access consciousness. That is, it is not enough to give evidence that attention is necessary for access consciousness to support the point being made here. One would have to show both this and either give evidence (beyond mere assertion) that it is not necessary for phenomenal consciousness (which no one has done) or give evidence to think that access and phenomenal consciousness are different in a way that makes one think attention divides them (and I think the evidence offered for this is false).

    Perhaps you think this demand on my part is overblown. I claim that as attention is only different in degree between access and phenomenal consciousness that we have no more reason to think that there is a point at which phenomenal consciousness operates without attention than that there is a point at which phenomenal consciousness operates with very low attention. I am interested to see if you have more to say on this.

  6. Carolyn,

    Thanks for taking the time to reply.

    First, in my original comments I say: “Suchy-Dicey then claims that all rejections of ANC can be construed as one or the other kinds of inductive skepticism” (2). By this I really meant one or the other. I’m sorry if something I said sounded like I meant you thought all rejections were logical inductive skepticism as against one or the other kinds you identified (the other of course being the pragmatic).

    Regardless, I guess I’m now still a bit confused about who you think is rejecting ANC on either (really either) skeptical grounds. I took you to take back your claim that Mole was doing so, and to have been saying all along that Block wasn’t.

    On the Block interpretation issue, maybe we are still talking past each other. I am, and have always been, in agreement with denying that attention makes the difference between phenomenal and access consciousness as Block understands these. If you agree that *if* Block’s response to the methodological argument works, then it undermines your construal of rejections of ANC as skeptical (in either way), then we agree on all I wanted to push with the Block exegesis.

    I honestly simply just don’t understand why you think the difference between phenomenal and access consciousness needs to be a difference in attention in order to vitiate the claim that attention is necessary for one and not the other. Of course, the claim is that attention is necessary for one and not the other, but I don’t see why the difference between them needs to turn on that very difference.

  7. Jennifer-
    The next part of your commentary read: “Presumably, she holds this because she takes it as
    established that attention is necessary for all observed, indeed all observable, conscious
    states.” As far as I understand your use of states, it sounds as though you mean all tokens of consciousness, whereas I argued only that attention has been shown to be necessary for all types of conscious perception.

    The type language is crucial to the other point, too. That is, my argument spins on whether it is legitimate to criticize a positive theory based on the fact that there may be tokens that lie outside of its testing. I say no, that legitimate criticism requires evidence for types (and not just tokens) that lie outside of its range of testing. Moreover, I say that the difference between the tested and untested types must be relevant to the property that is being projected. That is, it would be illegitimate to say that all plants do not require water to grow based on the testing of all red, yellow, and blue plants just because there are purple plants that have not been tested because the difference of color is not relevant to the requirement of water for growth. Even if purple plants seem to require less water to grow, there is no reason to suspect that some purple plants do not require water to grow. This is, I take it, analogous to the Methodological Argument. That is, even if phenomenal and access consciousness are distinct types of consciousness and tests on the requirement of attention for perception have relied on access consciousness, one still has to show that attention is relevant to the difference between these types.

    Finally, I agree that Mole did not intend his argument to be a case of logical inductive skepticism (you have convinced me of that point). However, I think he did intend it as what I call (perhaps inappropriately) pragmatic inductive skepticism. Further, if I am right about the access/phenomenal issue, I think his argument amounts to nothing more than logical inductive skepticism.

  8. I might not have phrased that right. Let me try again:

    If the audiophile is not better at recognizing the deeper sound (after we test him/her), then maybe the problem is just one of perceptual judgment and the perception is the same.

    If the audiophile really is better at recognizing the deeper sound, then maybe the new idea suggested by the salesman has the audiophile attend to the sensory information more and thus have a richer perceptual experience. You are right to raise the issue of givens in common sense and science, but I wonder if the givens could be pre-conscious.

    I also think you are right that the phenomenal stuff seems like it is doing some epistemic work. Does this intuition require that the givens be conscious?

  9. Hi Carolyn,

    I enjoyed reading your paper and reading Jennifer and John’s comments. The discussion inspired me to read Mole’s 2008 paper and some other stuff on the relationship between attention and consciousness. I wanted to raise some questions about the best interpretation of Mole’s argument, in particular whether it should be construed as a form of inductive skepticism, whether logical or pragmatic. The claim that attention is necessary for consciousness is presented as a claim that goes against the commonsense notion that “one does not pay attention to all the things that one is conscious of.” In responding to the Mack and Rock 1998 evidence about inattentional blindness (among other points), Mole presents the quote you discuss in the paper: “attention is not necessary for consciousness, but it is necessary if oneʼs experience is to provide one with knowledge of the sort probed by the experimenter’s questions” (95). Here, Mole seems to be distinguishing between consciousness of one’s perceptions and knowledge necessary for reporting one’s perceptions. Could the debate between you and Mole (or the logical inductive skeptic) about whether it counts as a form of inductive skepticism hinge on whether we take ‘reportable’ to mean ‘observable’ and ‘not reportable’ to mean ‘unobservable’? Mole’s professed aim is a kind of deflationary argument that would bring us back to the commonsense notion. Mole’s quote at p. 95, though, if you stress the italicized term ‘consciousness,’ might lead to the interpretation that this is a form of open question argument (, and that may be no different than logical inductive skepticism…). But, it seems like Mole motivates this open question argument by considering how consciousness of perceptions and reportability of perceptions might come apart. Taking inspiration from McDowell and Brewer, he suggests that reportability of perceptual experiences should be construed in terms of a two-tiered account of experience, according to which reportability is dependent upon entertaining a conscious perception with conceptual content (top tier) which depends upon a form of non-conceptual form of conscious perception (bottom tier). (I admit I’m being pretty liberal in interpreting him this way…, but there seems to be a contrast between conceptually articulated experience and perceptual experience that differs from the conceptual articulated kind…). The main quote at issue in the article seems to be, “So long as we continue to operationalize attention and consciousness in the usual ways we will remain unable to adjudicate experimentally between the hypothesis that (1) unattended items are consciously experienced but are not epistemically useful until they have been ‘brought into the space of reasons’ by the (attention-involving) deployment of demonstrative concepts and (2) the hypothesis that unattended items are, ipso facto, not consciously experienced ones” (97). The interpretation of Mole’s argument as a form of logical inductive skepticism might go through if he took the terms ‘conscious perception’ (F) and ‘attention’ (G) to be fixed. Because, then he would be saying something like “Simply because some observed Fs are Gs it doesn’t follow that all Fs are Gs,” where ‘conscious perception’ is understood to depend upon being reported, for instance. But, the quote above suggests that he is not keeping those terms fixed, but instead, expressing that it’s an open question whether we should change the way we operationalize ‘conscious perception’ and ‘attention.’ In particular the focus seems to be on ‘conscious perception’ while keeping ‘attention’ relatively fixed, because he seems to want to separate ‘conscious perception’ from ‘report of perception.’ (There is a similar issue in the outline of Simons and Chablis’s argument about inattentional blindness argument, you (Mole?) have (has) “3. From 1 and 2, lack of attention is sufficient for a failure to report C(g). 4. Failure to report C(g) indicates an absence of C(g).” But, it seems to me it should be “3. From 1 and 2, lack of attention is sufficient for a failure to report (g). 4. Failure to report (g) indicates an absence of C(g).” I wonder also if 3 should be rephrased as “lack of attention is the best explanation of the failure to report (g)”.) So, I wonder if one way to paraphrase your critique is that it is not sufficient for Mole to argue that there are non-conceptual conscious perceptions from the fact that McDowell and Brewer can conceive of a two-tiered conception of experience, but instead Mole has to provide arguments or evidence that there are non-conceptual conscious perceptions that do not involve attention. (I’m not sure if that gets at the logical/pragmatic distinction you want… or whether it can be used as a limiting reply to the shadowy opponent you discussed above.) In that case, your critique of Mole can be raised independently of whether it depends upon Block’s distinction between a-consciousness and p-consciousness, but instead you would be critiquing the distinction between non-conceptual and conceptual contents of conscious perception. Then, the issue seems to turn on whether you think that these non-conceptual conscious perceptions that do not involve attention are observable or unobservable.

  10. Hi everyone, some very interesting discussion going on in here!

    I find myself to be in general sympathy with the points that Carolyn is making (though I haven’t made up my mind about the inductive skepticism stuff). I find it very hard to understand what it could possibly mean for there to be phenomenally conscious states that we were not conscious of in some way (I like higher-order theories myself but I take it that the intuition driving the attention people is that attention makes me conscious of the mental states I am attending). The methodological problem is basically the question of how, if at all, we could ever empirically find out whether there were or weren’t such strange cases. I tend to think that we won’t be able to answer this question by looking for phenomenally conscious but un-accessed states (i.e. empirically) but have to settle this issue at the level of theories of consciousness (at the psychological/philosophical level). the key philosophical consideration, it seems to me, is this; a phenomenally conscious state is one which there is something that it is like for me to be in. Common sensically it seems obvious that if one is in no way aware of being in a certain state then there is nothing that it is like for you to be in that state (evidence; there is nothing that it is like for me to subliminally perceive something, for the blindsighter to detect the stimuli, etc).

    On the higher-order model we have a ready answer to the audiophile case. The audiophile is conscious of their experience in a more fine-grained way and so does in a sense have deeper access (though they may also have erroneous access) but this does not mean that when the first-order sensory representations were non-accessed (i.e. unconscious) that there was something that it was like for the audiophile to have them.

  11. Richard, interesting rejoinder! But it would be good if you could amplify a couple of things. (1) You say:
    ‘I find it very hard to understand what it could possibly mean for there to be phenomenally conscious states that we were not conscious of in some way’.
    On the face of it this is commonplace. It might be easier if we shift away from the perceptual cases for a moment. Consider ‘being ashamed of your background’. That’s certainly a phenomenal state, can have a pervasive effect on your phenomenological life. Realizing that you are ashamed of your background is a quite different state, and may be a hard won insight. Seeing blue is one thing, and realizing that I am seeing blue is another, though in this case the insight may not be not quite so hard won. You put it very strongly: ‘hard to understand’ what these distinctions ‘could possibly mean’. But perhaps it’s some other distinction that is puzzling you.
    (2) You say:
    ‘The audiophile is conscious of their experience in a more fine-grained way and so does in a sense have deeper access (though they may also have erroneous access)’. Could you say a bit about what you mean by ‘erroneous access’? If there’s no more to the experience than your access, how could the access be ‘erroneous’?
    Thanks!
    John

  12. James-

    Thank you for your interest and insightful suggestions. I do think that this discussion runs alongside the conceptual contents discussion.

    On Mole and the reportable/observable link, I think that you are right that there are multiple ways of understanding his claim. One way is that it relies on a form of inductive skepticism (because the perceptual state said to be beyond attention is an in-principle unobservable conscious state), and the other is that it is a worry about observable states that are not reportable. In this paper, I look at the former, and in another I look at the latter. However, as I read Mole’s paper to be primarily pushing the former, when I discuss the latter I mostly discuss it through the work of Paul Coates. Paul Coates has a paper in which he uses the two-tier system to argue against ANC (http://www.humboldt.edu/~essays/coates.html), and I think that is a better way of putting the non-reportable but observable point. I have gone back and forth on whether I should put both sets of objections into the same paper, but you raise good reasons to at least re-think this way of doing things.

    Your point about keeping the terms fixed/flexible is very interesting, and I will take another look at the paper with that in mind (sometime).

    What is your stance on the two-tier system, out of curiosity?

  13. Carolyn, that’s an excellent, subtle reply. I agree that acknowledging the epistemic role of consciousness does not of itself mean that we have to abandon the idea that attention is necessary for consciousness. Rather, my point is that it is ‘internalist’ models of consciousness, that don’t acknowledge the epistemic role of consciousness, that make it so difficult to see what the distinction is between experience and access; it’s when you’re in the grip of an internalist picture of consciousness that phenomenal experience seems like such an elusive idea. Once you give up the internalism, so that you can acknowledge a role for the environment in constituting the nature of your experience, it is much easier to see how there can be a distinction between the phenomenal character of experience and one’s access to it.

  14. Hi John, thanks very much for the reply!

    re 1: We have to distinguish between seeing blue and consciously seeing blue. So too we have to distinguish being ashamed of my past and consciously being ashamed of my past. When I am unconsciously seeing blue (as in subliminal perception, priming scenarios, inattentional blindness, etc as well as ordinary everyday cases that Armstrong’s long distance truck driver is supposed to call to mind) it is not like seeing blue for me (it doesn’t seem to me as though I am seeing blue or am ashamed). So why call the unconscious sensation of blue phenomenally conscious? To call it phenomenally conscious is to say that there is something that it is like for me to have the experience but when I am unconsciously seeing blue what evidence is there that there is anything that it is like for me?

    Re 2: It may be that the audiophile is wrong about the first-order sensory state. That is they may be conscious of the first-order state as one that has more bass when in fact it doesn’t (this could also be tested). In a common sense case of this I eat some salad with white dressing thinking that it is Ranch dressing. It tastes terrible! “Yeach!” I say, “That ranch dressing is terrible!” My wife looks at me and says “it’s not Ranch, it’s Blue Cheese”…”Ah,” I reply reflecting for a moment, “that’s good blue cheese!”. In this case it seems reasonable to say that I have the same first-order gustatory state that I am conscious of in two different way (producing two different conscious experiences). So there is no more to your conscious experience than your access but there is more in your unconscious experience that is not being accessed.

  15. “To call it phenomenally conscious is to say that there is something that it is like for me to have the experience but when I am unconsciously seeing blue what evidence is there that there is anything that it is like for me?”
    I’m very sympathetic to this. But of course your opponent will say that even if there isn’t any such evidence, that merely reflects a condition on the obtaining of evidence, not a condition on the phenomenon of consciousness itself. The basic methodological argument comes up here too (cf. the arguments about emeralds).
    (The issue is a little bit complicated in your discussion, because by ‘unconsciously seeing’ you mean ‘seeing of which you’re not conscious’, and you talk about ‘unconscious’ experiences and sensations, and I think your opponent would have some trouble seeing what you are talking about here.)
    That’s what I mean about thinking of the issue in terms of the epistemological role of consciousness. It gives a constraint on when an analysis of consciousness is right. Thinking in epistemological terms doesn’t immediately rule out a HOT theory, for example, it just gives a context in which to think about the significance of a HOT theory.

  16. A further response to Mole’s claims on common sense:

    Here are the results of an informal poll that I have given to 18 people (completely unrelated to philosophy and cognitive science who do not know what I am working on)

    1. When a baby wakes its mother by crying in the night, was the sleeping mother
    attending to the cry 28%
    conscious of the cry 33%
    attending to and conscious of the cry 22%
    neither attending to nor conscious of the cry 17%

    2. When you suddenly realize that your cell phone has been ringing, do you think that you were previously
    attending to the ring 6%
    conscious of the ring 17%
    attending to and conscious of the ring 6%
    neither attending to nor conscious of the ring 72%

    3. In brief, how would you describe the concept of “attention” to a child?
    Having something within your immediate thoughts.
    Focusing your senses (particularly sight or hearing) on something and thinking about it rather than thinking about something else.
    When the conscious mind is focused on something such that it is temporarily the primary sense data that the mind is taking in, manipulating, etc.
    being aware to something, without necessarily reflecting on it.
    thinking entirely about one thing
    focusing on one thing that is occurring and blocking out other things happening around him.
    Attention is when you are awake and focused on certain subject or situation, not thinking about much else.
    putting time and energy into something
    The state of having some object or idea in the forefront of one’s mind thinking about it.
    Concentrating or focusing on something
    Listening
    focusing thoughts on
    look and listen
    looking, listening, and consciencely focusing on something.
    being aware of what is happening
    Attention to something is being aware of this thing and acknowledging it’s there whether to answer or ignore it.
    A focus of sensory perception regulated by a goal-oriented mindfulness. To a child: thinking about only, concentrating on, trying toward, interested in..
    It’s what you focus on

    4. Would you say that all of your conscious experiences involve you attending to something?
    yes 50%
    no 50%

    5. Would you say that you have had a conscious experience where you were not attending to anything?
    yes 50%
    no 50%

    The results of 1 are drastically different from Mole’s simply by leaving out the “pay attention” phrasing. On 2, most subjects claim that the cell phone ring was not in their consciousness before they noticed it. Also, notice the wide range of answers people give for 3 on defining attention. Finally, questions 3 and 4 show that there is not a clear stance on the role of attending. I think this gives some indication that people are not common-sensically decided one way or another what role attention plays in consciousness.

  17. Hi John, thanks very much for the follow up!

    John Campbell :

    “To call it phenomenally conscious is to say that there is something that it is like for me to have the experience but when I am unconsciously seeing blue what evidence is there that there is anything that it is like for me?”
    I’m very sympathetic to this. But of course your opponent will say that even if there isn’t any such evidence, that merely reflects a condition on the obtaining of evidence, not a condition on the phenomenon of consciousness itself. The basic methodological argument comes up here too (cf. the arguments about emeralds).

    It is one thing to say this, it is another to give a coherent account of what it means for there to be something that it is like for me to have an experience that I am in no way aware of.

    (The issue is a little bit complicated in your discussion, because by ‘unconsciously seeing’ you mean ’seeing of which you’re not conscious’, and you talk about ‘unconscious’ experiences and sensations, and I think your opponent would have some trouble seeing what you are talking about here.)

    I am not sure where this trouble would come from. There is evidence from common sense and extensive evidence from cognitive science that there are unconscious thoughts and sensations. So much so, in fact, that it is a folk psychological platitude that mental states that we are not aware of do not count as conscious.

    That’s what I mean about thinking of the issue in terms of the epistemological role of consciousness. It gives a constraint on when an analysis of consciousness is right. Thinking in epistemological terms doesn’t immediately rule out a HOT theory, for example, it just gives a context in which to think about the significance of a HOT theory.

    I am not sure what the epistemological constraint is supposed to be beyond the platitude that we need to account for phenomenal knowledge. You seem to cash that out in terms of anti-epiphenomenalism but people like Dave Chalmers, have argued that even if qualia are epiphenomenal we can still know about them because they (partially) constitute (certain) beliefs about them. So, when I know that i am seeing red on this view I am in a state which is partially composed of the red quale. So, I am wondering if you could say a little more about what you take the epistemological constraint to be doing.

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