CogPhi Reading Announcement

Dear all,

Today we are reading Max Velmans’ ‘Where Experiences are: Dualist, Physicalist, Enactive and Reflexive Accounts of Phenomenal Consciousness’.

It is available at:


E-Int: “The View From Everywhere: Does Physicalism Entail Panpsychism?”

The View From Everywhere: Does Physicalism Entail Panpsychism?

Simon Bowes
4:30 p.m. 21 June 2007 – Pevensey I 1A1

I will be examining Galen Strawson’s (2006) argument that a realistic physicalism (one that takes the phenomenal seriously) entails panspsychism — the view that all matter, no matter how basic, must have some kind of experiential dimension. This argument relies on the view that the emergence of subjectivity from inert matter is incoherent.

I will examine some reactions to Strawson’s thesis (Papineau & McGinn), and will tease apart the largely unanalyzed notion of emergence being talked about. My argument will be an inference to the best explanation: that if we have to choose between emergence and panpsychism we should accept the former. I will also be introducing an extension of Strawson’s argument (due to Stephen Voss) which leads to an even more radical conclusion that some will find even less palatable (or maybe not) – but I won’t spoil the surprise by saying what that is.

E-Int: “The Work of Art as a Cognitive Trail”

The Work of Art as a Cognitive Trail

Alexandros Zographakis
4:30 p.m. 14 June 2007
Pevensey I 1A1

Have you ever felt puzzled because the person looking at you had a ‘Mona Lisa smile’ on his/her face?

Did you ever catch yourself staring at a woman with a ‘Rubenesque figure’?

Are things very rough lately and maybe you think you’re living a ‘Kafkaesque nightmare’? or do you simply feel the urge to escape the ‘Twilight Zone’? But, then again maybe not. Now that the weather is getting hotter maybe you simply feel like humming the tune of Gershwin’s ‘Summertime’?

If you understand what I’m talking about, then maybe you are a non-conceptualist but you don’t know it. I will try to show that the work-of-art-cum-aesthetic-object, construed as a ‘cognitive trail’, provides the means to recast perceptual experience by guiding us to realize that we enact content, through a pre-reflective bodily process, which in turn typifies an incessant move, between alternative conceptualizations.

E-Int: “Toward an Any Person’s Account on Consciousness”

MA Presentations:

Toward an Any Person’s Account on Consciousness

Miriam Kyselo
4:30 p.m. 7 June 2007

Note that Martin Morse-Brown will also be presenting.

I wish to put forward an account on consciousness that is based on Max Velmans’ reflexive approach to consciousness (Velmans 1993, 2006). His approach is non-dualistic and non-reductive. It is non-dualistic in that it postulates an ontological (reflexive) monism. However, it does not reduce conscious experience to mere brain activities. In contrast, the reflexive approach puts the phenomenal, subjective experience at the heart of every scientific investigation of consciousness.

Unlike a reductionist view that leaves out the phenomenal realm and recommands a strict 3rd person method to proceed (heterophenomenology, for instance, as described by Dennett 1999, 2001), Velmans emphasises that every conscious experience, be it that of a dream, a bodily sensation or a cat perceived as being located “outside” is the private phenomenal experience of a subject. 3rd-person methods might provide us with information about the causes and possible correlates of consciousness, but in order to know what consciousness is, i.e. what the results of these causes are we have to ask the subject.

Continue reading

E-Int: “Two Conceptions of Consciousness”

Two Conceptions of Consciousness
Tom Beament
4:30 p.m. 31 May 2007

Approaches to understanding the nature of conscious experience can be grouped into two broad categories. Following John Campbell (Reference and Consciousness, 2002) I will refer to these approaches as “The Relational View” and “The Representational View.” The Relational View conceives of consciousness as fundamentally a matter of a relation to the world, such that: “the phenomenal content of the experience of an ordinary observer is constituted by the qualitative character of the view the observer is currently enjoying: which objects and properties are there in the scene, together with the viewpoint from which they are being observed.” (p.146) In contrast, the Representational View conceive consciousness as fundamentally a matter of having internal representational states with certain properties, such that: “the phenomenal character of your experience is constituted not by the way your surroundings are, but by the content of your representational states.” (p. 116)

Having distinguished these two conceptions of consciousness, I will briefly review the arguments presented against the Representational View by Campbell, and John McDowell (especially in “The Contents of Perceptual Experience”, 1994). These concern (the explanation of) our capacity for demonstrative thought, and the (phenomenological) correctness of a non-Cartesian view of experience. I will then outline an argument of my own against the Representational View which takes a different line, concentrating instead on the issue of the qualitative dimension of conscious experience, which has tended to be discussed in terms of the (bogus) notion of “qualia.” If this argument is successful then it represents a further blow against the Representational View. I will then suggests that some of the grounds commonly assumed to favour such a view actually provide no better support for it than there is for the Relational View. The net result is a comprehensive shifting of the burden of proof to the Representational View. Thus, in contrast to most recent work on consciousness, the Relational View of experience should be taken as the default view.