Intentionalism and Representational Qualitative Character

Document Type: 
ASSC Conference Item
Article Type: 
Intentionalism, Intentional Content, Qualitative Character, Quality Inversion
Deposited by: 
Jacob Berger
Contact email:
Date of Issue: 
Event Dates: 
24 - 27 Jun 2010
Event Location: 
Toronto, Canada
Event Title: 
14th Annual Meeting of the Association for the Scientific Study of Consciousness (ASSC 14)
Event Type: 
ASSC Conference
Presentation Type: 
Publish status: 
Some mental states exhibit qualitative character, such as the bluish quality of a visual sensation. Other mental states exhibit intentional content, such as the content that it’s raining of a belief. These properties are traditionally thought to be distinct mental properties. Intentionalists, however, maintain that a state’s qualitative character is identical with or supervenes on that state’s intentional content. Some intentionalists employ the Argument from Seeming (e.g., Byrne 2001, Thau 2002, Lycan 2006), according to which whenever qualitative character changes, things seem different to one. Since how things seem depends on how they’re represented, it appears intentionalism follows. This argument succeeds only given the assumption that all representation is intentional. Though often assumed without argument, this premise is questionable. I argue that qualitative character is itself representational without thereby being intentional. A change in qualitative character may result in things’ seeming different not because of a change in the way intentional content represents things, but because of a change in how qualitative character itself represents things. And if how things seem needn’t be due to intentional content, the argument fails. Why think that qualitative character may be representational without being intentional? Intentional contents can be true or false, whereas mental qualities cannot be. Moreover, intentional states exhibit both intentional content and mental attitudes, such as belief and desire, toward that content; qualitative states, by contrast, exhibit nothing like mental attitude. These folk-psychological observations suggest that qualitative mentality is distinct from intentionality, but they’re compatible with qualitative character’s being representational. A powerful theory of qualitative character shows how mental qualities can be representational, but in a nonintentional way. Quality-space theory (e.g., Sellars 1956, Rosenthal 2005) identifies and individuates mental qualities by their relative positions within quality spaces that match the quality spaces of corresponding perceptible properties. This suggests that mental qualities represent those perceptible properties. If undetectable quality inversion is conceivable, then qualitatively distinct states could be identical representationally and quality-space theory would fail. I argue, however, that such inversion isn’t conceivable, since conceiving it requires assuming groundlessly that qualitative character is only known first personally.
Intentionalism_and_Representational_Qualitative_Character_ASSC_14_Poster_Jacob_Berger.pptx282.54 KB