Watching representations

Document Type: 
ASSC Conference Item
Article Type: 
Theory of Consciousness
Date of Issue: 
Susanna Radovic
Event Dates: 
23 - 26 June 2006
Event Location: 
Oxford, UK
Event Title: 
10th annual meeting of the Association for the Scientific Study of Consciousness
Event Type: 
ASSC Conference
Presentation Type: 
Watching representations One kind of substantial critique which has been raised by several philosophers against the so called higher order perception theory (HOP), advocated for mainly by William Lycan, concerns the combination of two important claims: (i) that qualia are wide contents of perceptual experiences, and (ii) that the subject becomes aware of what the world is like (to her) by perceiving her own experiences of the world. In what sense could we possibly watch our own mental states if they are representations whose content and qualitative character is determined by factors that are external to the mind? And, furthermore, how can we become aware of what the world is like by means of this process? Fred Dretske (1995, p. 108) says that all we could become aware of by this alleged activity are activities of the nervous system. But being aware of what e.g., a certain colour is like to us, does not seem to be the same as being aware of what a particular nervous activation pattern is like to us. Barry Maund (2003, p. 169) points out that it is not ruled out that the representational vehicle and the representational object share some properties, nor that it is in virtue of having certain properties that a mental state has the content it does. If it were the case that the properties of the representational states showed some iconic resemblance relation to that which they represent, there could perhaps be some point in watching them. But again, we have little reason for thinking that this is the case. It seems improbable that an experience of red would be (intrinsically) red, i.e., that the representational vehicle would have these properties. The important issue is: what features could the representational vehicle possibly have that would make it suitable as an object for inner sense and, in turn, would enable us to become aware of what it is like for us to perceive external objects by “looking” at the representation of these objects? I will explore these questions in this paper.
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