Wittgenstein and Qualia

Document Type: 
Article
Article Type: 
Theoretical
Disciplines: 
Philosophy
Topics: 
Phenomenology
Deposited by: 
Ned Block
Contact email: 
ned.block@nyu.edu
Date of Issue: 
2007
Authors: 
Ned Block
Journal/Publication Title: 
Philosophical Perspectives
Volume: 
21
Issue Number: 
1
Page Range: 
73-115
Number of Pages: 
41
Official URL: 
http://www3.interscience.wiley.com/journal/117993391/issue
Alternative URL: 
http://www.nyu.edu/gsas/dept/philo/faculty/block/papers/Wittgenstein_Qualia.pdf
Publish status: 
Published
Abstract: 
Wittgenstein (in notes published first in 1968) endorsed one kind of inverted spectrum hypothesis and rejected another. This paper argues that the kind of inverted spectrum hypothesis that Wittgenstein endorsed (the “innocuous” inverted spectrum hypothesis) is the thin end of the wedge that precludes a Wittgensteinian critique of the kind of inverted spectrum hypothesis he rejected (the “dangerous” kind). The danger of the dangerous kind is that it provides an argument for qualia, where qualia are (for the purposes of this paper) contents of experiential states that cannot be fully captured in natural language. I will pinpoint the difference between the innocuous and dangerous scenarios that matters for the argument for qualia, give arguments in favor of the coherence and possibility of the dangerous scenario, and try to show that some standard arguments against inverted spectra are ineffective against the version of the dangerous scenario I will be advocating. I will also agree with what I think is Wittgenstein’s position that the kind of inverted spectrum hypothesis he rejected lets qualia in the door. At one crucial point, I will rely on a less controversial version of an argument I gave in Block (1999). Wittgenstein’s views provide a convenient starting point for a paper that is much more about qualia than about Wittgenstein.
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