Vol 12 (2006)

Table of Contents

Book Reviews

A Review of Shaun Gallagher, How the Body Shapes the Mind Summary Full Text
Frederique de Vignemont
With How the body shapes the mind, Shaun Gallagher provides a general panoptic of the importance of the body in cognition, partly based on a series of articles published in the last ten years. Gallagher summarizes significant experimental results coming from a wide variety of domains: neuropsychology (e.g. deafferentation, aplasic phantom limbs, and schizophrenia), neuroscience (e.g. mirror neurons), developmental psychology (e.g. neonate imitation) and social psychology (e.g. communicative gestures). He uses these results to develop a theory of embodied cognition. His main goals here are (1) to describe body awareness in detail and (2) to investigate the influence of the body on self- consciousness, perception, language and social cognition. In the first part of the book, Gallagher emphasizes the need to distinguish between two kinds of systems for the body, the body image and the body schema. These systems have been often confused in the literature. In the second part, he tries to show that these body systems structure the way we perceive the world and the way we perceive other people. How the body shapes the mind is a very rich book that raises a lot of interesting questions. However, I will not be able to cover all of them and I will focus on two points: the nature of the body schema and the structuring role of the body.
A Review of Ruth Byrne, The Rational Imagination: How People Create Alternatives to Reality Summary Full Text
Carol Slater
Introducing The Rational Imagination, Ruth Byrne tells us that rational thought has turned out to be “more imaginative than cognitive scientists...supposed,” and—more to the point here—that “[I]maginative thought is more rational than scientists imagined” (xi). It would be unwise to take this mini-manifesto (or the book’s title) too seriously. The claim to which Byrne actually gives sustained attention is less philosophically sexy and more solidly empirical. This book is primarily concerned with experimental evidence (much of it Byrne’s own) in support of the thesis that the particular counterfactual conjectures people entertain—‘If Mary had asked Peter to pick the peppers, he would have picked the peppers’—are governed by the same small set of psychological principles that influence inferential reasoning about them—‘Peter didn’t pick the peppers? Well, then, it stands to reason that Mary didn’t ask him to’ (214-215). Byrne conjectures that this same small set of principles might also help in understanding how people creatively generate new members of a category (190–191), interpret novel phrases like ‘cactus fish’ (192–193), and solve insight problems (194-195). By contrast, Byrne’s discussion of criteria for the rationality of counterfactual thought comes close to the end of the book and is notably modest and tentative. Perhaps counterfactual thought counts as rational if it is capable of producing the “best” judgments; perhaps the best counterfactual judgments are those that strike us as most plausible; perhaps plausibility is a hallmark of rationality because it is grounded in recognition of “fault lines in reality” (208–212). On the other hand, perhaps not. Counterfactual thoughts that paralyze people with regret are often compellingly plausible. (Try to deny ‘If only I had looked in on the baby, I would have noticed that something was wrong.’) Despite their plausibility, Byrne characterizes such “dysfunctional” counterfactuals as “irrational.” Perhaps this can be harmonized by the competence/performance distinction; perhaps a canny reader would be better advised to settle for the psychology.
Review of Mind-Altering Drugs: The Science of Subjective Experience (ed.) John Earleywine Summary Full Text
Olivia Carter
With a title like “Mind-Altering Drugs: The Science of Subjective Experience”, it is easy to presume that this book is yet another fanciful pseudoscientific journey through the myriad of drug induced human experiences. This is no such book. Instead, Mitch Earleywine has succeeded in putting together a collection of writings by a group of experts that emphasize the science of subjective methods. In many respects a more appropriate title might have been “The Science of Subjective experience: A Survey of Mind-Altering Drugs.” Only a few chapters deviate from this general framework.
Review of Peter Carruthers', Consciousness: Essays From a Higher-Order Perspective Summary Full Text
Rocco J. Gennaro
This is a fine and important collection of eleven recently published essays by Peter Carruthers, a leading figure in contemporary philosophy of mind. The book contains a very helpful introduction that provides a nice overview of Carruthers’ basic views and orients the reader to the key issues. The introduction also presents a brief summary of the eleven chapters that comprise the remainder of the book. Only three of the essays initially appeared prior to Carruthers’ important 2000 book Phenomenal Consciousness: A Naturalistic Theory. One of these is significantly rewritten: an essay entitled “Natural Theories of Consciousness,” which will be familiar to readers of Psyche since it was the subject of a symposium in volumes 4-6. There is also one entirely new essay entitled “Dual-Content Theory: the Explanatory Advantages” (Chapter 6). Thus, there is much to learn about Carruthers’ theory of consciousness even for those very familiar with his 2000 book. Indeed, one might think of this collection as elaborating upon Carruthers’ views as found in his earlier book. In the relatively short period of a few years, Carruthers has managed to publish an impressive number of quality essays, which comprise most of this anthology. It is very convenient to have these nicely written essays all in one place. For those unfamiliar with Phenomenal Consciousness, this book is still readable on its own and contains many helpful summaries of Carruthers’ earlier work.
Review of David Buller's Adapting Minds Summary Full Text
Mitch Parsell
Popularisations of evolutionary psychology have had a truly remarkable success. Judging by the popular press one could be forgiven for think that contemporary psychology is essentially co-extensive with evolutionary psychology. In the academy evolutionary psychological has been subject to some extremely hard-hitting and destructive attacks, but to date no approachable, popular critique has been available. The present volume aims to fill this void. I am not completely convinced it succeeds in this, but I find it valuable nevertheless.

 

Articles

Precis of Action in Perception Summary Full Text
Alva Noe
The main idea of this book is that perceiving is a way of acting. Perception is not something that happens to us, or in us. It is something we do. Think of a blind person tap-tapping his or her way around a cluttered space, perceiving that space by touch, not all at once, but through time, by skillful probing and movement. This is, or at least ought to be, our paradigm of what perceiving is. The world makes itself available to the perceiver through physical movement and interaction. In this book I argue that all perception is touch-like in this way: perceptual experience acquires content thanks to our possession of bodily skills. What we perceive is determined by what we do (or what we know how to do); it is determined by what we are ready to do. In ways I try to make precise, we enact our perceptual experience; we act it out.
Putting the Brakes on Enactive Perception Summary Full Text
Jesse Prinz
Alva Noë’s Action in Perception offers a provocative and vigorous defense of the thesis that vision is enactive: visual experience depends on dispositional motor responses. On this view, vision and action are inextricably bound. In this review, I argue against enactive perception. I raise objections to seven lines of evidence that appear in Noë’s book, and I indicate some reasons for thinking that vision can operate independently of motor responses. I conclude that the relationship between vision and action is causal, not constitutive. I then address three other contentious hypotheses in the book. Noë argues that visual states are not pictorial; he argues that all perception is conceptual; and he argues that the external world makes a constitutive contribution to experience. I am unpersuaded by these arguments, and I offer reasons to resist Noë’s conclusions.
Reply to Zahavi: The Value of Historical Scholarship Summary Full Text
Thomas Metzinger

Let me begin by focusing on the long list of agreements between the Dan Zahavi and me. As he is such a careful and scholarly author, there are almost no misunderstandings to get out of the way first. At the beginning of section 2, there is a conflation of different concepts of possibility. If we grant that imaginability is conceivability (in the sense of being describable without any logical contradictions), if we pass over “practical” possibility as a non-defined term, and grant that by “physically” possible Zahavi very likely means “nomologically” possible, it still would present a major step to say that something is conceptually or (my emphasis) metaphysically possible. Not everything that is logically or conceptually possible is metaphysically possible as well—metaphysically possible worlds (just like nomologically possible worlds) have to be interpreted as a subset of logically possible worlds. How this can be done is a subject of intense and highly technical debates in current philosophy of mind. We cannot possibly enter this debate here, but let me just point out how, for instance, Zahavi’s remarks in the second paragraph of page 4 rest on a conflation between nomological and logical possibility.

Sensorimotor Activity Summary Full Text
Mark Rowlands
This paper explores the concept of sensorimotor activity that is central to the enactive model of visual perception developed in Alva Noë’s book, Action in Perception. The appeal to sensorimotor activity is, I shall argue, subject to a dilemma. On one interpretation, such activity presupposes representational states, and therefore is unable to aid us in the project of understanding how an organism is able to represent the world. On the other interpretation, sensorimotor activity fails to accommodate the essential normativity of representational states, and is therefore also unable to aid us in the project of understanding representation. The solution, I argue, lies in a new conception of sensorimotor activity, according to which such activity is normative, but where this normativity is not inherited from prior representational states.
Vision as Dance? Three Challenges for Sensorimotor Contingency Theory Summary Full Text
Andy Clark
In Action in Perception Alva Noë develops and presents a sensorimotor account of vision and of visual consciousness. According to such an account seeing (and indeed perceiving more generally) is analysed as a kind of skilful bodily activity. Such a view is consistent with the emerging emphasis, in both philosophy and cognitive science, on the critical role of embodiment in the construction of intelligent agency. I shall argue, however, that the full sensorimotor model faces three important challenges. The first is to negotiate a path between two prima facie unsatisfactory readings of the central claim that conscious perceptual experience is constituted by knowledge of patterns of sensorimotor dependence. The second is to convince us that the sensorimotor contribution, in such cases, is actually constitutive of perceptual experience rather than merely causally implicated in the origination of such experience. And the third is to respond to the important challenge raised by what I will dub 'sensorimotor summarizing' models of the relation between conscious experience and richly detailed sensorimotor routines. According to such models conscious perceptual experience only rather indirectly reflects the rich detail of our actual sensorimotor engagements, which are instead lightly sampled as a coarse guide, optimized for planning and reasoning, and geared and filtered according to current needs and purposes.
Why Visual Experience is Likely to Resist Being Enacted Summary Full Text
Pierre Jacob
Alva Noë’s version of the enactive conception in Action in Perception is an important contribution to the study of visual perception. First, I argue, however, that it is unclear (at best) whether, as the enactivists claim, work on change blindness supports the denial of the existence of detailed visual representations. Second, I elaborate on what Noë calls the ‘puzzle of perceptual presence’. Thirdly, I question the enactivist account of perceptual constancy. Finally, I draw attention to the tensions between enactivism and two trends in cognitive neuroscience: the two-visual systems model of human vision and the theory of internal forward models of action.
Unconscious subjectivity Summary Full Text
Joseph U. Neisser
Subjectivity is essential to consciousness. But though subjectivity is necessary for consciousness it is not sufficient. In part one I derive a distinction between conscious awareness and unconscious subjectivity from a critique of Block’s (1995) distinction between access and phenomenal consciousness. In part two I contrast two historically influential models of unconscious thought: cognitive and psychoanalytic. The widely held cognitive model does not cover, as it should, the class of ";for me"; mental states that remain unconscious. In particular, personalist approaches to emotion require a theory of unconscious subjectivity to handle the case of unconscious emotion.
Enactive Intentionality Summary Full Text
William G. Lycan
Though Noë is concerned to emphasize that perceptual experiences are not per se internal representations, he does not really say why, and he is fairly quiet about what he takes intentionality and representation themselves to be. Drawing on a subsequent paper (Noë (forthcoming)), I bring out and criticize his in fact radically negative view of those fundamental mental capacities.
Is the Appearance of Shape Protean? Summary Full Text
Charles Siewert
This commentary focuses on shape constancy in vision and its relation to sensorimotor knowledge. I contrast “Protean” and “Constancian” views about how to describe perspectival changes in the appearance of an object’s shape. For the Protean, these amount to changes in apparent shape; for Constance, things are not merely judged, but literally appear constant in shape. I give reasons in favor of the latter view, and argue that Noë’s attempt to combine aspects of both views in a “dual aspect” account does not manage to avoid an unacceptable attribution of contradictory content to appearance. I argue also that my position here actually fits better with Noë’s critique of a “snapshot” conception of visual appearance than his own interpretation of visual constancy, and better supports his claim that experiential content is constituted by the exercise of sensorimotor understanding.
Reply to Ghin: Self-Sustainment on the Level of Global Availability Summary Full Text
Thomas Metzinger
Of all the current philosophical attempts to rescue the concept of “self” by working out a weaker version, one that does not imply an ontological substance or an individual in the metaphysical sense, Marcello Ghin’s is clearly my favorite. His reconstruction of the original theory is absolutely accurate and without any major misunderstandings. Enriching the concept of a “SMT-system” with the notions of “autocatalysis” and “selfsustainment,” and adding the intriguing idea that we are systems reflecting these processes on a new level of complexity, namely with the help of an integrated PSM on the level of conscious experience, seems the way to go if one wants to keep the concept of “self.” I have great difficulties in writing a reply to Ghin’s commentary, simply because I agree with so much in it. Let us see where his approach leads us.
Reply to Himma: Personal Identity and Cartesian Intuitions Summary Full Text
Thomas Metzinger
In Kenneth Einar Himma’s substantial commentary, there are a number of conceptual misunderstandings I want to get out of the way first. This will allow us to see the core of his contribution much clearer. On page 2, Himma writes about the problem of “explaining how it is that a particular phenomenal self (e.g., me) is associated with a set of neurophysiological processes.” This philosophical question is ill posed: no one is identical to a particular phenomenal self. “Phenomenal self” must not be conflated with “me.” Under SMT, phenomenal selves, in standard situations, are highly specific forms of representational content. They are not particulars in an ontological sense. First, Himma introduces the notion of a “mental subject,” without giving any defining characteristics. He then proceeds to make a strong claim about conceptual necessity, presenting it as selfevident without an independent argument: “…it is not conceptually possible for a conscious mental state to occur that is not instantiated by a mental subject” (p.3). I must admit that I do not have this modal intuition, the point is not self-evident to me.
Reply to Hobson: Can there be a First-Person Science of Consciousness? Summary Full Text
Thomas Metzinger
Allan Hobson praises and accuses me. He praises me for being empirically informed. And he accuses me of being a “third-person half-some-one” (p. 7). Specifically, he encourages me to come out of the closet, share some of my own first-person phenomenological experiences, and stop hiding behind neurophenomenological case studies taken from the existing scientific literature. Which I will do, below. But let us first begin with a matter of conceptual controversy.
Reply to Legrand: Content from the Inside Out Summary Full Text
Thomas Metzinger
In the current debate, very few people have penetrated as deeply into the self-model theory of subjectivity and have developed such a scholarly expertise on the project as a whole (including all its difficulty) as Dorothée Legrand has done. In the last sentence of her commentary, Legrand alludes to the ugly consequences I have to face after calling the book Being No One: I am suddenly confronted with people from all over the world who are stomping their feet on the ground like stubborn children, claiming that they definitely are someone, and that they definitely have a self. In 1993, I published a German precursor to BNO, titled Subject and Self-Model—The Perspectivalness of Phenomenal Consciousness Against the Background of a Naturalist Theory of Mental Representation. From this title alone, it can be seen that I was not interested in demolishing classical theories of the self as a metaphysical substance, but rather in an empirically informed representationalist approach to the phenomenal self. In particular, I wanted to get a grip on the relationship between the epistemic subject and the phenomenal self it uses in the attempt to gain self-knowledge. The mistake I made, and to which Legrand alludes at the end of her brilliant commentary, was assuming that for a predominately American readership, such a title would be much too “wordy.” Now I am paying the price – the price for having diverted many of my readers’ attention to discussions about how our folk-phenomenological intuitions about selfhood can somehow be rescued. The title Being No One has distracted a lot of attention that would probably be better focused on the subtle and difficult issues associated with the attempt to construct a tenable theory about the interaction between self-knowledge and self-experience. But Dorothée Legrand cannot be distracted.
Reply to Livet: Meta-abeyance? Summary Full Text
Thomas Metzinger
Let me begin by pointing out a number of potential misunderstandings in Pierre Livet’s densely written commentary. In the first paragraph, Pierre Livet writes, “phenomenal transparency involves an implication of the existence of the entities represented” (p.2). This is what I call the “extensionality equivocation” (BNO: p. 167). As explained at length in BNO, “phenomenal transparency” has been a technical term in philosophy at least since G. E. Moore’s (1903) paper The Refutation of Idealism. In BNO, I offered a refined notion of the concept. I also discussed at length that there are at least three other well-defined notions of “transparency” in the literature: epistemic transparency (in philosophical epistemology), referential transparency (in formal semantics), and transparency as a property of information channels (in communication theory). I will not repeat myself here (cf. BNO: p. 166ff), but simply point out that the implication towards the existence of entities mentioned in certain sentences is a property of extensional contexts – and not, as Livet writes, of phenomenally transparent states. Let me quote from BNO, “transparency as a property of contexts is not what I am talking about here” (p. 167). I assume that Livet’s first misunderstanding comes from the interesting analogy between sentences constituting extensional contexts and fully transparent phenomenal representations, which I drew attention to on the very same page.
Reply to Weisberg: No direction home—searching for neutral ground Summary Full Text
Thomas Metzinger
I have learned a lot from Josh Weisberg’s substantial criticism in his well-crafted and systematic commentary (see also his book review in Weisberg 2003). Unfortunately, I have to concede many of the points he intelligently makes. But I am also flattered by the way he ultimately uses his criticism to emphasize some of those aspects of the theory that can perhaps possibly count as exactly the core of my own genuine contribution to the problem—and nicely turns them back against myself. And I am certainly grateful for a whole range of helpful clarifications.
A Place for Dogs and Trees? Summary Full Text
Thomas W. Polger
Rosenberg does not provide arguments for some crucial premises in his argument against physicalism. In particular, he gives no independent argument to show that physicalists must accept the entry-by-entailment thesis. The arguments provided establish weaker premises than those that are needed. As a consequence, Rosenberg’s general anti-physicalist argument is found wanting.
A Place for Protoconsciousness? Summary Full Text
Yujin Nagasawa
I argue that Gregg Rosenberg’s panexperientialism is either extremely implausible or irrelevant to the mystery of consciousness by introducing metaphysical and conceptual objections to his appeal to the notion of ‘protoconsciousness’.
Does Synesthesia Undermine Representationalism? Summary Full Text
Torin Alter
On Gregg Rosenberg’s (2004) view, synesthesia illustrates how phenomenal properties can vary independently of representational properties. I explain how the representationalist can answer his arguments. The belief that synesthesia poses a serious problem for representationalism derives, I argue, from misconceptions about representationalism. Rosenberg’s discussion of synesthesia and representationalism forms part of his defense of panexperientialism. His concern is that on panexperientialism there might be “protoconscious” experiences that don’t represent anything because they aren’t associated with cognitive systems. However, I argue, it is unclear that, given panexperientialism, association with a cognitive system is required for representation.
Doubts About Receptivity Summary Full Text
William S. Robinson
Receptivity is a foundational concept in the analysis of causation given in Gregg Rosenberg’s A Place for Consciousness and it enters, directly or indirectly, into the definitions of a host of other terms in the book. This commentary raises a problem (which I call “the triviality problem”) about how we are to understand receptivity. Search for a solution proceeds by examination of several contexts in which the concept of receptivity is used. Although a satisfactory solution remains elusive, it is hoped that making the problem clear will lead to its eventual resolution.
Panexperientialism, Cognition, and the Nature of Experience Summary Full Text
Amy Kind
This paper explores the plausibility of panexperientialism by an examination of Gregg Rosenberg’s development of the view in A Place for Consciousness. By focusing on experience rather than mentality, panexperientialism can avoid some of the traditional objections to panpsychism. However, panexperientialism’s commitment to the claim that experience outruns cognition, and its corresponding commitment to the existence of states of pure experience, opens the view to a charge of incoherence. As I suggest, it is not possible for us to make any real sense of the notion of non-conscious experience.
Rosenberg on Causation Summary Full Text
Jennifer McKitrick
This paper is an explication and critique of a new theory of causation found in part II of Gregg Rosenberg's A Place for Consciousness. According to Rosenberg's Theory of Causal significance, causation constrains indeterminate possibilities, and according to his Carrier Theory, physical properties are dispositions which have phenomenal properties as their causal bases. This author finds Rosenberg's metaphysics excessively speculative, with disappointing implications for the place of consciousness in the natural world.
Rosenberg, Reducibility and Consciousness Summary Full Text
William Seager
Although original, intricate and sophisticated, Gregg Rosenberg’s core argument in favor of panpsychism is a version of an argument that has been around for some time. My paper tries to shed some light on Rosenberg's strategy by comparing it to the views of Leibniz (or a fictional philosopher close to him) who took a similar approach. At the heart of the argument is the idea that relational properties are reducible to intrinsic properties. I argue that Rosenberg's position follows in this tradition. If the reducibility thesis is correct then there must be intrinsic properties ‘behind’ the relational properties of matter revealed by science (what Rosenberg calls effective properties). A crude form of the argument proceeds from the further premise that the only intrinsic properties are those properties in virtue of which certain states are conscious. The argument thus requires defense of both the reducibility thesis and the uniqueness claim about consciousness, both of which present serious philosophical challenges.

 

Symposia

Introduction: Consciousness and Self-Representation Summary Full Text
Uriah Kriegel
The symposium before us examines aspects of the relationship between phenomenal consciousness and self-representation—in particular, the alleged capacity of some mental state to represent themselves. The hypothesis under consideration is that all and only conscious states are self-representational in this way. The symposium contains two papers favoring the hypothesis (Ismael and Brook and Raymont) and two opposing it (Thomasson and Zahavi). Each paper is accompanied by a critical commentary (Thompson, Seager, Caston, and Williford).
Doublemindedness: A model for a dual content cognitive architecture Summary Full Text
Jenann Ismael
The outstanding stumbling blocks to any reductive account of phenomenal consciousness remain the subjectivity of phenomenal properties and cognitive and epistemic gaps that plague the relationship between physical and phenomenal properties. I suggest that a deflationary interpretation of both is available to defenders of self-representational accounts.
Comment on Ismael's "Doublemindedness: A Model for a dual content cognitive architecture" Summary Full Text
Brad Thompson
Two general worries are raised for the dual content approach to consciousness as presented by Ismael in “Doublemindedness”. First, it is argued that something much like Ismael’s proposed explanations of subjectivity and the explanatory gap can be given in terms of phenomenal concepts rather than in terms of dual content. Furthermore, self-representation alone does not explain the “determinacy” and substantiveness of phenomenal concepts (or presentational content). The notion of “presentational content” and its use in explaining the subjectivity of experience seems at least as mysterious as subjectivity itself, and may in fact presuppose it.>
Self-Awareness and Self-Knowledge Summary Full Text
Amie L. Thomasson
Higher-order theories and neo-Brentanian theories of consciousness both consider conscious states to be states of which we have some sort of ‘inner awareness’. Three kinds of evidence are typically given for thinking that self-awareness is constitutive of consciousness: (1) verbal evidence (that we speak of conscious states as those we are conscious of), (2) phenomenological evidence, and (3) epistemological evidence (that we have immediate reporting ability on our conscious states). I argue, however, that these three forms of evidence ultimately reduce to one: the epistemological evidence that our conscious states are first-person knowable. But, I argue, we can account for this on a cognitive-transformation account of self-knowledge rather than by appealing to inner awareness. If so, the primary motivation for thinking of inner awareness as essential to consciousness is undermined and the way is cleared for a strictly one-level theory of consciousness.
Comment on A. Thomasson, "Self-Awareness and Self-Knowledge" Summary Full Text
Victor Caston
In this paper, I raise an objection to Thomasson’s suggestion that our privileged access to our own conscious states is to be explained by “conceptual transformations” and argue in favor of an inner awareness view favored by Aristotle and Brentano.
The Representational Base of Consciousness Summary Full Text
Andrew Brook, Paul Raymont
Current views of consciousness can be divided by whether the theorist accepts or rejects cognitivism about consciousness. Cognitivism as we understand it is the view that consciousness is just a form of representation or an information-processing property of a system that has representations or perhaps both. Anti-cognitivists deny this, appealing to thought experiments about inverted spectra, zombies and the like to argue that consciousness could change while nothing cognitive or representational changes. Nearly everyone agrees, however, that consciousness has a representational base. Whether consciousness simply is representational or cognitive, it at least requires representation (and cognition). In an ecumenical spirit, we will focus on this point of agreement and sketch a theory of what this representational base might be. We hope that the result will be a framework useful for investigating consciousness empirically.
Is Self-Representation Necessary for Consciousness? Summary Full Text
William Seager
Brook and Raymont do not assert that self-representing representations are sufficient to generate consciousness, but they do assert that they are necessary, at least in the sense that self-representation provides the most plausible mechanism for generating conscious mental states. I argue that a first-order approach to consciousness is equally capable of accounting for the putative features of consciousness which are supposed to favor the self-representational account. If nothing is gained the simplicity of the first-order theory counts in its favor. I also advance a speculative proposal that we are never aware of any distinctively mental attributes of our own states of consciousness except via an independent act of reflective conceptualization, although this goes rather farther than the first-order theory strictly requires.
Two Takes on a One-Level Account of Consciousness Summary Full Text
Dan Zahavi
My presentation will discuss two one-level accounts of consciousness, a Brentanian and a Husserlian. I will address some of the relevant differences—I will mainly focus on the question of whether pre-reflective self-consciousness is to be understood as (i) an extraordinary object-consciousness or (ii) not as an object-consciousness at all—and argue in favour of the Husserlian account.
Zahavi versus Brentano: A Rejoinder Summary Full Text
Kenneth Williford
Dan Zahavi has argued persuasively that some versions of self-representationalism are implausible on phenomenological and dialectical grounds: they fail to make sense of primitive self-knowledge and lead to an infinite regress. Zahavi proposes an alternative view of ubiquitous prereflective self-consciousness—the phenomenological datum upon which Zahavi and self-representationalists agree—according to which it is a primitive, sui generis, non-relational property of consciousness. I argue that some Brentano-style, self-representationalist theories of consciousness are not subject to Zahavi’s criticisms. I articulate a version according to which consciousness involves self-acquaintance. This allows one to account for primitive self-knowledge and still maintain that ubiquitous, prereflective self-consciousness has a relational structure. I also unearth the premise upon which the regress objection depends and show that no self-representationalist need be committed to it. I end by discussing the kinds of considerations that might allow one to decide between the two theories and the prospects for “naturalizing” them.