- Waking, Knowing and Being Conscious
Forthcoming in the Supplementary Volume of the Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society, 2019, as part of a symposium with Matthew Soteriou.
Being conscious, in the sense in which this state is associated with being awake as opposed to dreaming or sleepwalking, has a distinctive experiential character and epistemic role. The former is reflected in the experience of waking up, the latter in traditional problems about perceptual knowledge. I outline a conception of being wakefully conscious which identifies this state in terms of its role in explaining knowledge about one’s environment and oneself. I suggest that this dual epistemic role may be grounded, in part, in the control of attention. I argue that this conception has some advantages over Matthew Soteriou’s (2019) account of the state in question in terms of a temporal point of view. These advantages are brought out by examining the experience of waking up, a traditional problem about perceptual knowledge, and folk attitudes to sleepwalking and infant consciousness.
- Is the folk concept of pain polyeidic?
Philosophers often assume that folk hold pain to be a mental state – to be in pain is to have a certain kind of feeling – and they think this state exhibits the classic Cartesian characteristics of privacy, subjectivity, and incorrigibility. However folk also assign pains (non-brain-based) bodily locations: unlike most other mental states, pains are held to exist in arms, feet, etc. This has led some (e.g. Hill 2005) to talk of the ‘paradox of pain’, whereby the folk notion of pain is inherently conflicted. Recently, several authors have rejected the paradox view, arguing instead that folk hold a univocal, bodily view (i.e. pains are properties of various body parts, not of minds). This paper presents six objections to the bodily view of the folk concept of pain. We then outline a direction for future research – the ‘polyeidic approach’ – whereby the folk notion of pain is held to encompass various divergent (potentially conflicting) strands and we suggest that certain problems surrounding the treatment and communication of pain might be usefully be viewed through the lens of the polyeidic approach.
Early view publication here.
- Partial Report is the Wrong Paradigm
In the thematic issue, Perceptual Consciousness and Cognitive Access, eds. Peter Fazekas and Morten Overgaard.
Is consciousness independent of the low-capacity, general-purpose processes known as ‘cognitive access’? The dominant methodology for supporting this independence hypothesis uses partial report experiments as evidence for consciousness in the absence of cognitive access. Adopting a standard model of evidential support, and reviewing recent elaborations of the partial report paradigm, this article argues that the paradigm has the wrong structure to support the independence hypothesis. Like reports in general, a subject’s partial report is evidence that she is conscious of information only where that information is cognitively accessed. So partial report experiments could dissociate consciousness from cognitive access only if there were uncontroversial evidence for consciousness which did not imply reportability. There is no such uncontroversial evidence for consciousness. An alternative, broadly Marrian methodology for supporting the independence hypothesis is suggested. This methodology does not require evidence for consciousness in the absence of cognitive access. Instead it identifies a function that consciousness performs when a stimulus is cognitively accessed, and then identifies the processes best suited to implement this function. If these processes exclude cognitive access, the independence hypothesis will be supported. One relevant function of consciousness may be reflected in reason-based psychological explanations of a subject’s behaviour.
Penultimate draft here.
- The Visual Presence of Determinable Properties
In Phenomenal Presence, eds. Fabian Dorsch and Fiona Macpherson. OUP 2018.
I explain and defend a way of understanding the idea that properties of things, such as their shapes and colours, are visually present to a subject of experience. I argue that this idea is coherent, well motivated and empirically plausible, provided that we reject two traditional assumptions: (i) that maximally determinate properties, rather than just determinable properties, are visually present; (ii) that we can tell through introspection exactly which properties are visually present to us.
Penultimate draft here.
In Enciclopedia de Filosofía SEFA, Sociedad Española de Filosofía Analítica, 2018.
- Review of Dominic Gregory’s Showing, Sensing, and Seeming: Distinctively sensory representations and their contents (OUP 2013).
Perception, 2015, Volume 44: 107–110 (open access)
- Attention, Visual Consciousness and Indeterminacy
I propose a new argument showing that conscious vision sometimes depends constitutively on conscious attention. I criticise traditional arguments for this constitutive connection, on the basis that they fail adequately to dissociate evidence about visual consciousness from evidence about attention. On the same basis, I criticise Ned Block’s recent counterargument that conscious vision is independent of one sort of attention (‘cognitive access’). Block appears to achieve the dissociation only because he underestimates the indeterminacy of visual consciousness. I then appeal to empirical work on the interaction between visual indeterminacy and attention, to argue for the constitutive connection.
Penultimate draft here.
This collection of essays is published both as a special edition of Ratio (Volume 27, Issue 4, 2014) and as a book (Wiley 2015). The book includes an editor’s introduction. There is a draft of the introduction and more information about the essays here.