Workshop: Consciousness and Indexicality

16 November, 2023 – 17 November, 2023 all-day


The organisers cordially invite you to the upcoming Consciousness and Indexicality Workshop, to be hosted by the VLC Philosophy Lab (University of Valencia, Spain) on November 16 and 17, 2023.

The workshop will be of interest to all working on De Se thoughts, phenomenal concepts, rational explanation, and the conceptual links between these important topics of philosophical research.


Simon Prosser
Title: Phenomenal Concepts and the De Se
Abstract: One of the major strategies in responding to anti-materialist arguments such as the Knowledge Argument (Jackson 1982) and the Conceivability Argument (Chalmers 1996) is to appeal to a special class of concepts known as phenomenal concepts, which are deployed in thinking about one’s own conscious experiences. In order to block the anti-materialist arguments, it is necessary to give a materialistically acceptable account of phenomenal concepts that shows them to be inferentially isolated from ordinary concepts. This is because the anti-materialist arguments rely on the claim that there are no a priori entailments between physical concepts and phenomenal concepts. I shall describe a new way to make this strategy work. It combines two claims, each of which can be motivated independently. The first is that the special properties of de se attitudes are to be explained in terms of a property that I have elsewhere called first-person redundancy, which captures the epistemological significance of the egocentricity of certain mental states. The second claim, which I call External World Functionalism, concerns the nature and representational contents of conscious experiences. It entails that all conscious experiences are egocentric. The inferential isolation of phenomenal concepts follows straightforwardly from the combination of these two claims.

Anna Giustina
Title: The Mechanics of the Introspective Process
Abstract: “In recent years, growing skepticism has permeated the debate around introspection: both in philosophy and in cognitive science, a pessimistic attitude toward introspection’ reliability has become predominant. In this paper, I argue for a more optimistic stance. First, I offer a diagnosis of skeptical arguments: I argue that the introspective errors on which those arguments rely are all errors of categorization. Second, I propose an analysis of the introspective process via a four-stage model, and show that not all stages are affected by categorization errors. The first stage is what I call primitive introspection: a state of non-classificatory, non-conceptual, and non-judgment-like attentive awareness of the phenomenology of the target experience. The second stage is a “thin” introspective judgment involving what David Chalmers (2003) calls “direct phenomenal concept”: a non-classificatory concept that predicates of the experience the maximally determinate phenomenal property it instantiates. The third stage is a “thick” introspective judgment, where the predicate is constituted by a less determinate but cognitively more manageable concept (e.g., pain), formed through classifying the phenomenology under a coarser-grained category. The fourth stage consists in translating the thick judgment in a public verbal report. This paves the way for a more optimistic attitude toward introspection in in at least two ways. First, even though categorization errors may emerge in stages three and four, the first two stages are immune to those errors. Second, the model offers a concrete suggestion about how the introspective process can be improved, by (i) reducing the risk of misclassification by refining introspectors’ classificatory abilities and (ii) reducing the risk of mistranslation by sophisticating introspectors’ phenomenal vocabulary.”

Gregory Bochner
Title: A Posteriori Physicalism, Two-Dimensional Semantics, and Varieties of Transparency
Abstract: I sketch what might become a new possible line of response to forceful arguments presented in Nida-Rümelin (2007) and Goff (2011, 2017) for the claim that a posteriori physicalists get our phenomenal concepts wrong. First, I contrast what are two very different transparency theses and argue that, contrary to common opinion, it is really the first which matters in the knowledge argument against physicalism: (i) ‘Boghossian-transparency’ (B-transparency) according to which, for any two of her occurrent thoughts/concepts, a thinker can know a priori, without the benefit of further empirical investigation, whether they have the same or distinct contents; and (ii) ‘phenomenal transparency’ (P-transparency), according to which a phenomenal concept reveals the essence of the state it denotes. Second, I use two-dimensionalism (2D) as a descriptive tool to contrast the different predictions of various possible semantic/epistemic views of phenomenal concepts. I note that the Kripkean motivation for recognizing a new dimension of meaning (diagonal/primary) beyond the usual dimension (horizontal/secondary), just like the original Fregean motivation for introducing sense beyond reference, tacitly relies on B-transparency. Third, I argue that the anti-physicalist conclusion does follow, as Nida-Rümelin and Goff contend, but only given what is actually a controvertible presupposition built into standard 2D (and itself neutral between various possible interpretations – epistemic, semantic, metasemantic, etc. – of the 2D framework). This is the presupposition that the two dimensions distinguished for each concept and thought must correspond to two contents/intensions (horizontal/secondary and diagonal/primary). Fourth, I argue that an original sort of 2D (Austinian 2D), which dispenses with that presupposition and is based on a distinction highlighted in Recanati (2007) between content/intension and Austinian proposition (content/intension + a designated circumstance), respects the B-transparency of contents, remains silent about essences, and potentially affords a new way of defending the a posteriori physicalist contention that, no matter how much empirical information we may happen to possess, the reducibility of the mental to the physical will always sound unintelligible or arbitrary to us.

Martine Nida-Rümelin


Giovanni Merlo
Title: On Feeling Relieved That Something Is Over
Abstract: Arthur Prior’s ‘Thank Goodness That’s Over’ (TGTO) argument can be interpreted as making a case for tense realism in two steps: tensed relief requires tensed propositions, and tensed propositions require tensed facts, hence the reality of tensed relief presupposes the reality of tensed facts. Relativists (like Lewis) resist this argument at the second step: they think we can admit tensed propositions without admitting tensed facts. Absolutists (like Perry) get off the boat at the first step: they think we can recognize the reality of tensed relief without admitting tensed propositions. In this paper, I will use a thought experiment to argue that Absolutism is problematic in a way that has not, so far, been fully appreciated: while this approach may allow us to make intelligible sense of our ways of expressing tensed relief, it does not allow us to make intelligible sense of tensed relief itself.

David Hunter
Title: Reasons and Beliefs
Abstract: How are beliefs and practical reasons related? It is tempting to think that a difference in practical reasons must require a difference in belief, that people who believe the same things must have the same reasons for action. I argue that we should resist this temptation. Unlike epistemic reasons, practical reasons are essentially personal. I then explore what this means for the individuation of belief and for the idea that beliefs are dispositions.

Christian List (Online)
Title: The first-personal argument against physicalism
Abstract: The aim of this paper is to discuss a seemingly straightforward argument against physicalism which, despite being implicit in much of the philosophical debate about consciousness, has not received the attention it deserves (compared to other, better-known “epistemic”, “modal”, and “conceivability” arguments). This is the argument from the non-supervenience of the first-personal (and indexical) facts on the third-personal (and non-indexical) ones. This non-supervenience, together with the assumption that the physical facts (at least as conventionally understood) are third-personal, entails that some facts – namely, first-personal, phenomenal ones – do not supervene on the physical facts. Interestingly, unlike other arguments against physicalism, the first-personal argument, if successful, refutes not only physicalism but also other purely third-personal metaphysical pictures.

Léa Salje
Title: The self-discovery in seeing what i say
Abstract: Many have found it natural to draw a dividing line between two fundamentally distinct kinds of psychological self-knowledge – on the one side is our capacity for introspective knowledge, which we can use to find out about our own minds only, and on the other our capacity for observational knowledge of the other minds which we can, if we like, turn inwards on ourselves. One reason for treating these as distinct epistemic kinds is that they seem to require us to take up exhaustive and exclusive perspectives on our own conscious thoughts – a first personal ‘from-the-inside’ perspective for introspective knowledge, and a third personal ‘from-the-outside’ perspective for observational knowledge. In this talk I propose to disrupt this traditional dividing line by considering a form of psychological self-knowledge that doesn’t comfortably fit either of these profiles: what I call articulatory self-knowledge, a way of knowing one’s own mind by verbally articulating one’s thoughts. As seems appropriate to the disruption of such a traditional picture, I argue that what we find once we overturn it is an extremely special and cognitively important form of self-knowledge.


Organised by: Matheus Valente, Victor Verdejo, Valen Simpson

Sponsored by research projects “ELIMINATIVISM, FICTIONALISM, AND EXPRESSIVISM. The possibility of a negative metaphysical verdict about a discourse D” (PID2019-106420GA-I00) & “The Representational Penumbra”  (PID2021-125936NB-I00), and a Margarita Salas postdoctoral fellowship (Matheus Valente, Universitat de Barcelona).