BA, Philosophy, New College of Florida, 2014
Philosophy of Language, Philosophical Logic, History of Analytic Philosophy, Philosophy of Mind, Metaphysics
PHIL 29200-04/29300-04 Junior/Senior Tutorial
Topic: Consciousness and Language
Contemporary philosophers of mind often speak of the “phenomenal character” of different sorts of conscious experiences. This phrase is meant to express “what it’s like” to have an experience of a particular sort. For instance, when you see something red—a tomato, say—there’s something that it’s like to have an experience of the sort that you’re having. Someone who is color blind from birth might know a lot of things about how color vision works, but they won't know what it’s like to see something red; that is, they won’t know what the phenomenal character of an experience of seeing something red is.
In this class, we will explore both a negative and a positive thesis about the relationship between this aspect of conscious experience and language. We will start by considering the negative thesis that the phenomenal character of a conscious experience is really “ineffable”—we cannot express it in public language. We will consider both strategies for trying to make sense of this idea and arguments, both belonging to and influenced by Ludwig Wittgenstein, to the effect that there is no way to make sense of it. We will then turn to the corresponding positive thesis that we cannot make sense of the phenomenal character of a conscious experience apart from our ability to express it in public language, focusing particularly on the development of this thesis by Wilfrid Sellars and those influenced by him in various ways. In addition to Wittgenstein and Sellars, readings will be from contemporary philosophers including, among others, Frank Jackson, Thomas Nagel, David Chalmers, Paul Horwich, Daniel Dennett, John McDowell, Susanna Schellenberg, Robert Brandom, David Rosenthal, and Paul Churchland.
Meets with Jr/Sr section. Prerequisite: Open only to philosophy majors. Intensive-Track Majors should reach out to the instructor to be enrolled manually. No more than two tutorials may be used to meet program requirements.