Papers

The papers below are work-in-progress unless otherwise noted. Comments are very much welcome.

The Spatial Content of Experience forthcoming, Philosophy and Phenomenological Research .pdf

In this paper I argue against Russellian theories of the phenomenal content of spatial experience. I begin by discussing the phenomenal content of color experience, and problems that arise for Russellian theories of color content. I then turn to the content of spatial experience and argue that parallel worries arise for Russellian theories of spatial content. Finally, I present an alternative Fregean theory of phenomenal content, including the phenomenal content of spatial experience. In so arguing, I claim that neither color nor spatial experience should be thought of as providing us with a direct grasp of the properties of external objects.

Senses for Senses forthcoming, Australasian Journal of Philosophy .pdf

If two subjects have phenomenally identical experiences, there is an important sense in which the way the world appears to them is precisely the same. But how are we to understand this notion of "ways of appearing"? Most philosophers who have acknowledged the existence of phenomenal content have held that the way something appears is simply a matter of the properties something appears to have. On this view, the way something appears is simply the way something appears to be. This identification supports a Russellian theory of phenomenal content, according to which phenomenal content is purely extensional, exhausted by facts about what specific properties are represented by an experience. In the present paper, I briefly raise problems for the most popular form of Russellianism, which I call "Standard Russellianism". I then present and motivate a Fregean alternative that handles the problems faced by Standard Russellianism. Fregean representationalism claims that phenomenal content involves, in addition to represented properties and objects, modes of presentation. I argue that ways of appearing are modes of presentations of external properties and objects, and present a detailed theory about the nature of the modes of presentation involved in color experience.

Representationalism and the Argument from Hallucination forthcoming, Pacific Philosophical Quarterly .pdf

Representationalism is sometimes advertised as providing a novel response to the argument from hallucination, one that accepts the presence of a "common factor" between veridical and hallucinatory experience without positing sensory intermediaries between the mind and the world. But as I will argue, much of the attractiveness of representationalism stems from a failure in the literature to distinguish between two distinct possible versions of representationalism, what I call "content-based representationalism" and "vehicle-based representationalism". In what follows, I present a version of the argument from hallucination. Generically, representationalism appears to have a response to the argument from hallucination that avoids a commitment to qualia or sense-data. But I argue that, once the distinction between content-based representationalism and vehicle-based representationalism is recognized, this response to the argument from hallucination is inadequate. Content-based representationalism fails to adequately accommodate hallucination. Vehicle-based representationalism fails to avoid a commitment to qualia or sense-data. The upshot is that if you want to be a representationalist, you have to be a vehicle-based representationalist. But vehicle-based representationalism lacks many of the virtues that are frequently advertised for representationalism more generally, and fails to avoid a kind of indirect realism.

Representationalism and the Conceivability of Inverted Spectra forthcoming, Synthese .pdf

Most philosophers who have endorsed the idea that there is such a thing as phenomenal content--content that supervenes on phenomenal character--have also endorsed what I call Standard Russellianism. According to Standard Russellianism, phenomenal content is Russellian in nature, and the properties represented by perceptual experiences are mind-independent physical properties. In agreement with Shoemaker (1994), I argue that Standard Russellianism is incompatible with the possibility of spectrum inversion without illusion. One defense of Standard Russellianism is to hold that spectrum inversion without illusion is conceivable but not in fact possible. I argue that this response fails. As a consequence, either phenomenal content is not Russellian, or experiences do not represent mind-independent physical properties.

Shoemaker on Phenomenal Content 2007, Philosophical Studies 135: 307-334. .pdf

Sydney Shoemaker has given a sophisticated theory of phenomenal content, motivated by the transparency of experience and by the possibility of spectrum inversion without illusion (1994, 2000, 2001, 2002). It centers on the idea that color experiences represent what he calls appearance properties. I consider the different sorts of appearance properties that Shoemaker has suggested might enter into phenomenal content--occurrent appearance properties, dispositional appearance properties, and higher-order dispositional appearance properties--and argue that none of them are plausibly represented by color experiences. In its place, I conclude with an alternative Fregean theory of phenomenal content that accommodates transparency and the possibility of spectrum inversion without illusion without the difficulties encountered by Shoemakers theory.

Colour Constancy and Russellian Representationalism 2006, Australasian Journal of Philosophy 84: 75-94 .pdf

Representationalism, the view that phenomenal character supervenes on intentional content, has attracted a wide following in recent years. Most representationalists have adopted Russellian representationalism, the view that phenomenal content is a kind of Russellian content. I argue that Russellian representationalism conflicts with the everyday experience of color constancy. Due to color constancy, Russellianism is unable to simultaneously give a proper account of the phenomenal content of color experience and do justice to its phenomenology.

Moral Value, Response-Dependence, and Rigid Designation 2006, Canadian Journal of Philosophy 36: 71-94. .pdf

A rigidified response-dependent account of moral properties promises to provide us with a thoroughly naturalistic moral realism that explains these senses in which moral properties are both mind-dependent and mind-independent. The response-dependent aspect of the analysis makes moral properties to a certain extent mind-dependent. But by rigidification, objectivity is secured. However, Peter Railton (1996) has argued against rigidifying on actual human responses as a way to avoid moral relativism. After an exposition of response-dependent accounts of value and their virtues, I turn to Railton's thought experiment and show that it fails to pose a problem for rigidified response-dependence.
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