Infallibility, Inflation, and Explosion

In this very interesting discussion between Richard Brown, Keith Frankish, and Philip Goff, Frankish makes the point that the core of his illusionist view is the denial of a phenomenal consciousness that we have direct acquaintance with or have infallible beliefs about. In the same discussion, Brown makes reference to this post by Eric Schwitzgebel. It begins:

Here’s a way to deny the existence of things of Type X. Assume that things of Type X must have Property A, and then argue that nothing has Property A.

If that assumption is wrong — if things of Type X needn’t necessarily have Property A — then you’ve given what I’ll pejoratively call an inflate-and-explode argument

Schwitzgebel is targeting the eliminativism / illusionism of Dennett and Frankish (and others as well). I’ve made a similar point recently, that Frankish is defining phenomenal consciousness in a non-standard way — making very specific requirements of its properties — and then denying its existence based on the absense of those properties. Schwitzgebel makes this point much more eloquently and incisively than I have done.

What Do Phenomenal Realists Believe About Fallibility?

The problem is that many realists about phenomenal consciousness — people who believe subjective experience is real and must be accounted for — do not think phenomenal beliefs are infallible and do not see fallibility as a problem.

Here’s is Philip Goff’s response when I asked him directly. I’m not sure of his exact stance on acquaintance, but he clearly doesn’t think his panpsychist view depends on infallibility.

And here is Ned Block yesterday:

And why should it be a problem for the reality of phenomenal experience if higher-order processes misrepresent low-level experience? For example, if I am expecting to be burnt and I momentarily misinterpret a a cold ice cube on my skin as a hot pain, why should that deny the reality of the experience? I think Frankish would say something along the lines of “because there is supposed to be no distinction between seeming and reality.” In fact, that’s his response to Block. But Daniel Stoljar responds by denying that supposition as well:

So it seems that Frankish has been aiming at a target that misrepresents the position of at least some phenomenal realists.

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