Stained glass as a model for consciousness

Philosophical Explorations, 18(1):90–103, 2015

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Abstract Contemporary phenomenal externalists are motivated to a large extent by the transparency of experience and by the related doctrine of representationalism. On their own, however, transparency and representationalism do not suffice to establish externalism. Hence we should hesitate to dismiss phenomenal internalism, a view shared by many generations of competent philosophers. Rather, we should keep both our options open, internalism and externalism. It is hard, however, to see how to keep open the internalist option, for although transparency and representationalism have not yet definitively established externalism, they have indeed made it quite intuitive. Internalism, by comparison, comes across at first sight as antiquated and ridden with difficulties. This is why I propose the Stained Glass model of consciousness. I do so with two aims: first, to make internalism intuitive in the age of transparency, and second, to show how to resist the many recent anti-internalist arguments. In particular, I argue that phenomenal internalism need not be epistemically worrisome, that it is compatible at once with transparency, representationalism, and content externalism, and that although it requires an error theory, this error theory is a harmless one.

Keywords transparency of experience, phenomenal externalism, internalism, phenomenal consciousness, representationalism