Scuola Universitaria Superiore IUSS di Pavia
Centro di Ricerca in Neurocognizione, Epistemologia e Sintassi teorica (NEtS)
Iuss Philosophy Seminars
The Mark of the Mental (MOM) Project
“PHENOMENAL INTENTIONALITY AND EXTENDED CONSCIOUSNESS ”
February 11th 2021, 10.00
Julian Kiverstein – University of Amsterdam
The extended consciousness theory (ECT) claims that the biological processes that are constitutive of phenomenal consciousness can sometimes include a mixture of neural, bodily and environmental elements. In a recent monograph with Michael Kirchhoff I have argued that a compelling case can be made for ECT on the basis of sensorimotor enactivism (SE). SE argues that the phenomenal character of conscious experience is fixed by the sensorimotor contingencies that form in the dynamic interaction of the agent with its environment. SE provides an account of what a subject experiences. It is a theory of what fixes the phenomenal character of an experience. ECT by contrast answers the question of how our phenomenal experiences are biologically realised. Thus, the argument for ECT from SE would seem to derive an answer to the question of how phenomenal experiences are biologically realised from an answer to the question of what fixes the what-it-is-likeness of phenomenal experience. Some philosophers have found such an inference problematic. They have argued that phenomenology can tell us nothing about the sub-personal biological realisers of phenomenal experience. Phenomenal experiences are transparent; they give us no access to the internal workings of our minds. I argue however that such an objection misconstrues the argument for ECT. I will suggest the argument for ECT will go through if we allow that sensory experiences have phenomenal intentionality. The phenomenal intentionality theory (PIT) take consciousness to be explanatorily prior to intentionality. Phenomenal intentional states are intentional states that are constituted by a subject’s phenomenally conscious states. If we accept PIT, the argument from SE for ECT is secured. Can a proponent of ECT accept PIT? One might suppose they cannot since PIT is often taken to be an internalist account of intentional content, motivated by brain-in-a-vat thought experiments. An argument for ECT premised on PIT would seem to be self-undermining. I will counter this objection by arguing that in fact a version of PIT can be formulated that follows from SE. Thus, PIT need not be understood as providing support for an internalist account of intentional content, contrary to its main proponents.