Abstract Details

Panqualityism, Awareness and the Explanatory Gap  Jakub Mihalik (Philosophy, University of Hertfordshire, Hatfield, United Kingdom)   C1

According to panqualityism, a form of Russellian monism defended by Sam Coleman, Herbert Feigl and others, phenomenal consciousness is grounded in fundamental qualities, i.e. unexperienced qualia. It has been suggested by David Chalmers, Coleman and others that panqualityism is an especially promising form of Russellian monism as it avoids the subject-combination problem as well as the decomposition problem which many view as serious challenges to the panpsychist versions of Russellian monism. Despite panqualityism's significant promise, according to David Chalmers panqualityism fails as a theory of consciousness since the reductive approach to awareness of qualities it proposes fails to account for the specific phenomenology associated with awareness itself, as opposed to the phenomenology associated with qualities. In this talk, I shall investigate Coleman's reasoning against this sort of phenomenology, i.e. awareness-phenomenology, and I shall argue that Coleman successfully shows that its existence is controversial, which means that Chalmers's critique of panqualityism is inconclusive. I shall then present a critique of panqualityism that avoids the controversial posit of awareness-phenomenology, arguing that the panqualityist treatment of awareness faces an explanatory gap, failing to account for the intimate cognitive access to qualities that we are afforded in consciousness, i.e. for what I shall call our strong awareness of qualities. My critique of panqualityism is inspired by Joseph Levine's objection against the quotational account of phenomenal concepts, defended, for example, by Katalin Balog. This approach, according to Levine, fails to explain the specific cognitive presence of phenomenal states that direct phenomenal concepts afford us with. Here a phenomenal state is cognitively present for an organism if the organism has immediate and intimate cognitive access to this state. I shall argue that an objection based on Levine's worry also applies to Coleman's account of awareness according to which we become aware of qualities in virtue of their being contained in our quotational higher-order thoughts (QHOTs), and thus quoted by these. I shall argue that panqualityists are committed to holding that our awareness of qualities involves their cognitive presence for us and then I'll try to show that the QHOT account leaves this cognitive presence unexplained since it is unclear how the physical presence of the quality in the QHOT constitutes its cognitive presence for the organism. I shall conclude that panqualityism faces an explanatory gap between truths about QHOTs and truths about awareness. In my view then the real worry for panqualityists is not the contested phenomenology of awareness that Chalmers's critique of panqualityism rests on but rather the special, intimate way in which we seem to be aware of qualities.