3rd NfPR Conference - Inner Awareness: Past and Present
University of Liège, Nov. 30 to Dec. 2, 2021
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Attendance is free but pre-registration is required. To register, please, send an email with the heading 'Pre-registration IA
conference' to email@example.com by November 23. In the
email, please, specify: your current affiliation, position, and whether you are interested in attending the conference in person or online.
Unfortunately, due to limited seating capacity and the ongoing COVID restrictions, we might not be able to accept every request of in-person
attendance and might be forced to propose online attendance instead.
P = in person; O = online.
[Show / Hide all abstracts]
Tue 30 November 2021
→ Room: Salle Pousseur
(Galerie Opéra, Place de la République française 35, 2nd floor)
- 9:00-10:30 Uriah Kriegel (Rice), The Value of Phenomenal Privacy [P].
It is virtually impossible, perhaps even strictly impossible, for any person to
enjoy inner awareness of someone else's phenomenal experiences. In this sense, our phenomenal experiences are private to each of us: nobody else
can have inner awareness of them. Moreover, this privacy is something that we value dearly: there are few goods, if any, that we would trade for it.
What is it about phenomenal privacy that we value so much? In this talk, I will consider four "philosophical hypotheses" about this,
arguing for the fourth.
- 10:30-11:00 Coffee break.
- 11:00-12:30 Jakub Mihálik (Hertfordshire/Institute of Philosophy, Czech Academy of Sciences), Inner Awareness as Mental
According to the ‘objection from intimacy’, the representationalist
construal of inner awareness fails to make sense of the intimate, immediate nature of this awareness. This account implies that one’s
access to mental contents is mediated by representations, hence the contents could be misrepresented, which rules out intimacy. To address this
objection, Levine, Hellie, Chalmers and others have construed inner awareness in terms of Russellian acquaintance, i.e. a direct,
non-conceptual and substantive cognitive relation between a subject and her conscious contents. According to a common critique, however, the
acquaintance-based model rules out naturalisability of consciousness since acquaintance is naturalistically suspect or even mysterious. I shall
examine Sam Coleman’s attempt to dispel this worry by proposing a naturalistic--although non-representationalist--account of acquaintance.
According to Coleman, we are acquainted with mental contents in having ‘quotational’ higher-order thoughts (QHOTs) about them, in
which the contents are embedded and thus quoted. While Coleman’s model avoids the main pitfalls of representationalism, I will argue that
it falls short of accounting for the intimacy of inner awareness. My argument is inspired by Levine’s critique of Balog’s related
‘quotational account’ of phenomenal concepts that, according to Levine, fails to explain the ‘cognitive presence’ of
phenomenal states which some of our phenomenal concepts afford us. I’ll argue that a related objection applies to Coleman’s model,
despite significant differences between the two accounts. I’ll conclude that the QHOT model isn’t suitable for modelling acquaintance
and consider the prospects of a non-reductive approach to acquaintance.
- 12:30-14:30 Lunch.
- 14:30-16:00 Maik Niemek (Marburg), Understanding the Subjective Character as Part of the Modality: Adverbialism vs. Evaluativism vs.
Even though many researchers believe that the subjective character is an essential
part of conscious life, so far it remains quite unclear how one is supposed to understand the metaphysical nature of this component of
experience. One answer to this question, originally presented in Woodruff-Smith (1986), conceptualizes thesubjective character as
being grounded in the modality of experience and as a manner in which experience occurs rather than as a constituent of its representational content. Although this account is very promising itstill lacks clarity and a more detailed exposition of its underlying presuppositions. The aim of this talk is to offer a more elaborated version of this particular theoretical branch. I will introduce three different approaches to the idea that the subjective character is grounded in the modality and call these distinct accounts Evaluatism (Musholt 2015; Pereira 2018; Recanati 2007, 2012), Adverbialism (Thomasson 2000) and Relationalism (my view). I will argue that Adverbialism and Evaluatism fail to account for peculiar features the subjective character is supposed to exhibit and explain why Relationalism avoids these issues. I will then discuss what kind of properties we should ascribe to the relations that presumably ground the subjective character and argue that a minimal characterization should begin with understanding them as non-reflexive, non-symmetric,unigrade binary, internal relations. Finally, I will outline how Relationalism can be embedded in a general representational theory of the mind, namely one that has been called “Impure Intentionalism” (Crane 2007, 2013).
- 16:00-16:30 Coffee break.
- 16:30-18:00 Marie Guillot (Essex), Which phenomenal-concept model for reflective inner awareness? [O]
In accounting for the way we can exercise introspective self-awareness, using a
concept of self, a number of authors (including, but not only, Castañeda, Kapitan, Bermúdez, O’Brien) rely on the idea that
subjects have a basic experience of self – a form of inner awareness at a pre-reflective level - and that the self-concept is somehow
rooted in this experience.
However, these writers differ on several key points, including the nature of the relevant self-experience (interoceptive, cognitive,
agentive...), the mechanism through which the self-concept is grounded in this experience, and the strength of the dependence of the concept
on the experience.
I propose that the framework of phenomenal concepts, made familiar by discussions of ordinary perceptual experiences, can be a helpful tool to
disentangle different possible dependence claims, and to clarify and compare the options. This is in part because this model can be fleshed
out in a range of different ways.
I end by tentatively proposing one particular interpretation of the phenomenal-concept model – relying on a particular understanding of what
pre-reflective inner awareness might be – which might explain how reflective inner awareness works. Along the way, I discuss the extent to
which the approach can shed light on some of the semantic and epistemological features traditionally associated with reflection on
oneself as oneself.
Wed 1 December
→ Room: Salle Pousseur (Galerie Opéra, Place de la
République française 35, 2nd floor)
- 9:00-10:30 Tom McClelland (Cambridge), The Ability Strategy: Seeking a Middle-Ground in the Inner Awareness Debate [O].
Does having a conscious state involve having an inner awareness of that very
state? Some say “yes” and some say “no” and the long-standing debate between these two camps shows no sign of letting up.
Faced with such a recalcitrant disagreement, we should explore the possibility of a middle-ground position. If such a position can be found, it
might retain the virtues of each existing position whilst avoiding the shortcomings of either. Moreover, it might explain the oddly divergent
phenomenological reports offered by each camp. One promising approach to finding such a middle-ground is the Ability Strategy. According to this
strategy, inner awareness is not ubiquitous but our ability to bring a conscious state into inner awareness is ubiquitous. Although we
are only aware of our conscious states when we explicitly introspect them, we are constantly aware of the possibility of introspection
and this is easily mistaken for peripheral inner awareness. Although this strategy has some initial promise, its plausibility depends on how
exactly it is implemented. What precisely is the relevant ability? How does it show up in our phenomenology? Is it really a pervasive feature
of conscious experience? What function does it serve? The Affordance Model of introspection is a possible implementation of the Ability Strategy.
According to this model we are pervasively aware of affordances to introspect. My aim in this paper is twofold: i) to identify the
failings of the affordance model of introspectibility; and ii) to explore better ways of implementing the Ability Strategy. Regarding the first
aim, I draw on theoretical and phenomenological considerations to cast doubt on the idea of affordances to introspect. Regarding the second aim,
I examine some wider proposals about the phenomenology of possibility and suggest some alternative implementations of the Ability Strategy.
- 10:30-11:00 Coffee break.
- 11:00-12:30 Bertille De Vlieger (Lille), Pre-Reflective Self-Awareness and Introspection [P].
In this talk my aim will be to point that pre-reflective consciousness is
essential to introspection and thus to reflective knowledge and reflective self-awareness. It will be a question of examining the relationship
that these different entities have with each other, with particular focus on the role of pre-reflective awareness in the constitution of
introspective self-knowledge. My thesis is that there is an inner awareness of lived experience before an experience is introspected: a
pre-reflexive self-awareness; and that the role of pre-reflexive awareness is to make conscious experiences available to introspection. The
introspector can then become aware of his lived experience and this experience can also be the object of conscious reflection. In order to
defend the idea that pre-reflective self-awareness is essential to introspection, I will present two major arguments which show that the
rejection of the existence of inner awareness prior to introspection, i.e. the idea according to which the subject already has a form of
awareness of an experience which he has not yet introspected, poses several problems. First, I will defend the idea that accessing an
unconscious state requires a greater effort on the part of the subject who seeks to access it, than when he attempts to draw his attention to
and access a conscious state of which he is not aware. Secondly, I will argue that pre-reflective self-awareness serves as a foundation for
introspection but is also what can sometimes trigger the introspective process by motivating the redirection of attention towards pre-reflective
- 12:30-14:30 Lunch.
- 14:30-16:00 Alberto Barbieri (IUSS, Pavia), In Favour of the Egological View of Inner Awareness [P].
The nature of inner awareness—viz., the putative non-inferential and
experiential self-consciousness involved in unreflective experiences—has become the topic of considerable debate in recent analytic
philosophy of consciousness, as it is commonly taken to be what makes conscious mental states first-personally given to their subject. A major
issue of controversy in this debate concerns what inner awareness is an awareness of. Some scholars have suggested that inner awareness involves
an awareness of the experiencing subject. This ‘egological view’ is opposed to the ‘non-egological view’, according to
which the subject, in being non-inferentially and experientially self-conscious, is just aware of their own occurrent mental state. In this talk,
I argue in favour of the egological view. The argument I develop is a qualified version of a line of reasoning originally provided by Rosenthal
and builds on a proper clarification of the ontological status of token mental states. Scholars involved in this debate mostly conduct their work
by remaining silent on the ontology of mental states. I argue instead that the question of whether inner awareness is an egological or
non-egological phenomenon is sensitive to what mental states are taken to be. More precisely, I argue that token mental states are structured
‘fact-like’ entities having their subject among their constituents. Accordingly, one cannot be aware of one’s own occurrent
mental state without thereby being aware of oneself. I conclude the talk by defending such a 'Rosenthalian' argument from a pair of potential
- 16:00-16:30 Coffee break.
- 16:30-18:00 Donnchadh O'Conaill (Fribourg), Experiencing Oneself in Inner Awareness [O].
This paper focuses on the epistemic value of inner awareness, specifically with
regard to knowledge of oneself. I assume that one can be aware of oneself in virtue of having inner awareness of one’s own experiences.
It has been suggested that metaphysical investigations into one’s nature should begin with experiences of oneself, and that such
experiences provide the basis for substantial knowledge of one’s nature and of what it is to be a subject of experiences (e.g., Strawson
Selves; Nida-Rümelin ‘The Non-Descriptive Individual Nature of Conscious Beings’ in Gasser & Stefan Personal
I shall argue that there are important limits to what one can learn in this way, either about what it is to be a subject or about the nature of
subjects more generally. First, I shall argue that experiences of oneself leave open in crucial respects what it is to be a subject of experiences.
For instance, a grasp of what it is to be a subject should reveal whether or not something could be a subject while not having any experiences, or
whether something could be a subject without having had any experiences whatsoever (for conflicting views on these questions see, e.g.,
Strawson’s Selves and Dainton’s The Phenomenal Self). Plausibly, no experience of oneself can reveal whether or not
these are genuine possibilities.
Second, while experiences of oneself trivially reveal oneself to be a subject, they do not reveal whether or not one is essentially a subject. For
instance, they do not reveal whether one is an entity of a kind which could exist without any capacity to have experiences. Nor do they reveal
one’s identity- or persistence-conditions, to which ontological category one belongs, or even whether one is a material or an immaterial
entity. (Nor do they reveal whether, e.g., all subjects must belong to the same ontological category, be material or immaterial, etc.) Therefore,
experiences of oneself largely leave open crucial questions about the nature of those entities which are subjects of experience.
Thu 2 December
→ Room: Salle R100 (Place du Vingt-Août 7, Building A4, ground floor)
- 9:00-10:30 Kristina Musholt (Leipzig), Inner Awareness without Self-Representation [O].
In my talk I will argue that our inner sense of self is not
based on a representation of the self. Rather, inner awareness is best understood as a form of knowledge-how, which contains implicitly
self-related (i.e. agent-relative) information. The acquisition of this knowledge is scaffolded by social interaction in interesting ways.
I will spell out the implications of this approach for the distinctiveness and epistemic value of inner awareness and, if time permits,
demonstrate how it relates to existing accounts both from the analytical and the phenomenological literature.
- 10:30-11:00 Coffee break.
- 11:00-12:30 Alberto Voltolini (Turin), Awareness of Awareness [P].
I want to maintain the following claims: 1) awareness is the converse
of the relation of manifesting to, which objects and their (ascribed) worldly properties given to a perceptual experience on the one
hand, and the qualitative properties of that experience on the other hand, hold with that very experience and its subject respectively. A
perceptual experience is aware of the objects and their (ascribed) worldly properties manifested to the experience, while the experience’s
subject is aware of the qualitative properties of that experience manifested to that subject; 2) awareness is the very same internal
(i.e., essential) and phenomenologically relevant relation that constitutes its respective lefthand side relatum, i.e., the perceptual
experience on the one hand and its subject on the other. Thus, one does not have to distinguish between a transitive and an intransitive sense
of awareness, for the only awareness that there is is transitive; 3) the qualitative properties that a perceptual experience so constituted
turns out to possess, which determine that experience’s qualitative character (a main component of its overall phenomenal
character), present the corresponding worldly properties of the objects that are manifested to that perceptual experience, in its
being an esteroceptive sensation; 4) such a presentional role is another component of the overall phenomenal character of a perceptual
experience only, insofar as there may be experiences--typically, an interoceptive sensation--that are not awarenesses of objects and worldly
properties, but are mere targets of their subject’s awareness.
- 12:30-14:30 Lunch.
- 14:30-16:00 Charlotte Gauvry (Bonn), Inner Awareness as a Misrepresentation [P].
The main purpose of this paper is to provide evidence supporting the claim that
inner-awareness is a representation and potentially a misrepresentation. Consequently, I intend to show that considering inner awareness a
“representation” is a virtue, and not a limitation, of the (meta)-representational theories of consciousness. It has been argued
that meta-representationalism faces the following dilemma (see e.g. Kriegel 2009): 1) accepting the evident nature of inner awareness for
realistic reasons, 2) accepting the representational nature of inner awareness for naturalistic reasons. I indeed consider these two claims
to be contradictory. But rather reformulating or renouncing the second thesis in favour of the first, I seek to question the first in favour
of the second. More precisely, against a purely eliminativist (Dennett 1991) or illusionist (Frankish 2017) view, my aim is not to deny inner
awareness and the reality of our mental experiences. Rather, I intend to show, by relying on certain empirical results that come from Michael
Graziano’s “attention schema theory,” that it makes sense to state that inner awareness is a “representation,”
which sometimes “mis-represents” what one experiences. The very purpose of this presentation is then to conceptually clarify and
empirically exemplify this very idea of “misrepresentation” in order to defend what I would call a "weak illusionism" on
- 16:00-16:30 Coffee break.
- 16:30-18:00 Guillaume Fréchette (Geneva/Salzburg), Incidental Awareness. A Cue from Brentano [P].
I wish to defend two basic claims in this talk: I) what is central to
Brentano's account of inner awareness is the intuition that inner awareness is something which occurs on the side (en parergo) of the mental
activity: basically, so the intuition suggests, inner awareness is incidental. Curiously enough, this intuition has often been marginalized in
the reconstructions of Brentano's account. While many reconstructions of Brentano's view seem to ignore or avoid it (See for instance Thomasson
2000, Zahavi 2004, Textor 2006, more recently Kriegel 2018) those who deal with the incidentality intuition in Brentano's account tend to frame
it either in terms of an intentional relation (Textor 2017) or at least partly in epistemic terms (Dewalque 2020). I suggest that incidentality
is a primitive, not only in Brentano's view of inner awareness, but in his conception of indirect perception and in his account if the
individuation of the senses. II) Another important intuition in Brentano's account is, I suggest, that inner awareness is awareness of a mental
activity, not of an object. While Textor's (2017) "one vehicle, two objects" reading blurs the distinction between object and activity,
Kriegel's (2018) Fregean reading identifies the awareness with the mental activity. This not only challenges the incidentality intuition but
also, more importantly, it rejects any ontological distinction between the awareness and the mental activity, a consequence which doesn't seem
square with some basic insights of Brentano on inner awareness, for instance the view that F-ing has priority over the awareness of F-ing. Here,
my point is to consider incidental awareness (of F-ing) and the mental activity (the F-ing) as different kinds of events based on the same
material (and not as different descriptions of the same event, as Davidson's account of events and Kriegel's Fregean view would have it). I
argue that this distinction allows us to deal with many of Brentano's insights on inner awareness in general, but most importantly with the
incidentality intuition. While I recognize that this distinction is not explicit in Brentano's works-it is a cue, after all-I show how it has
been developed by some of his Austro-German heirs.
General commentators: Frank Hofmann (Luxembourg) and Gianfranco Soldati (Fribourg).