Series of Seminars in Philosophy of Mind
University of Liege, March-June 2021
'Experiences' is a series of seminars in philosophy of mind organized by the CREPH (Research Center in Phenomenology) group
at the University of Liege as part of the project
of Mental States.' The aim is to investigate subjective experience from the angle of the many different questions that might
arise concerning its phenomenology, its metaphysics, and its epistemology. The series gathers talks from young, as well as
senior, researchers with different theoretical backgrounds and inclinations, and offers the opportunity to discuss the latest
directions and outcomes of their research. Thereby, it collects different views and perspectives, as well as the most recent
ideas, on experience and experiences.
Meetings are structured in a 50-minute presentation, followed by an extensive Q&A time. They will be held online on Cisco
Webex and are open to anyone interested in the topic. To participate and receive updates about the talks, please email Davide
Bordini at: davide.bordini[at]gmail.com
4-6 pm (CET): Jonathan Mitchell (Manchester), Attitudes of Attention.
Strong or Pure Intentionalism is the view that the phenomenal character of a conscious
experience is exhaustively determined by its intentional content. Contrastingly, impure intentionalism holds that there
are also non-content based aspects or features which contribute to phenomenal character. Conscious attention is one such
feature: plausibly its contribution to the phenomenal character of a given conscious experience are not exhaustively captured
in terms of what that experience represents, that is in terms of properties of its intentional object. This paper attempts to
get clearer on the phenomenal contribution of conscious attention. In doing so it considers and rejects two prominent impure
intentionalist accounts, namely the 'phenomenal structure' account of Sebastien Waltz, and the 'demonstrative thought' account
provided by Wayne Wu. As an alternative I propose that we should think of the phenomenal contribution of conscious attention in
terms of modifications of intentional consciousness, such that 'attention' per se is a determinable intentional mode of which
the determinate modes are the many different forms of conscious of attention.
March 8 New date!
4-6 pm (CET): Declan Smithies (Ohio State), Understanding, Inference, and Consciousness.
What is it to understand a concept? According to inferentialism, understanding a concept is a
matter of being disposed to use the concept in making certain inferences. In this paper, I'll raise several objections to
inferentialism. First, our understanding of concepts cannot be constituted by our inferential dispositions, since it is what
explains and justifies those inferential dispositions. Second, there are many different ways in which our understanding of a
concept can be manifested: there is no single use that must be shared in common by everyone who understands the concept. Third,
and perhaps most controversially, it is possible to understand a concept without any disposition to use it in inference at all.
But then what constitutes our understanding of a concept? I propose an alternative theory, phenomenalism, which says that
understanding a concept is a disposition to have certain kinds of cognitive experiences.
4-6 pm (CET): Louise Richardson (York), Absence Experience in Grief.
How should we understand the
experiences of absence that occur during grief? I argue that whilst some can be understood in terms of the perceptual or
cognitive experiences described by extant philosophical accounts of absence experience, others need different treatment. I
propose that those experiences that grieving subjects describe as ones in which the world seems empty or part of them seems
missing should be understood by appeal neither to the content nor attitude-type of an experience. Instead, in these profound
absence experiences the absence of a person as a condition on various possibilities shows up in the structure of experience
over time. Thus, by paying close attention to grief we can see that accounts of absence experience are not always in
competition, and that to explain all kinds of absence experience we sometimes need to appeal to something that, I suggest, is
neither straightforwardly perceptual nor cognitive. Thus understood, we also have good reason to take the profound absence
experiences of grief to be part of and not merely psychological effects of grief.
4-6 pm (CEST): Martina Fürst (Graz), Experiences, Phenomenal Concepts, and Epistemic Injustice.
Miranda Fricker (2007) discusses two forms
of epistemic injustice—testimonial injustice and hermeneutical injustice. Hermeneutical injustice occurs when the victim lacks
the interpretative resources to make sense of her experience and this lacuna can be traced down to a structural injustice.
According to Fricker, for the hermeneutical injustice to vanish, a public concept of the target phenomenon has to be developed.
In this talk, I analyze the conceptual gap in hermeneutical injustice and provide one model of how to fill it. This model is
based on taking the experiences of members of marginalized groups seriously and, thus, assigns these experiences the crucial
role they deserve. First, I argue that the victims of hermeneutical injustice possess multiple hermeneutical resources to make
sense of their experiences. In particular, I show that they possess two different kinds of phenomenal concepts that capture the
experience. Next, I develop a model of how we can work the way up in a two-step process from subjective, phenomenal concepts to
a novel, public concept of the target experience that is, in principle, graspable by everyone. To reach this aim, I analyze
different ways of communicating knowledge about an experience. Finally, I discuss the conditions that have to be met for this
process to be successful. The resulting model shows a way how the victims might alleviate hermeneutical injustice by developing
novel public concepts, given that the dominant group does not care about their predicament.
4-6 pm (CEST): Maja Spener (Birmingham), Introspection in the Science of Consciousness.
Researchers in the science of consciousness must gather data about consciousness. But we do not have
third-person observational access to consciousness- in the end, this means that we have to trust the subject to tell us about
it via reports. Critics worry that the grounds to trust are missing because the subject will use introspection to deliver their
reports and introspection is - so critics argue - private and unreliable. The result is a global pessimism about introspection
in the science of consciousness. In my talk I will respond to the unreliability charge. My strategy is to show that properly
understood, it breaks down into a cluster of independent unreliability problems. Considered separately, these problems are
experimentally tractable and considered jointly, they do not support global pessimism about introspection in the science of
4-6 pm (CEST): Carlota Serrahima (Barcelona), Painful Moods and the Affective Component of Primary Dysmenorrhea.
Analytic philosophers of mind often implicitly rely
on a taxonomy of affective mental states that distinguishes pains from moods, in which the paradigmatic target of the study of pain is the
discrete episode of nociception. This paper describes in detail the affective component of primary dysmenorrhea, namely menstrual pain in the
absence of additional clinical conditions. Although mostly ignored in the philosophical literature on affective states, dysmenorrhea is an
extremely prevalent condition, which involves both pain-related and mood-related symptoms in a philosophically interesting way. The paper argues,
on biological and phenomenological grounds, that dysmenorrhea cannot be simply analyzed as a composite of pain and mood, and hence doesn't fit
cleanly in the mentioned taxonomy of affectivity. What is more, dysmenorrhea appears as an atypical phenomenon in several prominent, mostly
independent debates in the philosophy of affective phenomenology. If only because of its extremely high prevalence, this is an uncomfortable
situation for the field to be in. This piece is an invitation for philosophers to give dysmenorrhea its due place in the investigation of
The idea that we can perceive absences is becoming
increasingly popular in contemporary philosophy of mind, and seeing empty space and hearing silence are alleged to be two paradigmatic examples.
In this paper I remain neutral over the question of whether or not empty space experiences and experiences of silence are genuinely perceptual
phenomena, however, I argue that these experiences do not qualify as absence experiences. Consequently, our experiences of empty space and silence
cannot be appealed to as proof of the perceptual view of absence experience.
4-6 pm (CEST): Nick Young (Milan), Audition: Image and Appearance.
Are there such things as auditory images? Martin (2012) does
not think so. “To recognise an image for what it is”, he says, “will be to see that it presents an appearance which it does not exemplify”.
Looking at a photograph, we are presented with the appearance of some three-dimensional scene but see that this scene is not really before us.
Rather, we see the photo for what it is: a flat piece of shiny paper. Audition, Martin argues, does not allow for this type of experience:
nothing we hear is heard as presenting an appearance it does not exemplify. In this paper I suggest that auditory images are not only possible,
but common-place. When sound waves are artificially produced (through stereo speakers, headphones etc.) listeners almost always experience what
they hear as presenting a non-exemplified appearance. Central to my case is the fact that listeners almost always can distinguish recordings from
real-life. This is better explained, I argue, as the result of our hearing recordings as presenting non-exemplified appearances than it is by
appealing to differences in audible properties such as pitch, timbre, or loudness
6-8 pm (CEST): Ken Williford (UT Arlington), Four Aspects of Subjectivity.
I distinguish four aspects or components of the
subjective character of consciousness: (1) pre-reflective self-consciousness, (2) point-of-view, (3) spatio-temporal self-location, and (4)
ipseity or "for-me-ness". I disentangle some of the various ways in which these aspects have been conflated and offer the beginnings of a
clearer account of their interconnections. I argue that (1) is required for (4) and that (4) and (2) are required for (3). I close by discussing
some open questions about the relationship between (1) and (2).
6-8 pm (CEST): Adriana Renero (NYU/CUNY), The Routes of Introspection.
Contemporary philosophical views claim that multiple
cognitive mechanisms contribute to introspection—I shall call these views the pluralist-process model of introspection. Although the
contributions of this model have been significant in shedding light on how introspection works, it fails in providing an explanation both of
what specific sources of information are in play, and of how exactly introspection works with those sources of information. Taking advantage
of the merits of some theories, I claim that introspection integrates several sources of information from different cognitive mechanisms. I
argue that introspection is a selective, cumulative, and predictive phenomenon—I shall call those aspects the routes of introspection. I thereby
provide some grounds for constructing a philosophical model of introspection by determining the information that it uses from other