Argumenta – Journal of Analytic Philosophy

Acquaintance and the Qualitative Character of Conscious Intentional States

Topics: Cognitive science, Epistemology, Metaphysics, Philosophy of mind, Theoretical philosophy
Keywords: Acquaintance, intentionality, Phenomenal consciousness, Representationalism


Conscious intentional states are mental states that represent things as being a certain way and do so consciously: they involve a phenomenally conscious representation. For any phenomenally conscious state, there is something it is like for its subject to be in it. The way it is like for a subject to be in a certain phenomenal state is the state’s phenomenal character. According to some authors, phenomenal character has two components: qualitative character (i.e., the “what it is like” component) and subjective character (the “for the subject” component). Elsewhere, I have argued for an acquaintance theory of subjective character: a conscious representation is “for the subject” iff the subject is acquainted with it (Giustina forthcoming). The aim of this paper is to take some initial steps toward developing an acquaintance account of qualitative character. More specifically, I develop an acquaintance-representational account of the qualitative character of conscious intentional states, on which qualitative character is constituted by a subject’s being acquainted with the conscious intentional state’s representational properties. By reviewing the main extant accounts of qualitative character and highlighting their shortcomings, I argue that the acquaintance-representational account is antecedently more plausible than its competitors.

There is a peculiar way chocolate melting in your mouth tastes to you; there is a different, (equally peculiar) way the gray sky over your head looks to you; and there is yet a different way brushing against a burning-hot iron, or being irritated by a careless behavior feel to you. For each of these experiences—chocolate taste, gray-sky seeing, burning sensation, irritation feeling—there is something it is like for you to undergo it. The way it is like for you to have a certain experience is the…


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