Argumenta – Journal of Analytic Philosophy

The thesis of experiential revelation—Rev for brevity—in the philosophy of mind claims that to have an experience—i.e., to be acquainted with it—is to know its nature. It is widely agreed that although at least moderate versions of Rev might strike one as plausible and perhaps even appealing, at least up to a certain extent, most of them are nonetheless inconsistent with almost any coherent form of physicalism about the mind. Thus far, the issue of the alleged tension between Rev and physicalism has mostly been put in the relevant literature in terms of phenomenal concepts—those concepts which refer to phenomenal properties, or qualia, and characterize them in terms of the peculiar quality(ies) they exhibit—and some kind of “special feature” those concepts allegedly possess. I call this version of Rev C-Rev. This paper aims to suggest that while it is true that phenomenal concepts reveal the nature of their referent(s)—i.e., it is a priori, for a subject possessing the concept and just in virtue of possessing it, what it is for the referent(s) of the concept to be part of reality—this feature of them, in turn, rests on a non-conceptual non-propositional kind of knowledge, namely, sui generis introspective knowledge by acquaintance of one’s own phenomenally conscious states. I call this version of Rev A-Rev. §1 provides some introductory material. In §2 I discuss two arguments that have recently been put forth to undermine the cogency of C-Rev against physicalism. §3 elaborates on the historical roots of C-Rev. §4 presents some of the major arguments which have been offered for A-Rev. A few concluding remarks close the paper.

David Chalmers has written:

We know consciousness far more intimately than we know the rest of the world, but we understand the rest of the world far better than we understand consciousness. Consciousness can be startlingly intense. It is the most vivid of phenomena; nothing is more real to us. But it can be frustratingly diaphanous (Chalmers 1996: 3).

The verb ‘to know’ appears twice in the passage above. Yet I think one might ask: was it meant to convey the same meaning in both of its instances? Or did Chalmers, instead, intend to use it to refer to two distinct kinds of state? This essay aims to suggest that our knowledge of the phenomenology of our own phenomenally conscious states…


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