Phenomenal Specificity

Dissertation, University College London (2014)
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Abstract
The essay is a study of phenomenal specificity. By ‘phenomenal’ here we mean conscious awareness, which needs to be cashed out in detail throughout the study. Intuitively, one dimension of phenomenology is along with specificity. For example it seems appropriate to say that one’s conscious awareness in the middle of the visual field is in some sense more specific than the awareness in the periphery under normal circumstances. However, it is difficult to characterise the nature of phenomenal specificity in an accurate way. This essay seeks to do just that. In the introduction, I set up the discussion by invoking a threefold Campbellian framework. Chapter 1 introduces a key notion of the analogue, its roots in sciences, and its applications in philosophy. Chapter 2 focuses on the major case study – the Sperling iconic memory paradigm – and explains how the relevant notion of the analogue can be used to explain phenomenal specificity involved in the Sperling case. Chapter 3 discusses functions of attention, as it is a crucial element in the Sperling case. Chapter 4 extends the project by explaining how visual demonstratives fit into the present picture. Finally chapter 5 discusses several directions for future researches. This essay is not an attempt to discuss all the issues concerning the Sperling case, but to provide a new angle in seeing the issue: most people agree that visual phenomenology is in some sense specific, but there are not enough attempts to model phenomenal specificity explicitly. On this occasion we use a notion of the analogue and related ideas to understand phenomenal specificity and how it applies to certain empirical cases.
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