Harman on Mental Paint and the Transparency of Experience

Organon F: Medzinárodný Časopis Pre Analytickú Filozofiu 27 (1):56-81 (2020)
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Harman famously argues that a particular class of antifunctionalist arguments from the intrinsic properties of mental states or events (in particular, visual experiences) can be defused by distinguishing “properties of the object of experience from properties of the experience of an object” and by realizing that the latter are not introspectively accessible (or are transparent). More specifically, Harman argues that we are or can be introspectively aware only of the properties of the object of an experience but not the properties of the experience of an object and hence that the fact that functionalism leaves out the properties of the experience of an object does not show that it leaves out anything mentally relevant. In this paper, I argue that Harman’s attempt to defuse the anti-functionalist arguments in question is unsuccessful. After making a distinction between the thesis of experiencing-act transparency and the thesis of mental-paint transparency, (and casting some doubt on the former,) I mainly target the latter and argue that it is false. The thesis of mental-paint transparency is false, I claim, not because mental paint involves some introspectively accessible properties that are different from the properties of the objects of experiences but because what I call the identity thesis is true, viz. that mental paint is the same as (an array of) properties of the object of experience. The identification of mental paint with properties of the object of experience entails that the antifunctionalist arguments Harman criticizes cannot be rightly accused of committing the fallacy of confusing the two.

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Erhan Demircioglu
Koc University


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