Naturalizing phenomenology? Dretske on qualia

In Jean Petitot, Francisco Varela, Bernard Pachoud & Jean-Michel Roy (eds.), Naturalizing Phenomenology: Contemporary Phenomenology and Cognitive Science. Stanford University Press. pp. 429--439 (1999)
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First, I briefly characterize Dretske’s particular naturalization project, emphasizing his naturalistic reconstruction of the notion of representation. Second, I note some apparent similarities between his notion of representation and Husserl’s notion of intentionality, but I find even more important differences. Whereas Husserl takes intentionality to be an intrinsic, phenomenological feature of thought and experience, Dretske advocates an “externalist” account of mental representation. Third, I consider Dretske’s treatment of qualia, because he takes it to show that his representational account of mind succeeds in naturalizing even the “subjective” features of experience. I claim that Dretske's argument for his account of qualia turns on an ambiguous characterization of qualia. I conclude that he succeeds in naturalizing qualia only if qualia are understood as nonphenomenological features of experience and that he therefore has less to say than he thinks about the subjective life of beings such as us.

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Ronald McIntyre
California State University, Northridge


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