Representationalism, supervenience, and the cross-modal problem

Philosophical Studies 130 (2):285-95 (2006)
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Abstract

The representational theory of phenomenal experience is often stated in terms of a supervenience thesis: Byrne recently characterises it as the thesis that “there can be no difference in phenomenal character without a difference in content”, while according to Tye, “[a]t a minimum, the thesis is one of supervenience: necessarily, experiences that are alike in their representational contents are alike in their phenomenal character.” Consequently, much of the debate over whether representationalism is true centres on purported counter-examples – that is to say, purported failures of supervenience. The refutation of putative counter-examples has been, it seems to me, by and large successful. But there is a certain class of these for which the representationalist response has been something less than completely convincing. These are the cross-modality cases. I will explain what I mean, and then argue that the response in question is not only unconvincing but actually undermines the representationalist position.

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John O'Dea
University of Tokyo

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