Knowing qualia: reloading the displaced perception model

Humanities and Social Sciences Communications 7 (2020)
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How does one know the phenomenal character of one’s own experience? I aim to present and defend a new view of the epistemology of qualia that addresses this issue. My view results from a reworking of Dretske’s displaced perception model. The guiding line is the key Wittgensteinian insight of his Private Language Argument, namely the claim that no inner perception of qualia can justify our corresponding qualia beliefs. My reworking of the original model starts with the rejection of Dretske’s representationalism, as well as any other metaphysical views about the ultimate nature of qualia. The reworking of the displaced perception model I am proposing is supposed to be compatible with any available metaphysical view on qualia. The second step consists of rejecting the epistemological misgivings of the original model, namely the view that knowing qualia requires “connecting beliefs” along with “meta-representations.” Yet, Dretske’s crucial mistake has been to force knowledge of qualia into the “belief-box.” As a matter of fact, there is only one belief involved in introspecting qualia, namely the qualia-belief itself. The third final step is this. Assuming the key Wittgensteinian insight, I argue that introspection of qualia is a process that is both epis- temically reliable and automatic. It is reliable because it dispenses with justification of any beliefs whatsoever. Moreover, it is automatic because it also dispenses with reflexive connecting beliefs. For example, it takes nonconceptual awareness of the color blue as an input and automatically yields the belief that phenomenal blue is the conscious character of my experience of the sky as an output just by employing the concept BLUE.

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Roberto Horácio De Pereira
Federal University of Rio de Janeiro


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