Common sense about qualities and senses

Philosophical Studies 138 (3):299 - 316 (2008)
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Abstract

There has been some recent optimism that addressing the question of how we distinguish sensory modalities will help us consider whether there are limits on a scientific understanding of perceptual states. For example, Block has suggested that the way we distinguish sensory modalities indicates that perceptual states have qualia which at least resist scientific characterization. At another extreme, Keeley argues that our common-sense way of distinguishing the senses in terms of qualitative properties is misguided, and offers a scientific eliminativism about common-sense modalities which avoids appeal to qualitative properties altogether. I’ll argue contrary to Keeley that qualitative properties are necessary for distinguishing senses, and contrary to Block that our common-sense distinction doesn’t indicate that perceptual states have qualia. A non-qualitative characterization of perceptual states isn’t needed to avoid the potential limit on scientific understanding imposed by qualia

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Peter Ross
California State Polytechnic University, Pomona

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