[hist-analytic] Quine on Experience and Consciousness

Baynesr at comcast.net Baynesr at comcast.net
Sat Oct 9 11:37:37 EDT 2010

Quine (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hOrs6724v7A) has a bit of trouble distinguishing experience and consciousness. I believe he has misconceived the nature of the problem owing mainly to the oversimplifications of the physicalists. The same situation exists in a number of philosophers, including Gustav Bergmann, who locates all subjective aspects of consciousness with awareness, which he take to be intentional (unlike Quine). 

Quine appears to associate consciousness with what others have called "second order awareness," an idea at least as old as G. E. Moore and probably older - indeed I think you can find it in James. Part of the problem Quine and the physicalists, particularly the more simple minded variety, have is how to deal with the relation of self and experience; the relation of experience and awareness; and the relation of self and consciousness. I take these to be different, each requiring a complex analysis. But the problem of self is central and neglected by Davidson (for the most part, unless we include all that balogna about "the second person" etc.) This problem, that of self, is connected with a point Quine and Ulian make at the very onset of The Web of Belief. 

Quine and Ulian note that scientific knowledge requires a "body of knowledge that is sufficiently organized to exhibit appropriate evidential relationships amog its constituent claims." (Web of Belief, Random House, 1970, p. 3) Now the view I take is that the self is a "principle of organization," one relating experiences, experiences relating awarenesses, etc. So there is no way of relating experience and consciousness in the way Quine and other physicalists are groping for BECAUSE they have no place for the self beyond the body. Now ask yourself: "Is knowledge of my own dispositions scientific knowledge? Is knowledge of my dispositions knowledge for you a possibility? If so, is your knowledge of my dispositions scientific but mine not?" I can't address these questions in one email. So let me just make one point: There is a difference between experience and consciousness, but it cannot be captured behaviorally. Nor is self-knowledge scientific, but it is possible." 

Steve Bayne 

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