20 February, Rob Hoveman 'Does Perceptual Naive Realism Solve the Hard Problem of Consciousness?'

The HPP is pleased to announce Rob Hoveman's (Central European University) upcoming talk 'Does Perceptual Naive Realism Solve the Hard Problem of Consciousness?' 


Time: 16:30-18:00, Thursday, 20th February

Venue: University College, Oxford; Goodhart Seminar Room


Rob Hoveman graduated from Oxford University in 1979 with a first class degree in mostly philosophy and a little politics. After a long interlude, he is now a third-year PhD student in philosophy at the Central European University in Budapest supervised by Tim Crane. He is interested in most philosophical issues but he specialises in the philosophy of perception and his dissertation examines the concept of presence in perception.


Abstract: Both Tom Stoneham and John Campbell have suggested that naive realism might solve the hard problem of consciousness, I take the hard problem to have two particular features which the knowledge argument and the conceivability argument respectively help to bring out. The knowledge argument has been taken to imply that there are qualities internally related to experience and metaphysically independent of the objects they are normally taken to be qualities of which are not themselves physical qualities. The conceivability argument has been taken to imply that there is an invisibility and/or privacy of experience which again is contrary to our understanding of the physical. This is not to claim that either argument if valid. Only that this is the conception of the hard problem which seems to emerge out of them. Naive realism, on the other hand, claims that the qualities that have been taken to be internally related to experience and private are in fact the qualities of physical objects and are publicly available and sharable. As such there are no qualities internal to experience and independent of the objects they are normally taken to be qualities of that have to be accounted for in terms of, for example, brain states and there is no fundamental problem of other minds, which underpins the philosophical zombie thought experiment, as we can make perfect sense of other minds sharing the objects of our own experiences. However, placing the visible qualities of objects that are available to perceptual experience in the objects themselves, as I think they should be, raises the question of what the relation is of perceptual experience to such visible qualities and the objects they are qualities of. Whether or not the relation is in some sense causal, it also seems to be an internal relation as the naive realist view is that the perceptual experience of objects and their visible qualities is an asymmetric internal relation. The objects and their visible qualities are partly constitutive of the perceptual experience itself but are not themselves constituted by that relation. That internal relation raises metaphysical questions about how that might be compatible with a physical base which is identical with or constitutes or at least enables perceptual experience to take place. Moreover, although naive realism is very clear that the objects and their visible qualities are public and sharable, they are present to, in perceptual experience, a subject. And that presence to a subject is itself invisible from a third person perspective or, in other words, metaphysically private, thereby seemingly justifying the philosophical zombie intuition. For these reasons, I believe the claim that naive realism can solve the hard problem of consciousness is at least premature as naive realism seems to raise some profound metaphysical questions about its relation to the physical that have yet to be resolved.

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