Monday, January 21, 2008

Indexicals and Phenomenal Concepts

In this post, I want to connect up the contents of my previous two posts (found here and here). Indexicals connect up to non-indexical representations by showing up in non-indexical places in thought (for instance, 'now' shows up where the temporal parameter should be, 'I' where the personal parameter should be, etc.). Since it takes such a place in thought, it is thus is subject to a minimal amount of conceptualization and is conceptually connected to non-indexical concepts concerning the appropriate parameter it falls under. For instance, 'now' is conceptually connected to temporal concepts since it takes over the role of the temporal parameter at the level of explicit representation. Hence, we are aware of or at least attuned to the general function of 'now' as a representation with a certain kind of usage. And this is at least part of why indexical information "disappears" from the objective, third-person perspective - precisely because such information takes on an explicit role of a certain kind without explicitly assigning any particular value to the parameter it stands in for, and all of this is something of which we can be consciously aware of in the first person. This is why the 1- and 2-intensions of indexicals end up differing and why many of us are not tempted to think that there is any here or I or now in any kind of context-free sense.

With phenomenal concepts, however, we don't have all of this - hence, there is no "dissolution" of phenomenal information from the objective point of view. So even if phenomenal concepts end up being indexical-like in some important way (or recognitional or whatever), this important difference - that it doesn't take the place of a non-indexical parameter - helps make the difference between them and indexical concepts or other perspectival concepts. They simply do not have the conceptual role that normal indexical concepts do, even if their semantics may in some ways be similar.

Linguistic indexicals, for instance, "disappear" since we need to know third person truth conditions to interpret others' usage - and sometimes even our own. And this may sometimes be necessary even in our own thoughts - to know the links between our indexical concepts and the concepts relating to whatever these indexicals are standing in for. But with pure phenomenal concepts, things are a bit different - there is no need for a separate parameter cashed out using non-phenomenal concepts for which phenomenal concepts fill in. And hence there isn't such need to reinterpret what others say in phenomenal terms into non-phenomenal terms. If phenomenal concepts refer to features which can be reduced to the non-phenomenal, since these features would be so complex and outside the ability of most of the human race to get an accurate, specific and non-deferential cognitive fix on in non-phenomenal terms we would ordinarily have no need to have separate explicitly non-phenomenal parameters which phenomenal concepts fill in for - and, indeed, if phenomenal features are anything like brain states of a certain sort then not only would we ordinarily have no need but none of us at the present day (as far as I know) are in a position to even have such parameters. So we do not have such parameters and hence, even if the phenomenal is subsumed under the physical, there will not be much of anything in the way of conceptual connections between phenomenal and physical or functional concepts - even if phenomenal concepts are in some ways like indexicals.

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