Abstracts

 

Martine Nida-Rümelin: The Experiencing Subject and so-called Mine-ness

The discussion about mine-ness or subjective character has reintroduced an important intuition: to understand the nature of phenomenal consciousness we cannot restrict ourselves to the way it is like to have an experience. We also need to reflect upon the obvious commonality of all experiences consisting in the fact that it like something for the one undergoing the experience to undergo it. On one possible understanding of these terms “mine-ness” or “subjective character” refer to that common feature of all experiences.

Can we develop any satisfying theoretical understanding of what that common feature consists in without explicitly focusing on what it is to be an experiencing subject? I will argue that we cannot. I will distinguish three senses of subjective character or mine-ness present in the literature and argue that each of them requires for its theoretical elucidation explicitly introducing the notion of an experiencing subject and a careful metaphysical analysis of what being an experiencing subject consists in. The argument developed depends on the controversial assumption that experiences cannot occur without there being someone undergoing it. I will therefore start out presenting and discussing a simple argument in its favor.

 

Carlota Serrahima: My Body is the Subject’s Body

Reports of bodily experiences, such as “I feel pain in my finger”, typically involve two tokenings of first-person pronouns. A neutral notion of “sense of ownership” arises from this datum that allows to say that, in bodily experiences, subjects typically have a sense of experience ownership (SEO) and a sense of bodily ownership (SBO). This paper follows in the discussion about the grounds of the SBO. After defining three basic goals for any theory in this domain (an epistemic, a psychological and an empirical goal), I will put forward a proposal according to which the SBO consists of the fact that, in bodily experiences, subjects are typically aware of the constitutive relation holding between the properties they experience as instantiated in their body and the very experiences of which these properties are a content. The proposal thus suggests that the SBO is constitutively dependent upon the SEO. I will argue for the view by way of assessing it under the light of the mentioned goals.

 

Wayne Wu: Reports of Mineness: Introspection and Explaining the Primary Data

All theories of mineness draw on introspective reports: subjects report normal or abnormal feelings of mineness in various experiences. A common inference takes these reports at face value, the seeming/feeling/appearance of mineness is construed as a read-off of phenomenology, so allows one to infer that the underlying experience has mineness. A simple conception of introspection takes subjects to have locked on to a mineness feature in experience. I think this conception of introspective access is questionable. In this talk, I focus on two cases, the rubber hand illusion and passivity phenomena in schizophrenia, to suggest that we must treat the primary data more rigorously, specifically by interrogating how those reports are generated. That is, there is a serious empirical issue about the generation of report behavior, and too often, we assume that the positing of a phenomenal feature of mineness (or its absence) that is directly introspected provides the best explanation. This is, in part, driven by implicit confidence in the reliability of introspection, something that needs to be validated in each scenario where mineness reports are salient. In the two cases I shall discuss, paradigm cases of experiencing mineness and its loss, I shall argue that plausible models of how the introspective reports are generated do not support postulating any interesting notion of mineness in the underlying phenomena, namely in somatosensory experience and experience in action.

 

Robert Howell: Transparency and Subjective Character

Intuitively there is a conflict between the oft noted transparency of experience and the existence of subjective character. Unfortunately, neither the transparency thesis nor the notion of subjective character are as clear as they need to be and the conflict is difficult to articulate. In this paper I attempt to articulate straightforward notions of each, and make an argument that they are in conflict. I then consider an empirical argument by Alexandre Billon which argues for subjective character based on phenomena associated with depersonalization. I argue that the transparency theorist has a plausible account of that data that preserves the transparency of everyday experience and doesn’t posit subjective character.

 

Alisa Mandrigin: Position and possession in bodily awareness

It is often claimed by philosophers that bodily awareness gives us, amongst other things, an awareness of location and a sense of mineness. I am aware of where it is that I am touched—my arm—and aware that the arm is mine. Both aspects present us with a challenge. For example, and in contrast with the exteroceptive senses, there is no point of origin from which a set of coordinate axes could be thought to originate in order specify a bodily location (Bermúdez 1998). How then, can we account for the spatial content of bodily awareness? Relative to what are locations given?

The rubber hand illusion (Botvinick & Cohen 1998) is taken to be instructive with respect to both facets of bodily awareness: it is taken to show that we can induce an illusory sense of body ownership for a rubber hand by manipulating stimulation across a number of sense modalities; and it is taken to show that there are distinct sets of body representations, one set governing and guiding action, the other set underpinning conscious experience of the body (Kammers et al 2009). That is, it presents a challenge to an affordance-based view of the spatial content of bodily awareness (Evans 1982; Smith 2009).

In this talk I will focus on this evidence and it’s interpretation, arguing that we can in fact take the results to be consistent with the view that a body schema for action has a role to play in our bodily awareness of spatial location.

 

Hong Yu Wong & Krisztina Orban: The Sense of Body Ownership: What Are We Studying?

Our bodies and our sense of embodiment are critical to our sense of ourselves as material beings. One prominent strand of research on embodiment concerns the sense of ownership that we have over our bodies, which is a topic generating increasing interest in philosophy, psychology, neuroscience, and neurology. In this talk, we aim to provide some clarity by introducing some structure to the ongoing philosophical debate through distinguishing different questions that are being pursued. We need to approach this by asking five questions about the sense of body ownership:

1) The Phenomenological Question: What is it like?

2) The Constitutive Question: What is it?

3) The Causal Question: What mechanisms underlie it?

4) The Functional Question: What does it do?

5) The Mereological Question: How do ownership of the whole body and body parts relate?

The debate has suffered because these questions have sometimes been run together. In this talk we will explore the interplay between the different questions and examine the extent to which answering one of these questions drives answers to the other questions. We will mainly discuss questions 1 and 2, but will also allude to questions 3 and 4, finally returning to discuss question 5. We will take as case studies four major philosophical views of body ownership (the deflationary view from Martin and Bermudez, the inflationary view from Gallagher and Billon, the body schema view from de Vignemont, and the first personal body schema view from Peacocke). In critically analysing these accounts, we will reveal some constraints on a successful account of the sense of body ownership, thus suggesting the shape of an account that can integrate the insights of current accounts and can open new research directions on body ownership.

 

Marie Guillot & Lucy O’Brien: Self Matters

That something will happen to me is a reason to care about it in a particular way. Suppose I took part in a randomised trial where one of ten participants was given a tablet containing a new drug against migraine, and the others a placebo. Unfortunately, halfway through the trial, the scientists discover that the drug has unwanted side-effects: the person who took it is at risk of getting a permanent headache for the rest of her life. Learning this is a reason for me to feel sorry for the unlucky participant who took the active substance. Learning that I took the active substance, however, provokes a reaction that is not just likely to be stronger, but also of a different kind; shock, fear, perhaps anger. This is what we may call “self-concern”: representing a future or possible event as involving me makes it matter in a special way. As Setiya (2015) puts it, it might seem as though there are reasons, in the practical realm, whose force turns on their first-person character. Setiya goes on to reject the self-concern thesis, based on the argument that if we look at how the first-person concept works, we find no grounds for caring particularly about its referent. Our goal, in this talk, is to try and rescue the self-concern intuition. We will challenge Setiya’s argument, calling into question his conception of reasons, his understanding of the self-concept and his interpretation of self-concern itself.

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