Workshop: Consciousness and First-Person Access

Mini-Workshop on Consciousness and First Person Access

Date: Friday 23rd February, 2018

Time: 1030-1245 & 1430-1715

Place: Bilkent University, Main Campus, Room: H-232

Organized by the Mind, Brain and Behavior Research Group at Bilkent University

Event posterEvent Photos



Morning session

1030-1040 Welcome

1040-1130: Key noteMurat Aydede (UBC, Philosophy) “Is the Pain Experience Transparent? Introspecting Phenomenal Qualities

1140-1155: Respondent – Istvan Aranyosi (Bilkent, Philosophy)

1155-1210: Respondent – Tufan Kıymaz (Bilkent, Philosophy)

1210-1245: Discussion


Afternoon session

1440-1525: Mina Elhamiasl (Bilkent, Neuroscience/ UMRAM) “Health Anxiety: Where Interpretation Bias and Sensitivity to Bodily Sensations Meet” [Chair: Michelle Adams, Bilkent NSC/Psychology]

1535-1620: Tufan Kıymaz (Bilkent, Philosophy) “Is Consciousness Phenomenal Conceptualization of the Physical?” [Chair: Nazim Keven, Bilkent Philosophy]

1630-1715: Bill Wringe (Bilkent, Philosophy) “First Person Access, Collective Emotions and Other Minds” [Chair: Jed Allen, Bilkent Psychology]



Is the Pain Experience Transparent? Introspecting Phenomenal Qualities

Murat Aydede (University of British Columbia, Philosophy)

I distinguish between two claims of transparency of experiences. One claim is weaker and supported by phenomenological evidence. This I call the transparency datum. Introspection of standard perceptual experiences as well as bodily sensations is consistent with, indeed supported by, the transparency datum. I formulate a stronger transparency thesis that is entailed by (strong) representationalism about experiential phenomenology. I point out some empirical consequences of strong transparency in the context of representationalism. I argue that pain experiences, as well as some other similar experiences like itches, tickles, orgasms, hedonic valence, etc., are not transparent in this strong sense. Hence they constitute empirical counterexamples to representationalism. Given that representationalism is a general metaphysical doctrine about all experiential phenomenology for good reasons, I conclude that representationalism about phenomenal consciousness is false. Then, I outline a general framework about how the introspection of phenomenal qualities in perceptual experience works in light of the transparency datum, but consistent with the rejection of strong transparency. The result is a form of qualia realism that is naturalist and intentionalist (weak representationalist), and has close affinities to the adverbialist views developed in the latter part of the last century. I then apply this framework to pain experiences and their bodily locations.


“Health Anxiety: Where Interpretation Bias and Sensitivity to Bodily Sensations Meet”

 Mina Elhamiasl (Bilkent, Neuroscience/ UMRAM) 

Health anxiety refers to preoccupation with medical conditions and overestimation of the likelihood of suffering from a disease. According to psychopathological models, interpretation bias, that is the tendency to interpret ambiguous symptoms and bodily changes as a serious illness, is one of the factors involved in onset and maintenance of dysfunctional health anxiety. These models state that primary catastrophic beliefs about illness increase vigilance and perception of bodily sensations. These perceived sensations are then interpreted as signs of serious disease and consequently will increase the primary dysfunctional illness beliefs through increasing the levels of anxiety and safety seeking behaviors. To study the role of interpretation bias in health anxiety experimentally, a computerized interpretation task assessing biased responses to incomplete ambiguous health-related scenarios was performed on samples with high and low levels of health anxiety. The participants were supposed to complete the scenarios using illness-related or safe words. We also investigated if interpretation bias is related to more sensitivity to bodily sensations using Anxiety Sensitivity Inventory (ASI). According to the results, the difference between these two groups was significant regarding interpretation bias. To explain more, the group with high levels of health anxiety selected illness-related words while the group with low levels of health anxiety used to complete the scenarios using safe words. In addition, the group with higher levels of health anxiety were more sensitive to their bodily sensations and changes.


“Is Consciousness Phenomenal Conceptualization of the Physical?”

Tufan Kıymaz (Bilkent, Philosophy)

Mary, a super-scientist who has complete knowledge of the physical facts about human visual experiences, has been living in a black-and-white environment and has never seen colors. One day she sees a red tomato and exclaims “so, this is what it is like to see red!” Since she learns a new truth about human visual experiences, her complete knowledge of physical facts was not complete knowledge of all facts about human visual experiences, and therefore there are nonphysical facts about our experiences. This is Frank Jackson’s knowledge argument against physicalism. The most prominent physicalist response to the knowledge argument is the phenomenal concept strategy, according to which, upon seeing a red tomato, Mary does not learn a new fact, but she learns a new way of apprehending a fact that she already knows under its physical description. In this talk, I will offer modified versions of the knowledge argument to show that the phenomenal concept strategy is not an adequate response to the central worry raised by the knowledge argument.


“First Person Access, Collective Emotions and Other Minds”

Bill Wringe (Bilkent, Philosophy)

Several philosophers have suggested we might address skepticism about other minds by defending a ‘naïve realist’ account of our knowledge of other minds, on which we have direct perceptual access to the mental states of others. Our knowledge of the emotions of other people seems to provide us with a particular point of entry for such an account. However, it is not entirely obvious whether a state’s having an intentional object can be a part of what is directly perceived. If we see an emotion’s intentional directedness as being essential to its being a mental state, then what we are able to attribute on directly perceptual grounds seems to fall short of being a fully-fledged mental state.

This problem cannot be solved by naïve realists who retain a ‘spectatorial’ approach to accounting for our capacity to attribute mental states to others. But while many have claimed that ‘interactivist’ accounts can achieve more than purely spectatorial ones, it is at least initially unclear what interaction could add. Here I fill out an account on which our capacity to understand the emotions of others is based on our capacity for shared emotional involvement. On this view my capacity to know what you are feeling is grounded in a more basic capacity to know what we are feeling. This approach solves the problem I raised for the spectatorial direct realist, since the directedness of mental states which I share is not something I could fail to be aware of.






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