New Year, New TIF
I am back, after all the season festivities are done.
This year we enjoyed another lively and productive TIF workshop, this time at the incomparable location of the University of Girona's Facultat de Lletres. There were many enjoyable papers and discussions. I was lucky enough to have Marta Moreno writing a reply to me. She rose many interesting issues on my paper on the phenomenal concept strategy. This paper was a reply to Stoljar's 'Phenomenal concepts and physicalism".
Marta expressed some doubts concerning my claim that the phenomenal concept strategy's aim is to offer an alternative explanation of the aposteriori status of the conditional 'If P, then Q'. In particular, I claimed that it would suffice, given the purposes of the strategy, to offer an account of phenomenal concepts that entailed that 'If P, then Q' is aposteriori. Marta suggested that the advocates of conceivability arguments could also agree with such accounts, given that they agree that the conditional is indeed a posteriori. Marta wondered whether offering such account and showing that it entails the aposteriority of the conditional would be enough for the strategy to succeed.
I think this is an interesting point. My reply would be the following:
The conceivability argument proceeds by inferring that 'P&~Q' is possible from the fact that it is conceivable. In order to motivate this, they put forward a model which explains apriority and aposteriority in general, such as 2D (i.e. S is a priori iff S is necessary). That is, they explain the fact that a sentence is a posteriori by appealing to some possible world which falsifies the sentence.
The phenomenal concept strategy, on the other hand, offers an alternative explanation of such aposteriority, which is indeed independent of any modal fact. The explanation appeals only to certain facts about phenomenal concepts.
How does the strategy work exactly, then?
Well, it depends on the structure of the CA. Some argue that 2D is the only available explanation of the aposteriority of 'If P, then Q'. Against this, it is clear that offering any coherent alternative explanation would suffice.
Some argue that 2D is the best explanation of the aposteriority of 'If P, then Q'. Against this, the advocate of the phenomenal concept strategy would have to argue that her explanation is at least as good as the two-dimensionalist's.
In any case, I think that, given an alternative explanation of the aposteriority of 'If P, then Q', the CA is in jeopardy. Some people say that the burden of proof is in the phenomenal concept strategy's camp, since it is intuitive that if S is conceivable, then it is possible, unless this prima facie evidence is defeated. Therefore, it could be argued (and I think this was Marta's point), that given a neutral explanation of the aposteriority of 'If P, then Q', that is, one that is neutral concerning the modal status of the conditional, it would be more natural to say that the conditional is not necessary, unless we can prove otherwise.
However, I think that this line if reasoning seems plausible only if we already accept something such as 2D. The point of the phenomenal concept strategy is to argue that there are alternative models to 2D. Then, given a conceivable sentence, it is not justified to infer that it is possible. Therefore, the fact that 'If P, then Q' is conceivable, would not be evidence at all for the claim that it is possible, if we had an account of phenomenal concepts which entailed that 'If P, then Q' is aposteriori. Which was exactly my claim.
Again, thanks to Marta for carefully reading my paper, and for discussion.
And thanks also to the audience, for many interesting questions, and for their sense of humour.
I will finish this post with Madonna's cryptic words, which I quoted in my talk:
"Do you know what it feels like for a girl? Do you know what it feels like in this world for a girl?" (Madonna (2001): What it feels like for a girl).
No doubt, she is a type-B materialist!