[Wittrs] Re: Strawson on Experience and Experiencers

  • From: "Cayuse" <z.z7@xxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • To: <wittrsamr@xxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • Date: Sun, 28 Feb 2010 19:02:34 -0000

Joseph Polanik wrote:
after all is said and done, if I am unable to say that I am the
experiencer of the afterimages that I induce, I would have no basis
for saying that I am experienced in the skill of inducing
afterimages; or, that I am the experiencer of my experience in the
skill of inducing afterimages.

When we talk about experience as something gained through the practising of
a new skill, then this mutual relationship and interdependence hold up, but
to use the word as Chalmers does in reference to what he calls the "hard
problem" (i.e. conscious experience) is to engage in a very different
language game.

"Experience" in this latter game cannot be compared with deception
(or any other attempt at analogy) since deception constitutes only a
part of the "data of conscious experience", not the whole of it
(i.e. "experience"). There can be only one "entirety of the data of
conscious experience", and the idea of experience (said idea being
merely a part of that data, additionally complicated by having variant
conceptions) is at the root of much confused thinking and cross-purpose
debate on this issue.

In this latter (Chalmersian) language game, the word "experience"
has been recruited to allude to something (or rather to "not a nothing")
that is at the very limit of language, in contrast to those games in which
the word is used to refer to some aspect of cognitive function. Being
at the very limit of language, it makes no sense to misconceive it as an
entity and then to pile misconceived entity upon misconceived entity by
postulating the existence of some associated "experiencer" that is distinct
from it but that stands in mutual relationship and interdependence with it.

It is by just such a misconception (putting the entirety of the data of
conscious experience on an equal footing with those entities, activities
and relationships that appear within the data of conscious experience)
that we arrive at the problem of accounting for the relationship between
conscious experience and the experiencer. The "experience" of which
Chalmers speaks appears nowhere within the data of conscious
experience, not as entity, activity, nor relationship, and neither does
this putative "experiencer". Chalmers' "hard problem" results from
confusing the well grounded and useful idea of self as organism in its
habitat with the ungrounded and useless metaphysical idea of self as


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