episteme An International Journal Of Undergraduate Philosophy ep•i•ste•me \ep' i ste' mé\ n. [Gk. epistém(é)]: knowledge; specif., intellectually certain knowledge
Volume XXI • May 2010 Denison University, Granville, Ohio
Episteme Volume XXIâ€˘ May 2010 Episteme is published under the auspices of the Denison University Department of Philosophy in Granville, Ohio. ISSN 1542-7072 CopyrightÂŠ 2010 For copy permission, please write the Editors at the email address on the next page.
Editor-in-Chief Sean Walt Assistant Editors Kimbrey Havens Susan Stevens Public Relations Chair Joshua Dorries Editorial Board Michael Bayer Melissa Cherry Melanie Hale Kimbrey Havens Jennifer Machen Susan Stevens Gina Weinberger Mara Wilber Faculty Advisor Alexandra Bradner
Episteme is published annually by a staff of undergraduate students at Denison University. Please send all inquiries and submissions to: firstname.lastname@example.org
Statement of Purpose Episteme aims to recognize and encourage excellence in undergraduate philosophy by providing examples of some of the best work currently being done in undergraduate philosophy programs around the world by offering undergraduates their first opportunity to publish philosophic work. It is our hope that the journal will help stimulate philosophic dialogue and inquiry among students and faculty at colleges and universities. The Editors will consider papers written by undergraduate students in any area of philosophy; throughout our history we have published papers on a wide array of thinkers and topics, ranging from ancient to contemporary and including analytic, continental, and eastern. All papers undergo a process of blind review by the editorial staff and are evaluated according to the following criteria: quality of research, depth of philosophic inquiry, creativity, original insight, and clarity. Final selections are made by vote of the Editors and the editorial board. Please see the Call for Papers in the back cover for information on submitting to our next volume.
Episteme An International Journal of Undergraduate Philosophy Volume XXI
Statement of Purpose and Editorial Staff
Table of Contents
Prostitution and Casual Sex: An Examination of Kantian Ethics and the Moral Acceptability of Prostitution John McDaniel, Trinity University
Teleosemantics and the Believer Taylor Hamrick, College of Charleston
Surpassing Estrangement: The Reconciliation Between Spe- 38 cies Being and Subjective Architectonics in Benjamin Michael Nail, Villanova University Time and Consciousness: A Phenomenological View Robert Osborne, Wheaton College
Call For Papers, Vol. XXI (2010)
The Editors express sincere appreciation to the Provostâ€˜s Office, the Denison Honors Program, Melissa Rubins, and faculty advisor Alexandra Bradner for their assistance in making the publication of this journal possible. We extend special gratitude to the other Philosophy Department Faculty: Mark Moller, Barbara Fultner, Tony Lisska, Jonathan Maskit, Ron Santoni, Steve Vogel, and Audrey Anton for their support.
Prostitution and Casual Sex: An Examination of Kantian Ethics and the Moral Acceptability of Prostitution By John McDaniel
argue that prostitution can be considered morally acceptable on the basis that it is not harmful, in a deontological Kantian sense, and that it is not unlike many other professions, in which a service is exchanged for money. In my discussion, I narrow prostitution to mean consensual sexual acts between two people in which one person performs a sexual service for monetary compensation. Whereas I do not want to attempt to define prostitution but rather evaluate its morality, I choose this narrow definition for the sake of clarity in my argument. In the following examination of prostitution, I begin by summarizing philosopher David Benatar’s distinction between the “significance view” and the “casual view” of sex.1 With this distinction in mind, I deconstruct Kant’s theory that casual sex is morally unacceptable because it uses a person merely as a means without a subsequent end. Instead, I argue that sex does not alJohn McDaniel graduated in May of 2010 from Trinity University with majors in English Literature and Chinese Language. He plans to take a year off before going to a grad school to compare English and Chinese lit, which he hopes to use toward a future teaching position at some college or university. In terms of philosophy, McDaniel is particularly interested in Marxism, deconstructionism, and contemporary poetry. He enjoys finding links between philosophy and poetry and sees the two as two means by which truth and beauty can be understood or attained. Additionally, McDaniel is interested in the debates between socialism and capitalism, and individualism and collectivism. His favorite philosophy quotation comes from Charles Dickens: "Philosophers are only men in armor after all."
Prostitution and Casual Sex
ways involve treating someone as merely a means. I also describe Irving Singer‘s objection to Kant‘s theory, which shows that, even if sex treats someone as merely a means, it does not always have to objectify him or her. After I have demonstrated that Kant‘s ethical theory cannot set up a viable case against casual sex, I link casual sex to prostitution to show that it is morally acceptable to have casual sex and to sell it. I then reject objections raised by Melissa Farley and Howard Klepper, who want to claim that prostitution is always immoral. I conclude my argument by illustrating the similarities between prostitution and dressing up as a shopping mall Santa Claus, two jobs with common duties and uses of the body that should both be considered morally acceptable. In order to contextualize Kant‘s argument, let‘s lay-out what David Benatar calls the two ways of thinking about sex: the ―significance view‖ of sex and the ―casual view of sex‖.2 The ―significance view‖ of sex regards sex as morally acceptable only if it occurs within the context of a loving relationship where there is ―reciprocal love and affection,‖ because sex must serve to ―signify love in order to be permissible.‖3 By contrast, the ―casual view‖ of sex basically denies the ―significance view,‖ claiming that sex ―need not have this significance in order to be morally permissible.‖4 Under the casual view, sexual pleasure is like any other pleasure and should be subjected to the same moral constraints to which other pleasures are subjected. With these two views of sex in mind, I will now examine Kant‘s argument regarding the immorality of casual sex, showing that he ultimately takes the significance view of sex. In his Lecture on Ethics, Kant sets up his initial argument against casual sex by applying his deontological ethical theory to sexual desire. His ethical theory claims that a person should not treat another person only as a means without a respective end—end meaning personal autonomy as a rational agent in which goals, desires, and aspirations may be pursued.5 Kant applies this ethical theory to casual sex, claiming that it treats persons as a mere means without an end by way of reducing people to an ―instrument of service,‖ by failing to recognize their autonomy.6
Casual sex, Kant argues, involves a person reducing another person to an object—a heap of flesh—with which the person can satisfy a sexual ―appetite‖.7 He claims that the person who becomes the object of sexual pleasure during sex must sacrifice his/her body (and thus ―humanity‖) in its entirety in order to become the object of pleasure. He denies that a person can maintain his/her humanity by using only certain parts of the body in sex, claiming that these parts cannot be separated from the rest of the body in sexual interactions.8 He attempts to clarify the way in which a person sacrifices the entire body and humanity by claiming that a person does not have possession over his/ her body. A person is a subject who owns things.9 A person cannot be a thing and a person at the same time. So, a person cannot be a thing to be owned. Thus, Kant argues that a person does not possess his/her body. Rather, a person and the body are synonymous and are simultaneously used or not used by other persons. Here Kant seems to reject Cartesian dualism of the body and mind, in that the body cannot be used in a certain way while the mind still possesses autonomy. His claim suggests that the mind and the body, when engaged in sexual activities, lose autonomy, because the person as a whole is objectified. At this point, however, an important question remains: How does Kant consider marital sex morally acceptable if all sex involves objectifying a person for the enjoyment of another? He does not claim that sex within marriage does not objectify those involved.10 He does, however, claim that in marriage, both people equally posses each other, because they have a pact to respect each other‘s humanity in a long-term relationship. Kant claims that in marriage ―both possess each other‖, and ―that only therein does the property of the one remain that of the other, so that it lasts enduringly and is not transitory‖.11 Therefore, each person has a ―pact‖ which is not ―transitory‖— which would not be the case in casual sex—in which both persons ―possess‖ one another such that they each must take into account the other‘s ―personhood‖.12 In other words, the pact in marriage serves to reconcile the harms of sexual desire by giving both persons mutual power over their partners.
Prostitution and Casual Sex
Here, I want to note a contradiction in Kant‘s argument: in marriage two people ―possess‖ one another, but Kant also claims that man cannot own himself, because he is a subject that owns other things, not a thing that can be owned. When Kant argues that a person does not have possession over his/her body, he makes the case by saying that persons can own only ―things,‖ not persons.13 However, in marriage, he claims that people possess their partners. This leads either to the conclusion that, under Kant‘s reasoning, sexual activity cannot occur in a context in which it is morally acceptable, or that marriage entails a unique form of possession in which the two people involved do not possess one another entirely, but rather possess part of the other person, such as his/her sexuality. However, as I have already noted, Kant argues that sexuality entails a person in his/ her entirety and cannot be separated as a part of that person. So, Kant‘s argument with regards to possession within marriage seems to be flawed or, at best, to use vague terms which are inconsistent throughout the argument. Furthermore, I think Kant‘s idea of sex as an appetite, similar to other appetites like hunger or taste, inaccurately reduces it to a hedonistic desire, a characterization that is unrealistic if we consider how sexual desire is satiated. Here I think it useful to compare hunger as an appetite with sexual desire. When we are extremely hungry and seek to satisfy our hunger, we do not seek out a particular Big Mac, but rather we seek anything that will satisfy our strong urge to eat. By contrast, sexual desire is aimed much more narrowly towards a certain person or type of person, whether it is Daniel who lives down the block, all men, or Hispanic flamenco dancers. Sexual desire entails much more preference, in that it must be satiated in particular way, which is unlike hunger, which can be satiated with any type of food. Even if we consider that a person might be attracted to a certain aspect of another person‘s body, such as a genitalia or what Singer calls the ―erotogenic zone,‖ I argue that the person is attracted to the bodily aspect, because it belongs to a certain person or type of person. For example, a male might admire another female‘s buttocks and desire to engage in sexual acts with
it, but the male would most likely not admire the buttocks if the same buttocks belonged to another man or his mother. Therefore, to a certain extent, the man admires the buttocks only as it belongs to the person on whom he sees it. This understanding seems to disprove Kant‘s claim that we are purely interested in another person as an ―instrument of service‖ in an objectified form, without humanity. If what Kant thinks were actually the case, then the personal makeup, or humanity of the person with whom one wants to attain sexual pleasure would never matter, as long as the person could provide sensual satisfaction. That seems empirically wrong. Sexual desire seems much more potentially selective than hunger or thirst, and so this suggests something qualitatively different about sex when compared to other appetites. Irving Singer has an additional objection to Kant‘s argument. Although Singer agrees with Kant about sexuality involving an entire person rather than parts of a person, he disagrees with Kant on the point that sexuality reduces an entire person to an objectification of the genitalia or ―erotogenic zone‖ which is always harmful.14 He believes, by contrast, that sexual desire is a means by which a person can enjoy another person as a way of drawing ―sustenance‖ from one another without ―diminishing‖ either person.15 For example, suppose two people share an obsession with polka-dotted furniture, and this is the only thing the two know about each other. In this case, both people think of and enjoy the other person solely as a person who enjoys this type of furniture, meaning that each can reduce the other to an object of enjoyment, in which one characteristic of the person represents the person in his/her entirety. However, Singer argues that the humanity of the two does not have to be ―diminished‖ for each to share in this obsession. Rather, each person can benefit by ―drawing sustenance‖ from the other. The two polka-dot lovers can enjoy one another solely through their shared obsession. They can still respect each other‘s autonomy. In Kantian terms, they can treat each other as a means to an end, but respect each other precisely because of this. Their shared interest provides a benefit to both of them and
Prostitution and Casual Sex
it does not harm either of them. Along these lines, Singer criticizes Kant for thinking that sexuality ―treats the other person as an object of selfish appetite,‖ in which a mutual concern for one another and mutual benefit cannot be present together without a person being objectified and also harmed.16 That objectification does not always entail harm is the point at which Singer disagrees with Kant. Irving similarly believes that sexual acts can occur with both people using each other purely for sexual reasons, but where each person doesn‘t limit the autonomy of the other person by using them in this way. Kant‘s claim that sexual desire always harmfully objectifies a person aligns him with Benatar‘s significance view of sex. Kant sees sex as a unique case of desire, having some unique quality: ―We can never find that a human being can be the object of another‘s enjoyment, save through the sexual impulse.‖ 17 Kant takes an even more extreme approach than Benatar when he claims that marriage is the only context in which this kind of mutual concern can occur. Kant fails to adequately establish why sexual desire differs from other desires, even those as similar as wanting a massage (something judged harmless). Perhaps, if he spent time explaining why sexual desire is different from other appetites, then his argument would be more convincing. I have demonstrated the way in which sexual desire can be considered different from other appetites, but Kant does not accept this view. His argument is weak because he equates sexual desire with other appetites while also claiming that it objectifies persons unlike the other appetites. With this major flaw in mind, I think a more suitable definition for casual sex can be found along the lines of Singer‘s argument: casual sex is morally acceptable as long as both people involved consider the autonomy of the other person, and, despite the fact that sexual pleasure is the means by which the two think of each other, they do not harmfully ―objectify‖ each other but rather mutually benefit from their interaction. At this stage, it is important to note that, just because casual sex is morally acceptable, prostitution is not necessarily also morally acceptable. There are many things that are morally ac-
ceptable to do but are not morally acceptable to sell. For example, forgiveness is something we view as morally acceptable to do but not necessarily permissible to sell. I believe most people would find that, if I were to be extremely wronged by a friend, it would be morally acceptable for me to forgive him but not to charge him money for my forgiveness. The difference here, however, seems to be that, if I charged him money, I would not be selling a service but rather selling a personal attitude, which affects how I treat our relationship within the realm of our personal lives. By contrast, prostitution, as long as it is impersonal and professional, does not involve a personal relationship but is rather an exchange that can take place and does not have a lasting effect on the personal life of those involved (to the extent that this may be debatable, I will address this later in my discussion). To take another example, friendship is generally considered morally acceptable, but I think most people would agree that it is morally unacceptable to sell it. However, there is a context in which it is sold: counseling services. In these services, a counselor performs certain duties of a friendshipâ€”talking to a person, listening to problems, offering advice, etc.â€”but the counselor has a clear arrangement distinguishing between when the counselor is doing these duties on the job and when he/she is off -duty. So, we could say it is immoral to sell a personal friendship to another person, where there is no clear boundary between personal lives and occupation, but, as in the case of a counselor, it is morally acceptable to sell the qualities of friendship, because there is a distinct boundary between when the counselor is on the job and when the counselor is not. It is by extension of this reasoning, that I think prostitution can be considered morally acceptable. As long as the prostitute is providing a service in which there can remain a clear distinction between the service as a part of the job and the personal life of the prostitute outside of the job, then it is okay. Melissa Farley, in Prostitution and the Invisibility of Harm, makes the case that prostitution is psychologically harmful and, as a result, permeates all aspects of a prostituteâ€˜s life. She thereby denies that a separation between the job and a personal life can
Prostitution and Casual Sex
occur.18 She claims that, because prostitution forces a person to objectify his/her body in a way that is so demoralizing, that the prostitute‘s self esteem and future sexual relations are affected. However, whereas I acknowledge that the harm to the prostitute‘s psychological wellbeing is indeed real, I argue that it is because of social norms that the prostitute is harmed in such a way—not because of something implicitly harmful about selling sexual services. If we look at these services outside the context of prostitution, the issue becomes clearer. There are many cases in which a person performs sexual acts that the person does not desire, solely in order to receive some sort of compensation. These acts rarely involve psychological harm. For example, a deceitful wife may have unenjoyable sex with her husband purposely so that her husband will continue to buy her jewelry. It would be hard to believe that sex in this context gives her extreme psychological harm. However, let us consider that having sex with a partner whom this person does not know is what is harmful, supposing that this breech of intimacy is where the harm originates. This, still, does not seem to be the case, because many people have one-night stands with people whom they do not know and nonetheless they do not seem to experience harmful psychological effects to the noticeable extent that Farley claims prostitutes do. So, perhaps we are next to infer that paying for sex is what makes it psychologically harmful for prostitutes. The only way this would make sense is if paying for sex is different than paying for another service (assuming other service workers do not experience similar psychological affects). This would imply that sex is sacred or has some elevated quality that makes selling it more affecting. This viewpoint, however, seems to subscribe to Benatar‘s significance view, which I have rejected as not universally applicable and so not a viable criterion. Ultimately, I think historical and current social norms regarding sex are the reasons prostitution is psychologically harmful to those involved. If prostitutes hold the belief that prostitution sells something that is especially significant, then it is obvious why they might experience psychological harm—because
they might occasionally think that they are doing something morally unacceptable. However, if they view prostitution as something that is similar to any other service, then they would not experience these harmful psychological affects, just as other service workers do not experience harmful psychological affects. Howard Klepper provides one more objection to prostitution, namely, that prostitutes, as rational beings, would never consciously choose to sacrifice their freedom. Thus, their choice must be a result of coercion.19 He sets up his argument with an analogy, comparing prostitution to ―dwarf-throwing.‖ In dwarfthrowing, dwarves are singled out for their small size and consent to be tossed in the air by normal-sized people. This makes the dwarves into ―human projectiles‖ which are considered ―nonrational, non-sentient‖ beings by amused onlookers.20 Klepper argues that the dwarves, because they consent to being treated as objects and thus as a mere means, are irrational agents, because they choose to be treated this way. That judgment rings Kantian. However, I argue that the dwarves are not treated as objects so understood. If the dwarves knowingly allow themselves to be used in this way and are never forced to be tossed in the air, then they still maintain autonomy as rational agents. Similarly, an NBA basketball player may be sought out for his height and asked to use his height in his profession, but he nonetheless maintains autonomy as to whether or not his body will be used for playing basketball. The dwarves also have autonomy, but, most likely, people view tossing them in the air as objectifying them because the dwarves seem to them to be small and so unable to defend themselves against larger people. However, as long as the dwarves freely choose to act out the role of projectiles, then they are not objectified. I should note that this is as long as the tossing of dwarves does not harm their body in any way. Concurrently, as we apply the dwarf example to prostitution, we also assume that the prostitutes‘ bodies are not harmed in any way. If we extend Klepper‘s argument, it does not seem that prostitutes would be any different than the dwarves or the NBA player. When Klepper claims that prostitutes choose to act
Prostitution and Casual Sex
in way that limits their freedom, he relies on the idea that sexual acts limit the freedom of those involved unlike any other action, which is an idea that supports the significance view of sex which, as I have previously determined, is not viable. Prostitutes are not coerced. As long as prostitution is considered in the definition I have provided, prostitutes consensually choose to trade sexual services for monetary compensation. Thus, Klepperâ€˜s objection to prostitution is also unsubstantiated. I will conclude my argument with a very common example of a morally acceptable job and compare it to prostitution to show the way in which the two entail similar duties. During the month of December, it is very common to see a person at the mall who is dressed up as Santa Claus. He poses for pictures with children while parents take pictures, and he receives money as compensation for his service. As he sits in the mall, dressed in a long white beard and a red satin robe, children desire to sit in his lap to achieve the physical contact that is a source of enjoyment for them. The person playing Santa Claus, regardless of what he may actually feel or want to say, must act happy throughout the whole event and ask children what they want for Christmas. People respect the man playing Santa Claus as freely choosing to use his body for this service, though often people neglect the fact that his obesity may pose potential health risks to him. A prostitute, similarly, uses his/her body in order to provide a service of physical contact in which people attain enjoyment from the prostituteâ€˜s body. However, it seems the prostitute may even have a better job than the man playing Santa Claus, in that she is not always photographed, and she does not have to maintain an unhealthily obese status in order to perform her service. Both the man playing Santa Claus and the prostitute use their bodies to provide physical contact in return for money. Each must potentially act contrary to personal feelings, seemingly sacrificing autonomy during their jobs. But this sacrifice never actually occurs. They maintain the ability to quit their jobs, which shows that they ultimately always have autonomy independent from whether or not they convey it in an obvious way
during their services. In this way, prostitution can be thought of as very similar to working as a holiday-season Santa Claus, which is commonly considered a morally acceptable profession. In summary, Kantâ€˜s theory of ethics fails to show that prostitution is always immoral. Furthermore, Singerâ€˜s objections, along with my own, convey that prostitution can provide a mutually beneficial service, in which both the service provider and service receiver benefit from the exchange. Farleyâ€˜s objection relies on a faulty argument based on social norms rather than criticizing something necessarily specific to prostitution, and Klepper maintains the significance view, which is unconvincing at best. My final Santa Claus example shows the way in which prostitution is not unlike many other professions, in that it trades a physical service for monetary compensation. Unless we want to claim that many sorts of actions of service are morally unacceptable, we must consider prostitution as morally acceptable.
Prostitution and Casual Sex
Notes David Benatar, Two Views of Sexual Ethics: Promiscuity, Pedophilia, and Rape, (Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, Inc., 2008), 326. 2 Ibid., 327 3 Ibid 4 Ibid. 5 Immanuel Kant, Peter Heath and J.B. Schneedwind, eds., Lectures on Ethics, (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1997), 232. 6 Ibid., 155 7 Ibid., 157 8 Ibid. 9 Ibid. 10 Ibid.378 11 Ibid., 379 12 Ibid., 378 13 Ibid., 157 14 Irving Singer, ―The Morality of Sex: Contra Kant,‖ Critical Horizons 1 (2) (2000) 15 Ibid., 182 16 Ibid., 183 17 Immanuel Kant (1997) p. 155 18 David Benatar (2008) p. 359-360 19 Ibid., 356 20 Howard Klepper, Alan Soble and Nicholas Power, eds., ―Sexual Exploration and the Value of Persons,‖ The Philosophy of Sex (2008) 1
John McDaniel Works Cited
Benatar, David. “Two Views of Sexual Ethics: Promiscuity, Pedophilia, and Rape.” In The Philosophy of Sex, edited by Alan Soble and Nicholas Power, 325-336. Lanham , MD: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, Inc., 2008. Estes, Yolanda. “Prostitution: A Subjective Position.” In The Philosophy of Sex, edited by Alan Soble and Nicholas Power, 353-365. Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield Philosophers, Inc. Farley, Melissa. “Prostitution and the Invisibility of Harm.” Women & Therapy 26, no. 3/4 (2003): 247; 33. Kant, Immanuel. Lectures on Ethics. Edited by Peter Heath and J.B. Schneedwind. Translated by Peter Heath. New York, NY: Cambridge University Press, 1997. Klepper, Howard. “Sexual Exploitation and the Value of Persons.” In The Philosophy of Sex, edited by Alan Soble and Nicholas Power, 249-258. Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, Inc. Madigan, Thomas J. “The Discarded Lemon: Kant, Prostitution and Respect for Persons.” Philosophy Now, no. 21 (Summer 1998): 14-16. Singer, Irving. “The Morality of Sex: Contra Kant.” Critical Horizons, no. 1.2 (2000): 175-191.
Teleosemantics and the Believer
Teleosemantics and the Believer By Taylor Hamrick I. Introduction
houghts seem to be about something – they seem to have meaning. This property has been called ―intentionality‖. A theory of intentionality must explain how and why our thoughts have such content. A naturalized theory of intentionality hopes to explain the content of mental states within accepted scientific framework. Such a theory of mental content hopes to explain the meanings of mental states in non-intentional terms, avoiding words such as believes or desires. Teleosemantics The focus in this paper will be one type of naturalized theories: teleosemantic theories of mental content. Three types of teleosemantic theories of content appear in the literature; I call them the ‗High Level‘,1 ‗Low Level‘, and ‗All-Inclusive‘ theories,2 named for how they make content ascriptions. In the scope of this paper, I will examine just one of those teleosemantic theories: the ‗Low Level‘ theory forwarded by Karen Neander. Taylor Hamrick graduated in the spring of 2009 from the College of Charleston. While there, Hamrick earned majors in Philosophy and (Pure) Mathematics. Since school, Hamrick has wanted to open a brewery and has not ruled out the possibility of attending a graduate school. Besides the philosophy of mind, his other philosophical interests include Pragmatism (à la Richard Rorty, and Dan Dennett—but he calls it 'Instrumentalism') as well as the philosophy of science. He stated that he could not provide a favorite philosophy quotation, because that sort of question would entail a project in itself.
Teleosemantic theories of mental content introduce the idea of biological proper function in order to pinpoint mental content.3 Biological functions are behaviors of traits in the ancestors of an organism that have led to the organism‘s survival. For example, possible function ascriptions for the heart could be circulating blood, creating rhythmic patterns of beating, or having four chambers. Historically, it was the property of circulating blood which led to the survival of those organisms that contained hearts. If the heart circulated blood, but did not beat rhythmically or have four chambers, the heart would still have been selected for in the organisms containing them. Thus, the biological proper function of the heart is pumping blood. Similarly, particular mental states have been selected for and we can move to pinpoint the precise reason. Hence, we can examine biological function when determining mental states‘ content. If a state in a representational system is functioning properly, then the content of that intentional state is what is supposed to be represented. And the function of any trait, including mental states, is determined by natural selection. The story about content in teleosemantics goes something like this: (i) A token of a mental state is normally caused by an environmental stimulus. (ii) The mental state acquires its content by allowing the system to achieve normal functioning. (iii) Evolution determines the normal functional states of the system; hence we are able to determine the content of mental states by reference to selection history.4 For example, a frog will snap at flies or BB gun pellets when they pass in front of his visual field, but because flies served as frog food in the selective history, the proper content ascription for the frog in the presence of either a fly or a BB gun pellet will be (on one interpretation) the mental state with content ‗fly‘. From this point on, I will use small caps—like FLY—to indicate the content of a mental state. Frogs have become a popular example in discussing teleosemantic theories, so for the majority of this paper I will use the example to discuss relevant issues. Simple organisms seem to be the appropriate place to start when considering teleosemantic theories. In the same way that natural selection begins
Teleosemantics and the Believer
with simpler systems and has them adapt and become more complex, mental states must at some point in selective history have had much less sophisticated content and became more like beliefs and other complex states as selective forces took their course. If we begin to pinpoint determinate content in less sophisticated organisms, the more sophisticated contents will be much easier to examine. The Indeterminacy Problem With appeal to natural selection, we are able to limit the possibilities for mental content to those predicates which are causally relevant to selection. But many of these descriptions will co-vary in an organism‘s natural environment. Fodor points out that, if the object of intentionality can reliably be picked out by different predicates in an organism‘s environment, then any of the descriptions are functionally equivalent as the organism‘s mental content.5 In the frog‘s environment, small, dark, moving objects are reliably flies which are reliably frog food. It appears that we may be left with multiple predicates that are causally related to the trait‘s function. By considering selective history alone, we cannot pinpoint the best or most appropriate content from among the possible relevant descriptions. Ultimately, the story for teleosemantic mental content can be told in many ways—thanks to co-variation, a frog receives the same selective advantage by sticking his tongue out at either FOOD, FLY, or SMALL, DARK, MOVING OBJECT (there are teleosemantic theories that argue for each). As Fodor puts it: ―Darwin cares how many flies you eat, but not what description you eat them under.‖6 Thus, we have the indeterminacy problem for teleosemantics: many possible mental contents are extensionally equivalent, meaning that coextensive contents can be substituted for each other without changing the success of the organism using them. Selection history may be able to pinpoint only one object towards which the mental state should be directed, but multiple functional descriptions of that object exist. With reference to selection history alone, teleosemantic theories cannot know which
of the descriptions will lead the system to proper functioning, and this creates indeterminacy of content.7 In this paper, I will first discuss how a ‗Low Level‘ content ascription solves the indeterminacy problem. I will then present a specific objection to the Low Level theory: that it does not generalize to more sophisticated mental states. And in the final section, I will defend the theory against the objection and put forward a sketch of how to extend the Low Level teleosemantic theory. II. The Low Level Theory In this section, I will present a sketch of Neander‘s ‗Low Level‘ teleosemantic theory of intentionality and explain how the theory solves the Indeterminacy Problem. Functional Decomposition Neander borrows Robert Cummins notion of functional analysis in her Low Level teleosemantic theory.8 In a functional analysis, we first must decompose an organism or system into its component devices and subsystems, each with a function that contributes to the overall functioning of the system. Additionally, each subsystem can be assigned multiple functions. If a trait T has a function F, then it will also have a function G if it is able to G, in part, because it has the function of F-ing. This can also be stated with ‗by‘ relations. We could say T has function G by also having function F. In this way, we can decompose the function of a trait down to less and less sophisticated functional components. The decomposition seems to continue down to the subnuclear level. However, the level of description relevant to the selection history of mental states will ‗bottom out‘ at a certain level, namely, where the representational system is still unanalyzed, and any description below that will be a story about implementation.9 For instance, a frog‘s tongue snapping can be accounted for by neural firings or chemical reactions; however, such explanations are not representational and thus, they cannot help us to understand mental content. Neander gives the example of an antelope with an adap-
Teleosemantics and the Believer
tation that leads to an altered hemoglobin structure.10 The antelope will have a greater level of fitness by avoiding predators that hunt on the flat land by being able to live at a higher altitude by increasing oxygen intake in the blood by having the altered hemoglobin structure. Each of the predicates linked with a ‗by‘ relation is a function of the antelope‘s hemoglobin structure, but the trait itself is the most immediate explanation of the further effects. It seems clear then that the levels of description in the functional decomposition are not co-extensive. Escaping predators is not only accomplished by living at higher altitudes; living at higher altitudes is not only accomplished by having a greater oxygen intake, etc. Looking at the highest level of function is often indeterminate, because there is conceivably more than one way of ‗climbing the ladder‘ to achieve the higher levels of function. In the case of the antelope, we can think of many ways of increasing fitness—an increased lung capacity, for instance, could result in the same selective advantage given by the altered hemoglobin structure. Since there is ultimately more than one possible way to achieve some evolutionary results, the higher levels of function depend on the presence of the lower levels. Thus, the lowest level of description that still contributes to the system‘s functioning is the most immediate in explaining the presence of the higher levels: it is the most determinate explanation.11 Representational Content In Neander‘s account, biological traits factor a great deal into the content of representations. Organisms have evolved with traits that have proper functions which were adaptive for their survival. Systems have evolved with certain physical capacities and properties, and science studies these systems and how they respond to stimuli in their environment. Since science may describe the content of a representation or the function of a trait in multiple ways for any representation or trait in question, we must determine which of the biological devices and which description of content is most immediate to how the representational system is able to achieve proper functioning.12 Neander claims that, at least in the case of a frog, the
proper content ascription is at the level where the frog‘s detection device is unanalyzed in the decomposition.13 When considering the frog‘s representational system, the lowest unanalyzed component of the functional analysis will be the detection device.14 The content of a representation is focused on the stimulusform that has been used by the biological devices. Note that we are not concerned with neurophysiological behavior; we are not concerned with how the representation is created or information is processed, because only the features of the representation contribute to proper functioning. By focusing on the function of the representation we can pinpoint the lowest level in the functional decomposition as the most accurate description of what the biological device is doing. In frog-like systems, detection of properties of the perceptual stimulus provides content to the mental state. A frog tokens SMALL, DARK, MOVING OBJECT in the presence of flies or BBs moving across his visual field.15 In the environment where tongue snapping behaviors evolved, the small, dark, moving spots were reliably flies, and flies are good frog food. The frog displays biologically proper behavior by snapping at small, dark, moving objects. Higher-level descriptions like FOOD or FLY are not the content. The frog snaps at any appropriately small, dark, and moving stimulus—this leads the frog to snap at flies and BB gun pellets. It would be beneficial for the frog to be able to detect nutritious objects or even to recognize flies or other prey-species, but neither capability is part of the naturally selected traits of the frog. The current representational powers of the frog adequately approximate the appropriate nutritious or prey-like properties by detecting small, dark, moving objects.16 Also, it is worth noting that SMALL, DARK, MOVING OBJECT is not referring to the image on the visual system, but to the features of the flies and BB gun pellets that the frog responds to in the environment. By appealing to the most immediate, lowest -level description of representational content, we will point to predicates that are causally relevant to the mental state‘s selection and are able to eliminate indeterminacy. That, in essence, is the Low Level theory‘ explanation.
Teleosemantics and the Believer
III. Objections Neander‘s Low Level teleosemantic theory brings about three main objections: (i) Low Level theories do not pay enough attention to the needs of the system; (ii) ascribing low-level mental content does not allow adequate room for misrepresentation; and (iii) Neander‘s Low Level theory will not generalize to account for more sophisticated mental contents. For the remainder of this paper, I will focus primarily on this third objection, because it seems to arise as a result of the first two. Fails to Generalize Neander concedes that her theory may have difficulty when applied to human mental states for two main reasons: (i) we can misrepresent without malfunction and (ii) the content of mental states contains more information than features in the environment.17 Misrepresentation is unmistakably possible when one considers belief-desire contents. Based on our intuition, a frog is snapping at a fly because he wants to eat it. We know that a small, dark, moving object may not always be something a frog can eat—BBs are small, dark, and moving, but are not edible. But the Low Level is willing to say that the frog has not misrepresented when it snaps at a BB. Misrepresentation in Neander‘s theory occurs in those cases where something goes ‗wrong‘. For instance, if the mental state or intentional behavior is not directed at an appropriately shaped target, then the organism has misrepresented. Misrepresentation for the frog is a matter of his failing to discern the properties of a stimulus. Again, the frog does not misrepresent if he snaps at a bee-bee but would if he snapped at a snail or a shadow moving across his retina.18 If we compare frog representations to human representations, a generalized Low Level teleosemantic theory may be missing obvious cases of misrepresentation. Suppose you see a garden hose at night and believe that it is a snake because it shares certain physical features in common. When you are startled by the hose‘s presence, then certainly misrepresentation occurs. Perhaps if Neander claims that the frog has not misrepresented, then she would also claim that you have not misrepresented when
you are startled by the garden hose. Contra Neander and the relevance of the frog example, we know that our human representational states are not all a matter of detection. When we discern the visible properties of an object in the world, our representational work is not done. We must put it to use, and this is where misrepresentation occurs. Mohan Matthen has claimed that representations like the frogâ€˜s are only quasi-representational states because they do not carry the type of information we expect in a representation.19 This means that they do not closely resemble the full-blown representations we are used to employing, though beliefs and desires may have evolved from these quasi-representational states. Elsewhere, David Papineau claims that there may not even be a determinate answer about the content of the frogâ€˜s mental state, suggesting that using our understanding of frog mental states to understand belief-desire states will be even more difficult.20 The failure to generalize may be an objection to teleosemantic theories in general, due to their focus on simple representational systems. Because we, as humans, can only be sure that systems with belief-desire psychology have determinate mental content, we cannot have determinate content in systems without beliefs and desires. Thus, our understanding of simple representational states does not help in understanding more sophisticated states. Low Level teleosemantics does not tell us anything about human beliefs and desires. IV. Extending the Low Level In this section, bearing in mind those strong complaints, I will present a brief sketch for how Neanderâ€˜s teleosemantic theory (or perhaps a modified version) can apply to more sophisticated representational systems, such as those with a belief-desire psychology. First, I will dismiss the mistaken intuition that frogrepresentations should resemble our belief-desire representations. Then, I will introduce a few tools, strategies, and considerations that may help in conceiving of how the story may generalize.
Teleosemantics and the Believer
Action-Oriented Representation Action-oriented representations 21 (also called pushmipullyu representations22) carry information about the world and an appropriate course of action. The representation is immediately linked to behavior, as opposed to a more intuitive notion of representation, where an internal, behavior-guiding representation (like a desire) is paired with a detecting or indicating representation (like a belief) to produce behavior. An action-oriented representation does not require inferences, and the functional behavior is immediate to the detection of a stimulus. These are primitive representations, used to reduce the information processing used in achieving proper function. The frog‘s mental state in the presence of flies seems to be one of these pushmi-pullyu representations. The frog does not have to first identify an object in his environment, and then decide whether to snap at it. The tongue snap immediately results from the detection; it is built into the state SMALL, DARK, MOVING OBJECT. Also, the representation is well-defined for the frog. Because the representation and subsequent tongue snapping is only concerned with the stimulus-form, the gathering behavior will occur when the frog detects the proper object. If a frog snap was directed at FOOD, then he ought to not only snap at flies, but also at any object that will be nutritious. A frog does not detect food because he does not use that representation to snap at other small insects that populate his environment. Also, FLY does not describe the frog‘s mental state, because some flies, e.g. dead ones, may not cause tongue snapping. The frog will only snap upon detecting certain properties of the stimulus – namely, that it is small, dark, and moving. Thus the correct content ascription is SMALL, DARK, MOVING OBJECT. The mental state the frog is using to obtain flies is of this primitive type – it is action-oriented, and our intuitions about beliefs and desires do not apply to this class of mental states. Properties of Action-Independent Representations Opposed to these action-oriented representations, there is another class of representations that are action-independent, and
beliefs and desires are types of these action-independent mental states. Andy Clark divides in two the cases where a representation is available in the absence of an environmental stimulus. The first, and simpler, case involves ―reasoning about absent, nonexistent, or counterfactual states of affairs.‖23 These mental states are able to direct behavior in the absence of their object by allowing the user to remember past conclusions and predict future outcomes. This means that representations of previously detected stimuli can be available to the system independent of behavior. For example, we could token the representation FLY in planning a picnic in order to remember to bring bug spray, whereas the frog will snap immediately upon tokening SMALL, DARK, MOVING OBJECT and is not able to use the representation without the presence of a stimulus. The second form of action-independent representations are those mental states whose ―physical manifestations are complex and unruly.‖24 These representations point to sets of predicates which are related in a more abstract manner, and many times, these representations are concerned with classifying an object in a particular way in order to guide behavior toward it. These mental states can be available in the absence of environmental stimuli, but the stimuli that they point to are less clearly defined. An example of such a representation would be LARGE, and with it we would be able to distinguish between two objects that may be very similar, namely by choosing which is larger. And we can additionally use the representation LARGE to make comparisons between two objects which may be different, if they happen to have largeness in common. Again, action-oriented representations do not have this property—the frog cannot choose which of the two objects is more small, dark, and moving; he simply snaps in the presence of those features alone. Additionally, it seems that these sorts of sophisticated representations can be applied to an indefinite number of situations. By possessing a mental state directed towards a concept, we must also possess the general knowledge of how and when to apply the concept to various objects. This is the Generality Constraint for conceptual representations.25 Our understanding of a
Teleosemantics and the Believer
concept or a conceptual property seems to imply two abilities. For any object R, we can entertain the mental state that R has property P, as long as we possess the concept of P. And additionally, if we possess the concept of a property P, then we can apply P to any object capable of possessing P. For example, if we possess the state CAT, then we can entertain the mental state OLD CAT or CIGAR-SMOKING CAT so long as we have the concept OLD or CIGAR-SMOKING. And similarly, if we possess the concept VALUABLE, we can entertain the internal state VALUABLE HOUSE or VALUABLE TREE, as long as houses or trees can be valuable. However, the frog does not possess the concept SMALL or DARK or MOVINGâ€”those contents are only properties of the intentional object at which he is snapping. If we are to scale the Low Level teleosemantic theory up to account for action-independent states, then we must be able to tell a story about how these properties of representations will arise. Detection of present environmental features seems to be all that is necessary for action-oriented representations. But this does not hurt the theory. Think again of the frog. Perhaps it would have been able to acquire an independent mental state FLY had its environment been filled with BBs. It would still be detecting small, dark, moving things, but the detection of some additional feature would be necessary to ensure fitness, and the causal interaction of these two features (assuming that the frog has to infer from two distinct detections that his desired snapobject is present, instead of combining the information into one detection that is action-oriented) would lead to a rudimentary representation pointing to flies. Now it seems now that a viable possibility for obtaining action-independent representations must include the interaction between multiple representations in one mental state. The Representation Toy26 Here, I will ask you to conceive of a certain type of representational system, slightly more complex than the frogâ€˜s, but still very simple. I hope to illustrate how ascribing low level content to a system with multiple representations depends on causal
interaction. For these illustrations, I will use the letter S to represent stimulus, R for representation, and B to indicate behavior. The simplest system will have two detection-type representations that must combine to guide behavior. Thus, there will be four possible behaviors depending on whether either of the two representations is tokened. For any number of representations N, they will combine to cause 2N outcomes, some of which may be behavioral and others representational: ÂŹR2 R2 ÂŹR 1
Figure 1: Representation Toy with two representations. When ascribing the mental content behind any of the behaviors involved, we cannot describe the mental state as detecting just one of the two features, because this will not account for the presence or absence of the other representation. Instead, content must be assigned for any particular behavior according to how the two representations, R1 and R2 interact. If the representational system is only action-oriented, at the very least we will simply have a combination of two detections. But if our system possesses the capability of inference, then it will be able to entertain concepts that rely on the interaction of both detections. It appears, then, that possessing action-independent representations relies on increasing the causal complexity of the system and the number of interactions between representations. Consider yet another scaling up of the system. In this toy, there are again two simple detection representations, R1 and R2, which are caused by environmental stimuli S1 and S2. But there is a third representation, R3, which is a directive representation that will be caused to token by the detection of R1. The presence of this representation will ultimately guide certain be-
Teleosemantics and the Believer
haviors—in this case either B1 or B2 will occur without the presence of the detection representation R1:
R1&¬R2 ¬R1&R2 ¬R1&¬R2
Figure 2: Representation Toy with one action-independent representation. In this representation toy, the output is not all behavioral. When analyzing the functional behavior, the mental state clearly is not a matter of detection alone. The representational system must use an independent behavior-guiding representation caused by a prior detection event. This notion is comparable to the detection of hunger and the independent desire to eat. So, when ascribing content to the mental state, we must consider a representational system which does more than detect. This brings us to how the Low Level teleosemantic theory of mental content could assign a meaning to action-independent mental states. Our hope in examining the first representational toy was to find a low-level content ascription that will not rely on
detection only. When analyzing the representational system capable of inference, the functional decomposition contained more than the detection device—which would have been incapable of performing inferences on its own. Now, with this second example of a representational toy, we certainly have some actionindependent states as opposed to a system only possessing action-oriented states. When we are examining a representation that can be present in a system without a detection event causing it, the lowest level in the functional decomposition must exist within a system that does more than detect. The detection device alone will not account for our representation‘s content. If it is to successfully guide behavior, the system that this representation belongs to must have some conceptual or inferential capabilities. While it may not have mental states like ―I believe there is an S2 nearby…‖ or ―If only I had some S2…,‖ the system at minimum must have a conception of the object S2 or representation R2 (which represents S2) independent of its detection in virtue of how R3 is able to direct behavior towards S2 and R2. The properties of action-independent representations discussed earlier are easily comprehended in our three representation toy (the second one); but if we were to imagine further scaling-up of the toy, the representations involved would become more complex and abstract, because of the increasing number of interactions. As the complexity continues to increase, our system would have to be able to compare representations that are seemingly unrelated. Yet, even once we have these complicated types of action-independent representation available, it still seems that our low-level content would conform to the generality constraint. Our three-representation toy does not have adequate conceptual content to use its representation R3 in any other capacity than directing his behavior towards the object S2. But nonetheless, the frog can apply a property like ―R3 satisfier‖ to any object that causes R2—namely, S2-type objects. And as we continue to scale up, there will be multiple non-detection, action-independent representations available to the system which get their content by virtue of how they are related to the other behaviors and representations of the system. Thus, the toy will
Teleosemantics and the Believer
be able to apply those representations as properties of the various objects and concepts towards which those representations can be directed. V. Conclusion Now that our representational system can have actionindependent representations with content ascribed by the Low Level teleosemantic theory, we can see why the frog‘s misrepresentation occurred. In addition, we still retain the case of a malfunctioning neural apparatus causing misrepresentation—for example, if our three-representation toy was to token the state R2 when no S2-type object was present. But with the mental state R3, it is clear that mistakes in reasoning about representations can occur—these are cases of what I will call ―inferential misrepresentation.‖ First, if R2 was mistakenly tokened, as above, then the inferential system will of course make the mistake of guiding behavior towards objects which will not satisfy R3. This is the easy type of inferential misrepresentation, similar to mistaking a garden hose for a snake, where snake-directed behavior would most likely be misguided. The correct inference will be made by the representational system, but the mistake will have occurred in detecting the information used in the inferential process. Additionally, the possession of these behavior-guiding representations could cause a different type of inferential misrepresentation. The representation toy might use R3 to cause R2-directed behavior without the presence of either R2 in the system or S2 in the environment. This would be comparable to going to the refrigerator to get a glass of milk when you do not believe that milk is in the refrigerator. R3 will direct itself towards R2 in R2‘s absence, without the other representations it relies on to enact mistake-free behavior. Thus, low-level mental content ascriptions are still compatible with misrepresentation as a mental state‘s causal complexity is increased. In the case of the frog, we had to find the function of the detection device to determine content, but with action independent states, we must give preference to the lowest level
where the representational system as a whole is functionally complete. The most immediate effect of a mental state on a representational system will include all of its interactions — including possible interactions with the other states of the system. Of course, I have not explained the story entirely. It remains to be seen how we determine a complete description of what the most immediate effect on the system is. Choosing exactly which devices contribute to the representational system in our analysis may also be difficult. The important fact for Low Level teleosemantic theories is that it seems that such a story can possibly be told. And the appeal of low-level ascriptions of content remains by picking out the meaning of a mental state in the least sophisticated manner, despite the increasing complexity of the story told. In this paper, I set out to examine the Low Level teleosemantic theory of intentionality. First, I presented the basic theory, and an objection to the project – Fodor‘s indeterminacy problem. I then presented Neander‘s Low Level solution to the indeterminacy problem. I offered a close look at one objection against the Low Level teleosemantic theory: that the theory fails to generalize to more sophisticated, action-independent representations. I reframed the frog‘s mental state as an actionoriented representation, showing that the frog‘s mental state in the presence of flies was really a matter of detection, in order to dismiss mistaken intuitions about the Low Level content. Finally, I presented some concerns and considerations regarding scaling up the Low Level theory to account for human representation. Ultimately, I‘ve concluded that the Low Level teleosemantic theory is a viable option for explaining intentionality.
Teleosemantics and the Believer
Notes 1. see Ruth Millikan, ―Biosemantics,‖ The Journal of Philosophy 86 (6) (1989); Carolyn Price, ―Determinate Functions,‖ Noûs 32(1) (1998); Justine Kingsbury, ―A Proper Understanding of Millikan,‖ Acta Analytica 21(3) (2006) 2. see Nicholas Agar, ―What Do Frogs Really Believe?‖ Australasian Journal of Philosophy 71(1) (1993); 3.David Papineau, ―Teleosemantics and Indeterminacy,‖ Australasian Journal of Philosophy 76(1) (1998); Karen Neander, ―Misrepresenting & Malfunctioning,‖ Philosophical Studies 79(2) (1995); Ruth Millikan (1989); Carolyn Price (1998) 4. Jerry Fodor, A Theory of Content, (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1990); David Papineau (1998) 5. Jerry Fodor (1990) 6. Ibid., 73 7. Fodor (1992) claims that the only way to select between reliably equivalent ascriptions of content is to use counterfactuals. Additionally, he claims that teleosemantics cannot appeal to counterfactual situations because an organism‘s fitness is not determined by possible events but actual events. Examining selection history will only reveal what has been selected, not what would be selected for if the environmental conditions were varied. However, the proponents of teleosemantic theories often freely appeal to counterfactual situations without consideration of this objection. One possible argument for the use of counterfactuals was forwarded by Neander (1995). Because history is filled with causal interactions, and causal interactions rely on counterfactual statements, we can look back into history and consider what would have occurred if the forces of selection had varied. Ultimately, Fodor can only exclude certain counterfactuals, but as long as they are causally relevant to selection, we can consider them in determining teleosemantic content. 8. Robert Cummins, ―Functional Analysis,‖ The Journal of Philosophy 72(20) (1975)
9. Cummins (1975) does not appeal to teleofunction or natural selection in his explication in functional analysis, but Neander (1995) uses the teleological notion of biological function because it brings us to a level that is useful to the systems within the organism. 10. Karen Neander, ―Content for Cognitive Science,‖ in Teleosemantics, edited by G. MacDonald and D. Papineau 167-194. (New York: Oxford University Press, 2006) 11. Karen Neander (1995) 12. Karen Neander (2006) 13. Karen Neander (1995), 130 14. It may seem that all representation is not a matter of detection. I will discuss this objection later in the paper. 15. SMALL, DARK, MOVING OBJECT is not necessarily the complete description of the intentional object, it is shorthand means of describing the object, just like FOOD does not describe all of the properties that make something nutritious—but it is a manner of summarizing those properties quickly. 16. Karen Neander (2006) p. 185 17. Karen Neander (1995) p. 132 18. Ibid. 19. Mohan Matthen, ―Teleosemantics and the Consumer‖, in Teleosemantics, edited by G. MacDonald and D. Papineau 146-166 (New York: Oxford University Press 2006) 20. David Papineau (1998) 21. Andy Clark, Being There, (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press 1997) 22.Ruth Millikan, ―Pushmi-Pullyu Representations,‖ Philosophical Perspectives 9 (1995) 23. Andy Clark (1997), p. 167 24. Andy Clark (1997), p. 167 25. Gareth Evans, The Varieties of Reference, (New York: Oxford University Press 1982) 26. I would like to thank my advisor Whit Schonbein for the idea for this thought experiment and for helping me clarify exactly what I was trying to do with it.
Teleosemantics and the Believer
Bibliography Agar, Nicholas. ―What Do Frogs Really Believe?‖ Australasian Journal of Philosophy 71(1) (1993): 1-12. Clark, Andy. Being There: Putting Brain, Body, and World Together Again. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1997. (pre-print). Cummins, Robert. ―Functional Analysis.‖ The Journal of Philosophy 72(20) (1975): 741-765. Evans, Gareth. The Varieties of Reference. New York: Oxford University Press, 1982. Fodor, Jerry. A Theory of Content. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1990. Fodor, Jerry. ―Replies.‖ In Meaning in Mind: Fodor and His Critics, edited by B. Loewer and G. Rey 255-319. Cambridge, MA: Blackwell, 1992. Kingsbury, Justine. ―A Proper Understanding of Millikan.‖ Acta Analytica 21(3) (2006): 23-40. Matthen, Mohan. ―Teleosemantics and the Consumer.‖ In Teleosemantics, edited by G. MacDonald and D. Papineau 146166. New York: Oxford University Press, 2006. Millikan, Ruth. ―Biosemantics.‖ The Journal of Philosophy 86(6) (1989): 281-297. Millikan, Ruth. ―Pushmi-Pullyu Representations.‖ Philosophical Perspectives 9 (1995): 185-200. Neander, Karen. ―Functions as Selected Effects.‖ Philosophy of Science 58(2) (1991): 168-184. Neander, Karen. ―Misrepresenting & Malfunctioning.‖ Philosophical Studies: An International Journal for Philosophy in the Analytic Tradition 79(2) (1995): 109-141. Neander, Karen. ―Content for Cognitive Science.‖ In Teleosemantics, edited by G. MacDonald and D. Papineau 167-194. New York: Oxford University Press, 2006. Papineau, David. ―Teleosemantics and Indeterminacy.‖ Australasian Journal of Philosophy 76(1) (1998): 1-14. Price, Carolyn. ―Determinate Functions.‖ Noûs 32(1) (1998): 5475.
Surpassing Estrangement: The Reconciliation Between Species Being and Subjective Architectonics in Benjamin By Michael Nail
he architectonics of life, what we might loosely call "culture," have been produced throughout history by the accidents that have issued forth originally from economic systems, or from the systems that have subjugated the economy. That these are accidents does not mean that these are fully undetermined by the relationship between the worker and his economic relationships. Rather, for example, it is certain that the forms of filmmaking in a certain time are determined at first by the systems of economic exchange, though not directly. For instance, the progression from the silent film to the talkie was positively determined, while the phasing out of the silent film by the talkie was negatively determined. It is these negative determinations, these phasing-outs, that define the scope of culture, since the new is not yet solidified into culture until it has phased out what it supersedes. In this particular example, it is an accident of technological progress that produces Michael Nail attends Villanova University and is a member of the class of 2012. He is presently a triple major in Philosophy, English, and Honors. His hopes for the future include obtaining a PhD in Philosophy and earning a professorship. Right now, his general interests gravitate within the realm of Hegel's historical influence, which is to say, the greater part of 19th and 20th century philosophy. His greatest intellectual concerns are found in the politics of consciousness, wherein his goal is simply to understand. His favorite quotation comes from Walter Benjamin and can be found in the 3rd volume of the Selected Works, the essay titled "Karl Kraus": "Opinions are a private matter. The public has an interest only in judgments."
culture, and we might say that this technological progress is an accident of the economic sphere, which is, if not a system for immediately distributing power-qua-estranged labor capital, then a system for distributing power indirectly in the form of specific culture. The hierarchy of negatively established power relations necessarily both places the power to disseminate architectonic systems in the hands of those who possess massive amounts of capital and determines the form of this power. I find that this rendering of the concept of capital is most salient in our postmodern era, which seems to be characterized (in Marxist language) not by the simple estrangement of workers from their labor, but by their estrangement from their estranged labor (“double estrangement”). That is to say, with the introduction of such social programs as welfare and unemployment benefits with almost universal ubiquity, the phrasings of Marx, that ―the proportion of capital to revenue... seems everywhere to regulate the proportion between industry and idleness,‖ and that, ―wherever capital predominates, industry prevails; wherever revenue, idleness‖1 no longer hold. Men are no longer identities with their jobs, and although their labor is still estranged from them, this estrangement is no longer the most salient feature in the experience of the self. The workers' relationship with their labor before its estrangement is already abstracted such that the direct correlation between labor and subsistence has been dissolved. The economy is still the original well that powers the production of the architectonics of life, but it no longer fashions the architectonics of life directly. Instead, the political realm, which had once functioned within and at the mercy of the economy, has become an arbiter of the economy from outside of the system of labor relations. The political realm is also a hub through which mass culture is able to participate in the arbitration of the economy's raw architectonic-systematizing power, as conveyed in the form of government agencies and private industries. Those entities that hold vast amounts of capital are able to disseminate architectonic systems even from within the economy. With the abstraction of man's labor-power, there is no longer a man-qua-
labor power concept to supersede the architectonic systems issuing forth from places other than the location of employment. In short, a man's hermeneutic for experiencing the world through himself has shifted, of necessity, from being purely laborproduced to being produced by commercial products. The point of architectonic systematization has been shifted from the beginning of the production process to the end. In the following text, we will explore the alterations in the conception of species being theory and estranged labor between Karl Marx and the early Frankfort School (i.e. Theodor Adorno and Walter Benjamin) in the face of the latter‘s consideration of the force of the commodity‘s effect on the individual as having a hand in producing an architectonic system. Benjamin‘s distinction between individual and mass consciousness will play a central role in quelling the problems that Marx‘s species being theory would pose to such a ―return of the commodity.‖ Finally, we will see that the commodity can indeed return to the individual as a source of architectonic systemization, and that this return can even free itself from the necessity of being related to the individual‘s labor relations. The Architectonics of Life in Marx In his collection of aphorisms, Minima Moralia, Theodor Adorno writes, ―Technology is making gestures precise and brutal, and with them men. It expels from movements all hesitation, deliberation, civility. It subjects them to the implacable, as it were ahistorical demands of objects.‖1 The car, microwave, and refrigerator doors have self-locking mechanisms and must be slammed shut, and for me to go anywhere means to place at my disposal the strength of 150 horses. These are some among the pieces of our modern culture that together produce an architectonic system of life. In his The Arcades Project, Walter Benjamin also describes the systemization of an architectonics of life as issuing from commercial productions. He sets aside an entire chapter for the treatment of ―The Collector‖ and his behavior and functions. He writes that ―perhaps the most deeply hidden
motive of the person who collects can be described this way: he takes up the struggle against his dispersion.‖2 In other words, he feels himself scattered about the world because he invests his identity in commodities. He does not find his identity in these commodities because he produced them, but because they produce him. They attack him from all corners of life, in advertising, in entertainment, and elsewhere. Nearly every person who has a job must pass by numerous storefronts and billboards. The very existence of commercial products today gives rise to their proliferation outside of the commercial sphere. These two thinkers, Benjamin and Adorno, both known as having taken many cues from Marx's species-being based theories, stand in stark opposition to Marx in reckoning the relationship between men and themselves. If we ask Marx what he has to say about the relationship between men and themselves, we will get the species-being argument. Man is a ―universal‖ being; ―the more universal man is compared with an animal, the more universal is the sphere of inorganic nature on which he lives.‖3 The ―universal‖ man makes "inorganic nature," or that part of nature which he puts his labor into, into a part of his "inorganic body," as an extension of his real body. For the optimally universal man, this inorganic body includes all other men, so that each man is all others while being himself, and his labor benefits himself as an individual abstractly, while benefiting the species directly. Marx makes class struggle the transcendent determining factor in producing the architectonics of life by the following movement: ―In estranging from man (1) nature, and (2) himself, his own active functions, his life-activity, estranged labor estranges the species from man. It turns for him the life of the species into a means of individual life.‖4 The worker's relation to himself having been turned into one of mere self-preservation, his relationship with the rest of mankind becomes his participation in a standard wage-range. The capital which the worker produces stands against him in the form of private property. His wage, therefore, stands against him as a tool for the continuation of the system that produces private property by providing the creators
of commodities with their sustenance. Marx's analysis of political economy, of his own admission, ―does not recognize the unoccupied worker, the workman, in so far as he happens to be outside this labor-relationship.‖5 For Marx, as far as the systemization of the architectonics of the life of the worker is concerned, there is nothing left for analysis outside of political economy, since political economy has the character of absorbing into itself all that might form such architectonics; the life of the worker gives meaning to everything in the life of the man before such a life can give meaning unto itself. Political economy is the architectonics of life. In more contemporary times, Marx‘s explanation seems partly appealing, yet too restrictive. It needs modification to carry substantial weight. The Reconciliation between Political Economy, Species Being, and a Subjective Architectonic System in Benjamin The conundrum here is that Benjamin does not regard political economy as directly related to the creation of an architectonics of life, though he subscribes to Marx's framework concerning the worker's relationship to a system of political economy. Benjamin acknowledges Marx's framework, quoting him in The Arcades Project in order to describe the particular form of selfalienation that he intended to work with: ―Self-alienation: 'The worker produces capital; capital produces him--hence, he produces himself, and... his human qualities exist only insofar as they exist for capital alien to him... The worker exists as a worker only when he exists for himself as capital; and he exists as capital only when some capital exists for him [that is, in place of him.]. The existence of capital is his existence,... since it determined the tenor of his life in a manner indifferent to him... Production... produce[s] man as... a dehumanized being.'‖6 Even after this acknowledgement, Benjamin's exposition of the
worker as a dehumanized being functions almost completely through the worker's commercial and social environment. We must recognize, then, that Benjamin functions based on an assumption that the worker's becoming a dehumanized being is not identical with the becoming of an architectonics of life for that worker. Instead, it seems that, for Benjamin, the rendering of the worker as dehumanized is also the creation of opportunities for the worker's capital to act not only against him, as an alien object, but also for him, as that which creates for him an architectonics of life. In this way, Benjamin counters the assumption Marx makes–that purchasing falls within the labor relationship while the potential use of that which may be purchased falls without. Marx had written, ―Political economy does not recognize the unoccupied worker, the workman, in so far as he happens to be outside this labor-relationship.‖ This statement is true also for Benjamin, but Benjamin does not think that the unoccupied worker, unaddressed by his very self-identity, loses the ability to function as a placebo, placebo, here, meaning that which has the ability to take on the meaning of what surrounds it. For Benjamin, this placebo-function is still possible, but not on an individual level. In the collective of individuals bound up and compartmentalized in their labor relations, there exists a ―mass consciousness‖ that is capable of systemizing an architectonics of life for its individuals that is not directly determined by estranged labor. The creation, then, of life outside of labor relations is dependent on the relationship between the individual and the mass consciousness. The individual is indeed still estranged from himself as a human, but even so, he experiences himself in a manner undetermined by his estranged labor. Benjamin, in the following passage, makes it clear that the very commodities that are able to identify their consumers, through the double estrangement of labor, are collectively the mediator between individual and mass consciousness. The passage reads: ―The nineteenth century [is] a dreamtime in which the individual consciousness secures itself more and more in
Michael Nail reflecting, while the collective consciousness falls deeper and deeper into sleep. But just as the sleeper -- in this respect like the madman -- sets out on a macrocosmic journey through his own body, and the noises and feelings of his insides, such as blood pressure, intestinal churn, heartbeat, and muscle sensation (which for the waking and salubrious individual converge in a steady surge of health) generate, in the extravagantly heightened inner awareness of the sleeper, illusion or dream imagery which translates or accounts for them, so likewise for the dreaming collective, which, through the arcades, communes with its own insides. We must follow in its wake so as to expound the nineteenth century—in fashion and advertising, and buildings and politics—as the outcome of its dream visions.‖7
The individual becomes once again a species-being in his relationship with the mass consciousness, in its ―sleep.‖ The individual human relates to the rest of his or her species outside of their labor relations, but only in an oblique manner through the ―dream‖ of the mass consciousness. This ―dream‖ manifests itself in the landscape of commodities, and lives the humanity that the individuals have no access to, except through their participation in mass consciousness. The individual cannot help but be ―awake‖ in the face of the dreaming collective. Since the only mediator between himself and said collective is the commodity, he must shape his desire into the form of the produced commodity, and really desire something that ends with his own thought. Meanwhile, that part of himself that transcends his individuality through the mediation of the commodity desires the cultural product that returns to him after his double estrangement. Fashion‘s wild gestures are able to combine internal coherence with external incomprehensibility through its participation in the desires of the dreaming collective as teleologically already having been returned to individual consciousness as a commodity as doubly-estranged at the time of the first presentation of its individual creations to ―wakeful‖ individuals. Benja-
min writes, ―For the philosopher, the most interesting thing about fashion is its extraordinary anticipations.‖8 The designer, however, is no augur. It is not the designer, but rather the mass consciousness that determines what an acceptable winter coat might look like, and that can be said to anticipate the future. Benjamin writes, ―Fashion is in much steadier, much more precise contact with the coming thing [than is art], thanks to the incomparable nose which the feminine collective has for what lies waiting in the future.‖ The individual artist has no such access to the future, because he produces his work for individual commissioners. The designer, though, must match the vision of the mass consciousness, and the individuals think about the future through their aggregate commercial desire. In this way, mass consciousness passively determines the content of the mediated architectonic space (i.e. arcades or modern shopping malls) individuals live in through the perception of these same individuals, and therein return the commodity to these individuals. Fashion stands out not by mediating between mass and individual consciousness more seamlessly, but by presuming double estrangement before designing its product. The designer perceives a singular estrangement, elaborates the secondary estrangement in his design, and creates a product that creates the desire that it fulfills through its internal logic of estrangement, therein seeming to ―anticipate the future.‖ In reality, the commodity has only anticipated its own internal logic, which the consumer takes to be an external logic-of-the-mass upon contact with the commodity. Contrary to Marx‘s belief, the worker as a subject plays a role in the shaping of his experience beyond his being a laborer. The subject's role is to be the object of the world of commodities around him, and this world is the mass of commodities that the collective to which he belongs has subconsciously demanded. This is the manner in which the mass consciousness is able to communicate with its individuals: through a mediation that has the characteristics of, as Benjamin calls it, ―the subconscious.‖ The laborer may indeed at base desire his wage, but his human desires do return to him through this mass subconscious in order
to act upon him and create for him an architectonic systemization of experience that rejects the world of labor as a source for content. That which was estranged from the worker returns to him, whether he purchases commodities or not, through advertising. Benjamin notes that this return of the commodity is a modern phenomenon, and calls the person to whom the commodity returns in this fashion, ―flaneur.‖ What does he mean by this? Benjamin writes, ―Paris created the type of the flaneur. What is remarkable is that it wasn't Rome. And the reason? Does not dreaming itself take the high road in Rome? And isn't that city too full of temples, enclosed squares, national shrines, to be able to enter... with every cobblestone, every shop sign, every step... into the passerby's dream?‖9 Paris, since the Haussmann reconstruction of the city, has been designed in such a way that either a passage is too wide to allow people to stop, but rather forces people to the sides to make way for carriages; or else the passages are residential areas or ―arcades,‖ which are enclosed passageways between ten and 40 feet wide lined with storefronts covered by a windowed ceiling cast into iron girders. Neither these arcades nor the boulevards allowed for idleness. The result of the Haussmann renovation, which was reactionary in nature after the Revolution, was the abolition of any use of space that did not either mean exposure to a commodity, participation in labor, residence, or transportation to one of the previous three. The point that Benjamin makes by referencing Rome's enclosed squares and national shrines is that such places would mediate ―the landscape built of sheer life‖, that they would have been opportunities for the individual to realize himself in a way independent from production. If Rome had emerged as the example of 20th century life, it would have allowed for a reserve of material that architectonic systemization might have drawn upon that had to do neither with labor commodities nor with estrangement from labor. But it seems that Benjamin is right about characterizing the Parisian scheme as the decisive innovation.
What Is "Modern" in the Relationship between the Individual and Mass Consciousness That individuals have this highly oblique access to a form of human life does not save society from the Marxist criticism that there is ―a class of laborers who live only so long as they find work, and who find work only so long as their labor produces capital.‖10 The difference now is that the fight to find work is a fight to obtain money for discretionary spending. No such thing as discretionary funds existed for Marx's proletariat, but for the modern equivalent of the proletariat, sustenance is a guarantee. Our method for understanding the experience of the self now revolves around the return of the commodity to the worker, and the commodity has always been the object of discretionary spending. For Marx's proletariat, the commodity existed perfectly outside of the individual worker's reach, but could enter the mass consciousness as an ideal, a prognostication, or what have you. The modern working class is fully capable of obtaining commodities, and therefore each individual is capable of interacting with the productions of the mass consciousness he participates in. We might consider the relative ubiquity of discretionary spending (the five-cent silent films of the Great Depression is a worthy example) as a solidification of the oblique relationship between individual and mass consciousness. Discretionary spending puts in the hands of the people the car whose door must be slammed shut, and allows commodities to make ―gestures precise and brutal, and with them men. It expels from movements all hesitation, deliberation, civility. It subjects them to the implacable, as it were ahistorical demands of objects.‖ The modern situation is that which makes the oblique relationship between individual and mass consciousness solid, and subjects the individual to the state of mind of the mass directly, and as we shall see, violently. It is not only the new role of discretionary spending that brings us into the modern era, but also that category of the accidents of technology that have to do with the reproduction of me-
dia. The relationship between individual and mass consciousness is not a product of reproduction technology, but is rather made into a two-way relationship where it had once been nearly onesided. Concerning this change, Benjamin wrote, ―When Marx undertook his analysis of the capitalist mode of production, this mode was in its infancy.... It has taken more than half a century for the change in the conditions of production to be manifested in all areas of culture.‖11 The change congruent to industrial production seen in culture is a more direct conditioning of, and reacting to, the desires of the masses. Those who control vast capital, those who have the capacity to systematize the architectonics of life, typify their commodities in mass-production, and in doing so, force the typification of the desires of mass consciousness. Remember again that the commodity returns to the worker as a part of his self-experience through mass consciousness: in this circumstance, the destruction of the unique thing is welcome. There is a ―passionate concern for overcoming each thing's uniqueness by assimilating it as a reproduction.‖12 The worker is still a species being as far as he receives his humanity through mass consciousness. This means that the individual can only benefit from a commodity abstractly as long as the species, mass consciousness here, benefits from it directly, or else not at all. A work of art then, as an authentic, one-of-a-kind piece, will rarely reach the working individual, unless it is stripped of its authenticity, and made available to the whole consciousness. It is because Coca-Cola is readily accessible that we can incorporate it into our understanding of our species, and thereby ourselves, even if we, as particular individuals, have by chance never enjoyed Coca-Cola. We have seen that every working individual at once participates in two different relationships. The first relationship is between individual and mass consciousness, and the second is between individual and labor. The experiences of these two relationships are the two sides of what Benjamin calls the "dialectic of flanerie.‖ He writes that, ―on the one side, the man …feels himself viewed by all and sundry as a true suspect and, on the other side, the man …is utterly undiscoverable, the hidden
man.‖13 The first side is the experience of the relationship between one‘s self and mass consciousness. The experience of this relationship becomes more intense as the reactions of the arbiters of architectonic systemization, the holders of private property, to the desires of mass consciousness become more directly determined by mass consciousness. This increase in directness is a necessary by-product of advances in reproduction technology. Reproduction technology necessarily proliferates its own functionality, so that an insignificant piece of information out of thousands will acquire the preference of mass consciousness, and that piece of information, as a result of its preference, will proliferate throughout reproducible media. Here is an extreme example consequence of Benjamin‘s technological reproduction thesis: it is for this reason that "memes" exist on the Internet.* On the Internet, which we might recognize as the absolute height of reproduction technology, everything that has ever been said is catalogued. Any phrase ever spoken there can be proliferated throughout the internet at the will of a single person. If a phrase is somehow preferred by the mass consciousness, then it becomes a ―meme,‖ because all of the Internet's users will proliferate it as an acceptable component of language. In this extreme example, we see the import of Benjamin‘s statement, that ―when Marx undertook his analysis of the capitalist mode of production, this mode was in its infancy.... It has taken more than half a century for the change in the conditions of production to be manifested in all areas of culture,‖ has been fully played-out. Double estrangement allows the commodity, disconnected from the estranged labor that created it, to be produced by anything so long as the requirement of mass-production is met. Double estrangement also causes the typification of commercial desires. With the Internet, the identity between producer of content and consumer of content accelerates the becoming of the identity between the typification of content and the desire of the individual. More simply put, either mass consciousness comes closer to ―awakening,‖ or individual consciousness comes closer to ―sleep.‖ To determine which would be the topic of another, lengthier paper on the topic of modern ubiquitous digital media,
but suffice it to say here that Benjamin correctly determined the correct direction of interpretation for Marxâ€˜s preliminary studies of capitalist political economy. Conclusion Marxâ€˜s species being theory restricted him to a conception of estranged labor in which the commodity could not return to its conceptual producer in order to determine his architectonic experience of himself. Benjamin, convinced that the commodity must in some way determine the architectonic systemization of the individual, needed to reconcile this determination with Marxâ€˜s species being theory. His conception of separate mass and individual consciousnesses, mediated with each other through the commodity, allowed him to reconcile the return of the commodity to the individual as a source for architectonic systemization with the concept of the species being. The individual, even if he exists outside of the realm of immediate labor relations, still creates the commodity that he receives as a consumer and as an individual in mediation with the mass consciousness.
Notes Theodor Adorno, Minima Moralia: Reflections from Damaged Life, trans. E. F. N. Jephcott (London: Verso Books, 2005), 40. 2 Walter Benjamin, The Arcades Project, trans. Howard Eiland & Kevin McLaughlin, ed. Rolf Tiedemann, (Cambridge: Belknap Press, 2002), 211. 3 Karl Marx & Frederic Engles, Economic and Philosophic Manuscripts of 1844, trans. Martin Milligan (New York: Prometheus Books, 1988), 75. 4 Ibid., 76. 5 Ibid., 86. 6 Walter Benjamin, The Arcades Project, trans. Howard Eiland & Kevin McLaughlin, ed. Rolf Tiedemann, (Cambridge: Belknap Press, 2002), 652. Benjamin cites this quotation as being from ‗Der historische Materialismus: Die Fruhschriften, ed. Landshut and Mayer (Leeipzig), vol. 1, pp. 361-362 (―National-okonomie und Philosophie‖). 7 Ibid., 389. 8 Ibid., 63. 9 Ibid., 417. 10 Karl Marx & Frederick Engles, The Communist Manifesto, ed. Phil Gasper (Chicago: Haymarket Books, 2005), 49. 11 Walter Benjamin, ―The Work of Art in the Age of its Mechanical Reproducibility,‖ Walter Benjamin: Selected Writings Vol. 4, ed. Howard Eiland & Michael W. Jennings, trans. Edmund Jephcott (Cambridge: Belknap Press, 2006), 251, 2. 12 Ibid., 255. 13 Walter Benjamin, The Arcades Project, trans. Howard Eiland & Kevin McLaughlin, ed. Rolf Tiedemann, (Cambridge: Belknap Press, 2002), 420. 1
* Meme is a word widely accepted on the Internet that refers to a word, phrase, or image that functions to express an idea. Memes differ from normal words, phrases, or images used for expression because they originate from specific events rather than evolving from language. For example, the phrase "NINTENDO SIXTY-FOUR!" became a meme after an Internet user posted a video on youtube.com of his son opening a Christmas present containing a Nintendo 64 video game system. The child in the video displayed an unreasonable, perhaps frightening amount of joy at receiving the gift. The aforementioned phrase now no longer has any connection with an electronic device in many circles of the Internet, but instead expresses unreasonable joy. For example: ―Why did he go all NINTENDO SIXTY-FOUR! over that?‖ Works Cited Adorno, Theodor. Minima Moralia: Reflections on Damaged Life. Translated by E. F. N. Jephcott. London: Verso Books, 2005. Benjamin, Walter. Arcades Project, The. Translated by Howard Eiland and Kevin McLaughlin. Edited by Rolf Tiedemann. Cambridge: Belknap Press, 2002. Benjamin, Walter. Walter Benjamin: Selected Writings. ―The Work of Art in the Age of its Technological Reproducibility.‖ Translated by Edmund Jephcott. Edited by Howard Eiland and Michael W. Jennings. Cambridge: Belknap Press, 2006. Marx, Karl and Frederick Engles. Communist Manifesto, The. Edited by Phil Gasper. Chicago: Haymarket Books, 2005. Marx, Karl and Frederick Engles. Economic and Philosophic Manuscripts of 1844. Translated by Martin Milligan. New York: Prometheus Books, 1988.
Time and Consciousness: A Phenomenological View
Time and Consciousness: A Phenomenological View By Robert Osborne
uestions regarding the nature of time abound in Western philosophy. By asking them, we seek to clarify our knowledge and intuitions about an important aspect of our conscious experience. In this paper, I will critique Sydney Shoemaker‘s well-known argument for the objective and empirical nature of time in order to show that time is instead phenomenologically ideal, that is, that time is generated, and its reality constituted, by a certain mode of our conscious, subjective experience. I. The Problem of Time We often ask ―Does time exist?‖ or ―Is time real?‖ This question is certainly worth asking, but requires a fair bit of clarification. What do we mean by exist and real? When we pose the question ―Does time exist?‖ what are we really asking? Without clarification, the question can on its face seem absurd—of course time exists. We use it to measure the movements of the celestial
Robert Osborne attends Wheaton College in Massachusetts and is set to graduate in the spring of 2011 with a Philosophy major and minors in Religion and Psychology. Currently, Osborne‘s strongest philosophical interests are in the philosophy of mind, theories of ontological antirealism and epistemological instrumentalism, the philosophy of language, and the philosophy of physics. After Wheaton, he plans to attend grad school to study German idealism, focusing mainly on Kant and Hegel. His favorite philosophy quote comes from Kant‘s Critique of Pure Reason:: ―It is the duty of philosophy to destroy the illusions which had their origin in misconceptions, whatever darling hopes and valued expectations may be ruined by its explanations.‖
bodies; we depend on it to organize our days and get to places when we need to be there; we age and use it to keep track of that aging. Furthermore, we all have the vivid subjective experience of time—of earlier and later, and of past, present, and future. So it seems clear from this evidence that time does exist. But a coherent question about the existence of time surely mustn‘t ignore all these instances, so we must take the question to be getting at something else.1 The question then must become ―Does time exist as something more than, and outside of, our subjective experience of it?‖ That is, are objects, events, and beings really in time; is temporality an objective, inherent property of reality? There have been numerous responses to this question in the history of philosophy, including many contemporary ones. In his famous essay ―The Unreality of Time,‖ J.M.E. McTaggart argues that time does not exist, indeed cannot exist as we, as Western thinkers, have often conceived it. However, it is important to note that McTaggart only argues for the conceptual incoherence of time—he is not claiming that our subjective experience of time does not exist, only that ―[w]henever we perceive anything in time—which is the only way in which, in our present experience, we do perceive things—we are perceiving it more or less as it really is not.‖2 This is a rather explicitly Kantian view, it seems, supposing that time is a necessary aspect of our experience, but that it does not apply to things as they really are in themselves. But it is important to recognize, as is obvious, that even if we take McTaggart to have proven the conceptual nonexistence of time (as I do), we continue to have temporally ordered experiences. Despite the apparent logical dismissal of time, our subjective experience of it does not simply cease.3 The dynamics of this subjective experience, and what it tells us about the deeper nature of time, is what I will concern myself with in this paper. II. Change Without Time I will now consider Shoemaker‘s account of time. In his paper ―Time Without Change,‖ Shoemaker argues for the con-
Time and Consciousness: A Phenomenological View
cept of ―empty time,‖ claiming that the existence of ―changeless intervals‖ could be an empirically verifiable phenomenon. This is an important instance where time is thought to be an objective phenomenon, and its ―reality‖ is taken to depend on its having some external manifestation beyond our minds or subjective experience. First, let us examine Shoemaker‘s thought experiment and his argument for the possibility of changeless intervals. Shoemaker asks us to imagine a world, quite different from our own, which is divided into three regions: A, B, and C. Inhabitants of the world are able to pass between the regions and can observe much of what is occurring in a neighboring region. However, periodically there occurs a ―local freeze‖ in one of the regions, during which all processes and activity in that region cease entirely. The inhabitants of the other, non-frozen regions are able to observe a frozen region as such, but they are unable to pass into it. Shoemaker then asks us to imagine that the inhabitants of the world discover through the use of clocks in the unfrozen regions that the local freezes always last the same amount of time, namely one year. Additionally, through further measurement they discover that the freezes occur at regular intervals—every third year in region A, every fourth year in region B, and every fifth year in region C. And here we come to the crux of Shoemaker‘s argument: with these intervals in mind, the inhabitants are able to induce that every sixtieth year there will occur a ―total freeze,‖ in which all three regions will simultaneously be frozen for a year. And since the inhabitants of each region have observed freezes in the other regions, Shoemaker believes that they would have good reason to think that this total freeze does indeed occur. He admits that one could argue that, since no one would ever observe a total freeze, the freeze every sixtieth year is simply skipped and does not occur. However, in an appeal to Occam‘s Razor, Shoemaker prefers his simpler theory, which supposes the occurrence of a total freeze, to the more complex explanation for the anomalous non-occurrence of a total freeze. Shoemaker then employs a modified theory of causality, ―action at a temporal distance,‖ to explain how his total freezes
begin and end, arguing that the very passage of time itself could have causal efficacy.4 He thinks that these total freezes give us reason to believe in the existence of changeless intervals, and therefore in the empirical and objective nature of time. Whether the concept of changeless intervals has any empirical content or is nonsensical depends largely on whether we conceptualize time as objective or subjective. The very fact that Shoemaker thinks that changeless intervals can occur reveals that he considers time to be an objective phenomenon. However, there is a problem with this conception. Consider that time is measured through change: the ticking of the hands of a clock, the movement of the sun, the decay of an atomic element, even the flow of our own thoughts. Change makes time intelligible. But then, how is time without change possible? I argue that it isn‘t. Shoemaker‘s term ―changeless interval‖ refers to a discrete, measurable period of time that has a specific beginning and end. And yet, though the beginning of such an interval would have to be preceded by a change, Shoemaker gives the passage of time itself the power to effect change by ending the interval. Shoemaker here is conflating ―change‖ and ―passage of time‖; he is giving the ―passage of time‖ the causal efficacy of ―change.‖ In this way, the passage of time becomes change—time has not escaped change. The only reason it may seem otherwise in Shoemaker‘s account is that his world functions in a manner radically different from our own. So, without change, the concept of a discrete ―changeless‖ interval becomes unintelligible, and therefore unverifiable. His three zones make it conveniently possible for unfrozen inhabitants to verify a changeless interval occurring in another zone: there is still change to measure time outside the changeless zone. But given that our world does not have zones, and therefore only the occurrence of a total freeze is conceivably possible for us, changeless intervals must be devoid of empirical content. From this we can see that Shoemaker‘s argument tells us nothing about the nature of our own world or the concepts concerning it. Now, consider that we start with the other possible assumption, namely that time is subjective, and non-empirical.
Time and Consciousness: A Phenomenological View
Consider Kant‘s characterization of time as an a priori ‗pure intuition‘ of the mind, transcendentally prior to experience, allowing us to have that experience at all, and through it, to make sense of the world.5 I assert that this conception of time is more plausible than an objectivist view, since the only real knowledge or evidence we can have about time is our own subjective, intuitive experience of it. It is important to note that, on the subjectivist view, time has no objective manifestation. Indeed, it does not follow from the propositions that change is objective, and that change is a reference point in the (subjective) measurement of time, that time too is objective. Were one to attribute objectivity to time on the basis of these premises, he or she would succumb to what Kant called the Transcendental Illusion: ―And this [the transcendental illusion] leads us to regard the subjective necessity of a certain connection of our concepts for the benefit of the understanding as an objective necessity in the determination of things in themselves.‖6 Kant here is emphasizing that necessary forms of epistemology do not reflect necessary forms of ontology: just because X is necessarily understood as Y does not necessarily mean that X is Y. On this formulation, just because time is, through its empirical measurement, necessarily understood as objective does not necessarily mean that time is objective. So, under this conception, time would exist inside the mind of the conscious observer, not as a quality or property of the external world. If we subject this theory to Occam‘s Razor, as Shoemaker did with his theory concerning the total freeze, we find that it is preferable to an objectivist account, as it posits only one entity, subjective time, as opposed to two: objective time and our subjective experience of it. So, we can see from this view that if change were to stop, time would cease as well, since the change in our mental states and our representations, i.e., the ―succession of appearances,‖7 is what the pure intuition of time is arranging and apprehending.8 With change gone and nothing to apprehend, the pure intuition of time would be empty, and our subjective experience of time would cease. But now let us consider a thought-experiment counter to Shoemaker‘s. Imagine a world metaphysically no different from
our own, but a world in which every person has mastered the art of meditation. These people have all been brought up in the art of contemplative practice, and are so adept at its use that they have the ability to completely stop the flow of their rational, thinking mental states.9 This can be achieved in many ways, such as by focusing on oneâ€˜s breathing, which would assist in the gradual emptying of oneâ€˜s mind. So, let us imagine then that there is a global festival held on this world every year, during which all the inhabitants enter into a meditative state at the same time, lasting for an agreed-upon interval of change, measured by (the ticking of) a clock. Once in this state, each individual is able to still the intentional functioning of his or her mind. Each would then experience a pure, objectless consciousness.10 In this state, the pure intuition of time would cease to apprehend any successions, for there would be no objects, internal or external, to represent. And with the cessation of the intuitionâ€˜s operation, the subjective experience of time would fade and eventually disappear.11 With every inhabitant of this world in an objectless conscious state simultaneously, the intersubjective experience of temporality would vanish, and time would effectively stop. 12 And yet, outside the stilled minds of the populace, change would continue. Rivers would continue to flow, clouds would form and disperse, plants would photosynthesize, and the hearts of the meditating inhabitants would continue to beat. And yet all this would occur outside of time. Change without time. But how is awareness, i.e., evidence, of an objectless conscious state possible without time or intentionality as a frame of reference? That is, how are the meditators to verify, upon reflection, that they did indeed experience an a-temporal state, during which change nevertheless continued? We may look to consciousness considerations within the study of the philosophy of mind to address these questions. In his book Mysticism, Mind, Consciousness, Robert K. C. Forman examines the nature of what he calls the pure consciousness event (PCE).13 He argues from his theory of knowledge-by-identity that such an objectless conscious state as the PCE is an instance of non-intentional experience. Knowledge-by-identity is formed when the subject knows some-
Time and Consciousness: A Phenomenological View
thing by virtue of being it.14 When one is in contact with one‘s own consciousness, the subject is not distinct from the object: pure consciousness experiences itself—subject and object collapse in on one another. As such, knowledge-by-identity is a reflexive or self-referential form of knowing.15 Forman underlines the sui generis nature of knowledge-by-identity: To assume that we know our own consciousness in the same way we know another person, an apple, or even facets of our own personality would be to commit the fallacy of the displaced object. Our familiarity with our own consciousness is so intimate, so without seams, that we have no way of teasing out its constituent parts. In knowing it we just have an immediate sense of it and of its continuity through what we know (intellectually) as past and present.16 This intimate acquaintance— what I have called ―knowledge-by-identity‖—should be distinguished in epistemological structure from all other knowledge.17 As my thought-experiment shows, the mind‘s ability to alter its own conscious states would allow the meditating inhabitants to experience an objectless state of which they could be fully aware. The awareness that a consciousness has of itself is not temporally constructed; ―[r]ather, awareness per se simply ties past and present together as one single continuous awareness. That is, being aware transcends time.‖18 The concept of time without change as presented by Shoemaker falls short in both its objective and subjective interpretations, and his thought-experiment fails through incommensurability. Nevertheless, Shoemaker was correct in suggesting that time and change are not necessarily coextensive. Through a reexamination of the concepts of ―time‖ and ―change,‖ and their relation to pure consciousness, it seems clear that what is possible is not time without change, but rather change without time.
III. Conclusion I have endeavored to show that time is phenomenologically ideal. From my examination of Shoemakerâ€˜s argument, we can see that time is not a typical empirical concept, and that it is unintelligible without change. And through my thought experiment, it has been shown that change without time is possible, due to the nature of pure consciousness. From this, it can be concluded that time is not an independently existing entity or feature of the external world, but rather a phenomenological artifact arising from a particular mode of subjective experience. Time is a function of rational consciousness. It may be argued, contra this line of reasoning, that time could still be an objective feature of the world, that when we alter our consciousness and cease the apprehension of successions, we are simply cutting ourselves off from observing the time inherent in the world (and that this is why our experience of time stops). It may be replied that the fact that we continue to have an experience of time when we close our eyes means that time is not something inherent in the external world, and that the flow of our mental states constitutes a succession that gives rise to subjective time.19 Furthermore, the observation that the subjective experience of time ceases altogether when we remove the succession of our mental states shows that time is not something inherent in the mental world, since we are always observing our own consciousness, though not always as a succession. Rather, time emerges from a certain mode of experience, one where things are experienced in a certain way (as successions), and therefore as being a certain way, namely temporal. And as such, in response to our orienting question, time arises from the form of one type of our subjective experience, and it does not exist as something more than or outside of it. Time is not a thing to be experienced, but rather a way of experiencing things.
Time and Consciousness: A Phenomenological View
Notes 1. This may seem entirely obvious, but it is of prime importance in philosophy to clarify what it is we are discussing. I do not doubt that much time and effort has been wasted in debate due to the failure to recognize this distinction. 2. J.M.E. McTaggart, ―The Unreality of Time,‖ in The Philosophy of Time, eds. Robin Le Poidevin and Murray MacBeath, Oxford Readings in Philosophy (Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press, 1993), 34. 3. This may suggest that we are at least not purely rational beings, and that experience is not subject to all the vagaries of reason. 4. Sydney Shoemaker, ―Time Without Change,‖ in The Philosophy of Time, eds. Robin Le Poidevin and Murray MacBeath, Oxford Readings in Philosophy (Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press, 1993), 75-76. 5. Immanuel Kant, Critique of Pure Reason, trans. and ed. Marcus Weigelt (1781; London: Penguin Books, 2007), A 31 = B 46. 6. Ibid., A 297 = B 353. 7. Ibid., A 31 = B 46. 8. I would like, here, to note that the pure intuition of time is importantly prior to the experience of change and succession, and so does not arise from it, but rather makes it possible as such. I do not claim that the pure intuition itself would cease to be altogether; I only suggest that without the content supplied by the apprehension of change and succession, the pure intuition of time would be empty and our subjective intuitive experience of time would cease. 9. This proposition is really not so unbelievable, certainly not as fantastical as Shoemaker‘s thought experiment. Hundreds of millions of people have been making contemplative practice a foundational aspect of their worldview for millennia. That the mind is capable of acts and states far different from the everyday discursive thinking mode is certain, and the expansion of this ability has been the basis for religious and mystical beliefs for longer than Western civilization has existed. The naïve belief that the ―I‖ and consciousness ceases to be when rational
thought stops surely descends from outdated Cartesian rationalism. Indeed, people far less proficient in meditation than Zen masters and Yogis are able to reach such a state. I myself have experienced it, if only for a few moments. I have experienced meditation periods of half an hour that have seemed to pass in five minutes. We can think of this, in Kantian terms, as the pure intuition of time breaking down in the absence of thoughts and objects to represent as successions. 10. This opposes the well-known views of Brentano and Husserl, and the popular view in contemporary analytic philosophy of mind, that all conscious mental states are necessarily directed at an object (the intentional object). 11. See n. 7. 12. Let us imagine, for the sake of the thought-experiment, that there are no animals or any other sentient creatures on the planet for whose subjective experience of time we must account. 13. Robert K. C. Forman, Mysticism, Mind, Consciousness (Albany: State University of New York Press, 1999), 59. Forman is retired Professor of Religion and Philosophy at Hunter College and founder of the peer-reviewed Journal of Consciousness Studies. 14. Ibid. 15. Ibid. 16. Parentheses Formanâ€˜s. 17. Forman, 127. 18. Ibid., 122. 19. It is also important to consider the fact that there are meditative states of altered consciousness in which the individual continues to move and observe the external world visually, but is so adept at controlling their mental state that they also have no subjective experience of time. Those capable of such states are considerably rare, but they likewise demonstrate that time cannot be an objective feature of the external world.
Time and Consciousness: A Phenomenological View
Works Cited Forman, Robert K.C. Mysticism, Mind, Consciousness. Albany: State University of New York Press, 1999. Kant, Immanuel. Critique of Pure Reason. Translated and edited by Marcus Weigelt. 1781. London: Penguin Books, 2007. McTaggart, J.M.E. ―The Unreality of Time.‖ In The Philosophy of Time, edited by Robin Le Poidevin and Murray MacBeath, 23-34. Oxford Readings in Philosophy. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press, 1993. Shoemaker, Sydney. ―Time Without Change.‖ In The Philosophy of Time, edited by Robin Le Poidevin and Murray MacBeath, 63-79. Oxford Readings in Philosophy. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press, 1993.
Episteme Denison University’s Undergraduate Journal of Philosophy announces the scheduled publication of Volume XXII, May 2011
CALL FOR PAPERS Episteme is a student-run journal that aims to recognize and encourage excellence in undergraduate philosophy by providing examples of some of the best work currently being done in undergraduate philosophy programs. Episteme is published under the auspices of Denison University‘s Department of Philosophy. Episteme will consider papers written by undergraduate students in any area of philosophy. Papers are evaluated according to the following criteria: quality of research, depth of philosophic inquiry, creativity, original insight and clarity. Submissions to be considered for the twenty-second volume (May 2011) should adhere to the following stipulations: 1. Be a maximum of 5,000 words, a minimum of 1,800 words. 2. Combine research and original insight. 3. Include a cover sheet that provides the following information: author‘s name, mailing address (current and permanent), email address, telephone number, college or university name, title of submission and word count. 4. Include a works cited page in the Chicago Manual of Style format Use endnotes rather than footnotes. 5. To allow for a blind review process, the author‘s name should not appear on the submission itself. 6. Submissions should be sent electronically, formatted for Microsoft Word. Please send papers and cover sheets to email@example.com. Rolling submissions accepted. Submissions to be considered for May 2011 publication must be received by midnight, Sunday, November 14, 2010. Questions should be submitted to the Editors (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Published on Jul 21, 2011