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Language on Holiday and the Philosophy of Mind: A Linguistically Sensitive Approach to Phenomenal Consciousness, Pain, and Psychological Predicates



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Owesen, Erlend 


The aim of this thesis is to contribute to debates about three topics in the philosophy of mind: phenomenal consciousness, pain, and the extension of psychological predicates. Chapter 1 outlines my metaphilosophical views and gives a roadmap to the thesis. Chapter 2 argues that the ‘what-it’s-like’ phrase as it is characteristically used in the literature on phenomenal consciousness has a technical meaning. I argue that this has the consequence that the phrase says nothing informative about phenomenal consciousness and that lay people’s use of the phrase does not show that they believe in phenomenal consciousness. Chapter 3 argues that eliminativism about phenomenal consciousness is a view worth taking seriously. First, I clarify the eliminativist position, then I explain its motivation. Finally, I draw on the discussion in chapter 2 and argue that there is no compelling evidence for lay belief in phenomenal consciousness, hence that we are currently not in a position to say whether common sense counts in favour of eliminativism or realism. Chapter 4 addresses the main problem for eliminativism – the problem of explaining why people believe in phenomenality. I discuss four recently proposed theories and conclude that we are currently not in a position to tell which of these is the most promising eliminativist-friendly explanation of belief in phenomenality, but that the potential of (at least some of) these theories confirms the claim that eliminativism is a view worth taking seriously. Chapter 5 defends the Bodily Theory of pain, according to which pains are bodily occurrences located in an extra-cranial body part, which contrasts with the Experiential Theory, according to which pains are experiences located in the mind or brain. Chapter 6 discusses what a defender of the Bodily Theory should say about the pain-in-mouth argument, i.e. the step from (1) There is a pain in my finger, and (2) My finger is in my mouth, to (3) There is a pain in my mouth. Several accounts have been offered to explain why (1)-(3) sounds wrong. In chapter 6 I offer a novel account – the mereological view – that entails the Bodily Theory of pain. Chapter 7 discusses cognitive scientists’ ascription of psychological predicates to the brain, i.e. when cognitive scientists say things like ‘The brain thinks’. I propose the Synecdoche View, according to which the locutions of cognitive scientists are figurative, with ‘the brain’ referring to the human being, such that ‘The brain thinks’ reports the thinking of the human being, not the thinking of the brain. One consequence of this is that the locutions of cognitive scientists offer no reason to believe that psychological predicates extend to brains. Chapter 8 concludes the thesis by offering a speculative error theory, according to which some of my opponents’ views are based on conceptual conflations.





Halina, Marta
Ahmed, Arif


philosophy of mind


Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Awarding Institution

University of Cambridge
Aker Scholarship