What-it’s-like talk is technical talk
It is common to characterise phenomenal consciousness as what it is like to be in a mental state. This paper argues that the ‘what-it’s-like’-phrase in this context has a technical meaning, i.e. a meaning for which the association to the relevant expression is peculiar to a theoretical community. The relevant theoretical community is philosophy and some parts of cognitive science, so on this view, only philosophers and cognitive scientists use the ‘what-it’s-like’-phrase in the way that is characteristic in the literature on phenomenal consciousness. This claim has important consequences. Firstly, I argue that the phrase says nothing informative about phenomenal consciousness. Secondly, I argue that the fact that non-philosophers use the phrase is not compelling evidence that they believe in phenomenal consciousness. These claims have further consequences for debates about phenomenal consciousness.
Acknowledgements: Thanks to Arif Ahmed, David Chalmers, Marta Halina, Richard Holton, participants at Oslo Mind Group, and two anonymous referees for comments on earlier versions of this paper. Thanks to Aker Scholarship for financial support.
Funder: Aker Scholarship