We talk with Ned about a second Blockheads (2019) article, Michael Tye’s “Homunculi Heads and Silicon Chips: The Importance of History to Phenomenology,” which provides a variation off of the David Chalmers fading qualia argument (see our ep. 222), plus Ned’s Blockheads response “Fading Qualia: A Response to Michael Tye.”
Ned thinks that someone really could be radically wrong about our phenomenology (like the mid-point case between a qualia-free robot and a normal human who nonetheless displays behavior including verbal reports and beliefs identical to a normal human) and as evidence, points to people with neurological problems who claim to have certain experiences but clearly are not. He uses the “swamp person” (actually reflected in Alan Moore’s Swamp Thing, incidentally) example to argue against Tye’s claim that to be conscious, a creature needs to have a certain history (as opposed to just a certain structure).
After Ned leaves us, Mark, Seth, Dylan, and Wes continue exploring the details uncovered by our interview. What’s the relationship of Ned’s breed of materialism to a very fine-grained materialism? After all, being “matter” is actually still a structural property; even being a certain type of molecule is ultimately structural. Plus, we evaluate Ned’s claim that insects probably don’t have qualia. We consider potential future directions for reading prompted by our Blockheads reading and consider the need for philosophers to know about and speak to current brain science.
Purchase Blockheads!: Essays on Ned Block’s Philosophy of Mind and Consciousness, edited Adam Pautz and Daniel Stoljar. It includes new essays by David Chalmers, Hilary Putnam, Frank Jackson, and many other leading figures in the philosophy of mind discussing.
Watch Ned talk about his current work on the border between perception and cognition on YouTube:
End song: “Your So Dark Sleep/Goodbye” by The Black Watch. Mark interviews singer/songwriter John Andrew Fredrick on Nakedly Examined Music #102. Be sure to go subscribe to Pretty Much Pop: A Culture Podcast, at prettymuchpop.com.
Image by Solomon Grundy.