Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Naturalism and second-order experiences

My colleague Todd Buras has inspired this argument:

  1. A veridical experience of an event is caused by the event.
  2. Sometimes a human being is veridically experiencing that she has some experience E at all the times at which E is occurring.
  3. If (1) and (2), then there is intra-mental simultaneous event causation.
  4. If naturalism about the human mind is true, there is no intra-mental simultaneous causation.
  5. So, naturalism about the human mind is not true.
In this argument, (4) is a posteriori: if naturalism is true, mental activity occurs at best at the speed of light. I am sceptical about (2) myself.


IanS said...

I too am sceptical about (2).

To be an example of (2), the first and second order experiences would have to be both clearly distinct and clearly coincident. This seems a tall order. Maybe you could suggest some possible examples.

Second-order experience is in any case problematic. I’m stopped at a red traffic light. The first-order experience is seeing it as red. The second-order experience would be experiencing seeing it as red. Are these really separate and distinguishable experiences?

entirelyuseless said...

I don't know of any experience where we always reflect on that experience whenever we are having it. And even if that did appear to be the case (which it does not), it could still turn out to be true that the reflection did not exactly coincide in time.

Alexander R Pruss said...

You might think it's impossible to be in pain without being aware of being in pain.

Heath White said...

I think quite generally, our commonsense judgments are no good at distinguishing "simultaneous" from "separated by the speed of light".

Also, I have worries like those above about what "experiencing having an experience" is. That would be consciousness of my own consciousness, and I'm not sure I have any such thing.

Alexander R Pruss said...


Well, at least normally, if I am in pain, I can tell that I am in pain. How can I tell that I am in pain? Presumably by sensing that I am in pain. So, at least normally, if I am in pain, I sense that I am in pain.

Michael Gonzalez said...

Pruss: Being in pain just IS sensing pain, isn't it? I agree with Heath, it's really hard to see what having a pain would be if we "couldn't tell" that we were in pain. For example, if I'm so distracted when you prick me with a needle that I have no response, that doesn't mean I was in pain but didn't realize it. It means I was never in pain at all.