[Report] The 22nd Tokyo Colloquium of Cognitive Philosophy (TCCP)

2 April, 2011 SATO Ryoji

At the 22nd TCCP meeting on October 15th, I gave a talk “Concepts and Ethics of Consciousness.” In the presentation, I have attacked our intuition that phenomenal consciousness is ethically special: only phenomenally conscious creatures are appropriate objects of sympathy.

First, I argued there is no theory of consciousness that can accommodate the intuition and, at the same time, can be exploited in ethical practice. Therefore, the intuition is at least dysfunctional in reality. Then, I proceed to argue even nonconscious mental states are morally important and first-order agency is sufficient for a subject to be an appropriate object of sympathy based on Peter Carruthers’ argument.
In discussion, some people expressed dissatisfaction to Carruthers’ argument in which he relies on thought experiments. Participants simply felt those thought experiments are not persuasive enough to change their intuitions. It is a very difficult issue how much we should rely on intuitions in ethical arguments (or philosophical arguments in general.) One thing I can say is counter-intuitiveness is an almost essential feature of my argument; I suggested abandoning an intuition people are familiar with. My point to call up Carruthers’ argument is to recognize we also have an intuition to the other direction that even nonconscious mental states are ethically important. And together with practical applicability of the intuition that privileges only phenomenal conscious creatures, we should accept Carruthers’ conclusion as a better option.

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