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The Southern Journal of Philosophy

The First-Person Perspective in Philosophical Inquiry

Volume 45, Issue Supplement, 2007
Spindel Conference September 28–30, 2006

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1. The Southern Journal of Philosophy: Volume > 45 > Issue: Supplement
Tom Nenon Editor’s Introduction
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2. The Southern Journal of Philosophy: Volume > 45 > Issue: Supplement
Charles Siewert Who’s Afraid of Phenomenological Disputes?
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There are general aspects of mental life it is reasonable to believe do not vary even when subjects vary in their first-person judgments about them. Such lack of introspective agreement gives rise to “phenomenological disputes.” These include disputes over how to describe the perspectival character of perception, the phenomenal character of perceptual recognition and conceptual thought, and the relation between consciousness and self-consciousness. Some supposethat when we encounter such disputes we have no choice but to abandon first-person reflection in philosophy of mind in favor of a third-person methodology. Such reaction is unwarranted. A reasoned assessment of phenomenological disputes that relies on first-person reflection is explained, illustrated, and advocated.
3. The Southern Journal of Philosophy: Volume > 45 > Issue: Supplement
Michael D. Barber The First-Person: Participation in Argument and the Intentional Relationship
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This paper supports Charles Siewert’s criticism of those criticizing first-person approaches because they disagree by arguing that such critics adopt a noncommittal, third-person observer standpoint on the debates themselves before recommending only third-person natural scientific approaches to mind and that they oversimplify when they portray philosophy as contentious and natural science as ruled by consensus. Further, a complete account of first-person intentionality in terms of acts and their correlative objects in their temporal and bodily interrelationships make it possible to defend Siewert’s theses: that thought is phenomenally conscious, that there is a phenomenal consciousness beyond sensing, that the Protean view that equates change in a shape’s appearance with an apparent change in the shape of what appears is incorrect, and that Hume’s two-dimensional phenomenalism is mistaken.
4. The Southern Journal of Philosophy: Volume > 45 > Issue: Supplement
John J. Drummond Personal Perspectives
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This paper attempts to clarify how one might understand philosophy as necessarily involving both third-person and first-person perspectives. It argues, first, that philosophy must incorporate the first-person perspective in order to provide an adequate account of consciousness and the prereflective awareness of the self and, second, in opposition to Dennett’s hetero-phenomenology that this incorporation is possible only within a transcendental perspective. The paper also attempts to meet the challenge of those who claim that the notion of the self—and along with it, the idea of first-person perspective—is dependent upon a second-person perspecive. It argues that the second-person challenge depends upon a sense of “self ” different from that at stake in the first-person perspective operative in prereflective self-awareness.
5. The Southern Journal of Philosophy: Volume > 45 > Issue: Supplement
Daniel Conway Reply to Drummond
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Drawing creatively on the resources of transcendental philosophy, John Drummond makes a persuasive case for the importance of the first-person perspective in philosophical explanations of consciousness.
6. The Southern Journal of Philosophy: Volume > 45 > Issue: Supplement
John Tienson What Does a Deceived Cartesian Meditator Know?
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7. The Southern Journal of Philosophy: Volume > 45 > Issue: Supplement
Brie Gertler Tienson’s Challenge to Content Externalism
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In this commentary, I examine John Tienson’s argument that reflection on the epistemic situation of the Cartesian meditator suggests that intentional content is narrow. My aim is to show how his argument is closely connected to another prominent objection to externalism—the McKinsey argument.
8. The Southern Journal of Philosophy: Volume > 45 > Issue: Supplement
Dan Zahavi Subjectivity and the First-Person Perspective
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Phenomenology and analytical philosophy share a number of common concerns, and it seems obvious that analytical philosophy can learn from phenomenology, just as phenomenology can profit from an exchange with analytical philosophy. But although I think it would be a pity to miss the opportunity for dialogue that is currently at hand, I will in the following voice some caveats. More specifically, I wish to discuss two issues that complicate what might otherwise seem like rather straightforward interaction. The first issue concerns the question of whether the current focus on the first-person perspective might have a negative side-effect by giving us a slanted view of what subjectivity amounts to. The second issue concerns the question of whether superficial similarities in the descriptive findings might actually conceal some rather deep-rooted differences in the systematic use these findings serve.
9. The Southern Journal of Philosophy: Volume > 45 > Issue: Supplement
Amie L. Thomasson In What Sense Is Phenomenology Transcendental?
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Dan Zahavi raises doubts about the prospects for combining phenomenological and analytical approaches to the mind, based chiefly on the claim that phenomenology is a form of transcendental philosophy. I argue that there are two ways in which one might understand the claim that phenomenology is transcendental: (1) as the claim that the methods of phenomenology essentially involve addressing transcendental questions or making transcendental arguments, or (2) as the claim that phenomenology is committed to substantive theses of antirealism and the like, which are sometimes thought to follow from atranscendental approach. I argue that while (1) is appropriate, it in no way leads to conflicts with analytic work in philosophy of mind. Moreover, adopting this method and practicing phenomenology in no way commits us to claims of type (2) that might be thought to conflict with common assumptions in analytic philosophy of mind.
10. The Southern Journal of Philosophy: Volume > 45 > Issue: Supplement
Nicholas Georgalis First-Person Methodologies: A View From Outside the Phenomenological Tradition
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It is argued that results from first-person methodologies are unacceptable for incorporation into a fundamental philosophical theory of the mind unless they satisfy a necessary condition, which I introduce and defend. I also describe a narrow, nonphenomenal, first-person concept that I call minimal content that satisfies this condition. Minimal content is irreducible to third-person concepts, but it is required for an adequate account of intentionality, representation, and language. Consequently, consciousness is implicated in these as strongly—but differently—than it is in our phenomenal states. Minimal content provides a foundation for an objective philosophical theory of the mind and language. (Some support for these claims is given here. They are extensively argued for in my The Primacy of the Subjective.)
11. The Southern Journal of Philosophy: Volume > 45 > Issue: Supplement
Charles W. Harvey Comments on Nicholas Georgalis’s “First-Person Methodologies”
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Three problems are raised for Nicholas Georgalis’s recent work: (1) a problem with regard to the supposed noninferential knowledge of minimal content, (2) a problem with the “necessary condition” Georgalis stipulates for the legitimate application of a first-person methodology to a science of the mind, and (3) a problem with regard to denying phenomenal content to intentional acts.
12. The Southern Journal of Philosophy: Volume > 45 > Issue: Supplement
Nicholas Georgalis PostScript
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13. The Southern Journal of Philosophy: Volume > 45 > Issue: Supplement
Susanna Siegel How Can We Discover the Contents of Experience?
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How can we discover the contents of experience? I argue that neither introspection alone nor naturalistic theories of experience content are sufficient to discover these contents. I propose another method of discovery: the method of phenomenal contrast. I defend the method against skeptics who doubt that the contents of experience can be discovered, and I explain how the method may be employed even if one denies that experiences have contents.
14. The Southern Journal of Philosophy: Volume > 45 > Issue: Supplement
Joseph Thomas Tolliver Sensing, Perceiving, and Thinking: On the Method of Phenomenal Contrast
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I apply the Method of Phenomenal Contrast to examples involving aesthetic experience and sensory illusion. While the method can provide reasons to prefer one form of content hypothesis over others, it may be of no help in answering substantive questions about the nature and structure of such content. I suggest that successful application of the method can leave us with a difficult question. Why would a sensory system have the function of representing a property that it cannotdetect?
15. The Southern Journal of Philosophy: Volume > 45 > Issue: Supplement
Merold Westphal The Prereflective Cogito as Contaminated Opacity
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The “I think” that accompanies all my intentional acts is the prereflective cogito. It can be declined in the nominative, genitive, dative, and accusative cases: nominative because I am given to myself as a subject, genitive because each experiential awareness is mine, dative because the content of each awareness is given to me, and accusative because even as subject I am always given to myself as the object of the look and address of another. But it is a mistake to think ofconsciousness as “pure” by virtue of the formality of this structure. Even at the transcendental level, consciousness is contaminated by contingency and particularly in ways that render it opaque to itself in its relation to nature, society, and God.
16. The Southern Journal of Philosophy: Volume > 45 > Issue: Supplement
Klaus Erich Kaehler Comments on Merold Westphal’s “The Prereflective Cogito as Contaminated Opacity”
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The intention of my comments is mainly to draw attention to a necessary distinction between that prereflective cogito of post-metaphysical subjectivity that is analysed in Westphal’s paper and the subject of the cogito that can be identified and verified as the very principle of modern philosophy from Descartes to Hegel, namely, as the subject of reason. This means first of all to step back from the conviction, taken as self-evident, that the subject of reason—and thereby the truth claims of that entire philosophical epoch—are illusionary, that is, without any right of their own. Instead we should be ready to ask how it is brought about philosophically that the subject is “shattered,” “humiliated,” “declared forfeit,” etc. My thesis is that post-metaphysical subjectivity with its contaminated opacity can be made understandable in principle out of the endogenous crisis of the fully developed “absolute” subject of reason, if this crisis is carried out and decided as the transformation of the subject from its absolute to its decentered status.