Volume 38, 2021

Thirty Years of ProtoSociology

Joseph Levine
Pages 15-34

The Metaphysics and Epistemology of Acquaintance

Phenomenal consciousness comprises both qualitative character and subjectivity. The former provides the proprietary contents of conscious experiences – determining what they are like – and the latter is that feature that renders those contents “for the subject”, so there is something it is like at all. I have developed a theory of consciousness as “acquaintance” which I dub the “Cartesian Theater” model, on which there is a fundamental psycho-physical law that takes the output of cognitive and perceptual systems as input and yields overall conscious experience as output. This model entails epiphenomenalism regarding phenomenal properties, which, I argue, presents a specific problem regarding our epistemic position with respect to this very theory. I develop a line of thought that seeks to disarm this challenge, relying to a large extent on a certain way of understanding both subjectivity itself and also cognitive phenomenology.