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# A Sparse View About The Properties That Objects Phenomenally Look To Have

**A Sparse View About The Properties That Objects Phenomenally **

**Look To Have **

## 1 Phenomenal Looking

In this chapter I identify a certain kind of looking, which I call *phenomenal looking*, and I explore what properties objects phenomenally look to have. I argue that objects phenomenally look to have only colours and positions, and that the colour properties do not include determinables such as being red.

I identify phenomenal looking by arguing for a constraint on it: a constraint that states a necessary condition on a kind of looking. My methodology is similar to that of someone who wishes to identify, say, a particular kind of justification, and does so by identifying a constraint on a particular kind of justification.

The following principle is a preliminary formulation of the constraint:

## The Synchronic

**Phenomenal Character Principle:** Necessarily, for all objects x, y and z, and all

properties F and G, if x looks F to z, y does not look F to z, and y looks G to z, then there is a visual phenomenal difference between the ways that x and y look to z.

I intend to apply the constraint diachronically and across worlds. Therefore the full constraint, the phenomenal character principle, quantifies over times and worlds, and is as follows:

**The Phenomenal Character Principle:** Necessarily, for all objects, x, y and z, all properties F and G, all times t1 and t2, and all worlds w1 and w2, if x looks F to z at t1 in w1, y does not look F to z at t2 in w2, and y looks G to z at t2 in w2, then there is a visual phenomenal difference between the way that x looks to z at t1 in w1 and the way that y looks to z at t2 in w2.

I assume that only one kind of looking satisfies the phenomenal character principle, and I call this *phenomenal looking*. What it means to say that there is a visual phenomenal difference between the ways that two objects, A and B, look to S is that *what it is visually like* for S for A to look the way it does to S is different from what it is visually like for S for B to look to the way it does to S.

The phenomenal character principle is phrased in terms of how things look to *a particular subject*. Sometimes I refer to the properties that objects phenomenally look to have and leave it implicit that there is some particular subject to whom these objects phenomenally look to have the properties in question.

The phenomenal character principle uses the locution ‘an object looks F’, where ‘F’ is to be replaced by an adjective. In English, some properties can be expressed by predicates of the form ‘is + adjective’. For instance, the property of being red can be expressed by the predicate ‘is red’. However, some properties, for instance, the property of being a tomato, are not expressed by predicates of the form ‘is + adjective’. There is no predicate ‘is tomatoey’ which expresses the property of being a tomato.

In order to express the question whether an object can stand in the phenomenal looking relation to the property of being a tomato, we could invent an adjective, ‘tomatoey’, stipulate that being tomatoey is identical with being a tomato, and then ask whether objects can phenomenally look tomatoey. Instead, however, I will simply ask whether an object can phenomenally look* to be a tomato*, or whether an object can phenomenally look to have the property of being a tomato. Phenomenally looking to be an F and phenomenal looking to have the property of being an F obey the same constraint as phenomenally looking F; that is, if an object x phenomenally looks to be F, and another object y does not phenomenally look to be F, but phenomenally looks to be G, then there is a visual phenomenal difference between the ways that x and y phenomenally

look to be. The stronger principle which quantifies over times and worlds also applies to phenomenally looking to be F.

Some philosophers have argued that the expression ‘looks to be’ refers to a more epistemic kind of looking than the expression ‘looks’. However I do not use ‘phenomenally looks to be’ in a different sense from ‘phenomenally looks’; they both obey the same constraint. Using the locution of ‘phenomenally looking to be an F’ is merely a way of avoiding having to introduce new adjectives such as ‘tomatoey’.

## 1.1 Externalist-looking

One way of understanding phenomenal looking is to consider kinds of looking that are not phenomenal. Suppose that everything that looks red to Joe looks green to Fay. And suppose that Joe and Fay are looking at a tomato, which looks red to Joe and green to Fay. Some externalists about perception, whom we shall call *moderate externalists*, have suggested that there are two kinds of looking, internalist-looking and externalist-looking. Internalist-looking is explained as the kind of looking involved in the tomato looking different colours to Joe and Fay. Moderate externalists allow that tomatoes internalist-look different to Joe and to Fay, even though cases of tomatoes internalist-looking the way they do to Joe are normally caused by the same surface reflectance properties as cases of tomatoes internalist-looking the way they do to Fay.

Externalist looking is introduced as follows:

**Externalist-Looking:** Necessarily, for all objects x and y, and all properties F and G, if x

internalist-looks F to y, and cases of objects internalist-looking F to y are normally caused by those objects being G, then x externalist-looks G to y.

The tomato internalist-looks different colours to Joe and to Fay. However, the tomato may well externalist-look to have the same properties to Joe and Fay. If cases of objects internalist-looking red to Joe are normally caused by those objects being G, and cases of internalist-looking green to Fay are normally caused by those objects being G, then the tomato will externalist-look G to Joe and to Fay.

Externalist-looking does not satisfy the phenomenal character principle. Suppose that Joe is looking at a tomato, which internalist-looks red to him. Say that the tomato externalist-looks G

to him. Suppose that in world w1, cases of internalist-looking red to Joe are normally caused by objects being F, where being F is distinct from being G. In that world, when the tomato internalist-looks red to Joe, it will externalist-look F to him, i.e. different from how it actually externalist-looks to him, even though there is no visual phenomenal difference between the way the tomato looks to Joe in the actual world and the way it looks in w1. It follows that externalistlooking does not satisfy the phenomenal character principle.

Internalist-looking, by contrast, does seem to satisfy the phenomenal character principle. It seems to follow from the tomato internalist-looking different to Joe and Fay that there is a visual phenomenal difference between the way the tomato looks to Joe and the way it looks to Fay.

Some externalists will reject the claim that there is internalist-looking. Let us call such an externalist a *radical externalist*. Since externalist-looking was introduced in terms of internalistlooking, a radical externalist will deny that there is externalist-looking. A radical externalist will acknowledge that there is externalist-looking*, a constraint on which is as follows:

**Externalist-looking*: **Necessarily, for all objects x and y, and all properties F, x

externalist-looks* F to y only if there is a mental state s of y such that s is normally caused by the presence of F-ness.

Thus, an object externalist-looks* red to Joe only if there is a mental state of Joe which is normally caused by redness. A radical externalist will account for the intuition that everything that looks red to Joe might look green to Fay as follows. They will hold that, for some surface reflectance property F, what it is visually like for Joe for objects to externalist-look* F to him is different from what it is visually like for Fay for objects to externalist-look* F to her.

The disagreement between the radical externalist and the moderate externalist concerns whether there is a kind of looking that is individuated in terms of visual phenomenal character.

The moderate externalist holds that there is such a kind of looking, and the radical externalist denies this.

In this chapter I claim that there is a kind of looking, phenomenal looking, that is individuated in terms of visual phenomenal character, and, in particular, one that obeys the phenomenal character principle. By contrasting phenomenal looking with other kinds of looking, I hope to make the claim that there is phenomenal looking plausible.

There is a third kind of externalist position which would reject an assumption common to moderate and radical externalism. We will call this kind of externalist a *phenomenal externalist*.

A phenomenal externalist endorses the following claim:

**Phenomenal Externalism: **Necessarily, for all subjects x and y, if the mental states of x are

normally caused by the same properties as the mental states of y, then what it is like for x to have x’s mental states is the same as what it is like for y to have y’s mental states.

According to a phenomenal externalist, if the mental states of Joe and Fay are normally caused by the same properties of objects, then what it is like for Joe to see tomatoes is the same as what it is like for Fay to see tomatoes. Both the moderate and the radical externalist reject this claim. In this chapter I do not argue against phenomenal externalism, but merely note that it seems counter-intuitive. It seems plausible that even if the mental states of Joe and Fay are normally caused by the same properties of objects, what it is like for Joe and Fay to see certain objects may differ. In what follows I will assume that phenomenal externalism is false.

## 1.2 Epistemic Looking

It is intuitive that some looks-statements refer to a state of a subject that is at least partly epistemic. For instance, if Joan is looking at a DVD cover, she may say ‘this film looks intriguing’, and, intuitively, this looks-statement refers to an epistemic kind of looking.

It seems that epistemic looking is not phenomenal looking. There can be cases in which the way an object epistemically looks changes between t1 and t2 without there being any visual phenomenal difference between the way the object looks at t1 and the way it looks at t2. Suppose that, at t1, one is told that one is in a room where all and only red things look green. When one is asked to pick out the red objects, one may well find an object that looks green, and say ‘that object looks red to me’. At t2 one is told that the room is such that all and only blue things look green. When asked to pick out blue things, one may well find an object which looks green and say ‘that object looks blue to me’.

Assuming that one’s looks-statements in this context refer to epistemic looking, the way that the objects epistemically look between t1 and t2 has changed, and yet there need be no visual phenomenal difference between the ways that the objects look at t1 and the ways that they look at t2; in the phenomenal sense of ‘looks’, the objects look green at t1 and at t2. Thus epistemic looking does not satisfy the phenomenal character principle.

## 1.3 Nonconceptual Looking

*Nonconceptual looking* is constrained by the following principle:

**The Nonconceptual Principle:** Necessarily, for all objects x and y and all properties F, x

nonconceptually looks F to y only if x’s looking F to y does not entail that y has a concept of F.

A kind of looking is *conceptual* iff it is not nonconceptual. One might wonder whether there are any connections between the notion of phenomenal looking and the notions of conceptual and nonconceptual looking. One might wonder, for instance, whether phenomenal looking would have to be nonconceptual.

*Prima facie* there are no connections between phenomenal looking and nonconceptual looking. The central notion in the constraint on phenomenal looking was the notion of a visual phenomenal difference, and it does not seem that there is any property of visual phenomenal differences which suggests that phenomenal looking should be either nonconceptual or conceptual.

## 1.4 Theory-laden Looking

There is a position according to which all seeing is theory-laden. According to this position, what theories one has can influence the way things look to one. Nelson Goodman defends this position in the following passage:

‘The myths of the innocent eye and the absolute given are unholy accomplices. Both derive from and foster the idea of knowing as a processing of raw material received from the senses, and of this raw material as being discoverable either through purification rites or by methodical disinterpretation. But reception and interpretation are not separable operations; they are thoroughly interdependent… Content cannot be extracted by peeling off layers of comment.’ (Nelson Goodman, 1976, p8.)

And David Lewis seems to take the same view in the following passage:

‘Hintikka uses causal relations for cross-identification between the actual world and its perceptual alternatives, but not for cross-identification between these alternatives… I think my use of causal relations even in cross-identifying between alternatives has its uses in the perceptual case… and is indispensable in the doxastic and epistemic cases. It has its price: suitably ordinary causal relations must prevail in the perceptual alternatives, making causal information part of the content of perceptual experience. But I think that objectionable only given the forlorn hope that we can speak sensibly of the pure content of perceptual experience, separated from all collateral information.’ (David Lewis, 1999, p380, n.7).

The view being defended in the above two passages seems to be that all looking is theory-laden looking; that is, that all looking is such that what theories one has can affect what properties objects can look to one to have. One might wonder whether there are any connections between theory-laden looking and phenomenal looking. For instance, one might wonder whether phenomenal looking would have to be looking that is not theory-laden.

*Prima facie* there is no connection between phenomenal looking and theory-laden looking. The visual phenomenal differences referred to by the phenomenal character principle may be generated and influenced by the theories that one has, or they may not be. Susanna Siegel defends a view on which the theories that one has can introduce visual phenomenal differences into the ways that objects look; we shall consider her argument below. There does not seem to be any obvious requirement that phenomenal looking is either theory-laden or non-theory-laden.

## 1.5 The Relata of Phenomenal Looking

The *property view* is as follows:

**The Property View: ** Phenomenal looking is a relation between two objects and a

property.

The two objects in question are the perceived object and the perceiving subject. Thus, according to the property view, A’s phenomenally looking F to S is a matter of A’s standing in the phenomenal looking relation to S and to the property of being F.

The propositional view is as follows:

**The Propositional View: ** Phenomenal looking is a relation between a subject and a

proposition.

The relation in question is that of visual representation, and the proposition in question may be singular or general. Let us call the view on which the proposition in question is a singular proposition the *singular propositional view*, and let us call the view on which the proposition in question is a general proposition the *general proposition view*. According to the singular propositional view, A’s phenomenally looking F to S is a matter of S’s standing in the visual representation relation to the proposition that A is F, and according to the general propositional view, A’s phenomenally looking F to S is a matter of S’s standing in the visual representation relation to the proposition that something is F.

It seems that there are some grounds for favouring the property view over the propositional view. Consider (1) and (2):

(1) A is the colour that it phenomenally looks to S.

(2) A is the colour that B phenomenally looks to S.

A defender of the singular propositional view is likely to endorse (3) as a specification of the truth-conditions of (1):

(3) (1) is true iff the proposition about the colour of A that S stands in the visual representation relation to is true.

It seems that the truth-conditions of (2) should be similar in structure to the truthconditions of (1). However a defender of the singular propositional view who endorses (3) cannot accommodate this fact. Suppose that A phenomenally looks red, and B phenomenally looks green. A defender of the singular propositional view will hold that S stands in the visual representation relation to the propositions that A is red and that B is green. However, the truth of neither of these propositions is relevant to the truth of (2). On the supposition in question about the colours that A and B phenomenally look, whether (2) is true is determined by whether or not A is green.

The argument against the singular propositional view is that it seems that a defender of the view would endorse (3) as a specification of the truth-conditions of (1). Intuitively, the truthconditions of (2) have a similar structure to the truth-conditions of (1). However, a defender of the singular propositional view cannot hold that anything like (3) specifies the truth-conditions of

(1).

A defender of the general propositional view does not seem to be better off than a defender of the singular propositional view in this respect. Consider all the ways that A phenomenally looks, and call the proposition that something has those ways P1. Consider all the ways that B phenomenally looks, and call the proposition that something has those ways P2. A defender of the general propositional view will hold that S visually represents P1 and P2.

Although the truth of P1 is relevant to the truth of (1), neither P1 nor P2 is relevant to the truth of

(2).

One might accept the property view, but hold the propositional property view:

**Propositional Property View:** Phenomenal looking is a relation between two objects and a

propositional property.

A *propositional property* is, for some proposition p, the property of being such that p is true. A *non-propositional property* is a property that is not a propositional property. Thus, the property of being such that 2 + 2 = 4 is a propositional property, and the property of being red is a non-propositional property.

We should reject the propositional property view for the same reason that we rejected the propositional view. Suppose that A phenomenally looks red to S, and suppose that a defender of the propositional property view holds that A phenomenally looks red to S iff A stands in the phenomenal looking relation to S and to the property of being such that A is red. Then it seems that (1) will be true iff A is such that A is red. Suppose that B phenomenally looks green. Assuming that the truth-conditions of (1) and (2) have a similar structure, then (2) will be true, on the propositional property view, iff A is such that B is green. However, given the suppositions that we have made concerning the colour that A and B phenomenally look to have, intuitively (2) is true iff A is green.

In the argument just given we assumed that the propositions in question are singular propositions. However, as in the case of the propositional view, the propositional property view is no better off if the propositions are general.

Thus, it seems that we should accept the non-propositional property view:

**The Non-Propositional Property View:** Phenomenal looking is a relation between two

objects and a non-propositional property.

There may be some reasons for thinking that S has perceptual states with propositional contents. For instance, some think that, when S is hallucinating, and therefore when nothing phenomenally looks any way to S, S is nevertheless in a perceptual state with a certain propositional content. None of the above points challenges this particular thought. The aim of the above points has been to show that there is no obvious entailment from A’s phenomenally looking red to S to S’s being in a perceptual state with a propositional content.

The non-propositional property view, and the property view in general, might be challenged in a different way. Consider the looking/talking principle:

**The Ways of Looking/Talking Principle: **Ways of looking are analogous to ways of talking,

dancing, and eating, and ways of performing actions generally.

We report ways of performing actions using adverbs. For instance, we might say (1) or

(2):

(1) Jenny talks *quickly*

(2) Chris dances *well*.

If the ways of looking/talking principle is correct, then, instead of saying (3), we should say (4):

(3) This apple looks red

(4) This apple looks redly.

The ways of looking/talking principle challenges the property view in the following way. We do not think that Jenny’s talking quickly involves Jenny standing in the talking relation to the property of being quick, nor that Chris’s dancing well involves Chris standing in the dancing relation to the property of being good. If the ways of looking/talking principle is correct, then, by analogy, we should not think of object O’s looking red to subject S as involving O standing in the looking relation to S and to the property of being red. By extension, we should not think of O’s phenomenally looking red to S as involving O standing in the phenomenal looking relation to S and to the property of being red.

The motivation for the ways of looking/talking principle is that we are inclined to say both (5) and (6):

(5) Jenny talks a certain way.

(6) Jenny looks a certain way.

Similarly, we may refer to the way that Jenny talks, and the way that Jenny looks. However, the linguistic similarity between (5) and (6) seems misleading. (5) seems to be short for (7), whilst (6) does not seem to be short for (8):

(7) Jenny talks in a certain way.

(8) Jenny looks in a certain way.

Similarly, rather than referring to the way that Jenny talks, it seems more correct to refer to the way *in which* Jenny talks. Consider sentence (9).

(9) Jenny was described a certain way.

(9) seems to have two readings. On the *property reading*, (9) means that there is a property that Jenny was described as having. For instance, she might have been described as beautiful. On the *adverbial reading*, (9) means that the describing was performed in a certain way. For instance, the describing might have been done concisely. (6) seems to be more analogous to the property reading of (9) than it is to the adverbial reading of (9).

The first argument that the ways of looking/talking principle is false is that (5) seems short for (7), but (6) does not seem short for (8). The second argument that the ways of looking/talking principle is false is that (10) seems assertable but (11) does not seem assertable:

(10) Jenny is the way she looks.

(11) Jenny is the way she talks.

If Jenny talks quickly, then (11) is true iff (12) is true, but (12) is not grammatical:

(12) Jenny is quickly.

Thus, it does not seem that (11) is assertable. By contrast (10) does seem to be assertable. The fact that (10) is assertable suggests that we should say (3) rather than (4) above. Thus, it seems that we should reject the ways of looking/talking principle, and retain the nonpropositional property view.