Philosophy, Film, Politics, Etc.

Monday, July 1, 2013

Intentionality Without Phenomenal Content?

David Chalmers is famous for, among other things, claiming that zombies are conceivable.  Not movie zombies, but zombies of a different sort.  These zombies are beings which are physically and functionally identical to human beings, but which lack a certain kind of conscious experience.  They lack the "what it is like" that is said to characterize our experiences.  Another way of putting it:  They lack phenomenal consciousness.

According to Chalmers, zombies act just like us, and that means they talk about things just the way we do.  They therefore have intentionality.  Their behaviours are about things.  It follows that, if zombies are conceivable (i.e., conceptually coherent) then there are intentional states that lack phenomenal content.

This seems like a difficult position to hold.  My intuition is that all intentional states have phenomenal content.  I wonder what arguments have been made one way or the other.  The conceivability of zombies depends on whether or not there can be intentional states without phenomenal content.  Therefore, it would be begging the question to appeal to zombies in an argument for intentional states without phenomenal content.

Edit:  It might be argued that artifacts like clocks and other mindless machines have intentionality without phenomenal content.  What these artifacts have, however, is derived intentionality.  They exhibit the intentionality of beings with phenomenal consciousness.  They do not have intentional states, but express the intentional states of their makers/users.

Another edit:  It occurs to me that, if it is conceivable that all intentional states have phenomenal content, then it is conceivable that zombies are inconceivable.  I'm not sure if that is important, but it sounds like it might be.