Sensory experience and the sensible qualities
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My dissertation defends a package of interrelated positions on the metaphysics of the sensible qualities (shape, color, pitch, loudness, flavor, heat, cold, etc.) and sensory experience. It is organized around four questions at the core of philosophical theorizing about the sensible qualities. The first is the question of reductionism: are the sensible qualities reducible to either physical properties (i.e. properties definable in the canonical vocabulary of the physical sciences) or response-dependent properties (e.g. Lockean dispositions to affect perceivers in certain ways)? I put forward novel arguments and refined versions of traditional arguments in support of a negative answer to this question. For at least some of the sensible qualities, including many of those traditionally classified as “secondary qualities,” reductionism is untenable. If I am correct that the sensible qualities are not reducible to physical or response-dependent properties of external objects, the next question arises: do they belong to external objects at all? This is the question of realism. Many philosophers have held that a negative answer to the question of reductionism leads--or should lead--to a negative answer to the question of realism. Against these philosophers, I defend an affirmative answer to the question of realism and respond to arguments from non-reductionism to irrealism. If I am correct that the sensible qualities really belong to external objects but aren’t reducible to any of their physical properties, a third question arises: how are the sensible qualities (especially the so-called “secondary qualities”) related to physical reality? This is the question of integration, a special case of the more general question of how, in Sellars’s terminology, the Manifest Image is related to the Scientific Image. In response to this question, I develop and defend a theory structurally parallel to Russellian monist positions on the mind-body problem. I argue that the Russellian monist framework is actually poorly suited to answer the question it was originally designed to answer--the question of how conscious experience is related to physical reality--but well suited to answer the corresponding question about the sensible (especially secondary) qualities.