Matthew Kennedy "Explanation Across and Within Good and Bad Experiential Cases"

Philosophers of perception try to determine the theoretical import of "bad-case" hallucinations that subjects cannot distinguish from "good-case" veridical perceptual experiences. An important contribution to this project in recent years is Michael Martin's claim that bad-case experiences have no positive mental nature - their only mental property is that subjects cannot distinguish them from good-case experiences. Rather than positing (e.g.) sense data, Martin claims that we should understand bad-case experiences as instances of ignorance, or failures to know that one is not seeing. Thus the phenomenal character of hallucination has an epistemic basis. This claim is the core of Martin's Epistemic Conception of Hallucination (ECH).

Although ECH is intrinsically interesting, it has attracted further attention because Martin argues that naive realists must adopt it. Naive realists claim that good-case experiences should be understood as world-involving relations to external items. Martin claims that the only viable packaging for the naive claim about good cases is to combine it with the epistemic conception of bad cases.

In response, many philosophers have criticised Martin's ECH. In addition, some have questioned whether naive realists must adopt ECH. I believe many philosophers accept these criticisms, and in turn are ready to detach some form of naive realism from ECH. A fairly common viewpoint might be this: although Martin proposes a radical theory of the phenomenal character of hallucinations, we lack good reason to accept this theory; and yet some key naive-realist ideas may be viable.

This viewpoint attributes a radical view of phenomenal character to Martin, and disassociates naive realism from this radical view. In the present paper I argue that this viewpoint is incomplete, and in certain respects is on or near the wrong track. First, an all-too-traditional conception of phenomenal character drives Martin's argument for the ECH. Second, naive realists can and should challenge this conception of phenomenal character.

My paper has five main sections. The first two sections examine Martin's claim that concerns about "explanatory screening-off" force naive realists to accept ECH. This claim has not received much attention, and those philosophers who have looked at it have been puzzled by it (Byrne and Logue, "Either/Or", in A. Haddock and F. Macpherson (eds.) Disjunctivism: Percetion, Action, Knowledge, Oxford: Oxford University Press, pp. 86-87). I clarify Martin's screening-off claim, linking it to his introduction of naive realism as a view that relies on phenomenological support. Then I critically consider the screening-off claim from the stnadpoint of a naive realist who rejects Martin's ECH.

A naive realist who rejects ECH says that a good experience and its indistinguishable bad counterpart share mental properties not exhausted by the point that the two states are indiscriminable. If we call these shared properties "the common properties", Martin claims that we could explain the phenomenal character of good and bad experiences - what it is like to have these experiences - entirely in terms of the presence of the common properties. According to Martin, this explanatory opportunity undermines naive realism's claim that its relational conception of good experience is phenomenologically superior to rival views. In order to avoid this outcome, Martin rejects common properties, and packages naive reaism about good experiences with the ECH approach to bad experiences.

I argue that Martin's transition to ECH is unmotivated. My argument involves the following interpretive claims. First, Martin's transition relies on the idea that phenomenological study - naive realism's advertised source of support - must be responsive to the phenomenal character of experience, and nothing else. Second, and relatedly, Martin's transition assumes that after we explain the phenomenal character of experience, there is nothing left to do under the phenomenological heading. Third, Martin's transition is eased by a lack of detail regarding the phenomenological virtues that naive realism claims.

In the third section of the paper, I challenge the idea ("Monopoly") that phenomenal character has a monopoly on phenomenological study. Against the background of the recent "transparency" debate, this idea is problematic. It is widely agreed that we become aware of the phenomenal character of our experiences by attending to the objects and properties presented to us by our experiences. Philosophers also increasingly agree that we cannot selectively attend to phenomenal character - we cannot take our attention away from the objects and properties we perceive, and focus on phenomenal character itself. As a result, the Monopoly idea prioritises a level of experience which, within the first-person perspective, is not sharply seperated from other levels of experience. Monopoly's elevation of phenomenal character is uncompelling.

In the fourth section of my paper, I describe a broader conception of phenomenological study. This conception takes our perceptual awareness of objects and properties to be a non-derivative input to phenomenological study. On this model, a statement like, "it seems to me as if that chair is directly present to me" is an immediate reaction to a subject's perceptual awareness of objects and properties. The statement expresses and endorses a descriptive belief about the subject's experiential situation. But beliefs of this type are not based on awareness of phenomenal character.

Getting back to Martin's explanatory concerns, we can use a property possibly common to perception and hallucination to explain why subjects endorse the preceeding "seems" statement. We can say that the presence of common properties is apt to produce such judgements. But this type of explanation has an error-theoretic character. The naive-realist account of veridical experience - which can admit the prsence of common properties in such experience - is a better fir with the belief that external objects are directly present to us in perception. This account retains explanatory appeal.

Equally, we can use common properties to fix the phenomenal character of experience. There is some tendency to think that this move renders naive realism's distinctive elements phenomenologically extraneous. Having rejected Monopoly, however, we should not think that phenomenal character is the only item on the agenda of the first-person study of experience. We must also achieve fit with our first-person judgments about experience, judgments which are not based on phenomenal character.

The fifth section is a summary. Martin's interest in phenomenal character leads him to endorse the problematic epistemic conception of hallucination. I suggest that this interest is misguided, and that naive realism can maintain its claims to phenomenological superiority while avoiding ECH. The naive view can do this by arguing that phenonmenal character does not have a central place in the subjective economy of experience.