21 May 2005

Looking Back

The conference--very high quality--kept me busy today. If I don't get sleepy, I'll try to post something later, more detailed, on ancient philosophy. But if I don't post later, let the following remarks suffice.

(1) I've been wanting to say that it's been difficult for me to post criticisms of Victor Caston's excellent paper. I've been able to do so only through saying constantly to myself, as if repeating an incantation, ... amica magis veritas.

(2) I said that the dispute over 'activity' and 'capacity' readings seemed a red herring. I should perhaps explain why I think that Caston's view of the 'structure of consciousness' still matches better what Aristotle says in DA 3.2 than the 'inner sense' view of Johansen. As I understand DA 3.2, Aristotle is claiming that every sense, by its nature as a sense faculty, carries with it the capacity to monitor its own activity. We should stress, with Caston, that this 'monitoring' is not merely propriaceptive, in the sense that it is not merely a sensing that the sense is 'on'. The sensing is somehow a sensing, too, of the content of what is sensed. Now consider the conditions under which any sense operates. It operates if its object is present, if the medium (if any) is unobstructed, and if the sense is in working order. As regards sensing that we sense, all of these will necessarily be in place, when we sense. Hence there will be no sensing, without sensing that we sense, and any act of sensing will have just the structure that Caston ascribes to it.

Johansen ascribes sensing that we sense to a distinct 'inner sense', but I don't see that tehre is warrant for this in DA 3.2. Also, Johansen needs to speculate that there can, in principle, be a sensing, without a sensing that we sense. He takes David Armstrong's example of a truck driver who drives 'on automatic pilot' to be in fact an example of this. But I think this is incorrect. The truck driver, in my view, senses that he senses: he simply doesn't think about what he is sensing.

Johansen might deny this and say that, no, the truck driver isn't aware that he is seeing the road, hearing traffic noises, etc. This seems wrong to me. But in any case the crucial question is: how do we decide which description is correct? Not, it seems to me--if we accept the 'capacity' reading of DA 3.2--through phenomenological analysis, or through introspection. Rather, it seems to me that Johansen is obliged to say how a sense faculty, as Aristotle understands it, could ever sense, without sensing that it senses. The account has to be given in terms of the nature of a sense faculty. If Johansen can't do this, then he has to concede that Caston's account is more accurate.

Does this make sense? I sense that it does.