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Dialectic of Illusionism

Giovanni Merlo
Tuesday, February 18, 2020, 3:30 pm – 5:10 pm

Illusionist accounts of consciousness hold that our experiences do not have any phenomenal character – they only appear to us to do so. These accounts are often thought to fall prey to several immediate objections – for example, that the very notion of an illusory appearance presupposes the properties whose existence illusionists deny, or that illusionism requires an implausible distinction between phenomenal appearances and phenomenal reality. This paper argues that, though these immediate objections fail, they point in the direction of a deeper problem. One key advantage of illusionism vis-à-vis traditional forms of eliminativism lies in its capacity to accommodate the idea that phenomenal character plays (or appears to play) an important role in the justification of perceptual judgments. I will suggest that illusionists cannot put this capacity to use without leaving themselves open to the criticism that their view, if it is not to collapse into a form of phenomenal realism, implies an infinite regress of justifications.