Philosophical Studies

, Volume 160, Issue 2, pp 223–235 | Cite as

Does Mary know I experience plus rather than quus? A new hard problem

  • Philip Goff


Realism about cognitive or semantic phenomenology, the view that certain conscious states are intrinsically such as to ground thought or understanding, is increasingly being taken seriously in analytic philosophy. The principle aim of this paper is to argue that it is extremely difficult to be a physicalist about cognitive phenomenology. The general trend in later 20th century/early 21st century philosophy of mind has been to account for the content of thought in terms of facts outside the head of the thinker at the time of thought, e.g. in terms of causal relations between thinker and world, or in terms of the natural purposes for which mental representations have developed. However, on the assumption that consciousness is constitutively realised by what is going on inside the head of a thinker at the time of experience, the content of cognitive phenomenology cannot be accounted for in this way. Furthermore, any internalist account of content is particularly susceptible to Kripkensteinian rule following worries. It seems that if someone knew all the physical facts about what is going on in my head at the time I was having a given experience with cognitive phenomenology, they would not thereby know whether that state had ‘straight’ rather than ‘quus-like’ content, e.g. whether the experience was intrinsically such as the ground the thought that two plus two equals four or intrinsically such as to ground the thought that two quus two equals four. The project of naturalising consciousness is much harder for realists about cognitive phenomenology.


Consciousness Hard problem The knowledge argument Cognitive phenomenology Phenomenal intentionality 



I would like to thank David Papineau, Barry Smith, Meredith Williams, David Chalmers, Robert van Gulick, William Seager, Chris Schriner, Emma Bullock, Kirk Surgener, Constantine Sandis, Stephen Boulter, Holly Lawford-Smith and Rory Madden for comments and discussion. I wrote this paper as a Research Fellow with the AHRC project ‘Phenomenal Qualities’.


  1. Bayne, T., & Montague, M. (Eds.). (forthcoming). Cognitive phenomenology. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  2. Carruthers, P. (2000). Phenomenal consciousness: A naturalistic theory. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Chalmers, D. J. (1996). The conscious mind: Towards a fundamental theory. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  4. Dretske, F. (1988). Explaining behaviour. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.Google Scholar
  5. Dretske, F. (1994). If you can’t make one, you don’t know how it works. Midwest Studies in Philosophy, 19, 468–482.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Dretske, F. (1995). Naturalizing the mind. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.Google Scholar
  7. Fodor, J. (1990). Theory of content and other essays. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.Google Scholar
  8. Horgan, T., & Kriegal, U. (Eds.). (forthcoming). Phenomenal intentionality. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  9. Horgan, T., & Tienson, J. (2002). The intentionality of phenomenology and the phenomenology of intentionality. In D. J. Chalmers (Ed.), Philosophy of mind: Classical and contemporary readings. Oxford, New York: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  10. Jackson, F. (1982). Epiphenomenal qualia. Philosophical Quarterly, 32(127), 127–136.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Jackson, F. (1986). What Mary didn’t know. Journal of Philosophy, 83(5), 291–295.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Jackson, F. (1998). From metaphysics to ethics: A defence of conceptual analysis. Oxford: Clarendon Press.Google Scholar
  13. Kripke, S. (1982). Wittgenstein on rules and private language. Oxford: Basil Blackwell.Google Scholar
  14. Lewis, D. (1983). New work for a theory of universals. Australasian Journal of Philosophy, 61(4), 343–377.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Lycan, W. (1996). Consciousness and experience. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.Google Scholar
  16. Millikan, R. (1984). Language, thought and other biological categories. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.Google Scholar
  17. Millikan, R. (1989). Biosemantics. Journal of Philosophy, 86(6), 281–297.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Papineau, D. (1984). Representation and explanation. Philosophy of Science, 51(4), 550–572.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Papineau, D. (1993). Philosophical naturalism. Oxford: Blackwell.Google Scholar
  20. Pitt, D. (2004). The phenomenology of cognition or ‘What is it like to think that P?’. Philosophy and Phenomenological Research, 69(1), 1–36.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Putnam, H. (1975). The meaning of meaning. In his language, meaning and reality. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  22. Siewart, C. (1998). The significance of consciousness. Princeton: Princeton University Press.Google Scholar
  23. Siewart, C. (forthcoming). Phenomenal thought, in Bayne and Montague.Google Scholar
  24. Strawson, P. F. (1979). Perception and its objects. In G. F. Macdonald (Ed.), Perception and identity: Essays presented to A. J. Ayer. London: Macmillan.Google Scholar
  25. Strawson, G. (1994). Mental reality. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.Google Scholar
  26. Strawson, G. (2008). Real intentionality 3: Why intentionality entails consciousness. In his real materialism and other essays. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  27. Tye, M. (2009). Consciousness revisited. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.University of HertfordshireHertfordshireUK
  2. 2.King’s College LondonLondonUK

Personalised recommendations