A while ago over at the Brain Hammer Pete asked the question ‘What are you conscious of when you have conscious experiences?‘ (I think he asked the same question over at Brains a little later). His basic idea was to solicit peoples intuitions about Transitivity and Transparancy, which he defined as follows.
“The Transparency Thesis”: When one has a conscious experience all that one is conscious of is what the experience is an experience of.
“The Transitivity Thesis”:When one has a conscious experience one must be conscious of the experience itself.
Given these two claims he was in particular interested to ask
Since each of these claims is alleged to be obvious, and since they are in opposition, I’d be interested in hearing what others think of the matter: Which is more obvious than the other?
These two claims both seem obvious to me and so I am interested in finding out why people seem to think, as Pete clearly does, that they are in opposition. Part of theproblem is the way inwhich Pete define Transitivity. He claims that it claims that we must be conscious of the experience itself, but this is actually wrong. What Transitivity claims is that we must be conscious of ourselves as having the experience (or conscious of ouselves as being in a certain state). Once we see that this is the right way to construe transitivity it is no longer the case that these two claims are in opposition. When I have a conscious experience (say, as Pete does, of a leafy tree) then it will be the case that I am conscious of myself as having a leafy tree experience (transitivity) and because of that it will also be true that it seems to me that all that I am conscious of is the leafy tree. So where is the opposition?