‘What it is like’ talk is not technical talk

Jonathan Farrell, University of Manchester

[PDF of Jonathan Farrell’s paper]

[Jump to Robert Howell’s commentary] [Jump to Myrto Mylopoulos’s commentary] [Jump to Jonathan Farrell’s replies]

1. Introduction

Philosophers commonly talk about phenomenal consciousness by engaging in ‘what it is like’ talk (‘WIL-talk’ for short): they use sentences (‘WIL-sentences’) involving phrases such as ‘what is it like’ and ‘something it is like’. But it is not obvious what we mean when we engage in WIL-talk, or how we mean whatever it is we mean: how, by putting these words in this order do we come to talk about consciousness?[1] Indeed some have argued that when philosophers engage in WIL-talk they are talking nonsense (Hacker 2002), or saying something false or trivial (Snowdon 2010). One popular account of WIL-talk is that it involves technical terms—special terms which, although they look and sound like Continue reading ‘What it is like’ talk is not technical talk