‘Conceptual Qualia and Communication’ (2005)

Written together with Gianfranco Soldati.

The Foundations of Interaction Design, Interaction Design Institute Ivrea, 2005, pp. 1-14.

Published Version | Final Draft | PhilPapers


The claim that consciousness is propositional has be widely debated in the past. For instance, it has been discussed whether consciousness is always propositional, whether all propositional consciousness is linguistic, whether propositional consciousness is always articulated, or whether there can be non-articulated propositions. In contrast, the question of whether propositions are conscious has not very often been the focus of attention.

In this paper, we would like to render two ideas plausible and defend them against certain objections that have been raised against them. The first, perhaps less controversial idea is that at least certain propositional mental states – such as judgements, thoughts or felt desires – involve a particular kind of consciousness, which has often been called phenomenal or qualitative consciousness. The second and more important, since far more controversial, idea is that propositions – and concepts as their constituents – possess distinct and specific phenomenal characters, or qualia, in virtue of which they are experienced differently when entertained or held in thought.

Both claims, we shall see, have immediate consequences on our conception of understanding and communication. Contrary to a widespread view, a view which has its roots in the linguistic turn, we maintain that phenomenal quality is constitutive of the understanding and grasping of meanings.