Seminar Series in Analytic Philosophy

David Yates

LANCOG University of Lisbon

Functionalism and Transparency: Chalmers on Spatial Concepts

23 November 2018, 16:00

Faculdade de Letras de Lisboa

Sala Mattos Romão (Departamento de Filosofia)

Abstract: In a recent paper (‘Three puzzles about spatial experience’), David Chalmers offers three twin-Earth cases designed to show that our ordinary, everyday spatial concepts do not reveal the essential natures of their referents, but refer to them as the normal causes of spatial phenomenology. Chalmers is thus a realizer functionalist about spatial concepts: they refer to their referents as the occupants of roles, where the roles in question are given in phenomenological terms. The non-transparency of spatial concepts is counterintuitive, since it seems that concepts such as sphericality and separation give us at least some epistemic access to the essential natures of the spatial properties they refer to. In this paper I first argue that phenomenal spatial functionalism is untenable. I then distinguish two variants of theoretical spatial functionalism, the view that everyday spatial concepts are defined by a folk physical theory. According to theoretical realizer functionalism, spatial concepts refer to whatever properties occupy the folk physical roles. According to theoretical role functionalism, spatial concepts refer to second-order properties that are individuated by their folk physical roles. On this latter theory, spatial concepts are (at least partially) transparent: spatial properties are conceived in terms of their places in the theoretical structure that individuates them, hence in terms of their essential natures. I argue that Chalmers’ twin-Earth cases are all consistent with theoretical role functionalism, and conclude that there is no compelling twin-Earth argument for the non-transparency of spatial concepts.