Qualia, introspection, and transparency
A compelling position in the philosophy of mind is that the phenomenal character of experience is a non-intentional property of the experience that is immediately accessible to introspection, what philosophers commonly call a quale. And yet, when one introspects in order to discover what one's experience is like, introspection reveals only what one's experience is of. If there are qualia, they seem to be transparent to introspection. The very nature of qualia thus seems to conflict with the phenomenology of introspection.
In this dissertation, I present the problem of transparency and show that it lies at the core of the recent debate over the nature of phenomenal experience. This problem results from the fact that certain theses that are widely accepted in philosophy of mind are inconsistent. They are: (1) Qualia exist; (2) If qualia exist, then they are available to introspection; and (3) Qualia are not available to introspection—they are transparent. I argue that solving this problem requires distinguishing between perceptual and non-perceptual theories of introspection. The transparency of qualia to introspection can be explained by rejecting perceptual theories of introspection. However, I show that the nature of qualia demands that, if qualia are introspectible, introspection must conform to a perceptual theory. Therefore, we have reason for thinking the phenomenal character of experience is not a non-intentional property of it—not a quale.
In place of qualia, I advocate an intentionalist view of phenomenal character. According to this view, the phenomenal character of experience is a representation of a property, an awareness of a property. Introspective access to this property is possible if we adopt a non-perceptual theory of introspection, specifically a belief model, according to which we are introspectively aware that our experience has this property without being introspectively aware of it. The apparent transparency of the phenomenal character can be explained by pointing to a flawed tendency to treat introspection as a species of perception. Thus, my solution to the problem of transparency reconciles the nature of phenomenal experience with our introspective access to this experience while, at the same time, explaining the phenomenon of transparency.