The Indexical Nature of Sensory Concepts

  • John O’Dea


This paper advances the thesis that sensory concepts have as a semantic component the first-person indexical. It is argued that the private nature of our access to our own sensations forces, in our talking about them, an indexical reference to the inner states of the speaker in lieu of publicly accessible properties by which reference is usually fixed. Indexicals, such as ‘here', can be understood despite ignorance of their referent. Such is the case with sensory terms. Furthermore, the thesis that sensory terms are indexical has considerable explanatory power. I give two examples: firstly, I argue that clashes of intuition over Block's ‘inverted spectrum' thought experiment can be explained by appeal to semantic properties of indexicals. Secondly, I argue that multiple realisability intuitions can be shown to be consistent with the view that sensations are type-identical with brain states.

Philosophical Papers Vol.31(2) 2002: 169-181

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eISSN: 0556-8641