MT23 Week 7 Internal Research WiP/GDG

The Mind that Matters: Consciousness, Vulcans, and Moral Status

Abstract: Many hold that consciousness is necessary and sufficient for moral status. But is it affective consciousness, phenomenal consciousness, motivating consciousness, or something else? Which is the mind that matters? A long philosophical tradition, Affective Sentientism, maintains that what matters is the capacity for feelings with a positive or negative valence, such as pleasure, pain, and emotions. David Chalmers, however, has recently challenged the intuitive plausibility of this view by appealing to Philosophical Vulcans―highly sophisticated phenomenally conscious creatures without the capacity for valenced experience. He contends that, upon reflection on a Vulcan’s life, one should embrace a broader version of sentientism on which the capacity for certain kinds of phenomenal consciousness by itself suffices for moral status. This paper defends Affective Sentientism. It argues that Philosophical Vulcans lack the kind of mental life for which things can go better or worse and which is necessary for moral status. Any such creature would be constitutively incapable of welfare goods such as pleasure, friendship, love, appreciation of beauty, virtue, achievements, knowledge, and desire satisfaction of the kind that we care about. Affective Sentientism, as it happens, was right all along. It is the Philosophical Vulcan who matters less than we might have thought.

SpeakerMattia Cecchinato (DPhil Student)

A hybrid event for Uehiro Centre Members and Associates (booking not required). 

In-person venue: Oxford Uehiro Centre, Suite 1 Seminar Area, Littlegate House, 16-17 St Ebbe’s Street, Oxford OX1 1PT (buzzer 1)
Zoom: Please request the joining link from from well in advance or see the Centre's Internal Google Calendar