This is the first detailed study to explore the little-understood notions of "knowing who someone is," "knowing a person's identity," and related locutions. It locates these notions within the context of a general theory of believing and a semantical theory of belief- and knowledge-ascriptions.
The books's main contention is that what one knows, when one knows who someone is, is not normally an identity in the numerical sense of "a = b," but rather a certain sort of predication to know who someone is is just to know that that person is F, where "F" is a predicate that is "important," in a technical sense defined by the authors, for the purposes determined by context. Their book offers a rigorous formal semantics for ascriptions of knowing and of knowing-who in particular, solving such well-known problems and paradoxes as Kripke's Puzzle, and Quines difficulties with de re belief, along the way.
The authors apply their analysis to each of several important issues in philosophy of language, philosophy of mind, and ethical theory in which the previously unexamined notion of "knowing who" has loomed large-the mechanics of linguistic referring, the foundations of epistemic logic, problems of self-knowledge and self-regarding belief, universalizability and "Golden Rule" arguments in ethics, and moral "personalism" versus "impartialism."
"The mind has no special properties that are not exhausted by its representational properties, along with or in combination with the functional organization of its components. It would follow that once representation itself is (eventually) understood, then not only consciousness in our present sense but subjectivity, qualia, 'what it's like,' and every other aspect of the mental will be explicable in terms of representation together with the underlying functionally organized neurophysiology. . . . I do not think there will be any 'problem of consciousness' left." —William Lycan
This sequel to Lycan's Consciousness (1987) continues the elaboration of his general functionalist theory of consciousness, answers the critics of his earlier work, and expands the range of discussion to deal with the many new issues and arguments that have arisen in the intervening years—an extraordinarily fertile period for the philosophical investigation of consciousness.
Lycan not only uses the numerous arguments against materialism, and functionalist theories of mind in particular, to gain a more detailed positive view of the structure of the mind, he also targets the set of really hard problems at the center of the theory of consciousness: subjectivity, qualia, and the felt aspect of experience. The key to his own enlarged and fairly argued position, which he calls the "hegemony of representation," is that there is no more to mind or consciousness than can be accounted for in terms of intentionality, functional organization, and in particular, second-order representation of one's own mental states.
What is consciousness? The answer to this question has been pondered upon, grappled with, and argued about since time immemorial. There has never been an answer that achieved consensus; certainly philosophers have never agreed.
In this book, William Lycan defends an original theory of mind that he calls "homuncular functionalism." He argues that human beings are "functionally organized information-processing systems" who have no non-physical parts or properties. However, Lycan also recognizes the subjective phenomenal qualities of mental states and events, and an important sense in which mind is "over and above" mere chemical matter. Along the way, Lycan reviews some diverse philosophical accounts of consciousness-including those of Kripke, Block, Campbell, Sellars, and Castañeda, among others-and demonstrates how what is valuable in each opposing view can be accommodated within his own theory.
Consciousness is Lycan's most ambitious book, one that has engaged his attention for years. He handles a fascinating subject in a unique and undoubtedly controversial manner that will make this book a mainstay in the field of philosophy of mind.