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Hey, John. So, I'm fairly sympathetic to views like Tye's, but I can work myself up to feel at least some draw toward principles like (P) or (P*).

One thing I find about my own intuitions, though, is that they seem to respond differently to colors (like the example of red that everyone is using here) than to other uninstantiated properties. So, for instance, imagine that the world is filled with various geometrical figures -- squares, circles, etc. -- but absolutely no triangles. Given the figures that do exist, though, suppose that it's possible to set up optical illusions to give people the impression of seeing a triangle.

It seems to me that the thought that people in this scenario are visually aware of the unviersal triangularity even though it has no instances is less weird than the thought that in other sorts of illusions, people are aware of the universal redness (e.g.) even though nothing is red.

Perhaps relatedly, I find that if someone has a red illusion, but nothing red is present, I still find myself inclined to say that *something* red is there (like the impression); but, if someone has a triangle illusion, but nothing triangular is present, I don't feel any pull at all to say something triangular is present (I don't feel the draw to say that at least their impression is triangular).

I got to go quicker than I thought I would, so maybe I'll say more in a later post. (Also, I didn't get the chance to edit, so sorry if any errors.)

Adam Pautz

Hey John, very interesting post. I thought I would add a few thoughts. (1) Although I devote a lot of space to Property-Awareness in the paper of mine “Intentionalism and Perceptual Presence” which you mention in your post, I’ll explain why I do not think much hangs on the issue. I’ll explain why I think that the issue is of intrinsic interest only. (2) I’ll clarify my case against Property-Awareness. (3) I’ll say something about your interesting examples involving being aware of God and point particles. Let me elaborate these points.

(1) Why does Property-Awareness matter? One might think that a certain theory of phenomenal character, which I call the ‘Property-Complex Theory’ in the paper, depends on it. This is not true. That theory can be, and I argue in the paper should be, formulated so that it is neutral on this issue (p. 5). Indeed, some philosophers who endorse the Property-Complex Theory do not commit to Property-Awareness. For instance, in the paper John mentions, Colin McGinn never says that we are aware of universals, only that we are presented with them; and ‘x is presented with y’ is a quasi-technical term which is not obviously a cognate of ‘x is aware of y’. (So although in my paper I lump McGinn in with the other defenders of Property-Awareness, it is not entirely clear that this is accurate.)

Another reason why Property-Awareness might matter is that the case against certain “transparency theses” depends on the case against Property-Awareness. I give this impression in the version of my paper which John links to, but now I am beginning to think otherwise, and will be changing the paper accordingly. In the present version of the paper, I argue as follows. How is “transparency” formulated? Often thus. We know what experience is like by being aware of the *objects* we experience. This seems extremely plausible. But then we remember hallucination. This leads to a quite different thesis: we know what experience is like by being aware of external-world properties. If we grant Property-Awareness, this handles hallucination: the idea is that in non-veridical hallucination we know what experience is like by focusing properties that are not instantiated before one. But now the initially plausible idea is transformed into something that is very problematic. If this transparency thesis harbours commitment to Property-Awareness, and if, as I argue in the paper, Property-Awareness is false, then so is this transparency thesis. At the very least it loses its alleged status as some kind of obvious pretheoretical datum on which the case for Intentionalism might be built, for even if Property-Awareness is not false it is far from obvious.

However, I now think that a criticism can be levelled against this kind of revised transparency thesis that is independent of my claim that Property-Awareness is false or anyway not obvious. This revised transparency thesis says: whenever we know what our experience is like, there are some properties such that we know what it is like by being aware of (attending to, etc) them. Set aside the issue of whether we can be *aware of* properties. This claim immediately apriori entails that there are properties and we are related to them in hallucinatory experience. So if it is obvious, then this also is obvious. But it is not. It is a highly theoretical, non-obvious claim. (Indeed, many deny that there are properties at all.) In fact, it is nearly as theoretical and non-obvious as the thesis of Intentionalism which it is meant to support. So even if we suppose that the problem concerning Property-Awareness is not really a problem (even if we grant that we are aware of properties), it seems that this transparency thesis is ill-suited to serve as the basis of an argument for Intentionalism because it is not obvious. Note that the objection here is not that the thesis is false: rather, the objection is that it is not obvious, and hence cannot serve as the basis of an argument for Intentionalism. Indeed, I think this transparency thesis or something like it is true (I think it may be that we know what experience is like by bearing some epistemically interesting relation to properties – I just refrain from calling it ‘awareness’). But I accept it for theoretical reasons. In fact, I derive this claim from Intentionalism, rather than deriving Intentionalism from this claim.

This is why in the paper I set out to develop an alternative argument based on “the cognitive datum” which is not, or at least need not be, formulated so as to involve the (as I see it, highly theoretical and non-obvious) claim that there are properties and we are related to them in hallucinatory experience: the cognitive datum is just the claim that hallucinatory experience can justify believing that red resembles orange more than blue, that there is a red square there, etc. This, I think, is sufficiently pretheoretical that it can serve as the basis of an argument for Intentionalism. Then further (nonobvious) philosophical reasoning (e. g. Jackson “Statements about Universals”) shows that some such claims involve external world properties. Additional steps get us to Intentionalism.

So, we have yet to find a reason why we should be interested in Property-Awareness. My own view is that Property-Awareness is only of intrinsic interest. I share Price’s intuition in favor of:

(a) Item-Awareness: even in the hallucinatory case, there are items one is aware of (can attend to, etc.)

This, together with the theoretical claim

(b) the only good candidates for the objects of hallucinatory experience are properties,

entails Property-Awareness.

(2) I have just conceded that there is a case for Property-Awareness. Why then do I believe that Property-Awareness is false? The reason is not so simple as: I believe that it is in conflict with some principle. The argument is more complicated. (Btw, I’ll be assuming throughout that properties are universals. As I say in the paper, I think that the case against Property-Awareness is somewhat different if properties are taken to be tropes.)

First, we must look at the case for Property-Awareness. As I explain in the paper, I think that the *only* case for Property-Awareness is based on (a) and (b). The only case for it is based on the intuition in favour of Item-Awareness (or something negligibly different from it, e. g. that in hallucination there are things we can attend to, etc.). Mark Johnston has given an epistemological argument for it. But I think that the argument fails. The very important epistemological datum to which Johnston points can be accommodated merely by saying that in hallucination we bear some epistemically interesting relation to properties; to say that the relation is one of awareness is completely gratuitous. There are semantic arguments for Property-Awareness as well, but I argue that they are weak.

Second, we must look at the case against Property-Awareness. As John notes, and as I argue in the paper, it is not inconsistent with Physicalism. I think other common arguments against Property-Awareness also fail. Instead I think that the best argument against Property-Awareness is founded on a certain principle. What is this principle? The principle I endorse is neither of the principles John mentions in his post, although, as John mentions, it resembles them. It is not the first principle which John discusses:

(P) Necessarily, if x is visually aware of y, then y must occupy physical space before x.

I agree with John that this principle is false, owing to the kind of cases John mentions involving clairvoyant experiences (for an interesting discussion of such examples see Mark Johnston discusses “The Obscure Object of Hallucination”, 172). In fact, the principle I endorse is also distinct from the other principle which John discusses:

(P*) Necessarily, if x is visually aware of y, then y must occupy physical space.

I think that there are counterexamples to (P*). Although I do not think that we are aware of extended sense data or extended angels or gods (extended in some non-physical space), I think we could be. The principle I actually invoke in the paper is this:

(#) If x is visually aware of y (if x sees y), then y must take up space in y’s visual field.

The counterexamples so far discussed are not counterexamples to (#). In a very interesting paper he is working on, in which he argues in favor of Property-Awareness from considerations concerning visual attention (inter alia), John makes a criticism of (#) which I think is completely fair. The expression ‘visual field’ is a term of art, so it is not even clear what (#) says. But my including this expression was completely gratuitous. In fact, all that is required is:

(#) If x is visually aware of y (if x sees y), then y must take up space.

I. e. take up space in some space. (I think similar principles hold in other modalities: for instance if one is aware of a sound it must take up time.) This principle is strong enough to rule out Property-Awareness, with properties taken as universals. Now I can state my case against Property-Awareness. To repeat, my case is not simply: (#) seems right, so Property-Awareness is false. Rather the argument is more nuanced than this, because, as mentioned above, I am very sympathetic to Price’s intuition in favor of Item-Awareness, which, together with (b), entails Property-Awareness. So I think we find ourselves in a case where we have intuitions I1 and I2 that pull in opposite directions. How do we arbitrate in such a situation? How do we reach “reflective equilibrium”? We can be justified in retaining I1 and rejecting I2 if we find no reason for rejecting I1 and we find a reason for rejecting I2. This is my view in the present case. As I say in the paper, there are two good reasons to doubt the intuition in favor of Item-Awareness (25-26). But I cannot find any good reason to doubt the intuition in favor of (#). Therefore, I accept (#) and reject Item-Awareness (and also Property-Awareness). In other words, my argument is as follows.

(1) There is a conflict between (#) and Item-Awareness (assuming b)
(2) There are two reasons to doubt the intuition in favor of Item-Awareness but no reason to doubt the intuition in favor of (#).
(Conclusion) The principle (#) is true and Item-Awareness (and Property-Awareness) is false

(3) This brings me to my third point. This argument fails if there is, after all, reason to doubt our intuition in favor of (#). In his post, John offers such a reason, which I’ll now address.

In my paper, I considered several ostensible *actual* counterexamples to (#) (23-24). I argued that all these cases involve fact-awareness, when what is really at issue is Item-Awareness. (Or else they do not involve visual awareness.) John provides a different reason to doubt (#): namely, that there are possible cases in which we are visually item-aware of non-extended things.

Of course, John is perfectly correct in assuming that to show that (#) is false merely possible cases would be sufficient. But, although I think that John’s cases are interesting (in fact William Alston argued at length for the possibility of being aware of a god in *Perceiving God*), I do not think that they provide any reason to doubt (#). John says it is possible to be aware of God (presumably he means an unextended god) and point particles. But what is the evidence for this? Presumably that it can be conceived. But what would it be like to have such experiences? Whenever I try to conceive of such situations I find that the situations I conceive of are not counterexamples to (#). Try to imagine being aware of God. I predict that you will imagine being aware of a man with a white beard or a white light, etc. But these are extended things; so far, no counterexample to (#). Perhaps it will be said that by being aware of the man with the white beard (who is not God but a kind of earthly representation of him) one is or might be aware of God, a non-extended thing. But I only think one might thus be aware of *facts about God* (e. g. if the white-bearded representative says ‘I shall make ye eyeballs aflame!’ one is thereby aware that God is pissed off); but this is not a counterexample because what is at issue in (#) is Item-Awareness. In other words, what is imagined is a case of indirect fact-awareness (what Fred Dretske calls displaced fact-perception), not indirect item-awareness. Likewise, if tries to imagine being visually aware of a point-particle, one ends up imagining being visually aware of an extended blip on a measuring instrument (or the like). In this case, one acquires fact-awareness of (in ordinary language, “learns things about”) the point particle by having item-awareness of (in ordinary language “seeing”) an extended thing, namely the blip. So, again, no counterexample to (#). Am I begging the question in insisting on these descriptions? I don’t think so. I think they are the natural descriptions of the cases. So I think that the cases provide no reason to reject (#). In any case, I think that after we (or at least I) reach “reflective equilibrium” the rational thing to say is that (#) is true and these descriptions of the cases are the accurate ones. This is not question-begging.

(Even if one insisted that these are cases in which one is indirectly visually item-aware of a non-extended thing by being visually item-aware of an extended thing, this would not seriously affect my argument, for I could retreat to a different principle. I think that there is a pretheoretical distinction between indirect and direct item-awareness – as when we indirectly see a soccer game by directly seeing the TV screen. As has often been emphasized, this is nothing like the theoretical distinction between indirect and direct item-awareness which philosophers attempt to draw. So, I could retreat to the principle: if x is directly visually item-aware of y, then y must be extended. I think intuition supports this principle as well as (#). The cases about God and point-particles are certainly not counterexamples to this. Further, this is enough to rule out Property-Awareness, for the idea of Property-Awareness is that we are directly aware of unextended items.)

But I think it is rational to go either way. I accept (#) and reject Item-Awareness. But I can see that it could also be rational to accept Item-Awareness (in particular, Property-Awareness) and reject (#), as John seems to do. Fortunately, as I said at the beginning, not much hangs on the issue. This is a case where two people can disagree on something while agreeing on almost everything else. The issue, then, only has intrinsic interest – although I think that it has considerable intrinsic interest.


Hi Justin, thanks for the comment. I hadn't thought of the triangle case -- glad you mention it; it's a great case. If you get the chance, I'd be interested to hear the rest of your thoughts.

Hi Adam, wow! Thanks -- as usual, all excellent points. You've given me a lot to think about. I won't try to respond to everything in your post -- just a few comments and questions.

First, your objection to transparency is really interesting. Would you say that it's based on the following thought:

(T) The claim that a proposition p is obvious is defeated if p a priori entails a distinct proposition p* that is not obvious.

But maybe (T) is too strong? For instance, great a priori arguments seem to have premises that look to be obvious and a conclusion that is not obvious, yet the premises a priori entail the conclusion. Is it an objection that the premises a priori entail something that isn't obvious? I'm inclined to say that it isn't. Perhaps there's an alternative to (T) that gets around this.

Second, I like the new version of (#). But I wonder if it completely avoids the worry about the original version, namely, that it's ambiguous or underspecified. It sounds like you think there might be many different sorts of space -- physical space, the non-physical space that angels and God might occupy, etc. Given this, I wonder whether we can trust reports of our intuitions about the new version of (#). That's one of the reasons I formulated the principle using the notion of physical space. Since (P) and (P*) specify the sort of space in question, it's pretty clear what (P) and (P*) say, so our intuitions about them are relatively trustworthy.

But (P) and (P*) are still fairly theoretical, as is the new version of (#). In the lit on intuition, people seem to stress that intuitions about theoretical principles are less reliable than intuitions about concrete-cases. For instance, the theoretical intuition that knowledge is justified true belief is less reliable than the concrete-case intuition that Gettier-man doesn't know (though he has a justified true belief). The theoretical intuition that x A's intentionally only if x intends to A is less reliable than the concrete-case intuition that Harman's sniper intentionally A's (though he doesn't intend to A). The concrete-case intuitions have epistemic priority, as it were. Similarly for the concrete-case intuition that it is possible to be visually aware of point-particles or angels. (I would say that the evidence in these cases doesn't come from conceiving or imagining, but rather concrete-case intuition.) One may not share these concrete-case intuitions, and that's fine -- as you say, it's rational to follow one's intuitions. But *if* one has these concrete-case intuitions, then since concrete-case intuitions generally seem more trustworthy than theoretical intuitions, especially when the theoretical ones may be ambiguous or underspecified, the concrete-case intuitions seem to deserve epistemic priority.

The issues are delicate here, so I'll have to think some more about all of this before I say anything more. Thanks again for the comments!

[Update: I've omitted some remarks on the expression 'takes up space' that, upon reflection, seem best left for the drawing board. Apologies.]

Adam Pautz

Hey John,

Great comments – I think you are asking me exactly the right questions. Let me try to answer them.

(1) My argument that the relevant transparency thesis is not obvious does not require your (T), which is definitely false (axiomatic systems being the obvious counterexample). Instead I had in mind something more like:

(O) If it is obvious to S that p, and it is “immediately obvious” to S that if p then q, then it is obvious to S that q (departmentalized thinking aside).

This is why I said in my post “This claim *immediately* apriori entails that there are properties and we are related to them in hallucinatory experience. So if it is obvious, then this also is obvious.” Maybe “immediately” in (O) could be removed. It is enough that the entailment is obvious because the relevant transparency thesis says: “Whenever you know what your experience is like (which happens in hallucination too), there are some properties and you know what it is like by being aware of [or, to be neutral on Property-Awareness, related to] them”.

As a matter of fact, thinking about it now, I do not believe that any such principle as (O) is required. To me it just seems obvious that this transparency thesis is not obvious. Or at least: I for one am not willing to have it as my starting point in theorizing about experience. Rather, it seems to me a highly theoretical claim that we are justified in asserting, if at all, after lots of argumentation and metaphysics.

This is why I cannot sincerely say of myself, as Justin says of himself, ‘It seems to me that the thought that people in this scenario are visually aware of the universal triangularity’. To say that people are aware of the universal triangularity in the relevant scenario seems to me to be a highly theoretical claim. Even if it is true, it is not something which pretheoretically seems true (at least to me). For instance, another view is that such people are aware of sense data that instantiate triangularity and not triangularity itself. As some one said to Plato is some dialogue ‘I see the horse, Plato, but not horseness’. Yet another view is that people are aware of a sense data and there are no universals – this is a nominalistic sense datum theory. Can we really say that it pretheoretically seems true that the right philosophical account of this case is that the people in this scenario are aware of the universal triangularity, and that these other accounts are false? To me, that seems very much something we can only be justified in saying post theory, not pre theory.

(2) On ‘takes up space’: I knew you’d ask that! Fair questions though. In my mouth (I think) ‘takes up space’ (by which I just mean ‘is extended’) is not equivocal and is semantically stable. It expresses a property we know about from experience (which is not to say we experience it!). When I say ‘it might be that there are mental things that are extended’ and ‘the table before me is extended’ I mean the same property. I think other people can think of the same property and can (and just maybe do) share the intuition that, necessarily, if you are aware of x, x has that property.

(3) On intuitions about cases versus intuitions about principles. Not sure why, all else being equal, the first should be get greater weight. This would take an argument, and I am not sure what that would be. For myself, I do not find this principle about intuitions obvious. This principle about intuitions is not itself intuitive, so the justification would have to be something more subtle. The only person I know who talks about this is Peter Unger in his book *Living High and Letting Die*; and there he argues at length that the intuitions about the *principles* get greater weight and intuitions about cases are totally untrustworthy. (Indeed, I can think of one reason for thinking that intuitions about cases are less reliable: they might be situational, in some sense – more dependent on irrelevant facts about the relevant cases. I believe that these are called ‘framing effects’ by psychologists.) Maybe there is something about this in the ‘reflective equilibrium’ literature. I don’t know. Anyhow, I do not share the single case intuitions about the God and point particle cases, so for me the issue of a conflict between single case intuitions and the general principle (#) does not arise. But this, as they say, is a case where we may have to agree to disagree! Thanks to the exchange I think I have a far better grasp than I did before of the arguments on either side.

marc moffett

John, I don't have time to wade through your and Adam's give and take, so I will just add a few comments. If the issue has been covered, so be it.

First, I don't think that the fact that "physicalists have long ago made peace with universals" is really adequate to handle the worry that the response is at least occasionally driven by physicalist scruples. For, positing uninstantiated universals comes fairly close to an ante rem theory of universals and physicalists are typically much more comfortable with in rebus theories. Of course, the move doesn't require up front that there be universals that have NO instances whatsoever--full blown ante rem realism. But it is straightforward to argue for full blown ante rem realism from your starting point. For, suppose that at time t there are no red objects (i.e., the property of being red is no where instantiated). There are, however, green things. In virtue of staring too long at a green x-mas tree prior to t, I have at t a red after image. By hypothesis, I am sensorily aware of red, but red is nowhere instantiated. But presumably I cannot be sensorily aware of something that doesn't exist at all! So the property of being red exists at t even though it is nowhere instantiated. Thus, in rebus realism is false.

But, second, as an ante rem realist myself I am uncomfortable with the claim that we are ever sensorily aware of universals per se. I would be inclined to say that we can become "cognitively" aware of (grasp) universals in part by being sensorily aware of the objects in which they are instantiated. In any event, notice the oddness of self-predicating "sensible" qualities. To me, it sounds categorially wrong to say that the property of being red is itself red. But if you say that you can be sensorily aware of the property of the uninstantiated property of being red, then I don't see how you can fail to claim that this property is itself red.

Incidentally, regarding concrete-case intuitions vs. theoretical intuitions. Our concrete-case intuitions are arguably reliable (and so arguably a basic source of evidence) whereas our theoretical intuitions are pretty clearly unreliable. For instance, we all agree that in the Gettier cases there is a failure of knowledge, but hardly any of us agree on our theory of knowledge. So, at the very least, there is considerable on-balance consensus regarding our concrete-case intuitions (the exceptions prove the rule), but very little consensus regarding our theoretical intuitions. This makes a good deal of sense if you have a view according to which we all have some implicit conceptual mastery, but little explicit knowledge of those concepts.


Hey Adam, thanks for the clarifications. I'm not sure why we should think that 'property' is any more theoretical than 'extended', though. But, in any case, it just struck me that the alleged appeal of the new version of (#) might come from some aspect of the phenomenology. The objects of visual awareness always seem, phenomenally speaking, to take up space. If one was visually aware of an angel, then presumably it would *seem* to one that the angel takes up space, even though it can't (because it's a spirit). Of course, this observation about the phenomenology is consistent with the view that we are visually aware of properties.

Hey Marc, thanks for the comments. Interesting points. I agree that the view might well lead to ante rem realism. In fact, it probably does, given the possibility of an experience as of supersaturated red, which I am told is not instantiated. (Johnston has a nice discussion of supersaturated red in "The Obscure Object of Hallucination", pp. 141 ff.) But ante rem realism is consistent with physicalism, right? So, resistance to the view would have to come from something other than the desire to preserve physicalism. I guess it could just be resistance to the ante rem view. But I've found that people usually resist the view long before we get to this issue. So, I wonder what the source of resistance might be.

I'm also not sure why an ante rem realist like yourself would be resistant. You say you're ok with the idea that we can be cognitively aware of universals. So why not sensory awareness? Do you think we can be sensorily aware of universals when they're instantiated? Maybe you adopt some sort of eliminativism/error theory about even the instantiated case (e.g., x is aware of the tree's color). I'd be interested to hear more.

About self-predication. I don't think the view in question requires that we say that we can can be sensorily aware of the property of the uninstantiated property of being red. We're just sensorily aware of red, which happens to be uninstantiated. But maybe I'm missing something. If so, could you explain how the view is committed to this?

marc moffett

John, You say: "I don't think the view in question requires that we say that we can can be sensorily aware of the property of the uninstantiated property of being red. We're just sensorily aware of red, which happens to be uninstantiated." But what, in your view, does 'red' here pick out? I take it to denote the property of being red.


Yeah, it's the property of being red. So, we're aware of the property of being red. This property is uninstantiated. So, we're aware of the (uninstantiated) property of being red. What I was wondering is why you think it follows that we're aware of the property of the uninstantiated property of being red. It seems to me that generally x can be aware of the property of being F without being aware of the property of the property of being F. Why think that it's any different for uninstantiated properties? It seems like it's the same. Presumably, x can be aware of the (uninstantiated) property of being F without being aware of the property of the (uninstantiated) property of being F.

Just to make sure we're not talking past one another, let me add a bit of clarification. The view is not that we're aware of the property of being red *as* uninstantiated -- we may not even be aware that it's uninstantiated. Nor is the view that the (uninstantiated) property of being red looks red. The view is just that we're aware of an uninstantiated property: the property of being red. Could you walk me through why you think this entails that we're aware of the property of the uninstantiated property of being red? Sorry if this is obvious -- I'm just not getting it.

Adam Pautz

Hey guys,

Maybe I'll put my two cents in, in case it is at all helpful.

On ante rem: I think defenders of Property-Awareness (by which here I mean the view that we can be aware of a property without being aware of an instance of it) ought to reject: every property is instantiated. But they need not reject the following principle: every simple property is instantiated. In that sense, I think that they can have an in rebus, or immanent theory. But suppose they reject both principles and further accept an ante rem theory. I believe that this is consistent with Physicalism. Indeed, I believe that this is is consistent with what I take to be the best motivation behind Physicalism: the avoidance of 'danglers'. For I think it is consistent with a reductive theory of our awareness of transcendent universals. (I make these points on pp. 21-22 of my paper.)

on the 'self-predication' assumption. like john, i was not entirely sure why defenders of property-awareness would have to accept this assumption. (johnston briefly considers such an assumption, but i am not sure why he would have to accept it.)

in my paper (p. 20) i briefly consider the claim that if one is aware of the universal redness U, it must look some way to one; and one might think that way must be red. but the relevant principle here (if x is aware of y, y must look some way to one) is not obviously true. in any case, this would only entail that U must look red, not that it is red. so even if this principle is true, it would not mean that defenders of property-awareness are committed to the self-predication assumption.

on intuitions. this is a bit of a digression but it is an interesting issue, and i wanted to make a couple of points. first a verbal point. john and i were talking about intuitions about cases versus intuitions about *principles*, not intuitions about cases versus intuitions about *theories* (which is how marc characterizes the issue). (some principles are not theories, i take it.) now on to a substantive point. marc seems to think intuitions about cases are more reliable than intuitions about principles. he cites an example in support. he says we all have the same intuition in the gettier case but different intuitions about theories (which are principles of a certain kind: universal quantified biconditional principles). let me just make a very small point here. this supports the claim about the inferiority of intuitions about principles only if we really have *intuitions* about theories or analyses of knowledge (and hence, given the disagreement, lots of false *intuitions* about principles). i do not think we do. for instance, no one, i think, can be said to have the *intuition* that knowledge = JTB. he might have apriori justification for this; but the justification comes after a process of reasoning (testing it to lots of cases), so it is not an intuition in the relevant sense. (by 'intuitions about principles' i mean eg the intuition that knowledge requires justification; we are inclined to think this before doing any reasoning, so it might count as a genuine intuition.) so, the case does not support the claim that intuitions about cases are better off than intuitions about principles because a case in which our *views* about what theory is right differ is not a case in which our *intuitions* differ. it is not clear to me that our genuine intuitions about principles disagree any more frequently than our intuitions about cases, so i am doubtful that any argument from disagreement might support one type of intuitions over the other type. this is not to say that there is not another argument for the superiority of intuitions about cases; eg maybe marc's other argument about implicit conceptual mastery is such an argument.

a brief note on john's remark: "I'm not sure why we should think that 'property' is any more theoretical than 'extended' " . In my post I never applied 'theoretical' to expressions and did not say that 'property' is a theoretical term. My claim rather was that the relevant transparency *thesis* seems theoretical to me in the sense that it does not strike me as obvious or plausible prior to theorizing. By contrast, (#) does seem obvious to me prior to theorizing. I guess I think that whether the *expressions* 'property' and 'extended' are theoretical or not is not relevant. If we suppose that a term is a theoretical term iff it is introduced as part of some explanatory theory, I would say that neither term is theoretical. But even if 'property' is not a *theoretical term*, it still may be that the relevant transparency thesis, which is framed using that term, is *theoretical proposition*. (Non-obvious claims can be formulated using non-theoretical vocabularly.)

now I am going to make a point against myself. One might say 'hey, but it might be pretheoretically obvious that chris has all the properties of his father. so why cannot it be pretheoretically obvious that we know what it is like by focusing on properties?, etc.'. i guess i am inclined to say one of two things. (i) this is just not obvious in the relevant sense. we go around saying it, in a sense it is part of common sense that there are truths like the one about john and his properties, but they are not obvious. maybe *some* things we go around saying are such that there is no reason to suppose they're true, before theorizing; and maybe all ordinary language claims quantifying over properties are in this class. if i took this line then i could avoid the double standard. (ii) it may be that the quantifier here is some bogus quantifier, so the claim does not require that there are properties in the seminar room sense of 'there are' that ontologists care about. i think that this could be built up into a response, too, but i will leave the matter here. (briefly, i think that if the claims 'there are proeprties i am aware of' or 'i know what it is like by being related to properties' are to have any interest, then the quantifier involved must be the kind of serious ontological committing quantifier that we use in the seminar room. and it is quite consistent to say that such claims are non obvious while ordinary language claims like 'he has all the properties of his father' using the bogus quantifier are obvious.)

marc moffett

John, sorry. The iteration was a typo.

On reflection, I want to drop the line of reasoning--it was wrong. But let me try a different take on the issue. Locutions like "sensorily aware of" are pretty clearly terms of art that are not used in ordinary language (a Google search confirms that "visually aware of" occurs almost exclusively in academic writings). But in ordinary parlance, "y is aware of x" means something like "y takes notice of or is otherwise cognizant of the presence of x". (I don't have any kind of analysis of what it means to say that something is "present", but if you run through some ordinary examples I think you will agree that this is necessary.)

Now, in the case of universals, it makes some sense to think of a property's being instantiated as a way for it to be present (caveat, caveat). So I can at least get a conceptual handle on what it means to say that I am visually aware of redness when it is instantiated and I am looking at the object in which it is instantiated under normal conditions, etc. In such cases, I take notice of the presence of red in my visual environment.

But the prima facie oddness of the view that I can be visually aware of an uninstantiated property comes from a failure to see in what sense the property is present. In the case of a red afterimage, for instance, redness is supposed to present in such a way that I can be aware of it but aquamarine isn't. But if neither redness nor aquamarineness are instantiated, then in what sense is redness present that aquamarineness isn't?

So, on reflection, I think that is the nub of the issue. And when couched in this way, I don't think it is at all obvious that the view is wrong. For instance, one might say in the red/aquamarine case that red is salient in those phenomenal circumstances and aquamarine isn't. While I don't think that is right (e.g., suppose that you are wired in such a way that any time red becomes salient to you, so does cold or justice--you cannot thereby become visually aware of coldness or justice), it at least suggests that there might be other relevant ways of explicating the presence of an uninstantiated property.

Regarding physicalism. I didn't mean to say that physicalists were committed to denying ante rem realism, but only that they would not be particularly likely to accept it. More to the point, I take it that ante rem realism is the minority view and so merely uttering "uninstantiated universal" is likely to produce some prima facie skepticism.

Regarding intuitions. I take Adam's point, but I am doubtful that there is a clear distinction between principles and theories or analyses (property identities). I can have the intuition that knowledge requires justification; I can have the intuition that knowledge requires belief; I can have the intuition that knowledge requires truth. So can't I just have the intuition that knowledge requires justified, true belief? And if I have that, why can't I have the intuition that justified, true belief requires knowledge? And certainly it just *seems* right to many of my students that being a bachelor just is being an unmarried, adult male. That isn't an argument. I am just registering my skepticism that there is any natural stopping point here.

In any event, suppose we restrict our consideration to concrete case intuitions vs. intuitions regarding principles. There still seems to be an epistemic asymmetry. Suppose it seems right to me that knowledge requires justification. Perhaps that is a prima facie reason to accept it. But now suppose I give you a case in which I seem to clearly know something, but where I don't seem to have any justification (e.g., as suggested by Lewis). It is fair to say, I think, that we have a strong general preference for giving up the truth of the principle rather than the concrete case intuition. Perhaps all things considered we will come back to the principle and reject the concrete-case intuitions as somehow deviant, but that is certainly not our preference. Indeed, it seems to me that we could coherently imagine a situation in which we could justifiably accept a general theory of the world which ran contrary to most of our intuitions regarding principles, but not a situation in which we could justifiably accept a theory which ran contrary to most of our concrete-case intuitions. Is that right????


Marc, good points. I'm not going to comment on intuition, since I might write another post on it sometime. Let me try to say something in response to your remarks about sensory awareness.

While we don't typically (or perhaps ever) use the expressions 'sensorily aware' or 'visually aware', we do seem to sometimes use 'aware' or 'sense' to pick out a non-cognitive relation distinct from noticing. But this is beside the point, in a way. As you suggest, the crucial point is that if x is aware of y (in the intended sense), then y is presented to x -- and, it seems, conversely. I can agree with that. In fact, a lot of people who hold the view in question sometimes express it in terms of presentation, rather than (or in addition to) awareness.

The question this raises about awareness of uninstantiated properties is a good one: in a given hallucinatory experience, why is one presented with certain properties but not others? Your illustration is nice:

In the case of a red afterimage, for instance, redness is supposed to [be] present in such a way that I [am] aware of it but [not] aquamarine. But if neither redness nor aquamarineness are instantiated, then in what sense is redness present that aquamarineness isn't?

I take it that reductivists could answer this question in any one of a number of ways. For instance, Tye would say that to be aware of, or presented with, redness is to be in a certain sort of state that tracks redness under optimal conditions. Dretske would say that to be aware of, or presented with, redness is to be in a certain sort of state that has the function of indicating red. A brain state theorist might say that to be aware of, or presented with, redness is to be in a brain state with certain neurophysiological features. Reductivists would then say that to be aware of, or presented with, aquamarineness is to be in a different state. So, if I understand them correctly, reductivists would answer your question about the afterimage case in the following way: you're aware of, or presented with, redness rather than aquamarinemess because of the state you're in.

A primitivist would say instead that sensory awareness is a sui generis relation. So, she would answer your question about the afterimage case in the following way: you're aware of, or presented with, redness rather than aquamarineness because in that case you stand in that sui generis relation to redness rather than aquamarineness.

As for justice, the view in question is going to need some way to distinguish between sensible properties (like redness and aquamarineness) and non-sensible properties (like justice). The distinction seems pretty intuitive. Anyway, since I don't have anything particularly helpful to say about it, I'll just leave it at that.

Adam Pautz

hey marc,

very helpful. i just noticed that john just posted but i will post my thing anyway even though there may be overlap:

re your first point - that 'x is visually aware of y' is a technical term: i agree that it is a technical term, and i try to explain it. when i consider the question whether we are aware of universals i have in mind a special type of awareness. here is how i try to get a fix on it. following dretske, i distinguish between item-awareness and fact-awareness. also following dretske, i equate the relevant sense of 'x is aware of y' with 'x sees or hears or . . . y', where these verbs are used in their item-awarenes sense and not in their fact-awareness sense (see dretske "Conscious Experience", Mind). (i take it that they have both senses. for instance, when one says one sees the problem one means that one sees *that* the problem is A, for some A. but this is not the sense i have in mind.) so when in the paper and in the posts i use the technical locution 'x is visually aware of y' or 'x is visually item-aware of y' i mean 'x sees y' where 'sees' is used in the item-seeing sense. hence for me the relevant question of whether we are aware of universals is the question

Q1 Do we see, hear etc them in the item-awareness sense?

(i make these points on 6-7 and 23-24 of the paper.) there may be some problems with this way of setting up the issue that i have not thought of (if any one thinks of any please let me know).

it follows that when marc raises the question

Q2 are we aware of (uninstantiated) universals in the sense that "we take notice of or are otherwise cognizant of the presence of them"

he is asking a quite different question. I give a negative answer to Q1. What is the answer to Q2? If 'x is cognizant of the presence of U' means that x knows that U exists (this is at least one natural understanding), then I think that the answer to Q2 is No as well: philosophy being what it is, I do not think anyone *knows* that universals exist. But I tend to think Marc had some different interpretation of Q2 in mind. Marc: could you say more about what you mean by being cognizant of the presence of U?

let us set aside this question for a moment. marc offers an argument for a negative answer to q2. since q2 is not the question i am interested in, i was wondering whether this argument might be parlayed into an argument for a negative answer to q1. the argument would go: "if x is visually aware of y, then y must be present to x. but uninstantiated universals are not present to us. so we are not aware of them."

what to say about this argument? it all depends on what 'y is present to x' means. if here it just means 'x is sensorily aware of y' then of course the argument is question begging. maybe it means 'y is located before x'. then the argument relies on a principle:

% if x is visually aware of y then y is located before x

which is similar to but quite distinct from my #. But with John I think that the clairvoyance cases show that % is false.

i further thought. here is a way to show that the 'awarenesss of universals' view does not accommodate the price intuition in favor of item awareness *on the correct way of understanding that intuition*, in which case, of course, the intuition does not support the view. one might say that the intuition, in the hallucinatory case, is not just that one is aware of something. one might think that it is that one is aware of a located something. one might think eg that it is the intuition that one is aware of redness *there* and greenness *here*. if this is the way to understand the intuition, then the intuition offers no support for the claim that we are aware of uninstantiated universals (which are neither here nor there), for that claim does not accommodate the intuition.

alex byrne raised this point to me (and related points) in conversation. i think it is a very good point and may be right. i discuss this point and alex's other points in my footnote 23. but in the paper i am concessive to the defender of awareness of universals. i just assume that intuition independently supports the rather general claim that in the bad case we are aware of something. this intuition, together with the theoretical claim that a universal is the only thing that might be the something in question, does support the view. but i think my principle # offers a stronger case against it.

on intuitions about cases versus intuitions about principles: yeah i think marc's point is a good one. when there is a conflict we do in fact go for a revision of the principles rather than change our views on the cases. and i agree that somehow this seems like the right thing to do. so maybe there is a kind of argument from normal practice for preferring intuitions about cases to intuitions about principles; but i guess i was wondering if there is a deeper argument or explanation of why intuitions about cases should be more trustworthy (as i said you might think, as peter unger thinks (i think), that the opposite is true, since intuitions about cases are vulnerable to framing effects). certainly in the reflective equilibrium literature it is allowed that it can be rational to change our views about cases in response to our intuitions about principles (this is what peter unger's book is all about - you might have thought you don't have a duty to some one in africa but you do because this follows from obvious principles!).

marc moffett

John, Let me clarify. I did not intend (nor did I say) that awareness of x requires that x be presented to one. That may be true, it may even be entailed by what I said (though I doubt it), but I want to remain neutral on that issue. What I said is that awareness of x requires the presence of x. Adam is right that this is very similar to his principle (#). Thus:

(P!) Necessarily, if x is aware of y, then y must be present wrt x.

“Being present” here doesn’t mean either located before one or located in space-time or even located in one’s “vicinity” in some space. The intention is to allow “being present” to be neutral wrt to the ontology of the space under consideration: perceptual space, space-time, logical space, conceptual space, etc.

Furthermore, I take it (to whatever extent I understand these locutions) that when we speak narrowly of being s-ly aware of x, that there is a corresponding notion of s-space such that:

(P!-s) Necessarily, if x is s-ly aware of y, then y must be present in x’s s-space.

To take the relevant instance:

(##) Necessarily, if x is visually aware of y, then y must be present in x’s visual-space.

The intention here is that “visual-space” should not be read as “visual field” but what is in some sense accessible to one’s visual apparatus. [A few asides: (1) Of course, it may be that if x is visually aware of aware of y, then y must be present in x’s visual-field (being in x’s visual-field is understood to entail being in x’s visual-space)—but this claim is inessential to my purposes and so I will ignore it. (2) Note that this should handle your clairvoyance case without problem. In that case, I would say that the tomato is accessible to one’s visual apparatus (assuming it really is a visual experience, as you stipulate) and so is in the relevant sense present. (3) I doubt I can give an analysis of “accessible to one’s visual apparatus” that doesn’t invoke “awareness”, so I will have to take the former notion as primitive.]

Now I am willing to concede that being instantiated in an object present in x’s visual-space is sufficient to make a universal present in x’s visual-space. Consequently, I am willing to concede that one can be visually aware of instantiated universals (specifically, sensible properties). Since uninstantiated universals clearly cannot be present in x’s visual-space in this way, the question is, “What other way is there for a (uninstantiated) universal to be present in one’s visual-space?” I think it is clear that no other alternative explanations spring naturally to mind, and isn’t this enough to explain people’s initial reactions to the suggestion?

Furthermore, even on reflection, I don’t see any answers that make any obvious sense. For instance, it isn't at all obvious to me that any of the "reductivist" views John articulates are up to the task. E.g., being in a state that has the function of tracking (the presence of?) redness does not seem sufficient for making red present in one’s visual-space; nor does being in a state that tracks (the presence of?) redness under optimal conditions. More generally, modes-of-presentation (MOPs) typically have the role of being available absent the object presented. So it would be a bit odd at least to suggest that a MOP of x is present only if x is present.

Maybe you could get this much pretty naturally, however. Let m be a visual MOP of x. Then one might be willing to say that if m is present in y’s visual space, then x is present in y’s conceptual space. And in that case, it might be pretty natural to say something like y can then be visually-cum-conceptually aware of x. (I won’t even try to spell out the details of mixed-modality spaces.)

One last point/question. I thought that part of the reason for offering this view was to make sense of the phenomenology of hallucinations, after-images, etc. Is that right? If so, then I don’t see why invoking MOPs doesn’t undercut the interest in the proposal (on this score). For, won’t it then be more natural to give an account of the phenomenology in terms of the MOPs themselves?


Thanks, Marc. I sense that you might be honing in on something important, so I want to try to get clear about what you have in mind. I'm not sure I understand the relevant notion of 'visual space', which seems to be doing a lot of work. You write,

The intention here is that “visual-space” should not be read as “visual field” but what is in some sense accessible to one’s visual apparatus.

What is it to be "in some sense accessible to one's visual apparatus"? (In what sense? Must a visual apparatus be physical? Must it have a multiplicity of parts? What is the relevant sort of accessibility? Etc.)

Incidentally, most defenders of the view deny that we're visually aware of MOPs. We're just aware of (say) red.

marc moffett

John, w/out pretending to answer all your questions, the primary distinction I want to draw is between what is in one's visual field and what it is possible to get within one's visual field without doing very much (e.g., turning around in a circle). As I said before, I think that I am going to have to treat "accessibility" as primitive. But if not, let it be the case that x is s-accessible to y iff x would be part of y's s-field without y's doing very much. Of course, what counts as "not doing very much" is relative to interests, so I don't think that there is an notion of an s-space that is interest invariant. (Perhaps this could be made explicit by invoking a notion of "operative" visual space.)

I am not going to get involved in a discussion of whether or not visual apparatus must be physical. The claim is conditional: if A constitutes y's visual apparatus, then ... .


Marc, sorry, I thought your notion of visual space was independent of the notion of visual field. Now that I see that it's not, I have another, more basic (and hopefully simpler), clarificatory question. What do you mean by 'visual field'? As far as I understand it, 'visual field' is a term of art that's used in a variety of ways by different philosophers and psychologists to pick out e.g., physical space, mental space, intentional content, etc. (Austen Clark has a discussion of these uses in "Three Varieties of Visual Field", available at: http://selfpace.uconn.edu/paper/ClarkAusVisall5.pdf.) Did you have one of these in mind, or none in particular?

If I had to guess, I'd say that you want 'visual field' to pick out some relevant region of physical space, since this interpretation fits nicely with your example of turning around in a circle. Then 'visual space' denotes the physical space before one plus "what it is possible to get within [the physical space before one] without doing very much."

But if this is how we are to interpret 'visual space', then it looks like (##) lies somewhere between (P) and (P*), leaving it open to the same objections (if not clairvoyance, then the angel case). This leads me to think that this may not be the best way of interpreting your suggestion.

marc moffett

John, presumably one would want a story here that is more or less independent of these subsidiary debates. I am happy to take the notion of accessibility as primitive and to define visual-space in terms of it; at any rate, I don't see any obvious reason why this isn't a viable course of action. I have at least as a good a pre-theoretical grasp of an entity's being accessible via a given modality as I do of any of these other concepts. So, if (ex hypothesi) we can see (be visually aware of) angels and angels (ex hypothesi) aren't located in physical space, then I will claim that what is present in visual-space cannot be identified with what is present in space-time (ignoring modality). [Though, w/Adam, I register my skepticism about the angel case.] In short, I take s-accessibility to be analytically more basic than s-space; the latter is defined in terms of the former.

Of course if, like Adam, you are actually trying to propose a theory of, say, visual awareness, then you will need to take a stand on these issues. And here your theory of visual-accessibility and visual-space (and visual-field) will be driven by your concrete-case intuitions. If you think unextended, atemporal beings are (possibly) visually-accessible, then you will need to articulate your theory of visual-space accordingly. If not, not. So my intention is to pitch (P!) at a level which abstracts away from these debates but captures the underlying pull of (P*) and (#), namely, that awareness requires the presence of an entity in an appropriate space.

If I am succesfull, then I want to claim that it is not intuitive that uninstantiated universals can be visually-accessible. Consequently, if you want to say that they are, you will need to give some story about how this works.

Incidentally, I confess that I have no idea how any of this is supposed to help (if it is supposed to help) with the phenomenology of hallucinations, after-images, etc. From what you have said above: when I have a red after image, I see (am visually aware of) the uninstantiated universal redness, but it isn't red and doesn't even look red. So whatever else is going on here, the phenomenology of red after-images isn't explained by the fact that I see something (namely, redness) that is or appears red. So what work is the thesis that I see uninstantiated redness doing in my theory of after-images? [I apologize if this is naive, but as you know I have very little background in this area.]

But perhaps it isn't supposed to be doing any such work. Perhaps it is just an interesting philosophical claim that we can see uninstantiated universals.


Marc, it sounds like our intuitions diverge about some of the relevant cases. In any event, your comments about visual accessibility offer an interesting explanation of the source of resistance to the view, which is exactly what I was looking for. Very helpful.

Very briefly about the phenomenology: The idea is that in experience it seems to one that one is aware of colors and shapes -- i.e., properties. For instance, in an experience as of something blue it seems to one that one is aware of blue. One might report this as follows: "Lo! Blue!" Likewise for the phenomenology of hallucination and after-images. In a blue-after-image-experience, for example, it seems to one that one is aware of blue: "Lo! Blue!" one might say. In this sense, the view purports to capture the phenomenology.

That the relevant properties are (i) universals and (ii) uninstantiated in hallucination and after-images is no part of the phenomenology. This is one way to go when developing the rest of the theory. (Another way to go is Meinongianism or a sense-data theory, which adopt what Robinson calls the phenomenal principle that basically states that the properties have to be instantiated by something -- Meinongianism says that in hallucination they are instantiated by nonexistent entities; sense-data theory says that they are always instantiated by private mental sense data.) While those I cite in my post argue (typically by elimination) that accepting both (i) and (ii) is *the* way to go, I merely thought it would be worth getting readers' comments about why this way of going strikes some as strange and eery.

As for a positive story about how uninstantiated universals can be visually accessible, the various accounts I sketched in *very* rough outline a few posts back are intended to provide such a story. You've registered your skepticism about these accounts. To try to meet this skepticism would be to commit to much more than I ever intended to with my original post, which was simply meant to elicit some suggestions regarding the source of resistance to the view that we can be aware of (=/= see, hear, etc.) uninstantiated universals. I agree that it would be worth hearing more about this view; as Crane says in the remark I quoted in my original post, it demands discussion.

marc moffett

Regarding phenomenology. Is the suggestion this? Let Eb be the phenomenal experience of blue. Ordinary veridical perception makes initially plausible the claim that x has Eb iff x sees blue. After images, irregular lighting conditions, and hallucinations appear to undermine the bi-conditional in both directions. (If you don't see the right to left direction, don't bother with it.) However, if we maintain that in these cases we still do see blue (it is just that blue isn't instantiated), then the bi-conditional can be maintained in the face of these concerns. Is that it?

Regarding the main topic. I am not clear on where our differences in intuition matter. I have conceded your angel case, even though it doesn't strike me as obviously correct. So is it that you find it intuitive that we can see uninstantiated universals? If so, then I take it that we can at least agree that most people don't find this intuitive; hence, the reported incredulous stares. In fact, the simple response to your initial query is just, "It is highly counterintuitive." What we have been engaged in is some theoretical speculation as to the conceptual source of that intuition. As with any philosophical investigation, abandoning the intuition is reasonable only in light of the theoretical benefits of doing so. (This is why I was worried about what work the proposal was doing.)


Marc, re the phenomenology: First, I'm a bit reluctant to equate sensory awareness with seeing. (Hence the parenthetical comment in my last post.) So, from where I stand, the relevant biconditional is: x has Eb iff x is sensorily aware of blue. The idea is that this biconditional (or at least one direction of it) reflects the phenomenology, and that Eb need not be veridical for this to be so, since the biconditional (or at least one direction of it) reflects the phenomenology of any experience as of something being blue: from the inside, as it were, having Eb is or involves being aware of blue.

(Btw, I don't intend to be making any novel claims here. This is a pretty standard observation in the lit which seems to be granted by both sides.)

If this is correct, then the *phenomenology* of hallucination or after-images won't undermine the biconditional. Perhaps reflection on such cases does, in which case we'll need to find another view of experience, a view which denies that we're aware of blue in hallucinatory experience. The options are: eliminativism (Churchlands), adverbialism (Chisholm, Alston), doxasticism (Armstrong, Dennett), negative disjunctivism (Martin), or what I call pure intentionalism (Crane, Pautz).

If one allows that we're aware of properties in hallucination, then the options are: sense-data theory (Robinson), Meinongianism (Smith), intentional-trope theory (Sturgeon), and the possibly uninstantiated universals view (...).

Re intuitions: good question. I said that it sounds like our intuitions differ because a few post backs you wrote:

I register my skepticism about the angel case

I took this to be a report of an intuition. Since I have the intuition that the angel case is possible, I took it that we had different intuitions. I didn't intend to make any claims about the implications of this difference. Nor did I intend to claim that I find the following proposition intuitive (or counterintuitive, for that matter):

($) x has a hallucinatory experience as of something being blue iff x is sensorily aware of the uninstantiated universal blue.

I don't have any intuitions about ($), perhaps because it's so theoretical. Perhaps others find it counterintuitive, and that's why they resist the view -- phenomenology notwithstanding. You may well be right that we've been engaging in a bit of theoretical speculation as to "the conceptual source of that intuition." In part because of your comments about s-accessibility, I feel much clearer about this source. Thanks!

Pete Mandik

Hi John,

I enjoyed your post (and found it via Chalmers' blog).

I'm curious as to your reaction to the following.

If afterimage awareness involves awareness of uninstantiated universals and Johnston is right about supersaturated red in the paper you cite, then the awareness in such cases is awareness of necessarily uninstantiated universals. According to Johnston, not only is nothing supersaturated red, there cannot be anything that is supersaturated red.

I assume that universals exist only if they are possibly instantiated, but I'm not familiar enough with the relevant literatures to know how wide-spread such an assumption is. However, if such an assumption is granted, then it can be utilized to put pressure on the view that sensory awareness involves bearing relations to universals.

The gist of such an argument might go something like this: If "aware" is unequivocal in "awareness of red" and "awareness of supersaturated red", and awareness of supersaturated red doesn't involve a relation to a universal (since you can't bear relations to inexistents), then awareness of red doesn't involve a relation to a universal either.

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