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Imagining, Recognizing and Discriminating: Reconsidering the Ability Hypothesis1


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    I am grateful to Hugh Mellor, Robert Van Gulick and André Gallois for detailed comments on earlier versions of this paper. I am also grateful to the participants of my seminar on imagination at Syracuse University.


According to the Ability Hypothesis, knowing what it is like to have experience E is just having the ability to imagine or recognize or remember having experience E. I examine various versions of the Ability Hypothesis and point out that they all face serious objections. Then I propose a new version that is not vulnerable to these objections: knowing what it is like to experience E is having the ability to discriminate imagining or having experience E from imagining or having any other experience. I argue that if we replace the ability to imagine or recognize with the ability to discriminate, the Ability Hypothesis can be salvaged.