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2011-07-18
McDowell and the view "that the content of experience can be true or false".
Hello,
On pp. 457-458 of his admirably lucid paper Is Perception a Propositional Attitude?  Philosophical Quarterly 59 (236):452-469,Tim Crane implies that John McDowell holds the view "that the content of experience can true or false." (p. 458). Can anyone point to the discussion in McDowell where he says or implies the view? Personally I've a feeling that this is a misattribution (McDowell does concede to a possibility of error to experience, but that's not the same thing as saying that experience can be true or false, for more than one reasons).
thanks
ali

2011-07-25
McDowell and the view "that the content of experience can be true or false".
Reply to Ali Rizvi
Hello Ali,

Here is one remark from McDowell that supports Crane's attribution.

"The very idea of representational content brings with it a notion of correctness and incorrectness: something with a certain content is correct, in the relevant sense, just in case things are as it represents them to be. I can see no good reason not to call this correctness 'truth'" (Mind and World, p.162). (That remark is part of discussion of non-conceptual content.)

In "Knowledge and the Internal" and "Knowledge and the Internal Revisited," McDowell claims that experiences can and must be "factive." For instance, in the abstract to KIR, McDowell says, "Seeing that P constitutes falsehood-excluding justification for believing that P." Seeings--one special class of experiences--are true (and justified).

I hope that helps.

2011-08-01
McDowell and the view "that the content of experience can be true or false".
Reply to Ali Rizvi

I believe that what Crane is referring to here is McDowell's disjunctivism, and the main reference normally quoted for this is his 'Criteria, Defeasibility and Knowledge', (Proceedings of the British Academy, 1982 and also reprinted in Jonathan Dancy (ed), Perceptual Knowledge). In this he denies that the argument from illusion supports an indirect theory of perception and instead makes a disjunctive claim about our perceptual experience. What has come to be known as his epistemological disjunctivism is a thesis about the perceptual evidence or epistemic warrant available to a subject in those cases in which things appear to her to be a certain way. So for the epistemological disjunctivist there is a contrast to be drawn in such cases between those in which it is possible for the subject to know that something is so, and those in which she may know only that something appears to be so. This kind of disjunctivism is normally contrasted with the metaphysical disjunctivism of Hinton, Snowdon and Mike Martin.

I hope that helps.

 

 


2011-08-01
McDowell and the view "that the content of experience can be true or false".
Hi Chauncey,
Many thanks for the references; I think they do support Crane's attribution to a certain extent, but (as the scare quotes around truth indicate) Crane would need more than that to substantiate his claim. Thus, in the second reference, "seeing that P constitutes falsehood-excluding justification for believing that P" does not necessarily mean that "seeing that P" on its own is (automatically) a justification for "believing that P". McDowell only needs to claim that "seeing that P" can act as justification for "believing that P" (there are other differences as well which are more clearly discussed in his Woodbridge Lectures).
Thanks again,
Ali

2011-08-02
McDowell and the view "that the content of experience can be true or false".

Hi Romney,

Not entirely sure how disjunctivism is related to the question of whether the content of experience is something which can be true or false; are you suggesting that disjunctivism entails the position that the content of experience is propositional?

I take Crane to be arguing for the following:

1) The content of an experience is the sort of thing one can judge.

2) What one can judge is a proposition, something which is true or false.

3) Therefore, content of experience can be true or false.

But I think the argument is flawed because P (1) is ambiguous. To claim that " content of an experience is something one can judge" can mean two things:

a) It's a sort of thing which is judged (one judges) in perception.

b) It's a sort of thing which suitable for judging (in a judgement).

Crane's conclusion follows only if we accept (a), but I don't think McDowell makes that claim. True, he does say that there is no difference of kind between the content of judgement and content of perception, but he does not claim that there is no difference as such between perception and judgement (see for example Woodbridge lectures, especially pp. 438-439).

Ali

2011-08-19
McDowell and the view "that the content of experience can be true or false".
Reply to Ali Rizvi
Hi Ali,

The relevance of disjunctivism to the question of the truth or falsity of the content of experience comes out I think when McDowell (in Criteria, Defeasibility and Knowledge) says:

"...that an appearance that such and such is the case can be either a mere appearance or the fact that such-and-such is the case making itself perceptually manifest to someone."

The difference between the disjuncts is that though the object of experience in the deceptive cases is a mere appearance, something falling short of the facts, this is not so in the non-deceptive cases. Here the appearance that is presented to one is a matter of the fact itself being disclosed to the subject - the content of the appearance is the content of the knowledge. Thus the object of such an experience does not fall short of the fact, it is the fact itself made manifest.

Though whether or not this supports the claim that the content of experience is propositional,  I'm not so sure.

I hope this helps.

Romney

2011-08-19
McDowell and the view "that the content of experience can be true or false".
Reply to Ali Rizvi
In his recent paper Avoiding the Myth of the Given, McDowell recants his former view that the content of perceptual experience must be propositional. He now holds that this content has "intuitional form", which is a sort of content that is "unarticulated" -- a mere "fragment of discursive content". He still holds that this content is conceptual. He maintains his view that human perception consists in the passive actualization of conceptual abilities. Further, he quotes Kant approvingly: "The same function which gives unity to the various representations in a judgement also gives unity to the mere synthesis of various representations in an intuition".
So, it seems that his new revised view is inconsistent with the claim that perceptual content can be false or veridical. However, this content is already conceptualized in a way that enables one to articulate it in discursive judgements. This articulation isn't an inferential move, so the Sellarsian view that perceptual judgement is non-inferential is maintained.
     

2011-09-10
McDowell and the view "that the content of experience can be true or false".
Reply to Ali Rizvi
McDowell, in his book "Mind and World" insists that the content of our experience is "that things are thus and so." So, yes, this would imply that the content of our experience can be true or false.

Ref: Mind and World, Ch.2, section 1 (and throughout the book).

2011-09-12
McDowell and the view "that the content of experience can be true or false".
Reply to Ali Rizvi
Hi all, 
I understand that the main motivation of this discussion - as it was started by Ali's first commentary - is exegetical. Still, whether or not there are grounds for attributing to McDowell the view that the content of experience can be true or false, I'd like to know what exactly the arguments are for this view and whether they are compelling. Sorry if I am putting this in the wrong place (should I start a new discussion??)

Alfredo. 

2011-09-12
McDowell and the view "that the content of experience can be true or false".
Hi Romney,

Yes, it did help! Thanks. Thanks to you I went back and reread "Criteria, Defeasibility and Knowledge" and I can at least see the point (even though, like you, I still doubt that it proves Crane's claim).
Ali

2011-09-12
McDowell and the view "that the content of experience can be true or false".
Hi Pierre-Normand,

I agree with your point that McDowell's position has changed on the issue, but since Crane's topic is explicitly "propositional content" it seemed more like an exegetical quibble to question him on that. The best explication of the new position I know of is in "Conceptual Capacities in Perception" reprinted in Having the world in View (HUP: 2009).
Ali

2011-09-22
McDowell and the view "that the content of experience can be true or false".
Reply to Ali Rizvi
Hi Ali,

I think Crane is surely right that McDowell thought the content of perception was propositional, that is, at least from 'Criteria...' through Mind and World and until about 2007 'Avoiding...'). Previous posts have pointed to some of the textual evidence. I think Mind and World lects. I-III and Afterword, part II are good places to start. It should also follow from his claims that the world is the totality of fact (Wittgenstein Tractatus) and that what perception purports to be "of" is just that world: that such and such is the case. McDowell (cf. his "identity threory of truth") understands facts as true propositions. Cf. MW Lect. II.3, where he interprets PI95: "We - and our meaning - do not stop anywhere short of the fact; but we mean: this - is - so" (27). Some passages from that paragraph: "One can think, for instance, that spring has begun, and that very same thing, that spring has begun, can be the case" (27 bottom). "When we trace justifications back, the last thing we come to is still a thinkable content" (28 bottom). "The thinkable contents that are ultimate in the order of justification are contents of experience, and in enjoying an experience one is open to manifest facts. … What we see is: that such-and-such is the case" (29). Again, what can be the case is a proposition, like that spring has begun just quoted. For some independent motivation for the idea that perception being propositional, I think Byrne 2005 'Perception and Conceptual Content' (quoted by Crane) is good.

As for the "recantation" mentioned by Pierre-Normand, Crane notes it in a more recent paper, forth. 'The Given'. I don't think much of that recantation is visible in that paper you refer to, 'Conceptual Capacities...'. Apart from some added footnotes in HWV the only real discussion is in 'Avoiding...', and there some more in his reply to Travis (reprinted in Lindgaard ed.). In his later articles (e.g. debates with Gupta and Burge) he only footnoes his change of view. I'm not yet sure how deep the change is. I'm curious to hear what people think about this (maybe something for a new thread).

As for your argument above (08-02) I don't get it: I don't see how the ambiguity affects the claim that perception is propositional. It is clear that McDowell intends version b of your premise 1: The content of perception is something that can be judged. (And as your premise 2 says, what can be judged is propositions, which should be relatively uncontroversial, cf. also Byrne 2005 mentioned.) You write that Crane's conclusion follows only on version a: "True, he does say that there is no difference of kind between the content of judgement and content of perception, but he does not claim that there is no difference as such between perception and judgement." But Crane doesn't say that McDowell says there is no difference between perception and judgment. He is concerned about the content of perception and judgment, not the states, just as you say. I'm puzzled about your argument, since you give Crane exactly what he needs.
 
Best,

Jorgen

2011-09-22
McDowell and the view "that the content of experience can be true or false".
Hi Pierre-Normand and Ali,

I think it would be to misunderstand McDowell's picture of the nature of experience (in Avoiding the Myth of the Given) to see it as being at odds with his perceptual disjunctivism. McDowell argues that even though experiences understood as intuitions involve the operation of conceptual capacities (thus avoiding the Myth of the Given), they do not have propositional content.  "[V]isual experiences just bring our surroundings into view", he says. Such experiences are not taking things to be so, though we may go on to take things to be so, thereby forming judgments and possibly beliefs. We may be entitled to take some things to be so on the basis of experiences, but may not always exploit this potential inherent in those experiences.

This falls short of Sellars' 'fragmentary discursive content'. Having something in view, such as a red cube, may be complete in itself and need not imply that one would utter the words 'this red cube'.

McDowell (as I understand him) is saying that an entitlement to take things to be so may not actually be implicit in the experiences. Some experience may not provide such entitlement, there being no good reason to take things to be so, or at least not all the things we might take to be so in the light of those experiences. Therefore there is both the possibility that our experiences may provide the basis for knowledge and the possibility that they may mislead us. This picture seems to leave McDowell's disjunctivism intact and also a necessary part of his picture of experience, because some experiences may indeed mislead us.

I hope this does justice to McDowell's picture and also to your own conceptions.

Romney