On representing objects with a language of sentience

Philosophical Psychology 21 (1):113 – 127 (2008)
In his book A Theory of Sentience, Austen Clark argues that the content of sensory representations can be expressed as sentences constructed from a language of sentience. Such sentences specify that a determinate feature obtains in a particular space-time region, but the language's limited vocabulary prohibits the sentences from referring or attributing features to objects. In this paper, I show that this view is flawed in at least two ways. First, if sensation has the capacities that Clark and others attribute to it, then the vocabulary of sense extends further than he supposes, and a limited language of sentience cannot justify a prohibition of object representation within sentience. Second, even if the language of sentience is as impoverished as he claims, and thus even if the representational capacity of sentience is correspondingly limited, object individuation can plausibly occur at the level of sensation. In the course of defusing Clark's major argument for an “object-less” theory of sentience, I offer reasons to believe both that sensory representations can be impressively sophisticated in what they say about the world, and that object representations can be surprisingly basic.
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DOI 10.1080/09515080701850084
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Austen Clark (2004). Feature-Placing and Proto-Objects. Philosophical Psychology 17 (4):443-469.

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