Ambiguous figures and the content of experience

Noûs 40 (1):82-117 (2006)
Abstract
Representationalism is the position that the phenomenal character of an experience is either identical with, or supervenes on, the content of that experience. Many representationalists hold that the relevant content of experience is nonconceptual. I propose a counter-example to this form of representationalism that arises from the phenomenon of Gestalt switching, which occurs when viewing ambiguous figures. First, I argue that one does not need to appeal to the conceptual content of experience or to judge- ments to account for Gestalt switching. I then argue that experiences of certain ambiguous figures are problematic because they have different phenomenal characters but that no difference in the nonconceptual content of these experiences can be identified. I consider three solutions to this problem that have been proposed by both philosophers and psychologists and conclude that none can account for all the ambiguous figures that pose the problem. I conclude that the onus is on representationalists to specify the relevant difference in content or to abandon their position.
Keywords Ambiguity  Content  Epistemology  Experience  Figure  Gestalt  Representationalism
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Ned Block (2010). Attention and Mental Paint1. Philosophical Issues 20 (1):23-63.
Fiona Macpherson (2011). Taxonomising the Senses. Philosophical Studies 153 (1):123-142.
Nicoletta Orlandi (2011). Ambiguous Figures and Representationalism. Phenomenology and the Cognitive Sciences 10 (3):307-323.

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